Biweekly Book Review: Resistance Reborn

I was given this book by my brother for Christmas. I read it for the first time in August. I literally could not bring myself to read a buildup to the Rise of Skywalker knowing how much that movie broke my heart. What made it worse was knowing that this book was supposed to be really, really good.

This book is so good it makes me angry. I love it. I love what it’s setting up for the story. I love how well it captures the characters voices and the sense of hope in the face of uncertainty and despair. And to have the potential of this story absolutely squandered in the movie it was meant to set up is unfair both to the story and to those that loved it. Let’s take a very calm, collected, not-salty-at-all-about-the-end-of-the-saga look at Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Shortly after the Battle of Crait, the Resistance is struggling. Their numbers are restricted to the beings who were on board the Falcon at the end of The Last Jedi, and Black Squadron, Poe’s crew of pilots.

They need more leaders. They need somewhere to go. They need to bounce back after their horrific losses. Making matters worse is the fact that the First Order is rounding up anyone and everyone who could threaten their rule, or worse still, be allies for the Resistance. The names of those still to be rounded up are kept on a list.

A list that, fortunately for our heroes has been leaked out.

Unfortunately, as is the way of such things, the list is now being auctioned to the highest bidder at a party populated by the criminal elite. With new focus in mind, the growing Resistance crew, now including Wedge Antilles, Norra Wexley as well as Zay Versio and Shriv from Inferno Squad decides to undertake one big heist that will hopefully salvage their movement.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. Poe’s Character Arc

It’s not for everyone, but I really love Poe’s character arc in The Last Jedi. I think it makes sense that in a highly charged situation, things will go wrong, people won’t listen, and hard lessons need to be learned. Like in a procedural TV show where the hot shot lead actor chafes against a new authority figure and messes up a lot in a bid to prove them wrong.

But this isn’t a medical drama with a case-of-the-week, this is galaxy-wide warfare, and we didn’t have 10 episodes for Poe to get used to Holdo’s style. So he makes some bad choices that get a lot of people killed. He even makes bad choices before she shows up, because the conflict he’s in is unprecedented. And in this book, Poe is given the time and the space to process the consequences of his actions.

He wrestles internally with his guilt for a good chunk of the book. He has a hard time facing the decisions he made. He’s haunted by the lives they’ve lost and the role he played in it. It is only in coming clean to the entire company, and having others confess their shortcomings as well, that the Resistance can put their shady problematic pasts behind them and move forward.

What makes this arc so strong is it directly builds off of everything we know about Poe already, and he grows into a confident leader because of it. I almost don’t mind that Poe didn’t have much of an arc in the next movie because of how strong it is here. If “the greatest teacher of all, failure is”, The Last Jedi was where Poe saw failure, and the events of this book show how much he’s learned.

2. Unofficial Sequel to Bloodline

You know how I said I love Bloodline. Well, what no one told me, and what turned out to be an amazing surprise, is that this book feels almost like the unofficial Bloodline sequel.

Leia is the other major point of view character. Where in Bloodline we saw her preparing to resist the rise of the First Order, here she is working to put the Resistance back together after suffering horrific losses.

Though it’s probably not necessary to read Bloodline before reading Resistance Reborn, it’s so much better if you do. For instance, the Resistance is given shelter on Ryloth by Yendor, the same Twi’lek who came to Leia and asked for her help running out the criminal entities in the earlier book.

But then, there’s my absolute favourite part. One of the people being held by the First Order, whose name appears on the list, is none other than Centrist senator Ransolm Casterfo! The one with the awesome name! His ending in Bloodline broke my heart, with him sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, so I love that he was rescued from an uncertain fate here.

Also, just generally, Rebecca Roanhorse really nails the character of Leia. For someone who is so omnipresent in the franchise, she isn’t always written well, but Roanhorse really gets her (as, of course, does Claudia Gray).

3. StormPilot is canon and you can’t take this from me

Ok. So.

I’m all for showing strong male friendships in media. We need more of it without it being read as romantic.

But we need to talk about Finn and Poe.

It’s absolutely no secret that I am a Reylo. I go hard for my ship and yes I’m still upset about it 9, nearly 10 months later, thank you for asking. However. Before I ever decided that I wanted the two space wizards to fall in love, I decided that I would very much like a love story between the daring pilot captured by the First Order and the stormtrooper with a heart of gold that rescues him.

This book gives me that. And not in a over-the-top romantic way that would be hard for a corporation to sweep under the rug, it’s true. More in the angsty, pining, slow burn, friends to lovers kind of way. The kind of romance I used to see in books as a kid, where it’s all so subtle but it makes you breathless with the mere idea.

Granted this is all subtext. And I could be reading way into it: the lingering looks, the touches that last too long, the intimate conversations, Poe asking if the two women in Finn’s life are his girlfriends, then looking relieved when Finn says they’re just friends? Could all be coincidence. But I ask you: is it a coincidence that while I was taking my StormPilot notes for this post, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston started playing on my 90’s Shuffle playlist? (Yes, probably)

4. A Star Wars book for adults that actually feels like a book

Before you get all confused about what this means, let me explain.

With some notable exceptions (Claudia Gray, for instance) the Star Wars novels written for adults feel like…not books. It feels like the author is attached to the visually familiar aspects of the movies, and is trying to bring that into their books. A noble goal, but one that rarely works out. It’s one thing to see the Death Star blow up. It’s quite another to just describe it. I never once felt here like Roanhorse is secretly trying to write a Star Wars movie but finds herself restricted to the medium of books.

I’ve often expressed my frustration with (or just skimmed past) the pew pew parts of the other books. For all that this book has the pew pew parts, they are action scenes that are appropriate for a book. It isn’t 15 pages of battle tactic, its 2-3 pages of a chase/fight, either on foot or in a ship, but rather than just going over the nitty gritty of the action, it explains how the characters are reacting or feeling in the moment. Some authors forget: you have the ability to get in a characters head. Use it.

5. Under The Sea

This isn’t a big point, but it’s also the cutest thing ever. The party that they have to infiltrate to get the list is ostensibly the birthday party of a high-ranking woman on Corellia. The theme is some kind of underwater affair, but it’s described so much like the stereotypical Under The Sea prom theme (albeit with a lot more tech and money behind it) that I found the whole thing delightful.

My only regret is that Finn and Poe didn’t have time for a slow dance before the shit hit the fan…

6. The Imperial Dude

I was tempted to make the “dislike” for this book be the fact that it’s so good, the film it’s meant to set up seriously pales in comparison. But that’s a failing of the movie and not the book. As I’ve said several times, this book is really, really good. But as with anything there’s bound to be a part I liked the least, and this is it:

One subplot in the book revolves around Winshur Bratt, a First Order officer. One of his office aides is responsible for the list of Resistance sympathizers leaking out beyond the First Order.

While I do like getting a look at the inner workings of the First Order, the entirety of this subplot only mattered in that it was a means to an end. As cool as it was to see Bratt’s depraved psychology, I would have liked to spend more time with the Resistance.

As with all the books I loved, you can see this “dislike” mostly just boils down to personal preference again…

Random Thoughts

In Bloodline, Han and Leia speculate on their future grandkids. Wedge and Norra do the same in this book. I only bring this up because that’s never happening for any of them. Their sons are dead. This is fine. I’m fine.

I’m a Bendemptionist, and I love that Leia in this book makes it explicit that no one is responsible for saving Ben except Ben himself. Which arguably is what happens in The Rise of Skywalker (even if that only lasted for 30 seconds). It’s also pretty clear she loves her son still and maybe wouldn’t find peace in him dying before his 30th birthday, but hey that’s just my interpretation *steps off soapbox*

ON THAT NOTE (sorry, last one), when Leia has to tell a co-commander that one of his children died in the line of duty, she takes no pleasure in it. She says that no matter the nobility of the intention, there’s no such thing as a “good death”. How can a book this sweet, well-meaning, and emotionally resonant be designed to precede a movie that doesn’t understand the world in which it’s set? A Leia that feels this way is not a Leia that would find peace at the death of her son.

Finn’s code name for the party is “Kade Genti”, a character from a popular children’s adventure series, which is the cutest thing ever. It also reminds me of all the times in other media where a character needs a code name and uses a name from Star Wars. It’s nice to know that the kids in Star Wars have a space adventure equivalent of their own

Biweekly Book Review: Phasma

Y’all. Today we’re going dark. We’re diving into the heart of the First Order, into everything that makes it tick, but also into into its seedy underbelly.

Overall I found this book deeply unsettling. This may have a lot to do with the fact that the author describes the more horrific parts of the story in great detail, and some of it is outright gross, and I have a weak stomach. But that didn’t stop me from reading this one twice! Let’s dive into Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson.

*Spoilers Below*

*Content Warning: brief mentions of traumatic childhood and of torture*

The Story

Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy on a mission for Leia, is taken by the First Order. She is tortured and interrogated by Captain Cardinal, the trooper in charge of training young recruits, and former personal guard to the now-deceased Brendol Hux. Cardinal is looking for incriminating evidence with which to take down his rival: Captain Phasma.

Vi, having just returned from a mission to Phasma’s homeworld Parnassos, tells Cardinal all she knows. Phasma grew up in very rough circumstances on a world that was rapidly dying. Her attempts to strengthen her clan go unappreciated by the leader, her brother. When Brendol Hux’s ship crashes on Parnassos, and his shuttle separates him from the vehicle itself, she volunteers to return him to the ship in exchange for passage off.

What follows is a harrowing journey across a very dangerous desert, with Phasma and Hux in the company of three of his troopers, and a handful of her fighters, including Siv, the young woman who is Vi’s source of information. As the journey continues, Phasma and Hux form a tight bond, and her calculating ruthlessness becomes more and more apparent to those who know her best.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Disliked)

1. Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal

She is the prisoner, he is the interrogator, and theirs is an interesting dynamic.

It hits the expected beats, where they are both tough at first but by the end get to know each other and understand the other a bit better. Though the dynamic in this respect is a predictable one, it’s very rare in Star Wars for two people from the warring parties to actually be in the same room long enough to explain what motivates them.

Though they’re only in half the book and are not the primary focus, they were compelling enough for me to want to return to their part of the story any time the narrative ventured to Phasma’s portion. With Phasma, we could only ever get up to where we find her in The Last Jedi, but Vi and Cardinal are the future of the movement, their roles a mystery. Both try to turn the other and I was fascinated trying to figure out who would succeed (one guess who it was)

2. The First Order

Up until now, any time we’ve gotten a look inside the First Order, it’s been from the point of view of the higher ups, those that make it run. And while Cardinal is now one of those people, he started out as a child brought into the Stormtrooper training program.

Seeing the First Order through his eyes was really grounding. Though we do (and should) dismiss them as the villains, it is interesting to see why not everybody sees them that way. It’s not that I’m trying to be a First Order apologist, I’m just always interested in seeing what it is that makes someone side with the First Order, since they rose to power far quicker than the Empire, and are arguably more brutal.

In Cardinal’s case, he came from a miserable existence on Jakku. Life was unpredictable and he was wasting away. The First Order provided him not only with stability, but with a way to thrive in the galaxy and to bring order to his chaotic existence.

Stability, then, seems to be the primary motivation for those who enlist. That is both heartbreaking and understandable, and it adds an extra layer of humanity to the faceless stormtroopers we see in the movies.

3. Hux Junior and Senior

You can blame this on twitter, you can blame this on Domhnall Gleeson’s performance, you can blame this on the fan fiction I read, you can blame this on my desire for everyone to have a redemption arc. Any reason above can be attributed to why I’ve started feeling bad for Armitage Hux.

Though the first time we see him do anything of note, he is standing in front of thousands of troopers, foaming at the mouth and shouting for all the world like a terrifying fascist, the side stories go out of their way to humanize him.

We know from other sources that he had a rough childhood and that his father really didn’t care for him and only paid attention to him when he did something that exerted power and dominance. This usually involved taking out his rage on other children. Growing up in that kind of horrible environment doesn’t make for a stable adult.

Alternatively, for those that watched Avatar: The Last Airbender: if Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is Zuko, then Armitage Hux is 100% Azula.

4. The two timelines

I had initially planned to put the one Big Gross Thing that happens in the book as my “dislike”, but it really is just one thing that happens one time, so I’m putting it down in Random Thoughts if anyone wants to know what it is. Please just know I hate it with every fibre of my being.

I know that Vi and Cardinal are two of the things I like best about the book. BUT. As Vi was telling Cardinal the story, I couldn’t help but feel how much I would have liked to hear the story from Phasma’s point of view.

In the story Vi tells, Phasma is only a teenager, about 16 or so. She somehow manages to get the entire party halfway across the planet on foot, and best a First Order general twice her age and with more experience. I’m not wondering at “how”. Star Wars teenagers are capable of so much more than us average teens could hope for.

The premise of the book interested me because I wanted to know more about the mysterious Phasma. But it almost feels like she’s as much a mystery as ever, even though I heard her entire backstory. I realize getting the story from Phasma’s point of view, and having Phasma as the narrator means it is impossible for Vi and Cardinal to exist in the story. And again, they are the future of the story. But in an entire book called “Phasma”, I never felt like I got any closer to the character. But hey, maybe that was the idea.

Random Thoughts

The Big Gross Thing is the part of the novel where one of Phasma’s fighters is bitten by a beetle. The beetle causes a person’s insides to liquefy. They swell up then explode into water, their organs shrivelled, their bones and muscles gone. Even just typing this out is giving me a headache and activating my fight-or-flight. I hated this so much, it’s just so gross.

Cardinal mentions Rae Slone to Armitage Hux, saying “if she were here”, to which Hux replies that she isn’t. But also…where the hell is she?? She isn’t in Resistance Reborn, and as far as I can tell she doesn’t come up again. Makes me wonder if I missed something somewhere.

Arratu was such a weird, interesting environment that I would have been perfectly happy if the whole novel was set there. It was so strange and dystopian.

The chrome on Phasma’s armour comes from an old ship of Palpatine’s. Just thought that was cool.

Is there a connection between Cardinal’s red armour and the red armour on the Sith Troopers, or is it just that red is cool and we can sell more toys this way?

Biweekly Book Review: Thrawn Ascendency: Chaos Rising

If you remember back to my original Thrawn Trilogy reviews, at the end of the day my conclusion was that they were OK. Not my favourites, but they didn’t make me want to pound my head against the wall, and frankly that’s a win in my book. As I wrapped my review up, I also mentioned the upcoming prequel book with a decided lack of excitement. How wrong I was.

Of all of them, this one was my favourite. It was a different vibe, and so removed from the rest of the GFFA that other than certain key moments, I forgot what universe this book was supposed to be set in, and I mean that in the best way. It actually reminded me a little of Star Trek. Not in any direct 1:1 way. More like it was Star Trek flavoured Star Wars. Anyway, enough of my vague nonsense, let’s dive into Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn.

Note: for clarity’s sake, the newer, completed Thrawn trilogy written after the Disney acquisition will be referred to as the “older Thrawn trilogy” since I’m really only differentiating it from this current trilogy.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Far, far away, past the known galaxy, lies a region known as The Chaos. This is home to the Chiss, a race of beings who rarely interact with outsiders and are governed by a system known as the Ascendency, wherein 9 big-name families fight and outmaneuver each other to gain political advantage.

One product of this system is Mitth’raw’nuruodo, not yet the notorious Grand Admiral and Imperial prodigy he would become. Instead, he’s a Senior Captain in the Chiss Expansionary Fleet, trying to do the best he can and learn as much as possible about the other beings who dwell in the Chaos. He believes his home is under threat from these outside forces and must try and finesse his way into investigating them while the Powers That Be try to stop him at every turn.

Along on this investigation are Admiral Ar’alani, his friend and accomplice since their early days with the Chiss military, Che’ri, the Force-sensitive navigator child known as a sky-walker, and Thalias, a former sky-walker and now Che’ri’s caretaker.

While Che’ri and Thalias navigate (hehe) the ins and outs of what being a sky-walker means, Ar’alani helps Thrawn navigate the political mess that is the Ascendency, because for all he is a strategic genius, he remains politically clueless. The two use half-truths and technicalities to launch a private investigation into a group seeking to control every race in the Chaos under one autocratic umbrella.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. New Environment and New Plot Points

Because 99.9% of this book takes place removed from the worlds and conflicts of the current Star Wars timeline, this book almost feels like it isn’t part of the GFFA at all, and that’s actually a great thing. Because it’s removed from the main conflict, it isn’t burdened by the Clone Wars at all. Because it’s geographically removed, the Chiss are not members of the Republic. The result is one of the freshest settings for a Star Wars books I’ve seen in a while.

Fortunately, the story lets us dive deeper into these story elements. The concept of the 9 ruling families feels like something out of a fantasy novel. It is an ancient system, and unlike the Republic, the Ascendency does not seem like it’s on the verge of collapsing. So what we have are protagonists firmly rooted in a system they don’t feel they can (or should) change, so they operate within it.

The way the families operate, by adopting members into their families and having them “achieve” higher levels of family membership, is a new concept in the Star Wars canon (at least to my knowledge). They have various levels of family membership: some are biological, some are adoptive. There are trials to be faced in order for the adoptive members to move up in rank. The family homesteads are in massive underground caverns. And when I say massive, I mean an entire compound with multiple buildings and extensive “outdoor space” entered around 8-storey mansions.

The other beings, “aliens” as they’re called here, are new to me. Because the world and the being occupying it are not familiar Star Wars entities, this is what makes the whole book feel like it’s taking place in a totally different space franchise.

Really, making this this different is probably the best thing Zahn could have done. The era in which the book is set – the late Clone Wars – is so extensively covered in other books and media, it has to be hard to come up with a new story that doesn’t tread over too much familiar ground. This gets around that problem by setting it somewhere in the galaxy that is rich, extensive, and unexplored (by the reader anyway).

When I say that the book is Star Trek flavoured Star Wars, this is what I mean. While I have seen some of Star Trek, I’m not nearly as immersed in it as I am the GFFA. So to me, this book has shades of something familiar, without too many obvious Star Wars tones. There is a large conflict, yes, but it isn’t a conflict we’ve seen 100 times. There are several groups of beings fighting for power, but we are only familiar with one group, our point-of-view group. The politics seem like they’re hinting at something real world, but it isn’t the same ones we’re used to seeing.

This metaphor is getting all mixed up, so just trust me when I say the new setting works to the books advantage.

2. Thrawn: Not Such A Bad Guy

Wow, me saying that the ambiguous “villain” is complex and deserves empathy maybe? Revolutionary.

Ok but hear me out.

When we meet him in the Thrawn books, he joins and then quickly rises in the ranks of the Empire. Empire = the bad guys, therefore Thrawn = bad guy.

But here’s the thing.

Thrawn is a strategist, first and foremost. The Empire had numbers, and resources with which Thrawn could carry out his own agenda. I never got the impression that he was in it for the love of Palpatine or something.

That is even more apparent here. Unlike those other books, he isn’t a Grand Admiral at the top of his game, he is a Senior Captain trying to rise in the ranks while his superiors try to smack him back down. He is the underdog. And, most importantly, when it comes to the impending threat to the Ascendancy, he is right. He sees things his superiors are unwilling to recognize and he actually tries to do something about it.

Also unlike the other books, NONE of this book is told from his point of view. It’s how the other Chiss see him, for better or worse, which allows us to form an opinion about the type of person he is.

He is straightforward, has no pretence, is considerate of everyone on his team, and generally seems to have the greater good in mind, even if he is extremely blunt about it and sometimes doesn’t care to explain his point of view. The worst thing that can be said about him, from the point of view of the other characters, is that is ambitious but refuses to “play the game”.

3. The “Supporting Cast”

I say “supporting cast” only because the book is not names after them. But they are frankly anything but. Ar’alani, Thalias and Che’ri are all important point of view characters. Though it is through them that we see what Thrawn is doing, and through them we speculate how he is feeling, each of them gets their own motivation and drive so that they aren’t just accessories to Thrawn’s narrative.

Ar’alani and Thrawn are close friends (how close? You tell me, AO3) and her constant struggle is maintaining the balance between her career’s upward trajectory while also trying to support and sanction the work Thrawn does because she sees the benefit in it. We learn in one of the “memory” flashbacks that she was removed from her family, though the circumstances remain a mystery. I expect this will play into her motivations later.

Che’ri is a 9-year old sky-walker who has been passed from caretaker to caretaker, none of whom seem to care much about her as a person. She is also plagued with anxieties over her current role as navigator and over what will happen to her once she loses her force sensitivity (called Third Sight here).

Thalias is Che’ri’s new caretaker, but is also a former sky-walker herself. Though her initial motivation is just finding a chance to see and speak to Thrawn again, after a chance encounter when she was a child, she eventually becomes embroiled in the brewing conflict, and becomes interested in getting involved. She is also quite ingenious, asking to face the Mitth family trials in order to be elevated in family rank just to prove a point and to continue as part of Thrawn and Ar’alani’s mission.

Though the book is nominally about a male character, and we do focus mostly on him, it is interesting how much of the narrative is told from the point of view of female characters, which was absolutely not what I was expecting.

4. That Crossover

About two-thirds of the way into the book, Thrawn and Che’ri explore the edges of “Lesser Space” in search of allies. They find a likely candidate in a woman named Duja on the planet Batuu. It is at this point the book crosses over with Thrawn: Alliances.

Reader, I screamed.

For a few, brief glorious pages we got to see Anakin Skywalker again. And though I didn’t listen to the audiobook, just knowing that limbo Anakin was back out in the world made me inexplicably happy.

You know what this is like? It’s like moving to a new country, going to a new school and then suddenly seeing one of your old classmates from back home in the hallway between third and fourth period.

5. Sky-walker

Though we know from the older Thrawn trilogy that Chiss ships are navigated by Force-sensitive children known as sky-walkers, in this book we actually get to spend time with one: Che’ri.

She is one of the point of view characters, and the unique, difficult lives of the sky-walkers are interesting enough to me that I could easily read a whole book about them. We see how, while Thalias, Ar’alani and Thrawn all treat her like an individual, most other people (including the ones who are supposed to take care of her) treat Che’ri like an object, or a tool. This is especially interesting coming from Thrawn, since he is usually the kind to treat people as assets rather than individuals.

The unexplored parallel between the role of sky-walker, and Anakin’s last name “Skywalker” is also a continued source of fascination. Thrawn mentions the name is common enough in that part of Lesser space but if that’s the case then I have 2 questions:

  1. Is it? Is it actually or is he just saying that?
  2. Where did Shmi get her last name from?

There are the questions, Star Wars.

6. Wait, who are you people again?

I know I said one of the features of the book was an entirely new cast of beings with an entirely new conflict, but it wound up being one of my problems with the book as well.

There are at least 3 (and possibly as many as 5) races of aliens in this book, excluding the Chiss, none of whom we’ve met before. I just finished reading this book two days ago and I could not tell you who was who without taking notes.

In a standalone book that didn’t exist as part of a larger franchise, I wouldn’t have worried. But in something like Star Wars, I just know all these groups are going to matter later on, as are the nuances that separate them, and I couldn’t keep any of them straight.

Points Left Hanging

  • Ar’alani, formerly known as Ziara, was kicked out of her family. Seems like something that happens among the Chiss, but what I want to know is why
  • Similarly, Thrawn’s full name here changes between the memory segments (Mitth’raw’nuru) and the main plot line (Mitth’raw’nuruodo). What changed? Am I caring too much about the tiny stuff
  • With the introduction of Che’ri, I now have a whole other character to care about in this universe, up there with Vah’nya and Eli Vanto. I just want to know that all these sweethearts are ok, honestly.

Random Thoughts

We’ve got students at academies, sneaking into parties in disguise, snooty family compounds. All excellent trope-y settings and I would like more please.

Thrawn takes Ar’alani on a date to an art gallery and it’s the nerdiest thing ever.

This book is so Star Trek the Chiss have their own version of the Prime Directive. Though this has less to do with interfering with a world’s development and more to do with apathy, honestly.

Seriously, drop those Thrawn/Ar’alani AO3 links please and thank you. *ahem*

Biweekly Book Review: Force Collector

We’re in the homestretch now. Only 3 books left in the main YA/adult timeline (not counting the two Black Spire books which we’ll also cover). Though this project isn’t quite over yet, the biggest chunk is behind me now, and I’m getting a little misty-eyed and nostalgic. Nostalgic for the history of the GFFA, even. Appropriate for this book, I think.

I hadn’t read this book before, even though it came out almost a year ago. It was part of the Rise of Skywalker publishing campaign, but I remember it getting swallowed up by the buzz around Resistance Reborn. Which I think is a shame, because this book is so much fun. It’s got all the Jedi and Freaky Force Stuff that I absolutely live for. Let’s dive into this sweet surprise of a novel: Force Collector by Kevin Shinick.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Outer Rim teenager Karr Nuq Sin has the Force. Kinda. What he has is an ability called psychometry, or the ability to see the memories of physical objects when he touches them. This ability isn’t unknown to the Jedi (Quinlan Vos had it, after all): anytime Karr touches an item, he gets a splitting headache, and occasionally passes out. But at the same time, he is able to see visions of events that took place around the item he is holding.

The only problem is Karr lives in the late days of the New Republic. The Jedi have all but faded from memory. Anytime they ARE brought up, it’s usually for people to say they don’t exist. People like Maize, the new kid at Karr’s school.

But Karr knows they existed. His grandmother told him so before she died, while she was training him to use his ability. But now, with his grandmother gone and no one to train him, his headaches persist, and his parents want to send him away to a less stressful environment to train as a tailor and carry on the family business.

Not ready to settle down into a life of monotony, Karr, with the help of Maize and his droid RZ-7, runs away from home and heads on a planet-hopping adventure to uncover the truth about the Jedi and see if he can learn enough from the items he finds to somehow continue his training.

4 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The use of nostalgia

Star Wars walks a fine line. For a story that means so much to so many, memories of first experiences with it are often firmly rooted in childhood or adolescence. Because of that, it is the inclination of many story tellers in this Galaxy to cash in on nostalgia. Most recently, the conversation has turned to the use of nostalgia in the Sequel Trilogy films, and whether or not this is an effective use of nostalgia. But I’m not here for that conversation today.

What I am here to say is that I love the way this book approaches the nostalgia of the series as a whole. The entire plot once they get off their home planet is essentially two kids who know nothing about Star Wars learning the plot from primary sources.

You see Karr piece together the story of the Skywalkers through objects he comes in contact with, but without added context, his interpretation of them is fairly removed from the truth. It isn’t until his third Skywalker related vision that he realizes Luke and Anakin are two different people, or that Luke wasn’t alive during the Clone Wars.

I can’t quite describe the effect it had on me, seeing the first 6 movies shown in highlight reel form. As someone who knows the full story, watching someone else discover it piece by piece filled me with such an eager anticipation. Like oh honey, you have no idea what’s coming next.

2. A new kind of Star Wars teenager

We have a lot of teenagers in Star Wars. So far we’ve had: teenage royalty, teenage rebel pilots, teenage Jedi, teenage spice runners, teenage runaways, teenage gang members, teenage guerrilla fighters, teenage Imperial officers.

But in this book we get…teenage high school students.

Revolutionary.

I didn’t notice until I read it how rare these kinds of teenagers are in Star Wars. Kids who live in what is essentially suburbia, with their parents, who get in trouble when they leave home to go on some kind of life changing adventure. Kids who have a home to come back to, that they actually want to come back to. And sure Karr has a special ability, it wouldn’t be a sci-fi young adult novel if he didn’t, but this was still so new for this universe that it kind of left me reeling.

I think this aspect is what also helps root the story in a very familiar kind of nostalgia. I’m not sure many people who grew up with this story were actually teenage royalty, or pilots, or officers, or Jedi.

But teenagers who break the rules in the name of the Skywalkers and their story? Far more relatable. High schoolers who cut class to see Star Wars or get their hands on some part of the story? People who discussed the saga with their friends in person and online? Teenagers who cosplayed their favourites? Kids who read their copy of the novelizations so much the books are falling apart (not that I’m speaking from experience)? Ninth graders who carried the May 2005 copy of Premiere magazine with Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker on the cover everywhere with them and read it under their desk in history class (still not speaking from experience)? We were Karr. We were Maize.

3. The History of the Galaxy feat. Freaky Force Stuff

As I’ve said countless times before, both in the blog and in person, the part of these stories I absolutely live for is the Jedi related plot. All the Freaky Force Stuff is very much my jam.

I didn’t expect a story about the Jedi in any way going into this (despite the title). Frankly I don’t know what I expected. But I absolutely loved what I got.

Each of Karr’s visions was a thrill. I would go into each one waiting to see if it was a moment I recognized, and of course they all were. In a book this short, we need to hit the big moments and don’t have time for the smaller/new ones.

That said, one moment that stuck out to me was Karr’s discovery of a message from Sifo Dyas explaining his motivation for creating the Clone Army. I know this was touched on in Dooku: Jedi Lost (and possibly in the Clone Wars?) but I always found it a little vague, so it was nice to have it spelled out here.

We also get a better look at the effects of Palpatine’s long-term propaganda about the Jedi and about how evil they were, illustrating how it is that such a presence in the Galaxy could be so forgotten a couple of generations later. This had been something I’d always assumed, but it’s nice to see it spelled out here.

I don’t think every little detail of a story needs to be explained necessarily. But if it fits the story and it’s going to happen anyway, then a book is the place to do it.

4. Relics from the past

So because this whole thing is about significant items from the past, items that bore witness to the story of the Skywalkers and the Galaxy at large, of course they’re going to be things that we the readers recognize too. My two favourites are:

Chirrut’s staff. Though Karr doesn’t know who it belonged to, he does know that it’s Force-adjacent and was in a great battle. This is one item Karr acquires before the book starts, and he never learns the full history behind it. But we know what it is, which makes this all the more fun.

C-3P0’s arm. Yes, the very reason he has a red arm in The Force Awakens. Now we don’t know how exactly he lost it, but it somehow ended up in the possession of Dok Ondar, who gives it to Maz Kanata, who lets Karr touch it to see what he can learn about the Skywalkers. This is the item that ultimately gives him the most insight into who they were and what happened to the Jedi.

5. You don’t have power, you have his power

UGGGGGH ok fine. Let’s talk about this.

Really, given that this was in the lead up to the Rise of Skywalker maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

But it turns out Karr isn’t just naturally gifted with the Force. No no. His great grandfather was a Jedi! He left the order to have a family, but yeah. A Jedi.

I’m genuinely starting to wonder how the Jedi lasted 1000 generations, and numbered in the hundreds if not thousands while not being able to have kids if genetics are apparently a prerequisite?

It was compelling enough that Karr’s grandmother believed in the Force despite not being able to wield it. That she remembered the good they had done and had somehow learned some of their principles and lessons. But no. A great-grandfather gave Karr his power.

Also, something that made me scratch my head was the way Karr’s great-grandfather, Naq Med, died. He didn’t disappear into the Force, his body remained, but the text goes to the trouble of telling us that he’s at peace. So….which is it? Confusing.

Random Thoughts

All the planets they travel to are worlds that we see in the movies. They even go to Kijimi at one point. They also go to Batuu! One notable place they don’t go? Tatooine.

Maz has Luke’s Yavin medal, which she got from Han Solo. Either the mystery of how this changed hands is going to stay a mystery, or this is yet another reason for me to read the comics.

Obi Wan Kenobi makes a couple of appearances here via flashback. Please just note that if you ever see him pop up on the page, that my brain made a noise like this. But like, in a happy way.

Karr’s droid, RZ-7, often has his name spelled out Arzee. Which is so close to my own name it was a tiny bit jarring every time I saw it.

At the end of the story, Karr decides to record his adventures, and the history of the Jedi. So he sits down and begins to type “A long time ago…” and if you think I didn’t scream WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? then you are mistaken

Biweekly Book Review: Poe Dameron: Free Fall

Today’s book is a milestone for a couple of reasons. It’s the first in this read through to star a Sequel Trilogy character (no Snap Wexley doesn’t count). It’s also the first of the canon books to be published post-TROS (and likely owes it’s existence to that movie, but I’ll get to that later).

Teeeeeechnically, I think this one actually falls between Last Shot and Bloodline chronologically, but I’m certainly not going to be the one separating Han and Leia. Poe can wait his turn. But we won’t wait anymore. Let’s dive (or perhaps….free fall? *badum tss*) into Poe Dameron: Free Fall by Alex Segura.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

16-year-old Poe Dameron, growing up on Yavin IV, dreams of living the kind of adventurous life his parents did during the days of the Rebellion. He wants to be out exploring the galaxy, preferably while sitting in the pilot seat of a star ship. His father, Kes, is having none of it, and would prefer Poe stay at home. This is made worse by the fact that Poe’s mother died in a flying accident 8 years prior.

But like every teenager ever, Poe feels like his dad just doesn’t understand him. When presented with the opportunity, he takes up with a shady group who are in town on business and need a pilot to fly them out. They are the Spice Runners of Kijimi, led by none other than Zorii Bliss, she of helmet-wearing, smokey-eye-having fame.

Over the course of a year, Poe tags along with the Spice Runners, eventually being accepted as one of their number, only to realize he is in way over his head and wants no part of this life. Meanwhile back on Yavin IV, his father is worried sick about him, and a New Republic agent longing for vengeance finds herself on the trail of Poe and the Spice Runners.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Disliked)

1. This book proooobably should have been about Zorii

OK, so I am very deeply, cynically aware that this book was probably deemed necessary to explain Poe Dameron, ace pilot for the Resistance, suddenly having a past as a spice runner.

That said, this book absolutely should have been about Zorii.

Poe stars in an entire series of comics (which, full disclosure, I haven’t read yet). So we have plenty of time to dive into who he is as a person. What we do not have, however, is anywhere near enough time spent with Zorii Bliss.

Her mother is the leader of the Spice Runners of Kijimi, and she spends the whole book, along with Poe, “training” to become full members of the gang. She is tough, has a lot of emotional angst where her mother is concerned, and also seems to have very little qualms killing people. Having an entire book about who she is as a person would have been so interesting. What little we got of her here WAS very interesting.

We could have also had Poe be in this book. but it would have been Poe through Zorii’s eyes. How this Yavin IV farm boy showed up and threw a wrench in her plans to take her place as her mother’s right hand. That would have satisfied the need to give Poe a backstory without needing to constantly return to the same character over and over.

2. Oh, Poe, you sweet, sweet boy

People really need to stop trying to shove Poe Dameron into a Han Solo shaped hole. The number of times “scoundrel” was used to refer to Poe in this book was something to behold. Yeah he’s a little cocky, of course he is when he’s that good a pilot and fighting on the side of right.

Really, if anything, he reminds me a lot of Luke Skywalker at the beginning of A New Hope. A sweet, sheltered farm boy, a kid who’s not such a bad pilot, seeking adventure in the great, wide, somewhere.

But even then, he’s really his own character more than anything else, and what I like about this is the moments where that shines through. He’s silly, flirty, loyal to a fault and determined to do the best he can at all times. All things I love about him in the movies.

But, another way I think he could have benefited from being a secondary character in Zorii’s story is that there wouldn’t have been the need to give him such a lengthy moral dilemma in the book. He realized about halfway through that he doesn’t like the way the spice runners operate, but has to stick with them for the rest of the book for character arc reasons, and this weakens his arc for me a little.

3. Kes Dameron book when?

Though up till this point I’d only seen a little of Kes Dameron in the Shattered Empire comic, I still really liked his character. Unlike Luke’s guardians, he’d seen the horrors of war up close and personal, and has different reasons for not wanting his son to be a part of that. He was such a sweet, devoted dad who only wanted to do right by his kid. (headcanon mode: imagine him and Han Solo having discussions about fatherhood, and wanting to be good dads to their boys, I may cry).

Also, according to Poe, his dad told him that he encountered a Zabrak who fancied himself a Jedi during the war and if that doesn’t sound like Darth Maul, nothing will. I want this one story so badly.

4. Spice Runners of Kijimi: All run, no spice

For supposedly the biggest, baddest gang out there, who takes the spice running game extremely seriously…

The Spice Runners of Kijimi never actually run any spice in this book (or if they do it’s blink-and-you-miss-it).

They sure do run a whole lot though. They run away from other criminals, they run from the law, they run to keep Zorii safe from her mothers enemies, they run around looking for her mothers helmet.

But they never run any spice.

You hear a lot about people making 1:1 parallels with Star Wars story points, and how that’s not how the media should be consumed. On that point, I agree.

But this particular plot element, that Poe was a spice runner, was met with a lot of criticism because of the Latinx drug dealer stereotype. It’s not my place to comment on this beyond that, I can’t speak with any kind of authority. But if you have a book where you have the opportunity to explicitly differentiate spice running from real world drug running, why would you not take that opportunity? Especially since the book’s whole existence is really to just explain that one plot point anyway?

Random Thoughts

The book got demonstrably better when Babu Frik showed up.

This book is also where Poe learns to light speed skip. Honestly though, parts of this book feel like the footnotes to TROS. The spice running stuff especially.

I actually think that Poe and Zorii’s dynamic in this book strengthens their dynamic in the movie. It definitely feels like the same relationship. I just reeeeeally wish they hadn’t made it romantic. I think the partnership side of it was better and far stronger.

For some inexplicable reason. Not one. Not two. But SIX (6) characters are incapacitated in some way in this book (and on a couple of occasions, killed) by getting stabbed in the “midsection”. It got to the point that by the 4th time, I laughed out loud, which I’m willing to bet was not the intention.

Biweekly Book Review: Bloodline

It’s a bit bittersweet today. On the one hand, I get to dive into one of my absolute favourite canon Star Wars novels. But on the other hand, this is the last Claudia Gray book until the High Republic comes out in the new year.

Of all the Star Wars books I’m covering here, this is the only print book that I’ve actually listened to fully in audiobook format. The first two Thrawn books, I half-listened, half-read depending on my work schedule. But this one was worth taking the time for.

I used to commute to work with my dad, and needing something to listen to in the car we first listened to Dooku: Jedi Lost, and once that proved a success, I suggested this one. He loves both sci-fi and Star Wars, but hasn’t ever read any of the old or new EU books. And even he LOVED this one. Still talks about it sometimes. So what is there to love about it? Honestly? Everything. Here is Bloodline, by Claudia Gray.

*Spoilers Below*

*Also Content Warning for brief mentions of torture/Slave Leia if either of those make you uncomfortable (found in list items 1 and 5)*

Worth noting that my absolute favourite thing about this book is Leia herself. But I won’t list it, because she’s the main character and that’s cheating.

The Story

Set shortly before the events of The Force Awakens, the New Republic is in chaos (shocking, who even saw that coming?). The Senate has turned extremely partisan, and is virtually incapable of doing anything but argue.

Needless to say, Leia is extremely over it, and decides to retire to spend more time with Han, who is off coaching starship race teams. An emissary from Ryloth arrives in the Senate, asking for an investigation into criminal activity in the planet’s region, as it’s effecting their day to day operations.

Leia decides an on-the-ground mission is just the note to go out on and volunteers to investigate. In an effort to keep things bipartisan (and not allow one party to have all the glory), Ransolm Casterfo, a Senator from the opposition volunteers to accompany her.

Because this is Star Wars, things are never as simple as they seem. Leia and Casterfo not only uncover a huge, well-connected criminal enterprise, but they also find themselves tossed around in the turmoil of election campaigns, as the Senate decides to elect a First Senator to lead the government, with Leia’s party choosing her as their candidate.

Through it all, Leia also continually finds herself haunted by shadows from her past, particularly the looming shadow of Darth Vader.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The OT through Leia’s eyes

Though Leia is present for the bulk of the Original Trilogy movies, we never really get to see how she feels about the things that happen to and around her.

It’s always “Who’s Leia?” “Where’s Leia?” and never “How’s Leia?”

I have never not been annoyed that a few hours after watching her home, her family, her whole planet blow up before her eyes, Leia has to sit and comfort a boy moping because the old guy he’s known for all of 10 minutes just died.

And you know what, Luke, I like Obi Wan too. But a little perspective please.

The book shows us that Leia did take time to mourn the loss of her home, that the grief still comes on really strongly even years later, and that Han is always there for her when it does.

This book also sees one of the best rebrandings in the Star Wars universe, and that is the rebranding of “Slave Leia” into “Huttslayer Leia”. When Leia and her team are investigating the new swell of criminal activity, their investigation brings them face to face with Rinrivin Di, the crime lord that they suspect is behind it all. He manages to get Leia alone and shows her his most prized possession: a recording of a young Leia strangling Jabba the Hutt to death. Because Rinrivin Di’s people suffered greatly at the hands of the Hutts, they were delighted to see Jabba taken out, and hold Leia in great esteem for being the one to do it.

There are a lot of reasons I love this so much. I love it because this idea of Leia killing the being who dared hold her captive is how Carrie Fisher framed that plot point. I love it because it injects agency into a thing that has long been fetishized for the wrong reasons. I love that it has taken on a life of its own outside of the book. Costuming groups refer to this outfit as “Huttslayer Leia”. I’ve got this badass sticker on my laptop, created as part of the promotional campaign for the “Looking for Leia” docuseries (art by @miss.lys on Instagram):

Leia was such an instrumental part of those first movies, and it’s great to read a book that puts the focus on her and that shows how instrumental those stories were to her too.

2. The politics of the New Republic

All through the Aftermath books, I talked about how the New Republic is setting itself up for failure, and that the whole thing is definitely going to implode?

So guess what happens here?

In the years since the government was established, two political parties popped up in the Senate, and become more divided by the day.

On one side, there are the Populists, of which Leia is one. The Populists are opposed to central government, wanting each world to govern themselves, their reasoning being that one central leader is a slippery slope to a Palpatine-like dictatorship. The problem here is that with no central guidance, no world or system gets adequate enough assistance for their problems.

On the other side, there are the the Centrists, who are in favour of all systems being governed by a central body. Though this approach does allow for a more decisive approach to dealing with the problems of the galaxy, this party is also the one that attracts people who think the Empire wasn’t so bad after all, and overall has a more elitist membership.

You can see why this is a problem.

Though Leia and Casterfo do manage a civil, even friendly working relationship for a time. This all comes crumbling down when Lady Carise Sindian, a noblewoman obsessed with titles in a galaxy that couldn’t care less, who has a huge chip on her shoulder where Leia is concerned, reveals to Casterfo that Leia is the daughter of Darth Vader.

It also turns out that Carise is financially backing the criminal element Leia and Casterfo were looking for, this criminal element being a group of warriors who will eventually become the First Order.

Leia ends the book by walking away from the Senate and forming a Resistance group for the inevitable conflict on the horizon. This plot point was the single more informative thing about the whole book. When I first saw The Force Awakens, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why a resistance was necessary when it seemed the New Republic was still in power. More importantly, it seemed like the First Order only seized power after the destruction of the Hosnian System. So if they weren’t in charge, who are the Resistance resisting?

Now I know.

3. Han and Leia

No author writing for the current canon writes Leia the way Claudia Gray does.

Gray hits on every facet there is. Her Leia is always at once a sage diplomat, a person who takes absolutely no bullshit and won’t waste time telling you as much, and someone who is often overwhelmed with a lot of personal and professional difficulty and feels it all keenly.

This knack for writing Leia extends to how she writes Leia and Han as a couple. So far we’ve also seen them together in the Aftermath books and in Last Shot.

In Last Shot we don’t see a whole lot of them together, but it is an effective set up for what we see here. It’s the two of them trying to make their marriage work while pursuing their individual interests and also trying to raise their son in the new world they’re creating.

Not much to say about the Aftermath books here except that even though I liked seeing them both in the book, I never got the feeling that they were married because they wanted be.

Here, they actually seem to love each other, and want to spend time together, and realizing that their various responsibilities keep them apart for lengthy periods of time is a point of sadness for them.

The way Leia describes Han is also really sweet. She says that he thrives when mentoring others, and that this is how he shows affection. It was what he did for Luke when they first met, and it’s what he does for the young racing pilots he coaches now. Through Leia’s eyes, he is also a rock-solid emotional support for when the grief of all she’s lost becomes too much to bear.

Han and Leia were never a couple I “shipped”, they just always were. I’ve never not liked them together, and with the added depth to their relationship here, I see that that like was justified.

4. Napkin Bombing

There’s nothing I love more than a good Star Wars conspiracy theory.

Before we get there, the Napkin Bombing is an incident that occurs halfway through this book and really ramps up the drama and conflict. Someone sets off a bomb that blows up half the Senate building, but miraculously doesn’t kill anyone.

The reason no one dies is because of a napkin, which provides the incident with its namesake.

Leia heads to a breakfast meeting in the Senate building, and on her plate is a napkin with the word “Run” written on it. This is just odd enough, because no one in this universe actually physically writes, that it catches Leia’s attention and she calls for a total evacuation of the building. In the aftermath, both parties suspect the other of foul play, and the conspiracy theories run wild. The bombing, it turns out, was planned by Carise Sindian and the Amaxine warriors, the milita group she is funding.

What we never find out though, is who wrote the note.

And this is where the conspiracy comes in, because the Napkin Bombing is a plot point suggested to Claudia Grey by none other than Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi. Apparently he also floated some ideas for how the political system works, but this is far more interesting to me because the whole thing hinges on a handwritten note, and The Last Jedi is the movie where we learn that Ben Solo is the rare person in the galaxy who actually writes by hand (it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it thing). I have nothing constructive to add here beyond “what does it meeeeeean?”

(Probably nothing honestly)

5. Leia and Vader

I’m going to make one thing very clear. As far as I’m concerned, while Luke is definitely the son of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Leia Organa’s father is 100% Bail Organa.

That’s how she sees it. That’s the man who raised her. That’s all there is to it.

BUT. Because Anakin/Darth Vader is her biological father, the implications of that come into play in this book in a way that is both fascinating and heartbreaking.

A couple of times, Leia mentions that Luke told her how in his final moments, Vader had redeemed himself and become Anakin once more. She says that this gave Luke peace and closure, and while she’s happy for him, she can’t bring herself to feel the same way.

Yeah, no kidding.

Because while Luke can go forth, confident in the knowledge that his father saved him from death, sacrificing himself in the process, Leia’s one and only encounter with the man was when he spent countless hours torturing her, listening to her beg for mercy, before forcing her to watch the destruction of her planet. So no, she isn’t going to forgive him just like that, nor should she.

Not only that, but other than telling Han, Leia never revealed this bit on information to anyone. Again, she was right to do that, it doesn’t matter to them anyway. She doesn’t even tell Ben (which, hoo boy, I would love to see how that conversation played out when he found out). The revelation that she is related to Darth Vader absolutely dominates the last third or so of the book, and I loved seeing the emotional weight the plot was given.

Like in the above, where we get to reevaluate some events and relationships from the Original Trilogy through her eyes, this is a key connection that looms over her life, and I’m glad we get to see her deal with her feelings about it head on. While she does eventually have some empathy for why Anakin may have turned in the first place, she is definitely more hesitant about embracing his redemption.

6. Greer and Joph’s Side Quests

This is not to say that these parts of the book, where Joph and Greer head out on their own to gather information for Leia aren’t important to the story, or important in developing their relationship as characters.

My only issue with them is that the political conflict and overall mystery were so engaging, and I was enjoying seeing Leia thrive in her environment so much, that any time spent away from that part of the story was bound to have me wishing we could hurry back.

But let’s be honest, my least favourite part of a Claudia Gray book is still miles ahead of my “favourite” part of a book I disliked.

Random Thoughts

In a flashback, Han and Leia talk about having grandchildren one day, and how Leia is looking forward to it, but Han jokes and says he’s “never getting that old”, and this is fine, I totally wanted to cry today.

I know it’s just for a prerecorded message but Bail Organa is back y’all *happy tears*

Bail’s message is preceded by an Alderaanian lullaby called “Mirrorbright”. I can’t remember if there was a tune in the book or not, so I decided to hum it to the tune of “Once Upon a December” from Anastasia, and it actually works (mostly).

Ransolm Casterfo has the best name.

In another little nod to seeing the OT through Leia’s eyes, she mentions that Ransolm has the same accent Tarkin had, the one she mocked when she was brought on board the Death Star. I’m pretty sure Carrie Fisher said her line delivery came out like that because she was nervous, and it’s really cute that it was given similar reasoning in-universe.

OK, I’m just going to say it, then I’ll drop it. I know a lot of people liked Jedi Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. It didn’t even bother me much because I figured Leia’s a smart lady, and she knows if she has the capability to do something, then why not learn it and have that tool in her arsenal. Case in point: using the Force to pull herself back onboard the ship in The Last Jedi. But in this book she explicitly tells someone, when asked if she ever trained as a Jedi, that she hadn’t. I know the movies come first, and the books contradict each other in little ways sometimes, but this is a HUGE part of her character and I can’t help but feel that writers trying to wrap up a saga this massive would have been well-served by reading the current crop of stories first.

Biweekly Book Review: Last Shot

At last. At long last. No more galactic scale space fight for a while. After the two Alphabet Squadron books and the three Aftermath ones, it’s nice to have the universe give way to something smaller and more intimate.

I was really looking forward to revisiting this book. I liked it well enough when I read it the first time. But in the year since I read it, I heard so many people describe it in such glowing terms that I was really excited to give it another go. It’s safe to say this one now ranks among my top Star Wars picks. Why you ask? Well, let’s dive into Last Shot by Daniel José Older.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Here’s something new: a thriller/mystery with elements of a heist!

Lando Calrissian is attacked in his own home by a red-eyed droid with one mandate: kill. The shadowy figure accompanying the droid is a being by the name of Fyzen Gor, who holds the owner of the Millennium Falcon responsible for the theft of a device known as the Phalynx some 10 years prior.

Problem is Han is the one who owned the Falcon at the time.

Han gets a late night visit from Lando, and the two of them take off on an adventure to track down the Phalynx and figure out why exactly droids keep switching their programming and trying to kill them.

Meanwhile Han is wrestling with his want to still be out and on adventures when he has the very real responsibility of being around for his family, something he feels very insecure about.

Of course, because this is Star Wars and because it’s a quest, they’re accompanied on their adventure by a ragtag crew including Chewbacca, a former Twi’lek freedom fighter named Kaasha, an Ewok, an Ugnaught, and a hotshot young pilot

4 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The Scale

I already mentioned above that it made a nice change to go from the chaotic, galaxy-spanning, cast of dozens each with their own point of view, epic conflict with massive consequences story of the last 5 books to this book which is a much “smaller” story.

Though Han and Lando do have a crew with them, the point of view in the novel mostly alternates between one of them (with very rare chapters focusing on Fyzen Gor). When the crew split up, sending Han and Lando one way and everyone else another way, we don’t know what happens to the other characters until Han and Lando catch up to them later.

Though failure in their mission would mean consequences for the whole galaxy, since the Phalynx is capable of transmitting a virus to millions of droids turning them all into killing machines, the story never feels that big. And I mean that in the best way.

This is just two characters on a mission with a very specific goal in mind. Even when the book goes into one of the extensive flashback sequences, the scale and goal are still kept very intimate, and that allowed for a deeper appreciation and investment on my part.

2. The Tone and Pace

I don’t have much to say about the pace except that the book moves quickly and the chapters are short. I loved that I could read a full chapter whenever I had a moment and then put the book down without forgetting what was going on or where I was.

As for tone, the book was funny. The descriptions, the dialogue, all of it. It’s hard to convey in a review like this, but the lighthearted tone paired with a more serious mission was seriously such a breath of fresh air.

Even little throwaway moments, like Han and Leia’s kitchen droid believing a well-brewed coffee (sorry…”caf”) is the solution to every problem, including getting baby Ben to stop crying.

But in addition to being funny, the book is also genuinely thrilling/a little scary. Ok maybe it isn’t that scary and I’m just a wimp. But the terror of facing a droid whose only mission is to kill you, a droid that is beyond reasoning with and won’t stop till it’s reached its objective? Scary stuff. And I loved it.

3. Multiple Timelines

Though the story largely takes place in the “present day” (that is to say about 3 years or so after Return of the Jedi), it also flashes back to two points in the past. One set of flashbacks focus on Han Solo, a few years before we meet him in A New Hope, and the other set focuses on Lando, some 5 years before that. Both flashback sets focus on a time when each man was in possession of the Falcon, and focuses on a mission centred around the Phalynx.

Because it’s unclear what the Phalynx is or what Fyzen Gor wants to do with it, the flashbacks act as pieces in the puzzle, helping us solve the mystery along with the characters. It was a really effective way of making the narrative feel a little more varied, and not so claustrophobic, without pulling focus away from the two main characters.

4. Old Friends

Each flashback set sees Han or Lando with a mission partner, and in both cases these are people we’ve seen before.

For Lando’s mission, we see him with his droid copilot L3-37, who we know from Solo. Though the book did come out before the movie, I read it after, so for me it was nice to see L3 again. I’ve always liked the character and thought she got a lot of unnecessary flack. Here, she and Lando usually had scenes that were just the two of them, giving the reader better insight into how close they were before the events of the movie.

Not to mention L3 basically saves the day, which I loved.

For Han’s part, other than having Chewie with him as always, he is also joined on his mission by Sana Starros.

Sana Starros!

Back in my Doctor Aphra review, I mentioned that I felt like I was missing a chunk of the story, especially where Han, Leia and Sana were concerned? I got a little of that here, seeing Sana and Han on a mission together, and also learning they pretended to be married?? I’m definitely going to have to read those comics now.

(We just won’t mention how I’d already read this book and somehow forgot Sana Starros was in it)

5. Fyzen Gor’s human/robot hybrids

Fyzen Gor is a Pau’an who believes in droid supremacy. In a bid to elevate organics to a higher state of being, while also not wasting parts when repairing droids, he makes hybrids of the two. He dismembers organic beings to fix broken droids, and enhances organic beings with droid parts.

The concept is a cool one for the story villain, and is messed up, perfectly in keeping with the more thriller/horror tone. But I am personally not a fan of body horror like this. It’s not even that I think it was badly written. It was never gratuitously gory like some other things I can think of. But of all the parts of the book, I liked this the least. What can I say, I have a weak stomach.

Random Thoughts

I’m a sucker for Han and Leia’s relationship, and for Ben Solo (which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now), so of course I loved all these scenes in the book. The last time I read this was pre Episode IX, and in the months since, things have changed in my reread. All the Han and Ben scenes are now 100% more emotional in the wake of the one scene they had together in that movie. Plus, all the scenes of Ben being a sweet little kid are just that much sadder knowing he isn’t going to come home after all, not really. OK, end rant/moping for this post.

I never got a concrete answer about whether Jannah in The Rise of Skywalker was supposed to be Lando’s daughter or not, but if she is I have to ask…what happened to Kaasha?

Han and Lando have a frank discussion about Lando selling him out to the Empire, which is such a sincere, emotionally complex moment in an otherwise more action-and-banter driven story. It was nice to see that addressed in a small way now that they actually have time to do so safely.

For all her talk about droid liberation and droid rights, we see L3 actually took great steps to ensure that there was a way to stop droids from massacring all humans. All she ever wanted was equal rights. I love that droid so much.

Biweekly Book Review: Aftermath: Empire’s End

War is coming. It’s time for the Battle of Jakku and the fall of the Empire. Today we’re going to be wrapping up the Aftermath series.

From here on out, we will be firmly in the Sequel Trilogy timeline, and I promise I won’t let my Episode IX feelings out too much (because I’ve been so good and subtle about it thus far). So, let’s get started. Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

In the months since the Battle of Endor, the remains of the Empire have been slowly picking themselves up in the shadows and trying to maintain some kind of foothold in the galaxy they once controlled.

Following instructions from Gallius Rax, Palpatine’s would-be successor, what’s left of the Empire’s forces relocate to Jakku and prepare to make their last stand.

Word of this reaches the New Republic, where the leaders are hesitant to engage in another act of war, preferring to try and negotiate a cease fire instead, not that that’s stopping anyone from trying anyway.

Norra Wexley, accompanied by Jas Emari, heads to Jakku in search of her husband and Rae Sloane, who she holds responsible for the actions on Chandrila in the second book. Snap Wexley and Wedge Antilles remain behind, gearing up Wedge’s Phantom Squadron for their role in the big fight. Meanwhile Sinjir Rath Velus puts his old Imperial skills to use by playing the political game and trying to make sure Mon Mothma retains her seat as New Republic chancellor.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. A Happy Ever After? In Star Wars?

You know what’s super weird about this book? There are two romantic subplots, and neither end up with one person dying in the other’s arms.

I know! In Star Wars of all places!

We see the resolution of the Norra/Wedge plot from past books with the suggestion by the end that they’re spending a LOT of time together. Granted, they’re taking things very slowly because Norra went from thinking her husband was dead, to realizing that he was actually kidnapped and brainwashed, to him dying for real in the span of a couple of months at most.

The other, more conventional romantic subplot is between Sinjir and New Republic slicer Conder Kyl. The two of them are a tale as old as time. Sinjir is the cold, damaged one who doesn’t know how to love and Conder is the sweet one who is willing to try. So then of course Conder is kidnapped, Sinjir has to rescue him and along the way realizes he loved him this whole time. What can I say? I love my tropes and it’s high time this franchise had romance that doesn’t end in tragedy.

2. Mon Mothma

For all that Mon Mothma is painted as a stick in the mud for the bulk of this series, I actually really like her character here. Leia takes a back seat in this book, and the struggles of the New Republic are all shown through Mon’s eyes.

She is faced with a downright impossible task of trying to build a functioning government out of a rag tag band of rebels all while making sure she never slips into authoritarian Palpatine mode.

I empathize with her too, because her job is a thankless one, and the balance she has to maintain is a precarious one. I’ve said it before, but this series felt like watching the New Republic fail in slow motion, because you know that in 30 years or so it’s all going to come crumbling down.

3. The Empire’s Back Up Plan

Building on the last point, this book also gives a great look into how the Empire managed to survive enough to come roaring back as the First Order in the future.

The creepy Palpatine robots we saw in this series and in the Alphabet Squadron books sends Gallius Tax and the Imperial forces to an outpost on Jakku to make their last stand. Jakku, it says, is home to one of several outposts made to house Sith artifacts (probably much like the one Yrica finds in Shadow Fall).

Though the Empire loses that particular battle, and Rax is killed, Grand Admiral Sloane is spared by Norra and heads to the edges of Wild Space to build the Empire back up. Though this is fascinating and interesting, I think it suffers by not being paid off later. Sloane is too big a figure in the Empire to simply disappear, but as of right now, I can’t remember if we ever see her again.

4. The Battle of Jakku

Good lord.

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like battle scenes. I think the interesting thing about any fight scene is how it makes a character feel. The internal conflict makes the external one worth reading.

The Battle of Jakku takes up the last third of this book, and is just so much back and forth pew pew pew, which I know is to be expected of an adult Star Wars book, but I’d be lying if I said I read the whole thing without skimming it.

Overall Series Thoughts

You know when I really enjoyed this series? Up to when the movies ended.

I know the books aren’t perfect, I know some choices made are questionable, but overall, I liked what they did for the world building, and of all the books I’d read, they informed a lot of my theories going into Episode 9.

I thought we’d find out Rey’s parents worked for the Empire on Jakku and dumped their Force-sensitive child there because they didn’t want Palpatine’s sentinels to come after them. I thought, once we found out Palpatine was coming back, that it would be in the form of one of these sentinels, and not as a clone that’s been hanging around on an arcade claw for 30 years for some reason. I thought, that for all the attention paid to Leia’s meditations with the Force, her sensing Ben and communicating with him before he was born, her sensing that band of unexpected darkness that kept invading his soul, that we would somehow see the two reunited in the end (not in death, that doesn’t count and it didn’t even happen anyway).

I know things don’t always go the way we want, and I probably spent way too much time thinking about this, but the books don’t feel the same now, in a post-TROS world. Too much of the story was left hanging. I’m curious now to see how the rest of the Sequel-era books feel in this post-saga world.

Random Thoughts

Fun fact: Niima Outpost, where we first meet our beloved heroine Rey is named after the Hutt that ran a black market on that site

Less fun fact: We find out what happened to Jar Jar in one of the interludes and things did not go well for our poor gungan friend (no he wasn’t a secret Sith Lord either, for which I’m relieved, I did not like that theory)

Gallius Rax makes a point of saying that he had once come from nothing and rose to power, and wow what a compelling narrative that would be for a scrappy child from Jakku if only we could have seen that play out on screen but I guess not right?

We get our first glimpse at little Armitage Hux, who is simultaneously terrifying and to be pitied.

Biweekly Book Review: Aftermath: Life Debt

Welcome, welcome, everyone to the darker (or, longer at any rate) middle chapter of the Aftermath series. Of all the books in the series, this is the one I remember the best, both in the interludes and in the main plot points. Can’t really say why that is but I bet it’s because it so heavily features characters I’m familiar with.

The subplots are many, the roster of characters is ever expanding, and the galaxy far away is hurtling straight into disaster while everyone pretends it’s fine. It’s time to dive into Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

The New Republic is continuing to build itself up and strive to find it’s place and purpose in a post-war galaxy. Though Chancellor Mon Mothma prefers the peaceful, negotiation approach, it is becoming rapidly clear that it’s not possible to make that dream a reality.

The Empire still holds many far off worlds in its grasp, and Imperial leadership still refuses to concede that they lost the war. While maintaining overtures of peace with the New Republic, Admiral Rae Sloane and the mysterious Gallus Rax persist in trying to build the Empire back up from the shadows.

Through it all, Norra Wexley and her team have started working for the New Republic, bringing formal Imperial officials into custody. This seems to be working well enough until Leia Organa approaches them with a secret special request: Han Solo has gone missing and she wants the team to find him and bring him home. They do find him, on the Wookie homeward of Kashyyk, where the Empire is not only still enslaving Wookies, but is also keeping prisoners of war, one of whom is Norra’s missing husband Brentin.

Half the team heads home to contend with the growing political turmoil while the other half stays behind on Kashyyk to help Han and Chewie liberate the planet.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. Leia!

Leia is a big part of this book, which was somehow totally to be expected given how big a role Han plays, but was also a delightful surprise.

She spends the bulk of her time on Chandrila as Mon Mothma gets the New Republic underway. But she finds herself increasingly left out of the proceedings, as Mon favours a negotiation approach, and Leia is more willing to take risks and go in recklessly, guns blazing to solve problems like they did in the days of the Alliance. She quite rightfully points out that by dithering over negotiations, innocent people and entire worlds are left to suffer.

Some of her urgency to see the galaxy put right and to have Han back home is because she’s pregnant with Ben. It’s actually in meditating on her pregnancy that she is able to connect with the Force on demand for the first time. It is the first time she’s able to feel it “flowing through” her, the way Luke had described it. It is in this meditation that she also connects with Ben for the first time, and also feels the pull and influence of the Dark Side. I’ve long suspected that this pull of the Dark Side that she feels is attributable to Palpatine (I initially thought Snoke, but…well…same thing I guess?), since her mind goes to such a tragic place very quickly. She feels this pain, worry, and sadness deep down, and so suddenly I’m hard pressed not to think of it as outside influence, though granted this isn’t confirmed in the book.

And finally. Even though her life has changed, she is still the Princess Leia we all know and love. So when the New Republic won’t act fast enough to bring her husband home, she hops in the Millennium Falcon and brings him home all by her damn self.

2. Chaos in the Republic

As mentioned above, the Republic is not doing well. They are so determined to separate themselves from the Empire, they overcorrected in the wrong direction.

Leia cannot get them to intervene on behalf of worlds whose people are suffering. It actually reminded me of Padmé’s speech to the Senate in The Phantom Menace, where she shames the Chancellor for allowing her people to continue to suffer and die, all in the name of an investigation and negotiation. It was exactly that kind of ineffective bureaucracy that allowed the Empire to rise. But where the old Senate had hundreds of years to reach this point, the New Republic gets there almost immediately.

It’s no wonder they lost.

3. Chaos in the Empire

While the New Republic struggles, the former Empire has struggles of their own.

Because neither Palpatine nor Vader had children that the Imperials know of, there is a power vacuum at the top of the chain of command.

Admiral Sloane most naturally fills the leadership role, holding the most firepower at her command. But then there is the shadowy figure of Gallus Rax, who declares himself Emperor in practice if not in name.

Beyond the power vacuum, there is also the question of building up their population. They bring Brendol Hux, head of an elite stormtrooper training academy, to sit in on the council. The refrain is always the same: The Empire needs children. In the absence of Imperials actually having them, they have to get the kids from somewhere. This is where we see hints of what we know is to come: The Empire stealing children from their families.

Where the New Republic is being overly cautious, the former Empire is fractured and reckless. And the conflict is not just between the two sides. As Maz Kanata points out in her interlude, conflict in the galaxy is always between thousands of forces each pulling their own way and flighting to win. It’s never black and white.

4. Seriously, just so many plots

Not counting the interludes, there are at least 2, maybe 3 Imperial focused plots, and at least 3 New Republic focused plots.

Where in the last book my issue was that some of the plots weren’t given the space to be fleshed out, here we have kind of an opposite issue. All the plot points are decently fleshed out, but there are SO MANY of them to bounce between, that it started to feel like a lot.

Where Alexander Freed’s books feel dense for the amount of time and detail spent on one plot point/scene, this book feels dense for the sheer number of people, places, and things we are meant to keep track of.

Points Left Hanging

  • Wedge and Norra’s relationship. I need some happy Star Wars romance, I am begging you. We had a bit of emotional drama when Norra came home with her husband, much to Wedge’s shock, and I look forward to the payoff.

Random Thoughts

Wedge is the one who gave Temmin his nickname, “Snap”, which is just so cute to me

One of the interludes is about a group of Sith Acolytes who firmly believe that Vader still lives. Though it’s possible these are the same people who become Palpatine’s cultists in TROS, that feels like a bit of a stretch. It would have been cool to see such a dark plot point appear in the movies in a significant kind of way.

The Rancor keeper from Return of the Jedi gets his own interlude! Nothing to add here, it was just a sweet moment.

Maybe it’s just because Hux is played by Domhnall Gleeson in the movies, but anytime they mention Brendol Hux (the characters father) I keep picturing Brendan Gleeson (the actors father). I can’t help but feel like the description is deliberate, too.

Biweekly Book Review: Aftermath

Well, kids. We’re here. We’ve transitioned out of the late Original Trilogy timeline and have moved into the early Sequel Trilogy timeline.

I realize the next three books take place almost concurrently with the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, so why is it that I mark this as the transition period? While the Alphabet books, in my opinion, have their characters reflect on what the Empire and the Rebellion was, the Aftermath books take a bigger picture look at the resulting chaos (or the…aftermath hehe) of the fall of the Empire.

Another reason I consider these books to be “early Sequel Trilogy” timeline is that I read all three right after The Last Jedi came out, and they helped inform every single one of my theories leading up to Episode IX.

None of which came to fruition. Not even a little.

So I admit that my enjoyment of them did diminish a little in the…aftermath (hehe) of The Rise of Skywalker, knowing that many elements that were set up don’t ever really pay off. I suspect that’s going to be a theme with the rest of the books going forward so apologies in advance.

With that…Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

*Spoilers Below

The Story

Rebel pilot Norra Wexley heads home to Akiva after the Battle of Endor, ready to find her son and leave the war behind. She enlisted less out of a sense to do what’s right, and more to find her husband, who had been taken away by stormtroopers some years earlier. Unsuccessful on that front, she just wants to get things as back to normal as possible.

Her son, Temmin, however, is less willing for things to go back to normal. In the absence of his parents, he’s refined his skills as a droid builder, and modified himself an old B1 Battle Droid into a now somewhat unhinged companion named Mister Bones. He is managing to scrape by on his own, and not particularly trusting of the mother who up and left him.

Also on Akiva are former Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus, who is looking to get away from his old life and bounty hunter Jas Emari, who is in town to capture one of the Imperials in town for a summit.

Speaking of that summit. The Empire hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that they lost the war. They have staged an occupation of Akiva, and are holding a summit with the leader of the planet that promises to not be fair to the leader at all. Though the Empire is operating in secret, it’s not so secret that it hasn’t caught the attention of the New Republic. They send Wedge Antilles to investigate, but he winds up being captured and tortured by the former Empire instead.

Their objective is simple. Get Wedge and get out. Of course, these things never go to plan. And much like the crew of Alphabet Squadron, we have here another group of people who share one key trait: they’ve all got baggage.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The Interludes

When I think back to the Aftermath series, the interludes are the parts I think of the most.

Every few chapters, the plot stops and we visit a totally new part of the galaxy, ranging from the central to the far-flung. While there, we see how the events of the galaxy are affecting its citizens. Sometimes the characters or their plots wind up playing a larger part, sometimes they don’t.

But what I like so much about these, and what makes them so effective, is how they show the state of the galaxy beyond what our main characters experience. Often the problem with these large, world-changing conflicts in stories, is that no one spares a thought for the average person who has their life turned totally upside-down.

Some stand out interludes from this include: The POV of young children who unofficially (at least, I hope unofficially) fought for the rebellion on Coruscant; the Empire using a Fake Palpatine for propaganda purposes; underground lightsaber vendors who sell to cultists

2. Larger Plot Setups

Another thing this book does really well is use the main plot to set up how this nascent New Republic crumbles into the First Order by the time we meet up with the movies again in The Force Awakens.

Though this book doesn’t have a ton of time to delve into it, what with having to set up the new characters and all, it does effectively demonstrate that the Empire doesn’t consider itself out of power, that the New Republic is trying to be everything to everyone, and most importantly, that the New Republic wasn’t prepared to win.

The New Republic was only too happy to root out the Empire’s presence on as many worlds as possible, with the aim of demilitarizing as soon as possible. But what they didn’t consider was what do to with those worlds when they were gone. There was no new power structure set up, and the worlds descent into chaos. We see this in the interludes, and in the main plot as well. With this kind of attention drawn to it, it’s not hard to think that if this is what we’re seeing, imagine what we aren’t.

3. What the Characters Represent

The characters are all essentially a ragtag band with a lot of personal baggage.

But what they represent. Ah. That is far more interesting.

Norra represents the person who gave her everything to the cause while she was in it, but who also knows when she wants out. She cannot feel like the ever triumphant hero because she knows she left a life and people behind when she went off to fight and feels guilty. By contrast Wedge is the person who is in it for the long haul. the career rebel who doesn’t envision life outside of the system he helped create.

Temmin represents everyone who was left behind, who didn’t get to go off on the grand adventure to save the galaxy, yet had to make it work somehow. Essentially, he is everyone in the Star Wars universe who doesn’t get a movie made about them, or a book written about them.

Sinjir though, is the most interesting to me. He is a former Imperial, who defected after he began to see in his words “a weakness” in the system. As a Loyalty Officer, his job involved torturing people the Empire decided were threats to their rule or to the order they established. Though he originally complied with the instructions, he left when he could no longer see the point and lives with his guilt. He admits to being a bad person, but is also striving to do better. He wants redemption and I love that this story is willing to give him that chance.

4. Some of the Side Plots

Because this book needed a conventional plot alongside the interludes and larger world building, we hop back and forth between the heroes, Wedge, the Empire and the New Republic.

However, the New Republic’s part of the plot, represented by Admiral Ackbar seemed to serve only to remind us that the government is aware and involved in the situation on Akiva. It otherwise brought everything to a halt. I found myself wishing that that time had been devoted to more interludes, perhaps jumping between New Republic perspectives, because I honestly don’t find Admiral Ackbar all that interesting.

Points Left Hanging

  • Where is Norra’s husband?
  • Is Rae Slone going to pay off in a fun way? We’ve seen her pop up here and there, but this seems like her time to shine
  • Who is the New Republic “Operator” informant? Did I miss it in this book? Possible

Random Thoughts

I have a long, sick laugh every time one of these ancillary books says that Palpatine is definitely dead. We all thought that for a while, didn’t we. Are we even sure he’s dead now?

Wedge defiantly tells his Imperial captors that the New Republic will send someone to save him because “there’s more of us”, which is a sweet, though unintentional reference to his only scene in The Rise of Skywalker.

This is a longer point, but it isn’t really the fault of the book so I didn’t want to list it up top. The bulk of the action is set on Akiva, an uncomfortably hot planet. Women wear face covering veils in public. The place is run by a person called the Satrap, whose palace has blue tiles, bubbling fountains, and girls in see-through scarves who provide him with a fruit that sounds an awful lot like a date. I could be projecting (probably am), but this sounded awfully Middle-East-esque to me. A stereotype, sure, but all the same. Not white people. Hell, the title Satrap is even a Persian word denoting a military rank. Temmin “Snap” Wexley is even described as a tan youth with dark hair. I’m not sure what came first, this book, or The Force Awakens, but I do question the choice to take a character hailing from this kind of background and this physical description and then cast…Greg Grunberg to play him. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Grunberg seems like a great guy, and I can’t even blame JJ for putting him in the movie. If I were directing Star Wars, I’d probably give my best friend a bit part too. I just wonder who it was who decided to connect this particular line and have Temmin be someone we see in the movie who doesn’t really match the description given in the book…