Biweekly Book Review: The High Republic: A Test of Courage

The adventure into the High Republic continues, and with it comes something novel: an adventure centred entirely around kids!

If you go back, you can see that I generally don’t take to the Star Wars middle grade books. However, I also acknowledge that I’m not exactly the target audience for these books. But if this is any indication of where the MG books are headed going forward, I cannot wait. I absolutely loved it. Let’s take a closer look at why, and dive into A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Vernestra (a 16 year old Jedi knight), Imri (a 14 year old padawan), Honesty (a 12 year old ambassador’s son) and Avon (an 11 year old senator’s daughter) are all on board a ship bound for the dedication ceremony of the Starlight Beacon station.

Then it explodes.

Not quite all at once though. The adults have just enough time to spare the kids from immediate death, allowing them to hop on a service shuttle and escape. The circumstances surrounding the explosion are suspicious, made even more so by the fact that the service shuttle has clearly been sabotaged. Through a combination of their skills, they wind up on an uninhabited moon too far out of the way for anyone to pass by accidentally, and plagued with acidic rain making long term survival difficult.

They are followed by the two Nihil responsible for the destruction of their ship, who have been tasked with hunting them down and finishing them off. In delightful fashion, the four of them must band together and each use their individual strengths to try and get a rescue signal out while trying not to get killed by the environment or their pursuers.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The New Characters

As I mentioned in my summary, A Test of Courage centres around 4 kids: Vernestra, Imri, Honesty and Avon. Because the whole book is just about the four of them on one mission, and they are together for most of it, we get to know them all really well. When the cast is too large, there’s always a bit of an imbalance, but each of them was given equal time and weight.

Vernestra is a prodigy. She passed her Jedi trials and became a knight at 15 (for reference, Obi Wan is about 25 in The Phantom Menace and still a padawan). We see her struggling with responsibilities and roles that would still usually be left to older, more experienced Jedi, and their situation means she has to rise to the challenge of taking care of a bunch of children, who in a lot of ways are still her peers.

Imri, a padawan, is keen to move on and take the trials. He sees what Vernestra has accomplished and wants the same for himself. He is very attached to his Master, who dies in the explosion, and is overcome with grief and anger, which allows the Dark side to creep in and influence him. In this way, he reminds me a lot of Anakin Skywalker. But where the two differ is in two key areas: Imri is not confident in his skills. He had no confidence at all until his Master picked him to train. The other way they differ is that Imri is an empath (though he hasn’t officially been identified as such). He can feel the emotions of others around him with ease, and is so overwhelmed by the grief of one of their party members that it influences and fuels his own, and drives his actions.

Honesty is the other child experiencing crushing grief. His father was one of the adults killed in the explosion, and he has a lot of regrets about their relationship and about how he spoke to, and treated his father in their last conversation together. He has goals and dreams of his own, but isn’t allowed to pursue them in the way that is customary for his people. By the end he has to find a way to make his skill set work for the team, and learn to let go, Of all of them, I feel like he got the most ambiguous closure, but I feel like he’s going to play a big role in the next stories we get with these characters, if the epilogue is any indication.

And last – but certainly not least – we have Avon. She is the daughter of a Senator who has been raised for the most part by relatives, and then later by a series of droids. As a result, she has a highly logical, scientific way of looking at things but has a much harder time connecting with people on a human level. Despite this, she and Honesty form a friendship that I found to be really really sweet. She also has a difficult time processing unspoken motivations, particularly when it comes to her mother, spending most of her time thinking she is unloved until everyone else points out that everything her mother does, she does out of love for her daughter.

2. Smaller scale (but not smaller stakes)

Unlike Light of the Jedi, this book does not try to set up the galaxy-wide Great Disaster. Nor should it. For one, we already have a book covering that, and for another, if it shifted through all those perspectives, a younger reader might get very lost very quickly. Instead, we get a quick recap of events via the characters merely discussing them over dinner.

But just because this book is smaller in scale and focused only on the four main characters one one singular adventure in one location, does NOT mean that the stakes feel any lower. They’re certainly different stakes – their own lives are at risk, not the lives of people they’ve been tasked to save – but they’re no less important.

This was a positive both for this book – we got a lot of time to get to know the characters better – and for the High Republic books in general. It’s reassuring to see that not every book is going to try and tell the same grand widespread story, and that there is plenty of space to slow down and let the characters have room to grow and drive the story.

3. Jedi and Padawans from a new point of view

One thing I really really wanted out of the High Republic was a look at life among the Jedi. Their systems within the temple, the dynamics between a master and apprentice in a conventional non-war setting. Most importantly I wanted to see this from a padawan’s perspective, which up until now has been sorely lacking. But this book delivered.

Also, not to get too much off topic, but it also confirmed/developed a lot of things I liked to assume about the Jedi.

Imri’s grief over his Master’s death makes him spiral. And why wouldn’t it. As Honesty points out, Master Douglas loved and believed in Imri the way a parent is supposed to, so in a way Imri is mourning the loss of his father (*quick pause while I wallow in my Qui Gon and Obi Wan feels*). But added to that is the fact that I still don’t think the Jedi teach their padawans how to manage their emotions in a healthy way. Or, at least, they don’t do it early enough. Imri is completely left adrift and goes right for the Dark at his lowest point.

Then we have Vernestra. This is her first big test as the senior most Jedi, so most of her story is taken up with her becoming a leader and learning what that means. I’m curious about her potential. I’d love the chance to dive deeper into what she was like as a padawan, while also seeing how she continues to grow and develop.

The Jedi are far and away my favourite part of The High Republic so far, and this book is a big reason why.

4. The Nihil

What a strange thing for me to list as my “dislike” considering the Nihil are one of my favourite parts of the whole High Republic. But hear me out.

I already said in my Light of the Jedi review that the Nihil read, to me, like people who are having their space colonized by the Republic. Marchion Ro all but says as much. But this book puts a huge focus on the works of the Jedi, and the Republic, and their benevolence in creating the Starlight Beacon so far out in the Outer Rim. On the other hand, the Nihil are painted as violent and murderous – which they are – but are not given any motivation.

I understand this might be a feature of Middle Grade books. You really hammer in that one assumption, and then have it slowly deconstructed in subsequent books. There is a line in the book about how awful colonization is to the people that are already living somewhere. So I have no doubt this will be addressed down the line. I just wish we had a bit more of a hint of it here.

Random Thoughts and Lingering Questions

In their talk about the kinds of luxury starliners people can take across the galaxy, they mention “Chandrila Star Lines”, which if I’m not mistaken is the in-universe fleet that the new Star Wars hotel is supposed to be in. With that park-related tie-in, I’m also choosing to believe the “Galaxy Tours” line is supposed to be a reference to “Star Tours”

Glenna Kip is mentioned in this book. You might remember Glenna Kip as the artifact hunter from Spark of Resistance. Which is set 250 years after this. Which now begs the question – how old is Glenna Kip?? (Was it mentioned and I just missed it? Possible)

Vernestra’s lightsaber can turn into a whip. A WHIP. This is apparently Nightsister tech, which makes me wonder if down the line Vernestra is going to have her struggles with the Dark side the way Imri did.

Biweekly Book Review: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi

Welcome back to the Biweekly Book Review, and more importantly, welcome to the High Republic, brand-new era of storytelling set some 200 years before The Phantom Menace!

If I was excited for this new publishing program before, purely because it meant more books to read, it’s nothing compared to how pumped I am now that I’ve actually started reading it. So let’s dive right in with the first story: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Light of the Jedi has the thankless task of not only setting up and executing the story of this book specifically, but also for the High Republic era as a whole. Yes, technically the first book in each series can be read in any order, but for those looking to read all of them, this is the one that sets up the world. Not to mention the catalyst for the events of the entire High Republic series of stories happens here.

Speaking of.

A ship called the Legacy Run is destroyed by an unknown entity somewhere in hyperspace, an event which becomes known as “The Great Disaster”. An odd enough occurrence on its own. But the ensuing destruction is also causing untold chaos in the Outer Rim as chunks of the ship fall out of hyperspace at random intervals and at such high velocity that they destroy anything and everything they come into contact with.

The Outer Rim system of Hetzal receives the first several pieces of debris and is faced with total destruction. Fortunately a group of Jedi are close enough to aid them. Led by Master Avar Kriss, they manage to avert disaster for the most part, but then find themselves wrapped up in the Republic investigation into what exactly happened.

Meanwhile, in an obscure corner of the Outer Rim, a threat is emerging, in the form of ruthless marauders known as the Nihil. They don’t fight for the Republic, or the Sith, or any larger entity. They are only out for themselves, and they resent the encroachment of the Republic on their territory. They seek to use the chaos caused by the Great Disaster to their own advantage. However their leader Marchion Ro has reasons of his own for getting involved.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The Jedi at their peak

The Jedi are a strange bunch. But I love them so much. Some people in this fandom are pilot people, or Empire people, or smuggler people. I am a Jedi person.

The tragedy of the prequel trilogy is that you get shades of who the Jedi are, and who they used to be, particularly in The Phantom Menace. Though they never dive into it, you get a sense of the long history, of the dynamics of the Jedi order. You get the sense that they used to be great, all while you watch their world crumble around them.

This is them pre-crumble. When the whole galaxy knows who they are. When they are operating at their very peak, not stretched thin and exhausted by war. The High Republic is going to feature them prominently and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t plant seeds for their inevitable fall. We already see shades of it, in the way the Republic relies on them so heavily for their investigation.

The new era of Jedi stories also means a lot of new (well, “new”) tech we haven’t experienced before. My personal favourite is the Jedi star fighters. Not because I’ve suddenly started caring about starships, but because they’re actually powered, at least in part, by the lightsaber of the Jedi piloting it.

2. Avar Kriss + Elzar Mann 4ever

My poor, romantic shipper heart never stood a chance with these two.

They’re old friends, they apparently used to be a thing when they were Padawans, and they both secretly want to retire with the other one to a quiet retreat on Naboo.

I MEAN.

You know what really gets me here? The pining. The fact that they clearly clearly still want to be together but can’t because of their Jedi vows.

Beyond that personal connection, they also have a special connection within the Force. Though Avar is already hyperaware of others in the Force, more than we’ve seen in a character before, the connection she shares with Elzar feels different. They are very connected to each other, it doesn’t feel as one sided as it does between Avar and the other Jedi.

It feels, in short, like a dyad.

Which got me thinking, if Rey and Ben are the dyad “unseen for generations”, are Avar and Elzar the last dyad people are aware of? I’d say 250 years qualifies as a few generations.

It also has me wondering if the key to a dyad is a strong connection between the individuals in question. Not just a bond, but actual love. Though it’s romantic in these instances (fight me, I don’t care, it’s romantic for both pairs), I don’t think that always needs to be the case. The love between friends, between Master and Apprentice could probably also foster this kind of bond…if they weren’t so determined to nip any and all attachment in the bud.

3. The Nihil

According to every High Republic author: “The Nihil are bad. Really bad. The literal worst. Absolute bad guys.”

I love them. No one is surprised.

They have a cool, pseudo-punk aesthetic, their meeting place is a platform in the middle of space with invisible walls, they look out only for themselves. They are, in short, as chaotic and unpredictable as the storms they name their hierarchy system after.

While a large chunk of the book painted them as unpredictable and without morals, this takes a turn towards the end when we finally get a chance to hear about the larger state of the galaxy from their point of view.

The settlers in the Outer Rim are infringing on their territory, because their very presence necessitates a larger Republic presence as well. In the eyes of the Nihil, they aren’t settlers, they’re colonizers.

We get some more – but not much – detail on this from Marchion Ro, the Eye of the Nihil who has a particular issue with the Republic. But regardless, once it’s phrased this way, it’s hard not to see where they’re coming from.

They existed in their own corner of space, and in comes the Republic with their aggressive colonization masked as expansion and their space station and their Jedi and their “Great Works” trying to unite everyone.

Whether everyone likes it or not.

4. Marchion Ro

Really. A dark, broody boy in a mask. And y’all thought I wouldn’t instantly fall in love.

Better yet, a broody boy with a past. His true name is a mystery. His motivations are a mystery. Everything about his history is totally unknown.

I can’t get enough.

Marchion is the “Eye” of the Nihil. The Eye of the storm, so to speak, which is appropriate considering how calm he remains through everything he commands the Nihil to do.

He is the one who guides them through the Paths in space that allow for fast travel. He has no real love for those under his authority. He plays them against each other and uses them to achieve his own ends.

They really almost had me. They tried to convince me this guy was no good. Then they had to go give him a mysterious vendetta against the Republic in the last few pages. They gave him angst, and I gave him my heart.

5. New Era, New Possibilities

I touch on this elsewhere, so I won’t spend too much time on it now. But I love that this is an entirely new era where we don’t have any preexisting thoughts or feelings about anything in particular. Though the concepts of the world as a whole are familiar, the details and the reality of how the world works is all new. Though we have some idea of how things will turn out down the line, by going back 200 years, we know that whatever it is Palpatine schemes will have no bearing on any of the characters in this book (except Yoda, I guess. He makes a cameo).

Of most interest to me is the Republic and its influence on the galaxy as a whole. the Chancellor is very concerned with the Great Works that will form a part of her legacy. So much so that she builds the Starlight Beacon station in the Outer Rim to act as a relay point for settlers going out to colonize the area, completely disregarding groups like the Nihil that live there already. I almost wonder if the chancellor will turn out to be a “villain” in the end. I just don’t trust her. She’s the human embodiment of a red flag, and I can’t explain it.

I also love that there’s no existing story telling me if I’m right or not. They can make Palpatine all nice and stuff in The Phantom Menace, but the audience already knows they can’t trust him. Are they preparing to pull the rug out from under us here too?

6. The info dump to end all info dumps

So if you think my story summary was vague, that’s because it absolutely is. Like I said off the top, this book had the thankless task of setting up the entire world. It’s not like with any other Star Wars book, where we drop in with some vague idea of who the characters are, or what the world looks like at that time. We are starting totally fresh. With absolutely no familiar frame of reference beyond broad concepts, Charles Soule has to introduce us to an entirely new cast, to the world they live in, and to the plot of the book all in one go.

With that in mind, the first part of this book is such a rapid-fire info dump that I found myself wishing I had flashcards on each page so I could keep track of the new characters. Fortunately, the locations remain fairly fixed so I didn’t have to keep track of those too. This isn’t really a fault of this book in particular, and I think it was handled better than I expected. It was just…a lot.

Random Thoughts and Lingering Questions

There are romance novels in canon. Like actual Jedi-centric romances with lightsaber duels “meant to represent something else the characters would rather be doing” and I have never needed anything more.

A standout in this book is how each Jedi perceives the Force differently. Avar Kriss hears it as music, Elzar Mann experiences it as a sea. It’s not the same thing to every single person, which makes sense and now I’ll be retroactively trying to assign “Force perceptions” to every Jedi we’ve ever met.

Avar Kriss’ kyber crystal is a white one that she took from a Sith staff and healed. Where is that story, I would like to see it. Or at least, I would like to know if this is going to come into play later. I love the notion of healing kyber crystals.

Based on concept art, I’d kind of expected Stellan Gios to play a larger role in this book. I understand now that there just wasn’t the space, and he’ll instead take a central role in the next Del Rey (adult) novel. He’s got such Obi Wan crossed with knight-in-shining-armour vibes based on the concept art and I love him already.

What is this purple rod Marchion has? Elzar has a vision right at the end of the book that seems to indicate it’ll play a larger part in the conflict down the road so I’m curious to see.

Fandom, Twitter and Group Chats: My 2020 Saving Graces

I rang in New Years 2020 sitting on the floor of my bedroom, by myself, a drink in hand. I was ostensibly trying to clean out my closet, and I wasn’t super inclined to make plans that night because my parents were hosting a huge party 4 days later anyway. My social battery needed to charge.

I was also crying. Not a great moment for me all things considered.

My emotional battery also needed to charge that night because I’d just spent the last 12 days sobbing my eyes out over The Rise of Skywalker. And I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic way. I mean eyes-swollen, cried-self-to-sleep, people-couldn’t-talk-to-me kind of crying. I sobbed in the managers office of the store I used to work at, where I picked up some Christmas shifts, as well as in the stock aisles. I was so upset I was physically sick at work and had to be sent home (this was probably due to the flu but it’s funnier if we blame TROS). 

Was this reaction extreme? Perhaps. I think it would have calmed down a lot sooner if I’d had someone to commiserate with about what a disappointing (heartbreaking, insert expletive of choice here) experience the finale to the Skywalker Saga had been. I scrolled Twitter endlessly, looking for something or someone to validate how I was feeling . I was heartbroken, and felt stupid for ever caring about Star Wars in the first place. As I found validation online and saw I wasn’t alone in my feelings, I felt a little better, but I was still so overwhelmingly lonely in my grief.

And this was BEFORE everything locked down.

A chance sighting of an open call for Star Wars articles caught my attention. The topic was representation, and I’ll admit part of what interested me there was my topic of choice was so wholly removed from the Sequel Trilogy that I could tentatively dip back into Star Wars and remember why I loved it. Though that article isn’t on the website anymore (but you can find a copy here if you’re interested) the experience was still a net positive. I had taken my first step into this larger community, where I had existed on the outside (and mostly offline) for so long. I even gained my first “fandom friend”!

A month later, while scrolling on Twitter some more, I saw a podcast, Postcards From The Galaxy’s Edge looking for female content creators to share a Star Wars moment that spoke to them as women. I was hardly a content creator. A couple of cosplay blog posts and a single article on a website do not a content creator make, I thought. But what the hell. I sent her a message, and a couple of weeks later sent in a video gushing about my love for Amilyn Holdo. I didn’t know how this would all go (spoiler: it went fine), but I took the shot. 

As the video went into editing, I became friendly with the podcaster behind it all, and I feel confident in saying now that she is one of my favourite people and closest friends in this whole fandom. 

Also as the video went into editing, the world shut down. 

Those first two weeks were weird. No one had any idea how long it would last, how committed we should become to the idea of staying at home all the time, working from home and all that. While I did have a contract for some writing work, my regular, part-time job closed for a few weeks while they transitioned us online. Left with nothing else to occupy my time, I decided to call the content creation shots myself.

I was embarrassed, I’ll admit, to present myself as a content creator when submitting that video. In need of something to do, and wanting a body of fandom-related work to my name, I decided to revisit the books I already owned, aiming to post mini-reviews of two of them per week. In keeping with what was slowly becoming my “brand” online, I decided to start with my Star Wars books. They should, all told, take until June or so to get through, and then I can move on to a different set of books. 

The Biweekly Book Review was born!

The first review, Dooku: Jedi Lost, went up on April 8th. 50 books later, the last review, a short look at The Skywalker Saga went up December 22nd. Oops. Well done, I managed to way overestimate my own ability. But in the process my focus changed. It is not longer a book review, it’s specifically a Star Wars book review. As this year came to an end, I found myself planning out my review posts for 2021 (fun stuff planned, stay tuned).

In the late Spring, one female Star Wars podcaster decided to create a thread to connect other female content creators with one another. No doubt this was in response to some sort of dudebro drama on Twitter, though I honestly can’t remember now. Feeling a bit more confident, with a few book reviews under my belt, I threw my hat into the ring and was shortly after contacted by The Geeky Waffle, a podcast/blog looking for writers for their website. They asked if I would be want to do a write up for them similar to the one on my own site about Amilyn Holdo (one day I’m going to gush about how much Holdo changed my life in fandom, mark my words). One write-up and a guest appearance on their spin-off podcast “Straight Out Of Home Video” later, I became proper friends with the hosts. We appeared on panels together at ForceFest over the summer, and I popped up on their Mandalorian live streams in the Fall, where I met even more amazing people I am proud to call good friends. By early September I was an unofficial cohost of The Geeky Waffle in my own right, and by November it was official.

I joined a discord community I love, I started participating in challenges on Instagram, I have a crew to play Among us with, I started writing fan fiction again (no it’s not getting linked here, nice try). This past fall, I was invited to join another network, Beyond The Blast Doors, and offered a cohost spot on their Wednesday night flagship show, as well as a standing invitation to write for the website. 

For someone who felt so alone in her fandom at the beginning of the year, who had never engaged online in fandom before, 2020 changed a lot for me. It gave me a sense of place and belonging among the fans of this Galaxy I love so much. I now have people to share my highs and lows with, and as I prepare to celebrate New Year’s 2021 (safely, at home) I know it’s going to be different. 

I won’t be sitting on my bedroom floor alone and in tears over the idea of Ben Solo’s death. Firstly because The Geeky Waffle let me write this super cathartic piece. But mostly because even though I doubt I will ever come around on TROS, through the friendships I’ve made in fandom this year, I have rediscovered how much there is to love about Star Wars. It doesn’t have to begin and end with the single most upsetting part of the entire saga. It’s gushing over new books together, and getting hyped for new episodes of whatever show is on. It’s texting constantly over things that are tangentially related to fandom, but are no less exciting. It’s wallowing in our feels, good or bad, with all the hyperbolic language you could want. It’s discovering that you actually like Boba Fett now and not being able to shut up about it (#Bonnec forever). 

Happy New Year, everyone. Stay safe, and stay home. To the friends I mentioned above, I didn’t mention you by name because I just know I’ll leave someone out and feel anxious and sad about it for weeks, but just know that whenever I do get to meet you in person, there is a massive hug waiting for you. I hope you realize how much you saved this hellish year for me. 

Biweekly Book Review: The Skywalker Saga

Surprise! One last book review for the year! In the grand tradition of this time of year, consider this a “Biweekly Book Review Holiday Special” rather than a full-on book review.

This is just going to be a mini review, as there isn’t a ton to really dive into. The entire book is a fairly straight adaptation of the first 8 Skywalker Saga movies. I figured I’d done 49 Star Wars books this year, and I wanted to make it a nice round 50. Plus this one doesn’t really fit in with the others. So, with that said, let’s dive into The Skywalker Saga by Delilah S. Dawson.

I was hesitant to get this book when it was first announced. “How,” I wondered back in October 2019, “are you going to do a book called the Skywalker Saga, and leave out the conclusion to the whole thing?”

Then I saw The Rise of Skywalker and decided its exclusion was a feature of this book, rather than a drawback.

The Skywalker Saga is clearly designed to be read aloud at story time, it doesn’t include absolutely everything about each movie that it covers. But I think that actually works here. By not trying to cover every aspect of the plot, it manages to hone in on the heart of the whole thing: Anakin, then Luke, then Rey. Once the story gets going, it does check in with other characters, but not nearly as extensively as our three Jedi protagonists. As someone whose favourite parts of the story are always the Jedi parts, there were no complaints here.

Though the prose reads like a summary of events (as it should) all the dialogue is actually pulled directly from the films. Though this may not be the case with a younger reader reading this on their own, I couldn’t help but hear the characters voices in my head as I went through it.

The illustrations, by Brian Rood, are also absolutely beautiful. They are in this style that looks half like a photo, half like a painting (like a photorealistic sketch? Can you tell I don’t art?). Some of them even take up a full two pages.

A couple of observations:

  • Though the stories mostly stand on their own, there are a couple of thematic connections that are made more explicit. Like how Luke standing in front of Anakin’s funeral pyre, with an uncertain future ahead of him mirrors Anakin standing in front of Qui Gon’s pyre with a similar dilemma. I love when things weave together.
  • In the Last Jedi portion, we have the conversation between Rey and Kylo where the Force accidentally connects them before he’s fully dressed. Though the dialogue – “I’d rather not do this right now”, “yeah, me too” – stays intact, the context for Kylo’s hesitation is removed. I mean, I understand. This is a book for kids, and the detail isn’t necessary. But it was funny to me all the same, since that scene lives in my head rent-free for many reasons.

That’s all I have to say on that, I told you it was short! I want to wish you all a happy holiday season, thank you for coming along with me on this book adventure this year!

I will see you all in 2021 for The High Republic, the movie novelizations, and maybe some other fun stuff!

Biweekly Book Review: Before The Awakening/ Cobalt Squadron/ The Spark Of Resistance

It’s here. I can’t believe it. The final batch of reviews in the middle grade books, and the last Biweekly Book Review of 2020. Thank you so much for sticking with me, and for joining me on this adventure through this crazy year. The series will be back next year with the movie novelizations, and of course any new books that come along, starting with the HIGH REPUBLIC in January!! But for now, let’s turn our attention to the middle grade books of the Sequel Trilogy

Where the last review focused on three books meant to be read as a series before The Force Awakens had come out, this series is a little more spread out, with the events of each book preceding one of the movies of the sequel trilogy and providing a little added context (and also breaking my heart into a million pieces along the way).

Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka

The Story

Before the Awakening is a story in three parts, with each section of the story focusing on one of our new main characters in the lead up to The Force Awakens.

The first story is about FN-2187, later known as Finn, who is an exemplary stormtrooper and well on his way to a command program within the First Order. But his sense of teamwork and camaraderie, his kindness towards his unit, as well as his reluctance to kill on command becomes a concern for Captain Phasma, and for FN-2187 himself. He wants to do well, but struggles within the confines of a life he was never given control over.

The second is about Rey, and her lonely life in the Jakku desert. Rey is an experienced pilot, in theory, since she found an old flight simulator on a scavenging trip, and fixed it up well enough to use. Basically just picture WALL-E and his old iPod with Hello, Dolly! playing on a loop. But the simulated flights aren’t enough, and soon she masters even the toughest simulations. She is ready to fly for real. A storm unearths a half wrecked ship, and Rey takes it upon herself to fix it up. When two fellow scavengers offer to help her, Rey needs to decide if she can trust them or not.

The third and final story is about Poe flying with the New Republic. When his squadron uncovers something that looks like a serious First Order fleet, New Republic officials refuse to take it seriously. Not wanting a massive threat to grow right under their noses, Poe and his squadron undertake a covert evidence gathering mission and are recruited by the Resistance for their efforts.

Overall Impressions

This book is so, so sad. Not Poe’s part so much, because while he does lose a squadron member on a mission, he still has friends, a purpose, a support system. But Finn and Rey? Poor babies.

Finn is a good man with a good heart stuck in a harsh, unforgiving environment. He is extremely good at what he does, when if what he does is “being a stormtrooper”. He wants to do well by the First Order and thinks his compassion for others is a personal failing of some kind. It is rewarding then, to know that he’s moments away from breaking away from all this and making it over to the Resistance (the book ends with his squad en route to Jakku).

Rey’s story, in my opinion, is by far the saddest. Because even if Finn is stuck in a bad situation, he is stuck with people he cares about. Rey is alone on Jakku, half-starved and barely surviving. She opens herself up enough to trust two fellow scavengers who want to help her fix up a ship she found, only for them to turn back on their agreement to sell it to Unkar Plutt. They instead wait until she’s out of the ship before taking off and leaving her there, just further cementing how much trouble she has trusting people.

I think what makes me extra sad about this book is that it is currently December 2020, and with the anniversary of Episode IX on the horizon, I am extra in my feelings about it. Finn in this book has empathy for his fellow stormtroopers because he knows none of them had a choice, then jumping ahead to Episode IX is gleefully watching them die. I’m not suggesting he let himself get killed by them, but surely the story could have found some kind of middle road? And Rey comes out of this book likely feeling she can’t trust anyone, and ends Episode IX…still not trusting anyone. She undergoes two major personal upheavals and her friends never hear about either of them. Granted, the loss of a soulmate comes right at the end of the movie so there isn’t time to talk about it. But they also never hear about her supposed lineage either, and there was plenty of time for that to come up. Though she is now surrounded by people, I can’t help but feel like my poor Rey ends her story as lonely as she began it.

Random Thoughts

Major Ematt from the last series is here, and I love it when this tapestry weaves together.

Rey actually does have training for flying so…take that haters. Not that she needs it, it is a movie after all. But she has it. So there.

Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein

The Story

After fleeing their homeworld of Hays Minor, which suffered at the hands of the First Order, Rose and Paige Tico found their way to the Resistance, and now fly as part of “Cobalt Squadron”, one of the teams of bombers. They fly on the same ship, and that is just the way Rose likes it. While on a fact finding mission in the Atterra system, their bomber is boarded by two refugees, desperate to tell someone, anyone that their home is dying.

Sympathetic to their similar situations, Rose wants to help them any way she can. After consultation with Leia (and Holdo!), the Resistance agrees to limited supply runs to Atterra to help the citizens fight back. Though the mission is an eventual success, the bomber squadrons are soon called away to help with evacuation efforts over D’Qar after the First Order destroys the Hosnian system, taking us right into the opening moments of The Last Jedi.

Overall Impressions

I don’t think that books should be a replacement for character development onscreen in a franchise that is first and foremost screen based. I also don’t think that’s what this book does. I think anything you need to know about Rose Tico is presented on screen in Episode VIII.

But what this book does very nicely is it colours in details about the character. We know from the movie that Rose and her sister were close. We know this because she tells us, because they wore twin necklaces, because Paige’s death devastates Rose. But what this book does is show us just how close they are. They fly on the same ship, they hang out all the time, such to the point where Rose refuses to fly without Paige on a mission (ultimately a good call for her, since the ship on that mission was destroyed). She is adamant they remain together up until the end of the book, when the needs of the Resistance separate them. Paige insists it’s temporary, but we the readers know that that’s not true. This is the mission with the bombing run that kills Paige. This then adds an extra layer to Rose’s devastation when we first meet her in the film. Not only is she grieving, but she is likely either wishing she had gone with Paige after all, or ideally that Paige had accompanied her on board one of the flagships. The one time they were separated, and it ended in a worst-case scenario.

Random Thoughts

I love Vice Admiral Holdo. I let out an unholy shriek when she popped up.

Spark of Resistance by Justina Ireland

The Story

Sometime after the events of The Last Jedi, Rey, Rose and Poe are on their way back to base after a supply run when they receive a distress signal from the planet Minfar. The inhabitants call out for help because the First Order is occupying their homeworld and taking over. Deciding it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask permission, the three of them decide to fly in and see how they can help.

Meanwhile on the planet, the First Order is hunting for a device known as the Echo Horn, with the help of scientist Glenna Kip, whose goals do not totally align with those of the First Order commanders overseeing the occupation, and she wants to find the Echo Horn before they do.

Rey, Poe and Rose encounter a group known as the Zixon, who are the ones who called for help. The Empire had once used the Echo Horn on them, a device that drives the people it is turned on to mindless submission. The trauma of what that did to them still runs deep, and Rey and friends vow to destroy the device before it is able to be used on the Zixon again.

Overall Impressions

This one…made me nervous.

My relationship with The Rise of Skywalker is a difficult one, and this was released as part of the “Journey To…” publishing program. But then again I loved loved LOVED Resistance Reborn so I was hoping this would be more of the same.

All in all I didn’t think it was a bad book, necessarily. It was a cute story with a compelling adventure. I thought Poe and Rose sounded like themselves, but I thought it was bizarre that Finn isn’t in the book at all. There was space for him on the adventure I’m sure.

Then we have my two favourites from the Sequel Trilogy: Rey and Kylo Ren. Though Rey was in the entire book, something about her felt off. It’s as though she was only half there, never fully materialized. I noticed the same in Resistance Reborn, but in that one she was a minor character at best. Here she’s meant to be the lead character, and other than being filled with a lot of self-doubt, I never got the sense that I knew her any better.

My issue with the characterization of Kylo Ren is a little different because technically, he isn’t in the book at all. But any mention made of him paints him as far more of a cold, manipulative psychopath than we ever see on screen. Despite the soft spot I personally hold for Armitage Hux, the way they describe Kylo is far more in like with the Hux we see on screen.

But I’ve been ragging on this book long enough so let’s look at some things I did like: I loved the different groups of First Order officers and their various dedications to the ideals of the group they serve. I LOVED that our gang assumes the person who rescued the Zixon from the Empire was Luke Skywalker, only for us to find out it was Glenna Kip. There is a bit of a tendency to ascribe a little too much…godlike power to Luke and this book steers well clear of that so kudos.

Random Thoughts

I said it already but: I cannot think of a single good reason why Finn isn’t in this book. Not a one.

My favourite fun fact is that Poe is so canonically good looking that the entire First Order knows who he is because he has nice hair.

Biweekly Book Review: The Weapon Of A Jedi/ Smuggler’s Run/ Moving Target

As the world prepared for the arrival of The Force Awakens, and a whole new generations of Star Wars movies, three middle grade novels were dropped as part of the “Journey to…” publishing program. Though the movies were set to introduce us to a whole new generation of characters, the books are centred around the heroes of the Original Trilogy, with Luke, Han and Leia each getting a book of their own.

Interestingly, each of them is presented as a tale being told to someone else, to that new generation we were supposed to be meeting shortly. The three of them are heroes and legends in their own right, both in our world and the one they live in. Let’s dive in. *Spoilers Below*

The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry

Yes I still have no Luke funko…

The Story

After the Battle of Yavin, when Luke harnessed the Force long enough to fire a torpedo down the Death Star exhaust shaft, the budding Jedi finds himself wanting to learn more about his abilities.

Visions from the Force lead him to the world of Devaronn, a planet under Imperial occupation and the home of an ancient Jedi temple. A cottage industry has sprung up on Devaronn, where tourists come to hunt in the forests, led by guides who may or may not rip them off and abandon them at any time. Luke initially accepts an offer from a young girl, Farnay, to be his guide to the Jedi temple, which is off-limits thanks to Imperial restriction. He changes his mind and takes on an adult guide to lead him there instead, one the little girl knows to be a crook.

Luke, however is successfully led to the temple where he discovers ancient secrets of the Force and more successfully learns how to harness his abilities, particularly skills with a lightsaber.

Overall Impressions

You know me. You know I like some good freaky Force stuff. And though the book wasn’t particularly freaky, there was plenty of Force stuff.

I imagine it isn’t easy to have a Luke Skywalker adventure like this, since he spends so much time on his own learning about the Force. Fry cleverly gives him R2 and 3P0 to talk to at least, but how does one learn the Force if there is no one there to teach you?

No I am not about to go into a rant about Jedi training, don’t worry. That activates my fight or flight these days.

I do like that the book strikes a nice balance between recollections of Ben Kenobi’s lessons as well as Luke’s own intuition. Force visions play into it a bit, yes, but they aren’t the primary method by which Luke develops his skills. Given the young age of the target reader, I think it’s a great lesson for them, to rely on their own knowledge, yes, but to not discount what they were taught and to try and apply it to new problems.

Random Thoughts

C-3P0 is telling the story of the book, and is described in the prologue as having a red arm. This shows that there is zero crossover between the target reader for this book, and the people who watched the trailer back in the day and speculated that 3P0 had gone Sith or something.

Something that is almost certainly a bumble bee lands on Luke’s hand while he’s at the temple. But because this is Star Wars and we have to rename everything, the little bug is renamed “the sap drinker”. It even has a stinger! Come on, now.

The end of this book set up a sequel story of some kind, with Jessika Pava, Resistance pilot to whom C-3P0 is telling the story, asking whatever happened to Farnay, the little girl who tried to help them. 3P0 says that they met her again as an adult, but that’s a story for another time. As far as I know she hasn’t popped again since, so what gives 3P0? Is this another comic book thing?

Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka

The Story

After the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is trying to figure out their next steps. But they’ve currently got a bigger problem. Their special squad, called the Shrikes, was ambushed by the Empire, with only the leader Ematt making it out alive. He is the only one who knows the locations of potential future Rebel bases, and if the Empire catches him, they’ll be able to torture it all out of him.

In hot pursuit of Ematt is Commander Alecia Beck, from the Imperial Security Bureau. As far as bad guys go, Beck looks extremely cool, with a long scar down her face and a glowing red eye. Since she’s alive by the end of the book I can only hope she comes back later.

When Han arrives on Cyrkon, he immediately runs afoul of bounty hunters from his past, some sent by Jabba the Hutt, because of course he does. What follows is a fairly standard search and rescue mission full of adventure and betrayal.

Overall Impressions

I said in my last 3 part review that I loved Pirate’s Price because it was Han Solo through someone else’s eyes. While that premise doesn’t totally work here, I did find myself missing that extra layer to the character. Because Han Solo played straight is always kind of the same each time. Gunslinger, fast-talking, can get out of anything. Plus there’s a decided lack of tension because The Empire Strikes Back is still a couple of years away from the events of this book, so we know he’s going to stick around. That’s not to say this is a bad book. Just a…familiar one.

Also, towards the end of the book, they tie it in to the Force Awakens so explicitly I actually made a noise when it clicked for me. Han Solo is the one telling the story, at a cantina, to a table full of rougher types. Right at the end he correctly identifies them as members of the Irving Boys, the Guavians or as working for Ducain. All names I recognized from the scene aboard his freighter in The Force Awakens when a whole bunch of names are being thrown around (no Kanjiklub though).I suppose this was the “hint” in the book for Episode 7, as each book in this series promises. But because I’ve seen it so many times, seeing the names spelled out like that was pretty jarring.

Random Thoughts

Chewie has blue eyes apparently? Who knew? (Everyone but me, probably)

Also, Chewie already has a medal from the Battle of Yavin. He’s holding it at the beginning of this book. I feel weirdly vindicated.

This one, like the Luke story, ALSO ends on the ambiguous note of a potential sequel. When asked what happened to Alecia Beck, Han simply says that that’s for next time. What’s with all the next times, tell me now!!

Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry

The Story

Jumping ahead in the timeline a bit to between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, it’s time for Princess Leia to have an adventure of her own. After suffering losses at the Battle of Hoth and barely slipping out of the Empire’s grip on Cloud City, Leia and the rest of the Rebellion are on the run. With Luke hiding from the Empire on a different vessel and occupied with his own Jedi training, Leia is left alone to consider next steps both in terms of the Rebellion and in terms of what she herself wants (remember, Han is frozen in carbonate by this point).

But she doesn’t have too much time to dwell on her feelings. She has her duty to the cause. The Rebellion has received word that the empire is building a second Death Star over Endor and they need time to amass a fleet without being seen. They propose that beacons broadcasting messages the Empire can already decrypt be placed far from where they actually want to build their fleet, calling for any ships willing to help to meet nearby, to draw Imperial attention. Since Princess Leia is a high value target, she volunteers to go place the beacons herself with a team, to ensure that’s where their attention stays. She embarks on the mission with her small crew, wrestling with the knowledge of how important her job is, but also the immorality of asking people to meet up somewhere where they are likely to die.

Overall Impressions

Of the three books in this “series”, I liked this one the best. The stakes felt a lot higher, because they weren’t personal physical stakes. There’s no life-or-death tension for any of these characters, we know they’ll be in the next movie. But this one instead gives Leia personal moral stakes, because she knows she is asking people to give their lives for the cause, while also knowing she’s leading them to almost certain death. The mission is so top secret, half her crew doesn’t even know about it, meaning she doesn’t even have the benefit of a team all reassuring her that she’s doing the right thing. There was real tension for me in wondering whether she was actually going to go all the way through with the plan, and I was not disappointed in the outcome.

Random Thoughts

I loved the different environments of the worlds they visit to place beacons on. My personal favourite was the beach/touristy world of Sesid, first of all because we don’t usually see leisure environments in Star Wars, and second of all because when they need to buy disguises, Nien Nunb suggests Leia wear a brown bikini with gold trim (which sounds an awful lot like a certain gold bikini). For the record, she hates the idea.

Lokmarcha, one member of Leia’s crew, and the most military/hardline of them all, is of the opinion that all Imperials should face war criminal charges at the end of it all. Even the ones working at desks doing menial jobs. And if that isn’t the most dudebro internet troll thing I’ve ever heard in a work of fiction, I don’t know what is.

Biweekly Book Review: Guardians Of The Whills/ Lando’s Luck/Pirate’s Price

With the anthologies behind us, it’s time to move into the middle grade books! These are all going to be firsts for me too, since I hadn’t planned on reading them at all at first.

Then I got in too deep.

Anyway. With a new chunk of books comes a format change! This time, it’ll be three books at a time, and a more general overview of the story because they’re so short and to dive too deep would remove a lot of the mystique.

First up, books set prior to the Original Trilogy! *Spoilers Below*

Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka

The Story

Guardians of the Whills is set on Jedha, sometime shortly before the events of Rogue One. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe are former Guardians of the Whills, now scraping by since the arrival of the Empire and the shuttering of the Temple of the Kyber.

Recognizing the unjust system all around them, the two of them do the best they can to make life easier for those who suffer, particularly those who used to be temple disciples. They focus the bulk of their efforts on two sisters, Killi and Kaya, who run an orphanage in Jedha City.

Their good work doesn’t go unnoticed, and they are shortly approached by Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, and invited to join their cause, which they do in an effort to chase off the Empire and try to salvage life as it once was.

Overall Impressions

While I don’t feel any backstory for Baze and Chirrut is necessary to enjoy Rogue One, that didn’t make this book any less fun or enjoyable.

It was awesome to see someone engaging with the Force differently than just being a plain Force user. It was also great to dive into what makes Baze and Chirrut so different. One gives into his anger and it’s caused him to set the Force aside completely, while the other doubled down in his beliefs and uses it to drive him.

We also have the two men winding up on Saw Gerrera’s bad side, which might add a curious dimension to their motivations the next time I watch Rogue One. I’m personally a little meh on how Saw is painted as unstable and dangerous for so long, but here towards the end of his life (I assume) it makes a little more sense. When you’re in it so long, you start to lack perspective.

Random Thoughts

Chirrut can “sense” Baze clearly in the Force, even clearer than he can sense himself. Between the two of them, they also have a very close bond despite being opposites. I found myself asking “dyad lite?”

So Jyn has Rebel Rising, Baze and Chirrut have this, Cassian is getting his own show. Bohdi Rook content when?

Lando’s Luck by Justina Ireland

The Story

Sometime before the events of Solo, Lando is living the life as a not-entirely-above-board smuggler. A trip to Hynestia and an inability to walk away from the sabacc table puts Lando directly in the crosshairs of Queen Forsythia, who is prepared to have him killed for transporting a banned substance onto the planet. Her daughter, Rinetta, strikes a bargain: if Lando agrees to transport the planet’s imperial tribute directly to the Empire, then he be allowed to walk away with his life.

But Rinetta’s motivations are not so cut and dry. The so-called tribute is actually a sacred artifact from Livno III, and it’s absence means the world has fallen into chaos and disrepair. Her mentor, Zel Gris, hails from that world, and it is out of respect for her that Rinetta wants to see the artifact, the Solstice Globe, returned where it belongs.

But because this is Lando, nothing goes as planned. They take a detour to another planet for him to pay off one debt, only to be caught and apprehended by Forsythia and dragged back to Hynestia, leading Rinetta to have to orchestrate a breakout and beat her mother at her own game in order to see justice carried out.

Overall Impressions

I like Lando Calrissian. I think he’s at his most interesting when he’s wrestling with everything he thought he knew about life, the universe, and himself, all covered up with a flashy cape and an abundance of self confidence. But at this point in his journey, he isn’t quite there yet.

That’s why my favourite parts of the book were ones that were told from Rinetta or L3’s points of view. I love L3 because of how delightfully independent and over the top she is, and her chapters are just more of that.

Rinetta’s chapters are what really shine through in this book for me. As much as I love our legacy characters, I love seeing how new characters we’ve never met before interact with and face conflicts set out by our legacy characters, or just how they exist in the world at all. I understand why the book was focused on Lando: it was to coincide with the release of Solo. While I did enjoy it, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on Rinetta.

Random Thoughts

The story is framed as a tale being told to Bazine Netal, who is seeking the whereabouts of the Millennium Falcon. I know she appears in some short stories and The Force Awakens briefly, but for me, I’ve actually seen her more in fan fiction than anything else, so yes, this was jarring.

L3 makes an offhand reference to the fact that fights on Mustafar usually end up with one of the parties dead, then tells Lando and Rinetta to “study history” when they’re confused about what she means. Does L3 know about Anakin and Obi Wan, or are duels to the death just a thing that happens on Mustafar?

Pirate’s Price by Lou Anders

The Story

Though I suspect this is the Han Solo counterpart to Lando’s Luck, this book makes the interesting choice of telling the whole story through the eyes of everyone’s favourite Weequay space pirate Hondo Onaka.

Following on her investigation from Lando’s Luck, Bazine Netal tracks Hondo to Batuu, as she’s heard he is now in possession of the famous Millennium Falcon. He promises to tell her how he came to have it. But because this is Hondo and he can’t do anything straightforward, he tells Bazine two whole other stories before he gets to explaining how he acquired the Falcon.

The first – and longest – of these stories details how he attempted to sneak on board the Falcon and steal it from Han and Chewie, but found himself stuck when they suddenly take off in order to grant someone passage on a distant world. He makes himself known to them and offers his services on the journey. What follows is an Oceans 11 style adventure involving clones, hidden explosives, and a planet covered in a red organism and populated by giant snails.

The second story is set on Takodana, home of Maz Kanata and her famous castle. Hondo flies there to purchase some less-than-legal ships and parts, and is dragged along by Maz on an adventure to rescue Han and Chewie from the very same smugglers Hondo planned on meeting with.

The third and final story also serves to resolve the mystery of how Hondo came to possess the Millennium Falcon in the first place. Chewie lends it to him for repairs and for his use sometime after the events of The Last Jedi. Though a nemesis from an earlier story tries to take the ship from him, Hondo manages to prevent it, with the assistance of the porgs that now live on board.

Overall Impressions

I think making the decision to have Hondo narrate the story was a wise one. If this had been another Han Solo story played straight, I don’t know how interesting that would have been. But like this, with Hondo’s over-the-top narration style and with us seeing Han and Chewie through the eyes of someone who doesn’t usually get to tell the story, the book as a whole was really refreshing.

Random Thoughts

I’m so glad the solved the mystery of how Hondo came to possess the Falcon, and how it is that you can pilot it when you visit Galaxy’s Edge. Though I do wonder how long he had it for, since in The Rise of Skywalker it’s back in their possession long enough for them to break parts of it again after Hondo repairs it.

Biweekly Book Review: From a Certain Point of View – The Empire Strikes Back

Another new release! And within a week no less! The hype surrounding this book was high. I remember the months when people speculated that “Project Luminous”, now known as The High Republic, was a codename for this book. Isn’t it nice that we got both instead?

Unlike the first instalment where I had no idea what to expect, I went into this one with an idea of what and who the stories were going to be about, as well as the general premise of the project. As such, I also went into it with a fairly good idea of what my favourites would be. I was mostly right, though there were a few surprises. This is From A Certain Point Of View: The Empire Strikes Back.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

Like the first From A Certain Point Of View, this one is an anthology of 40 stories, only this time we’re diving deep into The Empire Strikes Back.

One thing I noticed about this one, unlike the first, is just how many stories are given over to minor/bit characters who have a cult following. People like Dak, Admiral Piett, Willrow Hood, all the bounty hunters, the ugnaughts, Veers. The first was far more focused on moments and times and places within the story, this one seemed to be more about giving each bit character their “due”. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I imagine that’s where a lot of the hype came from for others. And if the characters are available, why not use them? But for me, someone who was never super into the minor characters, I was neither here nor there. Not that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did! The stories that I loved are so SO good.

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One I Had High Expectations For: The Whills Strike Back by Tom Angleberger

From claiming the number one spot in the first list, the Whills now find themselves down in honourable mentions this time around. I suppose part of the problem with me is that the story suffers from being compared to the first one, which I loved. This one is good too, it’s still funny, still meta. There’s even a great Star Trek crossover joke. But the first one was written not knowing if there would be another story featuring these weird, meta little Whills, so they went hard on the nostalgia in that one. This one had a lot less of the references to the old properties, which makes sense but honestly that’s what I liked about the first so much. But it still made the list, I still enjoyed it for what it was. I wonder if we’ll get a third one when they do Return of the Jedi. “Return of the Whills” perhaps?

10. The One That Got Unexpectedly Dark: Kendal by Charles Yu

There are a lot of stories about imperials in this one, and with this being the darker middle chapter of the original trilogy, it doesn’t usually go well for them – unless of course they defect.

Admiral Ozzel doesn’t defect. He famously gets choked to death by Darth Vader. And this entire story is made up of the last frantic thoughts racing through his head as he aims to find peace in his last moments. The entire story is told through the eyes of a man who is mere seconds away from death . We have to watch and listen to him die and know there’s not a damn thing we can do abut it. This story is extremely dark. I’m not sure I’d read it attentively, the next time I do read through this book. But still, it was pretty compelling.

9. The One That Made Me Hungry: But What Does He Eat? by S.A. Chakraborty

Of all the stories, this one was probably one of, if not the silliest. It is set in the kitchen of Cloud City’s master chef as she is tasked with preparing a meal to impress their high ranking Imperial guest. She is, however, thrown for a loop when she realizes the guest is Darth Vader. Not only is the pressure on BIG TIME, but she’s not even sure he can eat at all.

I like that they included this, to really highlight the absurdity of Darth Vader wanting to capture Han and Leia by…meeting them in a really nice and airy dining room. The chef misses all of the action of course. She’s too busy whipping up a lot of strange yet somehow mouthwatering dishes, and maybe reading this story while hungry wasn’t the best idea.

8. The One I Would Have Written: The Witness by Adam Christopher

I absolutely love the idea of stories where someone small in the grand scheme of things bears witness to one of the bigger revelations in a story. Like, say, if we got a whole story from a maintenance worker on Mustafar watching Anakin and Obi Wan fight to the death. I keep thinking that if I were to have written for this book, I would have written a character who witnesses Vader’s “I am your father” reveal.

That’s the story we get here.

Sort of.

This is told from the POV of a defecting stormtrooper as she makes every effort to get away from her squad and out of Cloud City. She passes underground through some maintenance tunnels where she happens to see Lord Vader fighting with that rebel he’s been looking for. Not only fighting though, they seem to be having a conversation about…something. She wants to hear what it is, but alas, the wind in the service tunnels makes it impossible to hear Vader. Of course we can’t have some random stormtrooper knowing Vader is Luke’s father, but it’s fun to imagine how close one of them came

7. The One That Really Made Me Feel Bad For The Worm: This Is No Cave by Catherynne M. Valente

The trend with all the creature stories in this book is this: as soon as I realize what creature it’s about, all I can think is “Are you really gonna make me feel bad for the ____?”

The answer is always yes.

That’s no different in this story, revolving around the asteroid bound space slug that Han and Leia accidentally fly the Falcon into. This worm, you see, is an outcast from others of its kind, who all make fun of it. It keeps “butterflies” (mynocks) in its tummy and likes to show them off. When Han and Leia show up, it becomes determined to keep them safe and warm inside its belly, and is heartbroken when they choose to leave. It even offers to expel its precious butterflies if they’re proving bothersome. This story is such a weird, sad little blip of an entry, but I will say at the very least they don’t kill the worm. They let it, and its butteries, live another day.

6. The One With Roman Holiday Vibes: Into The Clouds by Karen Strong

Picture this: a tale of a well-to-do woman with a sense of obligation to her family and the scrappy average joe that loves her. Is this a stretch, to compare this story to Roman Holiday? Yes. Is my judgement impaired because I watched that movie then read this story immediately after? Also yes.

I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this one was infused with enough crackling chemistry and inner turmoil that I would have happily read an entire novel about Jailyn and Dresh: how they met, how their relationship developed as he worked for her gambling addict father. As it is, we get the tail end of their romance before they run off into the sunset together. But I appreciate the beautiful beginning of a love story set against the backdrop of the evacuation of Cloud City that we did get.

5. The One With The What Ifs: Disturbance by Mike Chen

I don’t particularly like Palpatine (shocker). I was prepared to not like this story at all.

Then they had to lob the Freaky Force Stuff at me, and here we are. This story is at the number 5 spot on my list.

The story is mostly set within a Force vision that Palpatine has, that tells him Luke is Anakin’s son. He sees the father-son pair overthrowing him and taking over the galaxy. We even get brief mention of Anakin, Padmé and Luke as a family unit (Palpy doesn’t know about Leia it would seem) and for all that this is a twisted Dark side vision, it kind of thrilled me to see it. We don’t often factor Padmé into ideas of what Luke’s life would look like if his parents had survived, and we forget that of the two of them, Luke inherited his mother’s heart and sense of right.

There’s also a reference to Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization. Many bonus points were awarded for its inclusion.

4. The One That’s Just So Soft: A Good Kiss by C.B. Lee

Of all the stories included on this list, this is the one whose premise was funniest. It is an entire story from the point of view of that guy who walks in between Han and Leia in the corridor on Hoth.

Turns out, like everyone else, he wishes they would cut the crap and kiss already. Or at least get out of his way. Our poor hero, Chase Wilsorr, is struggling with the fact that he isn’t getting the jobs he wants within the Rebellion and is instead relegated to kitchen duty. He’s also frustrated with his going-nowhere crush on Jordan, the stablehand. Fortunately for him, Jordan doesn’t seem to mind clumsy kitchen boys.

OK this one is so soft and so wholesome and sweet. More of this in my star war please.

3. The One With My Requisite Freaky Force Stuff: Vergence by Tracy Deonn

The concept of an entire story from the point of view of the Dagobah cave might seem odd. It might seem like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

But in the hands of Tracey Deonn, it works perfectly. As in her debut novel Legendborn, she has this ability to dig down into the roots of magic, and make it feel like a character all its own. She does it in Legendborn with various kinds of magic, and she does it here with the Force.

Though the cave appears Dark and evil, it is only a product of the world around it. Many seek it out to discover their fears, so the cave shows them what they come to see, in a one-and-done deal, until Yoda shows up and develops almost a “friendship” with it. Certainly the two work together – albeit without the cave’s knowledge – to show Luke what he most fears.

I know it’s quite a ways away, but I would like to see this concept and personification return for the Force cave on Ach-To. Maybe we can do a 10 year anniversary anthology for The Last Jedi so Tracy Deonn can write that one too.

2. The One That Was Better Than I Thought: Faith In An Old Friend by Brittany N. Williams

Solo: A Star Wars Story was just fine. Not my favourite, not the worst. It was fine. But my hands-down favourite part of the whole thing was L3-37, Lando’s copilot droid with an attitude and outsized sense of justice.

So imagine my heartbreak when the movie kills her off at the end of Act 2.

Her brain is plugged into the Millennium Falcon and she becomes a part of the ship’s computer. Using this as justification, and taking Threepio’s line about the Falcon speaking a “peculiar dialect” is enough to launch us into this story about the “Millennium Collective”, the three droids that make up the brain of the Millennium Falcon. There is eloquent, angry, emotion-ridden L3 of course, but she is unexpectedly and delightfully joined by ED-4, a slicer droid with an extensive vocabulary, and V5-T, the original shipboard computer who speaks in staccato “yells”.

The story spans the length of most of the movie, as the droids bear witness to any events taking place on board the Falcon. They spy Han and Leia’s budding romance, are responsible for giving Han the idea to go to Bespin, and L3 even manages half a reunion with Lando. For someone who really liked L3’s character and was sad to see her go, it was a nice surprise to see her pop up in this.

1. The One That Proves How Predicable I Am And Also Punched Me In The Feelings: There Is Always Another by Mackenzi Lee

Bold of me to assume the Obi Wan story wouldn’t rank high here, honestly. I’m such a sucker for this character who has been through so much sadness and pain.

Set in the moments Luke is packing his ship to leave Dagobah, Obi Wan reflects on how much this young boy is like his father, the same brashness and passion, but also the same proclivity for the dark. Most of the story is Obi Wan’s Force ghost reliving old memories of his life, reflecting on the good and bad parts of his relationship with Anakin, and all the others he loved and lost.

I won’t go too into detail because I want you all punched in the feelings like I was. Because trust me. This story will do that to you. As well as make you excited for the upcoming Kenobi series.

Random Thoughts

Cavan Scott’s story, “Fake It Till You Make It”, is entered around a giant green rabbit named Jaxxon, a former Legends character who has made his way back into canon via the Star Wars Adventures comics. When I saw him on the cover of some of the comics, I thought it was a joke. Like someone drew on the Trix rabbit, painted him green, and called it a variant cover. But no. Apparently this is a real thing.

Everyone on Echo Base knows Han and Leia are flirting and are running betting pools. Amazing.

Yoda’s story is basically what you would expect it to be, and makes a good companion to the story from FACPOV. But what really elevates it for me here are the constant constant digs at Luke. Poor Luke. I mean I laughed, but still.

The story from the point of view of a TIE pilot makes it clear that TIE’s can be piloted by any idiot who knows how to fly straight and just hold the trigger down. I have to say, I did not come here to be bullied for my Squadrons playing style.

Biweekly Book Review: From a Certain Point of View

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure this is the first canon Star Wars book I picked up. My first Star Wars book period, if we’re not counting novelizations. Back then, I had no idea who 99% of the authors on the cover were. I only bought it because I’d heard Meg Cabot, a bookshelf staple of mine, was writing one of the stories.

Is this a necessary book? No, not at all. It sprinkles in details where they aren’t really needed, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. I’d actually even argue that that makes it more fun. I love this anthology and I can’t wait for the next one. I know I’ll be old and grey by the time this day comes, but I hope we get one of these for each of the movies in the Skywalker Saga. This is From A Certain Point Of View.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

From A Certain Point Of View was put together in honour of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope. In this charity anthology, 40 short stories carry the reader through Star Wars Episode 4 in chronological order, except the entire story is being told by side characters. They can be recognizable side characters like Greedo, familiar faces from outside the movies, like Dr. Aphra, or even obscure characters like a random alien in the cantina or rebel on Yavin. The great thing with this is that as the GFFA expands in the written materials, this anthology shows how the events of the movies affect everyone and everything in the galaxy, and how those people affect the events in their turn. It’s all connected.

As with any anthology, some stories resonated with me more than others, so I’ve chosen my top 10 below!

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One That Made My English Major Self Happy: Palpatine by Ian Doescher

Ian Doescher is probably best known for his Shakesperian retellings of the 9 Star Wars Saga films, and his entry in this anthology is extremely on-brand.

This lengthy monologue (in iambic pentameter no less) is delivered by Emperor Palpatine contemplating the events that unfolded in and around the death of Obi Wan Kenobi. I don’t have much else to say about this one except that it reminded me so much of being in university and picking apart Shakespeare that I couldn’t let this list go by and not mention it.

10. The One That Started It All: Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot

I would be remiss to dive into the anthology without acknowledging the story that brought me here in the first place. I swear, when I bought this book, hers was the only name I recognized. Well, her and Wil Wheaton, but I hadn’t read any of his writing before this.

I’m extremely familiar with Meg Cabot’s body of work, and this story is so characteristically her, that if you showed me all the stories with no author name attached, I’m confident I’d be able to identify it as hers. It is a bittersweet story told from the perspective of Luke’s Aunt Beru, a woman who put her entire life on hold to raise the little baby boy Obi Wan Kenobi handed her one night. When we talk about Star Wars moms, I don’t think we give Beru enough credit. We are all quick to credit Bail and Breha Organa for the woman Leia turned into, but I think we forget that so much of who Luke turned out to be is because of Owen and Beru. He might have Anakin’s skills as a pilot and a Jedi, and Padme’s heart, but his capacity for goodness, his willingness to help others, his sense of family? He had to learn that somewhere, and this story reminds us of the people who provided him with all of that.

9. The One That’s Predicable But Heartwarming: There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt

When I say “predictable” I only mean this story is from the point of view of a character we know well and doesn’t really push him beyond the boundaries of what we already know. We know Yoda feels keenly for all the Jedi who fell after the Empire took over. We know he has regrets over the whole Anakin/Obi Wan situation. But by no means does that mean we don’t feel for the little guy.

The story is primarily concerned with Yoda’s life on Dagobah, as he feels the shift in the Force when Anakin and Obi Wan meet again on the Death Star. Knowing things are about to change for everyone, Yoda is determined to find Leia and train her in the ways of the Force. It is only after Obi Wan has died and comes to visit Yoda that the former Jedi Master agrees to train Luke instead. But WOW does he have reservations about the whole thing. No wonder he was so harsh on Luke when he showed up a few years later.

Also Yoda uses Force lightning. Yoda is a Palpatine clone, confirmed.

8. The One That Comes Up The Most In Conversation: The Red One by Rae Carson

When I say this comes up the most in conversation, I mean that I cannot stop telling the story of this little droid to anyone willing (or unwilling) to listen when watching A New Hope.

R5-D4, the titular “Red One” wants nothing more than to go to a home that will take good care of him, since 4 years in a sand crawler have not been kind to him. But the night before he’s trotted out in front of prospective moisture famers, he’s approached by a little blue-domed astromech who begs him to help him get free, because he’s got an important mission to carry out. When R5 is picked out by the moisture farmer and his nephew, he is faced with a choice. Should he roll into his new life, or help out the blue astromech and hope for the best?

We all know that R5 chooses to help R2 instead of going with Luke and Owen. But what we didn’t know until this past week on The Mandalorian (or maybe we did and I forgot?) was that Tatooine mechanic Peli picked up R5 and takes care of him now. So it all worked out in the end I guess, even if he does get yelled at once in a while.

7. The One That Brings Back An Old Friend: Rites by John Jackson Miller

It’s no secret I haven’t read much of Legends. But one book I have read is John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi. I’ve mentioned before how I appreciate the novels efforts to humanize the Tuskens, something I’m glad to see is continuing now in the latest season of The Mandalorian.

So yes, it’s nice to see that he’s writing the Tuskens again, with the same treatment. They are a society with their own customs and rites and are not just howling savages. But the highlight of the story is the return of A’Yark, the leader of the Tusken clan in the Kenobi novel. A’Yark is the one who develops some kind of understanding with Obi Wan, and unknown to the reader until further into the story, is actually the rare Tusken woman to lead her clan. Her gender doesn’t come up in this short story, but I’m choosing to believe it’s the same A’Yark from the book. Kenobi doesn’t necessarily contradict any existing canon (yet) and I like that Miller is trying to work elements of his book back into the main storyline.

6. The One With Obligatory Freaky Force Stuff: The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve read this book a few times. Each time I look forward to this story, and each time I get a little more out of it that I didn’t get before.

Deep in the bowels of the Death Star, inside one of the trash compactors, lives a mysterious serpentine creature. One day, three humans and a wookie fall down a garbage chute and join her. But how did she get there in the first place? What’s her story?

Yep, that’s right. This one is from the point of view of the creature that lives in the Death Star garbage chute. She was captured on her homeworld and brought on board the Death Star. Once her captors realized how dangerous she could be, she was thrown down the trash chute without a second thought.

But what elevates this story beyond a mere fun fact blip is the fact that the creature is Force sensitive in her way. I love when this happens in canon, when we see other cultures or species who experience the Force in a way outside the traditional Jedi structure. Really, the most overt references to her Force sensitivity is when she senses the arrival of the three humans and how one of them is “like her”.

It was inevitable that the freakiest of Freaky Force Stuff story would end up on this list, and I imagine this story has the same mystical, mysterious tones as the Force Cave story will have in FACPOV:ESB.

5. The One I Knew Would Break My Heart: Eclipse by Madeline Roux

The minute I saw the story was beginning with Breha Organa I knew it was going to break my heart. While it was sad the first time I read it, with the added context of Leia: Princess of Alderaan that I now have, it’s just that much worse.

I swear, Star Wars fans just like to hurt.

If this is your first introduction to Leia’s parents beyond the little that we see of them in the movie, it’s definitely a heartbreaking story. But knowing more about them made the whole story feel like a suckerpunch. As a reader we know Aleraan and the royal family, we’ve spent time there with them. These are people we know, and we know they won’t make it and there’s not a damn thing we can do.

Bail and Breha spend most of the story worried that Leia didn’t survive the destruction of the Tantive, then in their final moments, as the end of their lives and everything they know is staring them in the face, their last thought is that Leia made it out ok. Their last thought is of hope.

Excuse me I need a tissue or 20.

4. The One With Untapped Potential: Reirin by Sabaa Tahir

Oh look at that, it’s the second Tusken story to make the cut.

Most of this story is very tangential to the main narrative. It concerns a Tuskens runaway named Reirin who is on assignment from a mysterious employer to steal something from a Jawa sand crawler. A small, unknown something.

For the most part, the story is fairly run of the mill coming-of-age, where the young Tusken woman wants more from life than what is available to her. But it is in the final moments that it takes a turn, in a real “oh shit” moment.

The small something Reirin was tasked with taking turns out to be a kyber crystal – not that she knows what it is. What she does know is that she cannot bear to part with it. It calls to her and it belongs to her.

Tusken Jedi, y’all. We have a Tusken Jedi. Where’s her YA series, that’s what I want to know. We know from Kenobi that once years ago there was a Jedi who came to live among the Tuskens. Is there a connection there? What I’m saying is this should be explored more.

3. The One That Might Be A Sign Of Things To Come: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray

Did you know we’re getting a Kenobi show and that I’m stupid excited about it? Yes? I may have mentioned it once or twice?

This story, by my fave Claudia Gray, is what I’m mostly hoping for in the series. We know Obi Wan will have been through a lot, and that he has much in his past to reckon with. Which he definitely does here.

Granted this story is actually from Qui Gon’s point of view, as he pulls himself out of the Force to physically manifest into a “Force ghost” to speak to Obi Wan while Luke runs off to check on Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen (spoiler: it doesn’t go well for them)

This story is exactly what we expect from Claudia Gray. A lot of feels, a lot of heart, and no matter how long or short it is, it leaves us wanting more. It’s a nice precursor to her novel of the same name. Where in that we see Obi Wan and Qui Gon at odds with each other, here they are far more the Master/Apprentice or father/son we might expect. Qui Gon knows what’s coming for Obi Wan and while he is personally excited at the prospect of the two of them reuniting in the Force, he grieves for all the things Obi Wan will never get to do. I did not ask you to punch me in the feelings like this, Claudia Gray.

I’m hoping the upcoming series has more scenes of this kind. Conversations between Obi Wan and the ghosts of his past. Yes, I say this mostly so I can spend the entire runtime screaming into my hands.

2. The One That I Was Inevitably Going To Rank High: Time of Death by Cavan Scott

“Oh wow, the Kenobi story ranked high I’m so shocked” said no one ever.

Much like the Claudia Gray story, this one is focused on a lot of interior struggle and feelings. This is set in the few moments before Obi Wan becomes one with the Force during his duel with Vader.

He reflects on his life on Tatooine that led him to this point, his life before Order 66, and at one point he even has visions of the future (like…Sequel Trilogy future). The overall sadness of Luke, Han and Leia’s futures is briefly touched on here, and is all the more heartbreaking to read now that their plots and their lives wrapped up in a truly devastating and not at all satisfactory way.

In a sweet addition to the story, Obi Wan remembers the years when Luke was a child, how he tried to play a role in his life, until Owen forbade it in order to keep his nephew safe. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see some of this in the series as well. Particularly the parts where Obi Wan makes toys for little Luke and leaves them somewhere for Beru to find and give him. *sob*

1. The One That Makes Me Feel Excited In A Way I Can’t Describe: Whills by Tom Angleberger

I can’t even begin to explain why I like this story so much.

The whole thing is written as a dialogue between two of the Whills, the mysterious beings who record the whole history of the galaxy. One sits down to record the story, with countless interjections from the second. But the Whill isn’t just recording the story…they’re writing the opening crawl to A New Hope.

There’s something about the way the second one keeps cutting in to remind the first of all the exciting parts of the story that take place before Episode 4, parts of the story that I’m personally very attached to. Something about the way they talk really expresses that excitement you feel when you talk about Star Wars, or anything you love and are passionate about with your friends. But there is that added story element where the events they’re discussing are all real…they just took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The story is a little meta and a whole lot of fun. Apparently FACPOV: ESB is including a part 2 for this story and I truly cannot wait to read it, especially as it comes after the conclusion of the Sequel Trilogy and after the premiere of The Mandalorian.

Random Thoughts

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper, one of the stories in this book, is too damn long. It’s nearly 30 pages long and it’s all about a bunch of aliens tangentially related to the ongoing action. And by tangentially, I mean they see Luke in the cantina for a second before getting on with their own plot. I’ll be perfectly honest and say that in this, my third time reading this book, I skimmed this story.

The extreme petty nature of Incident Report is a genuine delight while you’re trying to get through all the Imperial focused chapters.

According to this book, the trooper that famously bumps his head is the same one who let Luke and Obi Wan go, and he bumps his head because he’s distracted thinking about that. Did I need this detail? No. Is it hysterical? Yes.

Of MSE-6 and Men is told entirely from the perspective of the little mouse droid that Chewie roars at, and it’s an interesting story in its own way. But because it’s told by a droid it’s full of time codes and system commands. Easy enough to skim if you’re reading it, but wow is it annoying on audiobook.

Biweekly Book Review: Legends of Luke Skywalker

I LOVED this book. What is it about these Luke Skywalker books that always surprise me? Could it be that deep down I actually like the character, but have instead just come to resent the weird, self-insert sway he holds over many a fanboy? Very possible.

Can you tell I still don’t have Luke stuff?

This sweet farm kid from Tatooine who shoulders an impossible legacy has somehow had to be anything and everything to everyone in out world which makes him a whole lot of boring nothing. But when he’s allowed to shine within his own universe? He’s actually really interesting. In this book, he gets to take centre stage as a mythic figure, yes, but also in a way that’s a whole lot more human than some other things I’ve seen recently. This is The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

This is a little bit of a cheat, because the premise of the book is actually one of the 7 stories. A cargo freighter approaches Canto Bight. On the night before it docks, the deckhands stay up all night getting into hijinks. But more importantly, they are up all night exchanging stories about Luke Skywalker. Over the course of the book, they hear and share 6 stories about the legendary Jedi, stories which will affect how they choose to live their lives and the outlook they’ll have going forward. Interestingly, as a reader, we never get confirmation about whether or not any of the stories are true. Luke appears in all the legends, but he never appears in the frame narrative to confirm or deny them. They’re all told second or third hand, so in theory they could all be true, but they could also be total bullshit. It truly doesn’t matter, because it’s all about how the stories made you feel. And isn’t that part of the fun?

The Story That Got Meta About Star Wars: The Myth Buster

I live for Star Wars getting meta about Star Wars. Sometimes I think there’s a tendency to get caught up in the ~*seriousness*~ of it all that we forget how goofy, silly and fun it can be.

This story, the first one told, is certainly that. It is an account of the original trilogy told by someone who has “done the research”, and really looked into these events and come to the conclusion that almost everything we see in the Original Trilogy is political spin by the rebels/New Republic. According to her, Luke is a useless criminal, who fell in with the O’Kenoby gang, who fly on a ship called the Century Turkey. All details were of course changed by the Rebellion to make things sound better and cooler. But don’t worry. Our narrator knows the truth.

I love this because not only is this super meta (they refer to Han as the “shoot-first” type) but because of how far down the conspiracy rabbit hole the narrator has fallen. Or what do I know, maybe I’m just buying the lie the Rebellion is selling me. I would go into detail but I really don’t want to ruin the delight that is this story.

Luke’s appearance here is brief and only implied, as there is an “older bearded man” drinking blue milk at the cantina and listening to this story in amusement.

The Story That Felt Like A Canon Novel:The Starship Graveyard

When I say this one feels like a canon novel, I mean that it hits all those beats. We have an Imperial who thinks the rebels are terrorists. We have the climactic battle over Jakku as the Empire falls, we have the Imperial, now stranded and injured, fighting to get back to what’s left of the Empire while living among the common folk, and finally we have them learning that it wasn’t all that great to being with.

Take out the aspect where Luke Skywalker is the one who saves the Imperial, and this could easily be a canon novel on its own. It honestly probably is in some form, as it had shades of Alphabet Squadron (or I guess I should say Alphabet Squadron has shades of this). It felt less like a Luke story and more about the Imperial.

Of all of them, I think this one is the least likely to feature Luke, though I don’t necessarily think that makes the Imperial’s ordeal untrue. I just think it was someone else helping him and claiming to be Luke for whatever reason. Perhaps because the name inspires hope when nothing else will.

The Story That Is Most Likely To Be True: Fishing in the Deluge

On a remote world lives a small community that live in harmony with the world and the animals around them. They call their home The Deluge. They live their lives in tandem with the Tide, an unseen element that surrounds them, guides them, and binds everything together (sound familiar?)

One day, a mysterious man shows up. Known as Seeker, this man wants to learn more about the Tide, and about how to use it. But he is quickly told by the leader that the Tide is not something you use, it is something far greater than that. It is not a tool to be bent to our will. Still, if he can pass the three tests children of the Deluge are given, then he can learn more about the Tide. Guided by Aya, a young girl of the community, the Seeker tries to take the tests, and learns about himself and the Tide along the way.

So the Seeker is obviously Luke. Over the course of the story, he learns so much about the Force, and specifically about how it isn’t just a power you have that makes things float. Because so much of what he learns here sounds like what he would go on to teach Rey, I think this story is the most likely to be true. Luke is great, but without a Master to teach him the way of the Force, I don’t think he could intuit those lessons. But learning them on his travels is absolutely an idea I can get behind.

The Story That Took Longest To Get Into: I, Droid

Though this was meant to be one of the lighter stories, since it essentially features Luke Skywalker in droid cosplay, I did find it the hardest to get into. This is mainly because the first half of the story is entirely about droids and their new owners, and I don’t think droids make for super interesting main characters.

I mean…we all remember that Clone Wars arc with all the droids and the weird little frog.

Once Luke shows up, the story picks up and becomes funny. But getting there was probably the biggest challenge in the whole book.

The Story That Is Almost Certainly False: The Tale of Lugubrious Mote

This story is also the most WTF of them all. It’s all told from the perspective of a flea that lived on Salacious B. Crumb’s head, until that fateful day in Jabba’s palace when Luke showed up to barter for the freedom of his friends.

According to the flea, named Lugubrious Mote, she jumped onto Luke’s head when he fell in the rancorous pit and talked him through the fight, and stuck around to talk him through the fight over the dune sea.

I mean, this isn’t technically any more outlandish than some other stuff in Star Wars, and the only reason I call bullshit on this little flea is because she wasn’t around for any of the other Force-related hijinks Luke got himself into. But you know what? This is her truth, and I’m not going to take that from her.

The Story With The Freaky Force Stuff: Big Inside

Hoo boy do I love the freaky Force stuff, and this story has plenty of that.

This is another one of those that I suspect is true to some extent. It is being told by a biologist studying in a remote system. She puts out a call for a ride to the second planet in the system, and is picked up by Luke, who is happy to take her where she’s going. The two of them are, unfortunately, swallowed by a space slug in the system’s asteroid belt.

They then spend days, if not weeks, wandering the inside of this impossibly large slug. She takes the opportunity to study it as a new ecosystem, while Luke looks for the origins of mysterious luminous symbols present throughout the inside of the creatures.

Just calling them “luminous” at all made me think of “luminous beings are we” and “project luminous” so of course my mind immediately went to Freaky Force Stuff.

I was not disappointed.

It is here that Luke encounters an ancient form of the Force, known as the Mist. This is where he truly gets the concept that it surrounds and binds every living thing. Combined with what he learned in Fishing in the Deluge, these two lessons seem to form a lot of his outlook on the Force in The Last Jedi, and it partially why I think they’re the most likely to be true.

The only reason I doubt bits of this tale is because I’m truly having trouble imagining the insides of a slug that would take weeks to explore, and that would also sustain human life for that long. But there’s no reason the Freaky Force Stuff, or the strange ecosystem stuff can’t be true

Random Thoughts

During Luke’s challenges in Fishing in the Deluge, he is told he will have to “cloud walk”. He asked if this means he has to “walk in the sky” and yes I ugly laughed.

I highly recommend the Lipstick and Lightsabers podcast episode on this book. It’s with Marie-Claire from What The Force, and it’s a great deep dive.