When a book is as hotly anticipated as A New Dawn, just one review might not be good enough. Several of us at Eleven-ThirtyEight were able to make our way through it over the last couple weeks, and in order to give everyone a chance to speak their mind, myself, Ben Wahrman, Jay Shah, and Rocky Blonshine got together last weekend for some informal Aggressive Negotiations.
It’s been a while, so if you’re unfamiliar with this series, all you need to know is that it’s basically a low-key chat session with only loose moderation, and no holds barred—no censorship, no editing, no typo repair. Enjoy!
Mike: Let’s start with general impressions of the book itself. Was it pretty much what everyone was hoping for?
Ben: pretty much, yeah
Rocky: even better.
Ben: i loved Kenobi, and this was about on that level, but different
Mike: i’m not as over-the-moon about it as i was Kenobi, but it was definitely classic JJM
Jay: More or less. I wanted confirmation that EU would still be used, especially background information. And I was hoping that it would make the characters from Rebels seem interesting.
Rocky: I was so scared that this book wouldn’t feel like the EU we know and love, but it had a lot of the feel of classic EU stuff.
Ben: it feels very old-school
Ben: very bantam
Mike: first time i’ve heard it put that way, but yeah
Mike: the book makes a lot of noise about how ineffective the first stirrings of rebellion normally are, and it hit me that even the EU never really got into that because this time period was so off-limits
Ben: probably would have been the first of a trilogy back then
Mike: there’s never really been a character like Skelly before, for one
Mike: i really wanted more of him
Rocky: I was glad Skelly wasn’t just comic relief and was actually important
Jay: Yeah, the sense that rebelling against the Empire was futile and impossible was interesting. I like that they got across the idea that people had to work together to get it done.
Mike: you can see in the wildly different lives of Skelly and Zaluna how people with completely different origins would eventually come together into an Alliance
Ben: i love how the endgame wasn’t liberating the planet, it was just making sure Vidian didn’t blow it up
Rocky: the learning that others were displeased with the Empire or not entirely sure things were right.
Ben: a very dark and intense book to lead into a kid’s tv show, lots of people died
Mike: one thing AND had very much in common with Kenobi is that almost anyone could’ve died–it’s easy to be blasé about Kanan and Hera, but it’s such a refreshing thing about non-big-three books
Jay: Yeah, it’s one of the reasons why I’m glad to have an effectively original cast.
Ben: me too, it was TCW’s biggest failing
Mike: and not just life and death, but even knowing what role someone was going to have–Skelly and Zaluna could have ended up on Vidian’s side for all you could tell at first
Rocky: the big ensemble cast, some of whom will end up important characters later. it really reminded me of how the Bantam era introduced characters.
Ben: a lot of showing without telling, as well, the characters’ actions spoke for themselves
Mike: right as I was finishing it, it struck me that Rae Sloane is effectively the new canon’s Pellaeon–in that she’s our first look at the “average” Imperial
Jay: except competent.
Rocky: I really hope we see more of her
Mike: that was something that happened a lot–minor characters becoming important by virtue of setting IU precedent
Mike: in the bantam era, I mean
Mike: and just like Pellaeon, I think if people keep talking about her, she’s bound to turn up again–and if you believe the Story Group talk, maybe even on the TV show
Ben: recurring antagonist?
Rocky: recurring sympathetic antagonist
Ben: she and Kanan and Hera do have a history, now, and she knows who Kanan is…
Ben: his name, i mean
Mike: that’s right; I was surprised they left that hanging
Jay: That’s entirely possible, given that it’s effectively what made Pellaeon show up over and over. Being known and being liked by the fandom is handy.
Jay: She only knows his first name though, yes? It’s a big galaxy.
Jay: And she certainly has no idea that he’s a former padawan.
Ben: she recognized him by his voice and demeanor, though
Ben: she’d probably remember him if they met again
Mike: well, she only remembered his first name offhand, but I got the impression she had enough to find the rest. not that it’s his real name anyway…
Mike: too bad he didn’t call himself Jax Pavan
Jay: It’s not his real name, but it’s the name he uses in the show.
Mike: i’m REALLY interested to see if the show actually uses “Caleb Dume” at some point
Rocky: I bet they will
Rocky: that’s too good a plot point to leave untouched.
Mike: That leads nicely toward my next question: how does the book serve as the herald of an entire new era? Are you more or less hopeful about Star Wars publishing than you were a month ago? And is it fair to hang that much importance on one book?
Ben: i really hd a hard time seeing a difference between the “old” era and the “new”
Jay: It’s a signpost, at least. We don’t know where the final destination is, but we at least have some sense of where we’re going now. It feels comfortably like Star Wars — that is, the Star Wars we knew in the old EU.
Rocky: So much more hopeful. I was super scared that it wouldn’t be the same SW books that we knew, and it was actually very refreshing and kind of a nostalgia trip to read something that reminded me of Bantam era.
Ben: if the books we get in the new era are like the best of old-school Bantam, i’m okay with it
Mike: I’d say that AND’s job was to establish the canon’s relationship to the EU, whereas Rebels’ job will be to establish how well different media actually mesh together now
Mike: the trick is, it’ll be hard to know whether they’re picking up on JJM’s threads versus using things they specifically told him to seed
Mike: Caleb Dume, for example
Rocky: they did a good job of sprinkling little things from the old EU in there
Ben: nothing in AND stood out to me like it was “NEU”, it all felt like the old legends stuff, just a lot of it’s new because there are new characters we’re dealing with
Rocky: when Kanan claimed to be an agent of the Emperor, it really sounded to me like he was saying he might be an Emperor’s Hand. little stuff like that that carried on the feeling.
Jay: Yeah, that’s the thing. A lot of what we like might possibly be just because JJM is writing it. We still need more datapoints — like the other upcoming novels — to get a clear sense.
Jay: But at the very least, we know that the SG won’t veto things like this, which is good.
Ben: it’ll be their tackling of the classic characters that’ll show more, Tarkin especially since Luceno is a madman for that sort of thing
Rocky: very excited to see how that book goes.
Mike: it’s funny that the only real contradiction in AND was with Shatterpoint, given that we’re totally used to Clone Wars stuff getting overwritten already
Ben: even that’s workable though. it wouldn’t be a horrible stretch even if it were all still one continuity.
Mike: part of me is sort of morbidly curious to see a Luceno book with utterly no EU references–I wonder sometimes whether we actually like his writing or just the geekery
Ben: it’d be like 50 pages long
Rocky: we’ll find out
Mike: well, that’s just it–can the man write an engaging novel beyond his ability to stitch the universe together? I’m confident he can, but it’d be interesting to see
Jay: Perhaps. But the conditions that would have to come about for that to happen are probably conditions we don’t want.
Mike: this is off-topic but briefly: do we want Daala to show up in that thing, or is it better to lose her altogether?
Ben: if she’s done well, sure, why not?
Rocky: I really really want to see her.
Mike: why, rocky?
Mike: come to think about it, what are your feelings on daala as we knew her?
Jay: my issues with Daala stem entirely from how terrible she is in the old EU, and how she stands for the Imperial sexism that I don’t much care for. If neither of those are an issue, then…
Rocky: Partially as a continuity thing- reassuring fans that the entire old eu isn’t gone, since that’s the big concern we’ve all heard. Partially because it would be a good opportunity to do something good with her character.
Rocky: If they embrace that she’s a loose cannon who’s reasonable at being a military leader and awful at the hierarchy, that’s a great possibility.
Rocky: fine, fine, I’m a huge Daala fan because my intro to the EU was Jedi Search. I’m far too biased
Mike: we all have to start somewhere
Ben: If Sloane is any indication, there’s no reason for Daala to get her position by sleeping with anyone, aside from her own personal ambition
Mike: i think we can assume that much for sure
Jay: I hope so, anyway.
Mike: Lastly: while nothing’s been announced, it seems like a safe bet that JJM will be writing more SW in the future. Would you be interested in a follow-up to AND, or would you prefer he do something else entirely?
Jay: There’s no telling until we see it.
Jay: Well, I definitely want to see a follow-up to AND. And I suspect anything he’d write would be in the same OT period.
Rocky: I’d like more follow-up to AND, but I bet we’ll get a lot of that in Rebels.
Ben: JJM can do whatever he wants to at this point. he’s become a must-read author for me. I’ve gone back to finish Knight Errant and am looking into the KotOR trades as well.
Ben: We’ll get plenty of Rebels stuff after the show’s got a season under its belt and the audience is there
Mike: depending on what we learn in SWR, it’d be interesting if he followed it up not with Hera and Kanan, but how, say, Sabine and Zeb met each other
Rocky: and we’ll probably get more JJM as a result, if they know he’s good with those characters/that era, they’ll probably keep using him
Ben: I hope the book does well and people stop using it as a vent for their rage about the EU being turned to Legends. It’s too good a book to be dragged down by that sort of thing.
Jay: yeah, that’s my big concern with it. The core audience might not go in, and choose to blame JJM for what was LFL’s decision
Mike: i went so far as to invite submissions last week from people who still choose to protest the reboot, because there IS a reasonable POV in there. But shitting on AND is the opposite of that
Rocky: A bunch of my super devoted to Legends friends asked me to vet this book for them, and my recommendation has been “read it, you’ll be really pleasantly surprised, it’s going to be okay”
Ben: I saw posts on Lit where people asked JJM about whether the efficiency-drive of Vidian’s was motivated by the Disney buyout.
Jay: People really want to assume conspiracies and resentment.
Ben: They want JJM to be as mad about this as they are.
Rocky: that sounds like a conspiracy theory worth of tumblr
Mike: us ancient people who remember the prequel release era remember what a hot ticket Matthew Stover was circe 2003/2004, and where that ended up; I wonder what the odds are of JJM getting the Episode VII novelization?
Ben: I’d be down for that.
Rocky: definitely sounds good
Ben: I wonder what the time frame for that would be, though, since they’re apparently keeping the VII script under lock and key.
Jay: AND was pretty under lock and key until the announcement.
Jay: JJM wrote the whole thing pretty much without anybody being the wiser.
Mike: I doubt it’d be assigned just yet, but he could be knee-deep in it without us knowing a thing
Mike: I don’t think Stover was announced until around 6 months pre-RotS
Ben: so not until next july-ish?
Rocky: they’ll probably wait to announce until just the right moment
Mike: at the latest
Rocky: hey, maybe sdcc next year!
Ben: or Celebration Anaheim.
Mike: Rocky, if JJM happens to be at NYCC you should ask him about it just to gauge his reaction
Rocky: I will indeed!
Mike: “EPISODE SEVEN!” *stare*
Ben: *whips out camera* Episode VII novel, do you write it?!
Rocky: he is going to be at nycc.
Mike: “Episode VII-great novelization, or the greatest novelization?”
Ben: he’ll probably just laugh and say “even if I was, I couldn’t tell.”
Rocky: sadly yes.
Mike: okay, so, any closing thoughts? Rocky and Ben, how was your first…whatever this is?
* Coop facepalms
Rocky: closing thoughts: I’m excited for more new books.
Rocky: actually that’s a pretty good one
Ben: this is a fun thing. be cool to do something similar for other projects in the future, like the Rebels premere or series finale
Mike: actually the first one we ever did was shortly after the first Rebels announcement
Mike: when all we had was a logo
Mike: it was basically just us talking about Ahsoka for an hour