When the Journey to the Force Awakens campaign was announced, it was notable for having some quite interesting authors in its Young Adult complement. Names like Jason Fry and Greg Rucka being the cases for me. Even so, I can’t say I usually opt for YA material, but then those guys are writing it… Decisions, decisions – a good pre-order deal made it for me, might as well bag four hardbacks for around £30. At the same time, I also got Aftermath. The big surprise? Of these books Aftermath feels far more restricted in what it can do, while this YA quartet actually drops hints about the upcoming The Force Awakens and the galactic situation. Surely Aftermath should have done that? Nope.
The other surprise factor here is how good each book was at its assigned task. Writing Luke Skywalker has been compared to writing Superman and Captain America, how do you make such a decent guy interesting? Fry made it look easy. A story of Han and Chewie? That one is the deceptive option, the one everyone thinks is easy, but really isn’t. Rucka sent that one to the stratosphere. Castellucci and Fry then double teamed to deliver a great Leia story. And with Lost Stars, Claudia Gray delivered one of the most unexpectedly epic books in years. What made them work? Brilliant foundation concepts and character observations. Concepts that after you have read each appear so incredibly obvious, yet, if they were that, why did these stories not exist already? » Read more..
Like too many Star Wars fans to count, I eagerly awaited Force Friday. I packed up my two toddler sons and drove to the store. I felt great delight when they could recognize so many of the characters who have been part of my fun and play since even before I was their age, for I was born in 1977, and my childhood was Star Wars toys and Star Wars play. And there in the stores, I saw them clamor to take turns pushing the button that would make the three-foot-tall Darth Vader talk.
And yes, I bought some things for them (my older son loves his First Order stormtrooper mask – I’m so glad they had little ones for kids!), but mainly I was there for the books. So many books! Of course, there was Aftermath, which I was eagerly looking forward to reading. But there were three there designed for children… and with eagerness to find out the hidden clues they promised about The Force Awakens, I picked them up too. And the Young Adult novel, Lost Stars – I’ll grab that one too.
It was something I hadn’t done in a long while – cross the Star Wars age barrier. I was getting ready to start high school when the Zahn books came out, and so with the rebirth of the Expanded Universe, I found myself squarely in the non-juvenile book section. And there I stayed. I was a high schooler, then a college student – I never read the Young Jedi Knights or whatever series it was – The Glove of Darth Vader is known to me only in mocking tales and Wookieepedia entries. » Read more..
I’m going to shout it from the hills: I love the Bantam era. I love warlord and superweapon of the week. I love silly, disjointed things that years later, make us wonder what exactly we were thinking when we first read this. I love the things that don’t neatly fit into the greater Star Wars puzzle, and there is much to be said in defense of embracing the weird. We’re in a new era of Star Wars now, and with that comes all the unexplored territory. We don’t have to avoid the mistakes of Legends; in fact, I could happily argue that many of those mistakes are better in the long term.
One of the things that Star Wars fandom had run into, in the twilight of the Legends years, was quality issues. Ask a group of Star Wars fans about Fate of the Jedi and Crucible, and you’ll get a wide variety of (frequently negative) reactions. Sometimes people ask me about how I feel about Fate of the Jedi, and my response is usually along the lines of “I remember the hilarious Abeloth illustration that’s on Wookieepedia, that Daala is the worst politician alive, and that Luke and Ben went on a father-son trip that proved that Ben’s taste in women is no better than Luke’s had been.” That is possibly one of the sillier sentences I’ve written in a while, but let’s deconstruct that. What if we didn’t worry so much about things being silly or not making sense? What if wild plots could be the basis for a good story? Because there was a time when we really were thinking that way.
Many of the earliest Star Wars books are from a time when we had no idea about longer-term galactic history. Big chunks of galactic history were a complete blank, and the authors really couldn’t do much filling-in. We didn’t know exactly how the Old Republic fell until the Dark Nest trilogy was released, and of course now that we knew galactic history out-of-universe, it worked its way into Legacy of the Force. But we did fill in about twenty years of galactic history with no good references about what came before. And that led to things that just didn’t make sense in the longer run. » Read more..
Buried in the Force Friday blitz at the beginning of this month was the first The Force Awakens-related update to StarWars.com’s Databank section. Naturally, very little new information actually came out of the new entries; many didn’t include pictures, and some of the character entries were nothing but the same one-sentence bios from the back of their action figure cards.
One big new piece of info did show up, though—or rather, if you follow the spoiler reporting, a confirmation of one of the oldest rumors: there’s a superweapon on the table.
I actually stopped reading spoilers a long time ago, but even I had heard bits and pieces to this effect; and sure enough, the exceedingly minimal entry for the First Order’s Starkiller Base nevertheless deigns to include the apparent in-universe reasoning for its name:
“An ice planet converted into a stronghold of the First Order and armed with a fiercely destructive new weapon capable of destroying entire star systems.”
While certain reporting (and certain memes) has tended to paint the First Order as an upstart group of ne’er-do-wells rather than a serious galactic power, the ability to destroy an entire star system? Well, that changes the equation. Superweapons have a mixed reputation among Star Wars fans, though; the Expanded Universe is known for adding a whole bunch of ’em to the lineup (including the Sun Crusher, which did exactly what the Starkiller is alleged to do and was totally invulnerable besides), and even many movie purists will tell you that concluding the original trilogy with a second Death Star wasn’t exactly George’s Lucas’s most creative idea. So I put the question to the staff: is this a mistake? A ham-fisted attempt to replicate the feel of the OT? Or are superweapons a crucial part of Star Wars’s magic formula? » Read more..
As it happens, we were long planning a series of pieces called “Gray Matters” on how the various sides in Star Wars are and ought to be portrayed in the new canon. Our first piece was either going to be about the Empire or the Rebellion, where we would discuss the comparative pitfalls of black and white morality vs moral grays and try to come up with a solution that was morally nuanced but still fit the morality tale that is the Star Wars saga. And lo – here came a novel called Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, featuring of all things a narrative about just how decent people serve as Imperial Loyalists. The coincidence (and the now doubly punny title) was impossible to ignore, so here we are!
We’ll try to avoid spoiling the book, especially as we hope this article convinces some folks to read Lost Stars! Don’t let the YA label dissuade you: YA novels are emphatically not less mature than adult novels (at least not simply because they’re YA!). This is the first Star Wars YA book, as the books EU fans typically call “YA” are middle grade books, which also should not be judged on their age rating because the six canon middle grade books out as of last week are amazing — particularly Servants of the Empire — and this week’s brilliant ANH adaptation brings that to seven!)
Lost Stars is the closest we’ve ever really gotten to an Imperial POV novel – the title characters basically start up as Imperial subjects and join the Imperial service. One of them – Thane Kyrell – drifts away from the Empire while the other – Ciena Ree – stays loyal. Gray crafted a unique and interesting societal background for them on their Rim world of Jelucan which explains their different world views and consequently divergent takes on Imperial policy. These differences are not unique to Thane and Ciena – a good amount of the cast is in the service of the Emperor, and they are all very different people with different motivations and ethical codes. This is what makes the novel a perfect case study: more than just portraying Imperial Loyalists with authenticity or even sympathy, Gray shows the wide variety of people who serve the Empire and how their service to the Empire changes them in turn.
The thing about the Galactic Empire is that it is not a monolith. It is complex and nuanced. It is, obviously, ruled by evil Sith Lords. It is supported by fascists in COMPNOR and ISB. It is driven by raw material exploitation and upheld by stormtroopers and a military that can range from the ruthless but honorable to the downright brutal. So at the first instance, let’s not pretend the Empire is daisies and roses (those of you familiar with our “Imperial Colbert” routine may be surprised by this turn in the discussion, but we don’t playact in our ETE articles). Beyond that though – the Empire is a galactic government, and one that is accepted by the majority of the galactic populace. This is either through an ignorance of its evils, an unwillingness to do anything about it, or acceptance of it. Imperials of the Core Worlds live cushy, sheltered lives – the cries of the Outer Rim go unheard. As seen in Edge of the Galaxy, Core World Imperials may well assume that the brutalities going on in the Rim are just part of the barbarity of the Rim – conducted by lawless Rimward officers to boot!
As we learn in Lost Stars, however, the distinction is not between active agent of Imperial oppression and passive beneficiary. The lines blur and cross. This makes the Empire interesting. George Lucas always said that the Empire was a seductive form of evil: it would not be so threatening if it were the repository of all the bad things, because it’s evil that persuades people to serve it that is the most threatening.
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