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Force Collector: Looking at the Galaxy with a Fresh Eye

This review is almost completely spoiler-free, I mention some minor details about who the main characters are but don’t get into the plot events.

I’d been curious about Force Collector ever since it was announced. They told us that it was a middle-grade novel about a kid gathering artifacts to learn more about the Force and the Jedi specifically. Generally, Jedi stories aren’t my favorite: but stories about artifacts and the general mythical environment around Jedi and the Force? I love those. The teaser info we got from author Kevin Shinick at New York Comic-Con sealed the deal: he told us it was a story about someone trying to uncover the events of the Star Wars films who had never heard of or seen anything to do with those events. The main character, Karr, gets strange visions when he touches artifacts that have “experienced” a lot of history or momentous events (historians would envy him that ability!) and begins to uncover bits and pieces of Star Wars history through experiencing vignettes from the books, comics, and movies.

Force Collector isn’t a “clip show” kind of story, and thank goodness for that. It reminds me of the initial pitch for Lost Stars, where Claudia Gray said she was initially told to write a story that introduced the YA audience to the original Star Wars films in a new way – and she created such a compelling story with her original characters that she went well beyond that original idea and created something special. The visions we see in Force Collector are interstitial visions, showing scenes before and after key Star Wars events to show them in a different context, but it’s the framing story that’s the real star for me. I liked Karr as a character, as well as his droid RZ-7 and his friend Maize. Karr’s whole deal is what got me interested in the book in the first place, and the two kids trying to figure out who they are and what they want in life is what kept me reading. It’s a story about regular people in Star Wars, and I love that stuff.

That’s not to say that the visions and Force stuff aren’t interesting. They are, but maybe for a different reason. When Del Rey’s Resistance Reborn recently released, there was some discussion about whether the book was approachable for new readers of the Star Wars literary universe. Some people made some excellent explainers about what people needed to know before reading it (you can take Star Wars Explained as the premiere example of that) while others got lists of lore and facts from the book to add to other lists of lore and facts. And it got me thinking about how different readers grow and become familiar with the universe differently. Some people enjoy reference books with charts and diagrams, some people really appreciate explainer videos, and others better digest “facts” and lore through the form of a narrative story. That’s basically what the premise of Force Collector is: it’s a book accessible to readers completely new to Star Wars books, that presents them with information about the Star Wars galaxy in a narrative fashion. And I think maybe that’s why a successful framing story is so important for this: Karr and Maize are just as new to a lot of this Force and Jedi stuff as a brand new movies-only reader might be, and being able to identify with them as characters helps readers explore Star Wars lore all the easier.

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Re: Resistance – The Draw of the Mundane

What makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars? This is a question that’s becoming increasingly important with The Rise of Skywalker looming on the horizon, where some of the most fundamental elements of the franchise that we’re familiar with are going away along with the numbered titles. There’s been a lot of talk about what the X-factor is that makes a story with Star Wars on the label actually “feel” like Star Wars in practice, whether it’s a matter of aesthetics or characters or ideas or something else entirely. Certain stories have been playing with removing some elements, shaving the formula down to see what can go and what needs to stay, but no media in the franchise has gone as far down this road as Star Wars Resistance.

Resistance has taken away things like the Force, lightsabers, and ninety percent of the movie characters, leaving us with a mostly new cast in a new setting that has some shared aesthetics as the films but with a unique art style to change it up in a major way. So what does Resistance have that makes it still feel fitting within the wider universe? Themes. What makes a Star Wars story really feel like Star Wars are its themes; themes of love, friendship, and hope. Resistance carries those themes not only in its heart but on its sleeve, as befitting its nature as a show aimed toward a younger audience. Thus, even with a limited scope and even more limited budget, Resistance is still Star Wars, and probably the best Star Wars of its scale that’s ever been done.

When Resistance ended its first season right smack dab in the middle of the sequel trilogy timeline, with the destruction of Hosnian Prime on one side and the flight from D’Qar on the other, there was a common assumption (including on my part) that this was the show casting itself off into the wider universe and leveling up its sense of scope, similar to how Rebels did at the end of its first season. However, five episodes into its second and final season, Resistance is, well, resisting this assumption. Following the major events of the season premiere, each episode since has been far less concerned with major events and more focused on the characters and their dynamics, showing how well each character knows the others and the blossoming friendships between those now living together aboard the Colossus.

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Resistance Reborn: A Found-Family Reunion

Spoiler Warning: This review will mention characters announced in previously-released official excerpts and briefly mention things about them. I won’t reveal any surprises or unannounced characters – but calibrate your spoiler tolerance accordingly.

Rebecca Roanhorse has accomplished a great feat with Resistance Reborn. She’s taken a book with an ensemble cast – seriously, quite a huge cast – and given each character a personal touch. Characters show up from previous Star Wars canon books, comics, and video games but in a way that doesn’t feel shoe-horned or gimmicky. That’s very hard. Star Wars doesn’t have the best record with that, though sometimes it works really well. Resistance Reborn is one of those times.

Roanhorse has described the book as “bringing the squad back together” and that’s essentially what it does. But somehow Roanhorse manages to juggle this large cast of characters while making all of them feel vital to the story, and getting them all just right. It’s one thing to get film characters like Finn, Poe, and Rey right (and honestly – they’re not even that easy to get right), it’s another thing to take characters seen only on the page or in games and channel them in a way that feels authentic to the way their original creators wrote them. But while Resistance Reborn is a love letter to characters we’ve grown fond of in other places, it’s also a great character study in how these characters handle adversity.

It’s perhaps an understatement to say that the events of The Last Jedi were traumatic for our main characters, and impactful on the galaxy as a whole. There were deep, personal struggles for Leia, Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and for the Resistance itself. When the movie finished with the First Order in seeming victory and the Resistance reduced to a handful of people who could fit onto the Millennium Falcon, many of us wondered – what could possibly be next? Leia said that “we have everything we need”, and Resistance Reborn is the exploration of what that really means. It engages with characters on a personal level – from the main characters I just mentioned to new characters we haven’t met yet. How does the galaxy deal with the First Order’s triumph? What happens to the worlds of the Republic?

There’s some ugliness involved, and some beauty too. Above all, growth. That’s what makes Resistance Reborn a great read. It’s about people and their character. About collaboration with evil and persisting despite of it.

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It Was I: Darth Sidious and the Power of Narrative

If you think that Emperor Palpatine’s greatest weapon is the lightning he can fire from his fingertips, you’re wrong. If you think it’s his Death Stars, or his legions of faceless stormtroopers, you’re wrong. If you think it’s his compromised, captive Chosen One, that’s also not quite right. The greatest weapon wielded by Darth Sidious is narrative, or to be more precise, the narrative.

To celebrate the anniversary of the first (story-chronological) installment of the Skywalker saga, I looked at how The Phantom Menace presents Darth Sidious at his most brilliant and cruel, as he fashions a frustrating and dysfunctional narrative for the heroes to be locked in, a conflict that they cannot understand or comprehend but must fight in anyway. The spectacular, multi-story conclusion to that film is nothing but a byproduct for the villain, who has already achieved his objective by the end of the second act.

As we now careen towards the conclusion of the Skywalker saga with the impending release of The Rise of Skywalker and the apparent return of Darth Sidious in some form, it is worth looking at how the Emperor operates, what his modus operandi is, and how that has not only affected but in some ways controlled the direction of this epic tale, including the sequels so far that he has (seemingly) not had a hand in.

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The Seduction of Tam Ryvora

Hey everyone, Star Wars Resistance is back, and you can watch the premiere of season two right here on their official YouTube page. Please go and do so before reading on, there’s some in-depth discussion (and spoilers) below that require the full context of the episode. Watching the second episode is also recommended, but not essential. With the show’s return it is bringing some big changes and issues for all of the characters under its umbrella, but no one character has been affected more than Tam Ryvora, our favorite mechanic and frustrated pilot who worked hard and still felt slighted by and detached from those around her, so it’s worth doing a bit of a dive into her big decision and the factors surrounding it.

Throughout the first season of the show we saw her grow, softening her tough exterior thanks to blossoming friendships with people like Kazuda Xiono, Neeku and Synara San, ingratiating herself into the main cast of the show. And then at the end of the first season Tam makes an extremely difficult and fateful choice. Rather than escape from the First Order aboard the Colossus with Kaz and Yeager, she instead chooses to go with the First Order, the same people Kaz and Yeager have been working actively against for all this time, leaving both of them dumbfounded.

Tam makes this decision for a variety of reasons, some of which are her own, some of which are more external factors. The most foundational element is her love or at least appreciation for the First Order’s primary influence: the Empire. Tam’s family both lived and thrived under the Empire, and she herself was born after the Empire had fallen, so unlike Kazuda, who likely heard horror stories about the Empire through his childhood on Hosnian Prime and through schooling and training in the New Republic, Tam sees the Republic as an aberration rather than the norm, whereas the Empire was a good, solid government for those it ruled over. Thus, when she sees the First Order wearing the aesthetic of the Empire, she’s less inclined to recoil, and instead admires them for seeking to pick up where the Empire left off. When the First Order took over the Colossus, she didn’t feel oppressed; she felt safe. Even when informed of the actions the First Order took against Tehar, she assumes that there must have been a reason for it, that someone on Tehar must have been doing something wrong.

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