Skip to main content

Edge of the Galaxy: Not A Tie-in, But An Essential Thread

Jason Fry’s latest novel, Servants of the Empire I: Edge of the Galaxy, tells the story of a promising young student destined for the Imperial Academy and his disillusionment with the Imperial system that has brought him and his family such success. It is a prequel story to the Rebels episode “Breaking Ranks,” though it can be enjoyed by those who have not seen even a single episode of the show. What makes the story interesting is that the main character, Zare Leonis, makes for a fairly good proxy for a middle-class or even an upper-middle class audience. He is basically a scholarship student, a star athlete who has a galaxy of opportunities open to him if he just works hard enough: and yet he ends up glimpsing the sinister shadow behind the glorious Imperial façade. He is not a Jedi, alien, or orphan: his family does pretty well for itself, but the Empire is still a danger to him and those he loves. It’s that angle and how it’s developed that makes this story worth reading for any Star Wars fan, even one with little interest in the show it ties into.

Let’s address a couple potential concerns before we dive into the review: first, it’s a tie-in novel for a kid’s show that’s listed as suitable for grades 3 to 7. We’ve already discussed how this makes good reading independent of the show, but it also makes good reading for an older audience because of the mature and deft way that the themes are handled. The only difference between this novel and an adult novel is the complexity of the sentence structure (expect fewer subordinate clauses) and word choice. The ideas and themes are not simplified. This means that young readers might learn a thing or two from this Star Wars story, but that older readers can get drawn in and may entirely forget who the intended audience is. Stories about youngsters learning to question authority are common, but this story handles the causes and consequences of such questioning with uncommon skill. It treats the subject with the weight it deserves, instead of trivializing.

The second concern is continuity: it reads just like any other Star Wars story, with a familiar setting and with familiar word-building. We had originally considered discussing this in our review, but coming up with a list of things that are still canon makes it seem as if that was the main purpose of the new novels, as reference material. As with A New Dawn, Edge of the Galaxy is a story that stands on its own that also happens to be good with continuity.

Read More

On Tarkin, and the Novel as Reference Material

—–WARNING, MILD SPOILERS AHEAD—–

tarkin-head

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a shocking and terrible confession: I have never read an Essential Guide.

Oh, I own them—every single one. Even at their blandest, they’ve given me hours of amusement from aimlessly flipping around, admiring the artwork, and back in the dark ages, actually using them for reference. At their best, they transcend matters of fiction and continuity and become simply interesting books to leave out on one’s coffee table, as the Essential Atlas is in my home.

But I’ve never actually made it through one from cover to cover. And as I neared the end of Tarkin, right around the time a character stops what he’s doing to give an extemporaneous three-page summary of a piece of the title character’s backstory, it occurred to me that this must be what it feels like. Read More

A New Dawn shines a light on the future of Star Wars

In our previous review, we discussed how Honor Among Thieves provides a blueprint for the future of the EU. Since then, there has been a rather unprecedented change in the nature of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now redubbed “Legends,” the old EU is functionally an alternate universe continuity which serves as a large resource for the new ongoing Star Wars canon to draw inspiration from or even fully import background concepts and ideas. All upcoming Star Wars novels will be part of this new canon, vetted by the Lucasfilm Story Group in order to ensure cohesion between the novels, comics, television series, and films to a greater extent than the often ramshackle cohesion between the old EU and the films. A New Dawn (AND), written by Star Wars novel and comic veteran and fan-favorite John Jackson Miller (JJM), is the first adult novel to be released under the auspices of the Story Group.

Instead of a standard review, we’re going to take a look how AND uses and implements the old EU, and how it departs from it. To get the reviewing part out of the way though – it’s a fun Star Wars story with an original cast of characters and a fascinating villain. These factors are important to why it’s a fun story, but they’re also important in (hopefully) hinting at the style of future novels as well as the Rebels television series. Executive Producer Dave Filoni has already stated his preference for Rebels to focus on its particular cast of characters because the galaxy is large enough to show exciting adventures without needing to resort to film characters as a narrative crutch. If AND is any indication, such a thing is not only possible but also preferable.

Read More

Honor Among Thieves – Blueprint for the future EU?

—–WARNING, MILD SPOILERS AHEAD—–

One doesn’t go into Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves expecting earth-shattering events. The novel is part of a series set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, so there’s a limited scope of action. Luke can’t display any dazzling Force feats, because he still struggles with telekinesis in ESB. Han can’t fully commit to the Rebellion or romance Leia, because that hasn’t happened yet either. Leia still has room to be a Rebel leader and diplomat, but the scale of the Rebellion’s successes still has to be pretty small since they’ve just won their first truly major victory. So all in all, it can’t be very interesting, can it? The first book in this series, Razor’s Edge, was at least Leia-centric in a way that novels haven’t been for a long time, but a Han-centric book between the first two films surely has got to feel like a retread.

If you supposed that, you would be wrong. To be sure, the overall plot isn’t going to involve a galaxy-changing turn of events. There are little surprises in the situation of the Rebellion and the Empire at the end of the story, but that isn’t and shouldn’t be – excuse our pun – the whole story. James S.A. Corey – actually the pen name of two co-authors, but whom we’ll treat in the singular – does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the novel. Character development and world development are two issues that are extremely important to us as a reader, and these are strengths that this book has as a whole. It feels authentic, and it feels like a living, breathing galaxy. That’s important, because in the near future, we won’t be seeing any galaxy-shaking events in the EU since those will be reserved for the still-mysterious Episode VII. Instead, we’ll see more books like Honor Among Thieves and the Rebels television series, which will flesh out and develop periods of the timeline which we’ve generally already explored. If this novel is a prototype for future EU of that sort, we’re in good shape.
Read More

Maul: Lockdown Review: Not For The Faint Of Heart

—–WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD—–

maul-lockdownDespite the considerable number of appearances his conspicuously-tattooed visage has made in the Expanded Universe in addition to his role in The Phantom Menace, it is not often that one thinks of Darth Maul in terms of his character. His existence is primarily that of an instrument that provides conflict and advances the plot as the author required, a pure and driven killing machine rendered virtually invulnerable by his predetermined parting of ways with his lower half in a certain plasma refinery complex on Naboo. Though his limited time on-screen has not exactly provided prospective authors with a wealth of characterization to draw from, there still remain a few interesting elements of his personality that could be explored.

Raised from childhood to be the perfect weapon of a secret order dating back thousands of years, how did he perceive the rest of the universe? In the course of his training and missions, did he often encounter behavior that appeared bizarre or foreign to him, having been brought up in isolation? In his eagerness to face the Jedi, did he study those he hoped one day to face afar? His obedience to his master was undoubtedly absolute, but was it entirely unquestioning? Did he perhaps harbor his own opinions about his master’s mysterious plans, and how the Sith should go about carrying out their return to power?

Read More