Tag Archives: John Jackson Miller

Review: “Star Wars: A New Dawn” by John Jackson Miller

Title: A New Dawn
Author: John Jackson Miller
Series: Star Wars (Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2014

Much has been made of the fact that this is the first entry into the Star Wars Expanded Universe since Disney hit the reset button, despite the (apparently unnoticed) publication of several tie-ins to the series Star Wars: Rebels that preceded this. Even the title makes a reference to it. Maybe those don’t count because they’re not geared at adults. Anyway, all that hype is a little misleading. There is very little here that harkens the new era of Star Wars publishing. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it had very little to do with the reboot. I’m pretty sure the book was mostly written already by the time that edict was handed down. That’s not its function. The place of this book in the ongoing Star Wars canon is to serve as a prelude to Star Wars: Rebels and introduce a couple of the main characters from that show. And it does that, superbly. Just don’t expect a grand departure from what came before, because almost everything therein was consistent with the Legends canon that existed before. There was no reason to foist major structural change on the book just to buck tradition and highlight the fact that there was a new sheriff in town.

The old order is dead. It died eight years ago, and when it fell it took everything Kanan Jarrus knew with it. He was just a Padawan at the time, only starting his journey to becoming a Jedi, but that didn’t matter to the Emperor when he issued Order 66. Kanan’s master sold her life to give him time to escape, and he’s been running ever since, floating from system to system, just avoiding the Empire’s notice, never in one place too long. He’s put his Jedi heritage behind him, and looks out primarily for number one even if he can’t resist sticking his neck out for a friend every once in a while. These days he makes ends meet flying transports loaded with high explosives between the mined-out planet Gorse and it’s still-rich moon Cynda as the companies scramble to meet Imperial quotas. Given how often they fall short, the Emperor has sent an envoy to see what he can do to speed up production. Cyborg businessman Baron Vidian made a fortune during the Clone Wars, and since has been working for the Emperor, smoothing logistical bumps in the rapid expansion of the Imperial Navy. The cost in sentient lives and suffering has been noticeable, and would-be rebel Hera Syndulla has followed him to Gorse in an attempt to learn all she can about Imperial security in general and Vidian in particular. When Vidian launches a coldhearted plan to speed up production at the expense of countless lives, Kanan and Hera will be thrown together in a desperate attempt to stop him. But can the massive might of the Empire really be resisted?

Like I said, I enjoyed this, and I’m if anything more excited for the launch of Rebels. The characters of Hera and Kanan were well-rounded and interesting, as were most of the assorted allies and acquaintances featured here. Unfortunately, the villain Denetrius Vidian was not nearly so nuanced as I’ve grown to expect from Miller’s work. He’s far from the only starkly-evil villain in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, but could have been given some more shades of gray. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but its still worth noting. The book was also notable for its inclusion of those incredibly rare creatures, female Imperials. There were several female stormtroopers thrown in (although not by name, and it didn’t make any difference to the story what gender they were), as well as the commander of Vidian’s Star Destroyer. I’m not sure if this is an attempt by the new Lucas Story Group to make the Empire more inclusive, or just Miller trying to even the playing field a bit. The only thing here that really conflicted with previous canon was the inclusion of Depa Billaba as Kanan’s former master when previous canon had established her as lying comatose at that point in the timeline. Obi-Wan makes a pointed comment in the prologue about the various “legends” contained in the Jedi archive, but that’s about the only nod they make to the reboot issue aside from the title. In case anyone’s interested, this is set eight years after Revenge Of The Sith, six years before Rebels and eleven before A New Hope.

CONTENT: Mild language. Some violence, not all that gory or gratuitous. No sexual content, but Kanan flirts with every female he meets–occasionally, as in the case of the Star Destroyer’s captain, just to annoy them and get them to leave him alone.

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Review: “Star Wars: Kenobi” by John Jackson Miller

Title: Kenobi
Author: John Jackson Miller
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2013

Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars saga, and if I’m being honest Ewan McGregor’s performance in that role is one of the few highlights of the otherwise-regrettable prequel trilogy. I’m not his only fan–he’s such a favorite that we get adventure after adventure featuring Anakin’s former Master, to the point where I don’t think he ever once had a chance to stop and breathe during the entire Clone Wars. What hasn’t been detailed until now is his exile on Tatooine after Order 66 and the Jedi Purge. You’d think that this would have been covered long ago, given the incredible range of character-shaping events Obi-Wan has just been through, but you would be wrong. It is only just recently that we have been granted insight into this period of Master Kenobi’s life, but the result is spectacular.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is dead. He died on Mustafar after striking down his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. Nearly everyone he ever cared for, ever loved, is dead. The Jedi Order, his family, has been nearly wiped from existance by the treachery of Chancellor-turned-Emperor Palpatine and the clone Stormtroopers. Obi-Wan is dead. In his place stands Ben Kenobi, the Jundland Waste’s newest settler. From his lonely hut out in the desert, Ben keeps solitary watch over the Lars homestead and the orphaned boy being raised there. He tries to stay away from the small outposts of civilization that dot the wastes, but can one of the greatest Jedi in the history of the Order ignore people in need?
For Annileen Calwell, life continues much as it has since the death of her husband years earlier. Her children are rebellious. Her shop, Dannar’s Claim, is an oasis of hospitality in the desolate wastes, keeping the local moisture farmers supplied, repaired and their thirsts quenched. Everything is normal, and yet this life is killing her with stress and boredom. Trying to learn more about Ben, the mysterious drifter who has taken up residence out in the wastes, offers at least a little diversion, but Ben is stubbornly secretive. And Orrin Gault–neighbor, local land barron, entrepreneur and her late husband’s best friend–has been acting a bit strange. Probably nothing to worry about, but more stress is the last thing she needs….
A’yark’s people are in trouble. The Tuskens have been weakened considerably from their former numbers, decimated a decade earlier when Jabba The Hutt incited war between the Tuskens and the settlers as a way to sell off his stockpile of antiquated blasters. Tuskens are used to hard times, but recently even their spirit has been broken. Three years ago, the strongest of the local warbands was wiped out with no survivors and no trace of any predator. Every man, woman and child was killed, their bodies left to the scavengers. Now the Tuskens are so weak that old traditions are beginning to die out as matters of pragmatism take precedence. A’yark struggles to hold them together, to boost their spirit as much as possible with raids on settlers that fail to properly defend themselves, but the tribe is dying despite A’yark’s efforts….

John Jackson Miller manages to pull off what I don’t believe anyone has ever done before: he wrote a Star Wars western. The elements are all there–ranchers, settlers, merciless natives, the widowed shopowner and the lone wanderer. People just trying to survive in a harsh land beyond the rule of law, where justice rides in your holster or hangs on your saddle or speeder. Beyond that, Miller manages to get inside the head of Ben Kenobi at his most broken–he has been betrayed by trusted friends, seen his family exterminated, and been forced to confront and (he believes) kill the man he has regarded as his brother for more than a decade. Ben is broken, and it shows. This was one of the best Star Wars novels I have read in a good long time, and I hope that Miller is given the chance to play in this sandbox a bit more.

This novel stands on its own fairly well, assuming you’re familiar with the movies. There are passing references to Zayne Carrick and Kerra Holt, both characters also written by Miller, but you’ve no need to know their stories in order to understand Ben’s. More significant is the story of Sharad Hett, as the history there plays into the Tusken situation, but you get most of the information you need from the text. If you’re interested, find a copy of the Star Wars: Outlander graphic novel for that tale. Ben also cites his friendship/relationship with fellow Jedi Siri Tachi and the Mandalorian prime minister Satine as earlier lessons in the importance of not getting caught up in romantic emotion. If you’re a longtime reader you’ll know Siri from the Jedi Apprentice series, and Satine comes from the lamentable Clone Wars CGI series. Neither is essential to understanding the story here, but you can look it up if you want. In any case, you should definitely give this novel your attention.

CONTENT: Mild language. Mild violence, not too disturbing. Mild flirting, but no real sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: The Lost Tribe Of The Sith” by John Jackson Miller

Lost Tribe Of The Sith: The Collected Stories

Title: Star Wars–The Lost Tribe Of The Sith: The Collected Stories
Author: John Jackson Miller
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: ****
Copyright: Lucasbooks, 2012

So here’s the deal on this collection: they needed an antagonist or antagonists for Luke and his New Jedi Order to face in the aftermath of the Legacy Of The Force arc of novels. And of course these villains should be Sith, because that’s how it works (not knocking it, just sayin’). But how? Bane’s Sith are destroyed, dead with Palpatine and Vader, as are all the Executers and Dark Jedi that served Palpatine’s cause. Lumiya’s splinter sect are also destroyed, dead with the Dark Lady and her apprentice, the fallen Jacen Solo. Krayt’s “One Sith” are out there and in play, but not viable antagonists–they have to be able to come out of nowhere in the beginning of Legacy, so a full-scale battle with Luke’s Jedi is not in the cards. So they created the Lost Tribe Of The Sith. To avoid the appearance of Deus Ex Machina spawning these characters out of the void, they decided to flesh out their backstory in a series of free ebooks and gave the task to the excellent John Jackson Miller, writer of the KOTOR comic series. So that ran for eight stories, and then they decided that they should actually get paid for this. So they released this collection and made it the only way you would get to read the finale. Kinda a jerk move, but hey, I can’t complain….I checked it out from the library to read the last couple stories (apparently I missed the memo that they had been released….)

The first several stories tell the tale of the Omen, a Sith cargo ship carrying war materiale for Naga Sadow’s forces, that crashes on the uncharted planet Kesh around 4,000 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin, i.e. Star Wars Episode IV). The captain and crew are forced to figure out how to survive on this hostile planet and how to deal with its native population–being Sith, they decide on subjugation, but with the caveat that they are impersonating the natives’ gods. Also being Sith, they have a distinct inability to cooperate very well….Miller tracks the evolution of this society through the years in his next several stories, tracing probably the only route that could possibly end in the mostly-stable Sith society we meet in Fate Of The Jedi.If you’re a newcomer to the Star Wars EU (Expanded Universe–if you didn’t even know that much you’re REALLY in trouble) this probably isn’t the place to start. I always tell people that the best entry point into the EU is either Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire or Steve Perry’s Shadows Of The Empire. If you’re really into the Sith you will enjoy this, but still do some background reading first. At the very least to understand the beginning of this collection you should read the Tales Of The Jedi comics from the 90s–Golden Age Of The Sith and Fall Of The Sith Empire are the relevant volumes I believe, conveniently they are also the first. After the first several stories there will be references to the next couple TOJ volumes, but this is less necessary (The TOJ series is actually pretty good, so reading the whole thing woudldn’t be unwise, but not essential for our purposes). All that said, this is a pretty good study of the Sith and how a purely Sith society might unfold if they were extremely lucky and managed to avoid killing each other off first. Good for fans of the Sith or those who want to look at the background material for the FofJ story arc.Other good books on the Sith are Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane novels, the tie-ins to the Old Republic video game (especially Deceived), and James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis novel chronicling the rise and fall of Palpatine’s Sith Master (and thus Palpatine’s rise in the process).

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