Tag Archives: Leia Organa

Review: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” by Alan Dean Foster

Title: The Force Awakens
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Series: Star Wars: Episode VII
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2016

Okay, let me be incredibly clear about this: the rating above applies to this novelization only! I loved the movie, with just a couple minor quibbles to complain about. It was incredible. This book? Sadly mediocre.

Hey, look at that! I managed to make this review almost spoiler-free even without trying to!

Thirty years after the events of The Return Of The Jedi, it seems that the more things change the more they stay the same. The Rebellion has become the New Republic, now the dominant power in the galaxy…at least for the moment. After the death of the Emperor, the Empire fell prey to numerous revolutions and uprisings, signing a peace treaty with the New Republic before melting away and reforming in the Unknown Regions as the First Order. Now, faced with a Senate that is unwilling to risk war and mounting evidence of First Order skulduggery, Leia Organa has formed the Resistance in the image of the Rebellion of old, a private military force to keep an eye on their old enemies. This would be so much easier if Luke was anywhere to be found, but in the wake of a particularly heart-wrenching family tragedy both he and her husband Han have disappeared….

I’m not sure what happened here. Alan Dean Foster is an accomplished author, both of original works and novelizations of films. As I noted above, I absolutely loved the movie. So what went wrong with the book? Let me put it this way: if I hadn’t seen the movie already, this would prove far from satisfactory. While I projected the amazing performances from the film onto the characters as presented in the novel, even managing to carry that through the “deleted scenes” as it were, they would have been fairly uninteresting if I were experiencing them here for the first time. The writing was fairly (though not completely) emotionless when it came to exploring the characters, or perhaps it just pales in comparison with the onscreen performance backed by John Williams’ score. (EDIT: I think this was a huge part of my issue. A number of my favorite moments in the film weren’t captured in full effect here, possibly because Foster was working from a screenplay and not the finished film, which would of course not reflect any added nuance of character injected by the actor. Other scenes are more fully rendered.) Part of the problem is that we almost never get into their heads. That’s why I was so excited to get my hands on this–there are a number of places in the movie where I really wanted to know what a given character was thinking. Normally, this would be the province of the novelization. Not this time. We get a couple snippets of thought, but mostly obvious stuff. Was this a forced tactic by those in charge of maintaining the secrets yet to be revealed? Maybe. I’ll admit that I was hoping for more clues on certain theories, especially Rey’s backstory.

Of course, there are good things to find here too. Numerous sequences that were cut from the film, such as more with Leia, Rey’s first encounter with snow, or a scene where Unkar Plutt tracks down Rey and the Falcon on Takodana. Usually these scenes offer illumination to other moments in the film, such as Rey reminding herself to flip the safety off on her blaster before firing. Too, Foster puts in a valiant effort when it comes to making other elements feasible. Starkiller Base gets a pseudo-scientific explanation for its power and firing mechanism, and Finn has trouble figuring out which tools Rey needs because of their disorganization, not because he’s unfamiliar with mechanics. Then too there are a few more hints regarding the resolution of certain mysteries. Kylo Ren finally realizes Rey’s true identity just before they commence their battle (meaning he’s still one up on us), and Snoke drops several more hints regarding his origins that still fall far short of revelation.

Bottom line: I’m not telling you to give this one a miss, but I am telling you to see the movie first. That experience will add some much-needed flavor to this one.

CONTENT: Mild to no profanity. Mild violence, occasionally heart-wrenching. You know the part I mean. Little to no sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Shattered Empire” by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, & Angel Unzueta

Title: Shattered Empire
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso (Issue #2), & Angel Unzueta (Issues #2-3)
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Did you ever wonder just what happened to our heroes after the credits rolled and The Return Of The Jedi was over? Yes, yes, I know, they foiled an invasion by the Ssi-Ruuk. But that was the alternate universe of the Legends canon. I’m talking the new, rebooted canon leading up to Disney’s triumphant (we hope) entrance into the franchise. Well, wonder no more! Marvel has brought us Shattered Empire to answer some of those questions and help set the board for Star Wars–Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Now, I know this is a four-issue miniseries, but I want you to try something. Instead of thinking of it as a unified story, think of it as a themed anthology, a collection of shorter tales all featuring the same main character with numerous side characters along for the ride and all loosely tied together by a common end goal. If you can do that, this earns the four stars I took the liberty of giving it–possibly even a fifth. If you can’t, if you go into this expecting a single unified story, that rating probably seems incredibly generous as the episodic plot rambles all over the place and sprawls out over a three-month period with sometimes little connective tissue between adventures. So please, go into this book with the proper expectations, because it really is worth the read.

Our story opens during the climactic moments of The Return Of The Jedi. While Luke engages his father in an epic lightsaber battle and Han’s commandos prepare to destroy the shield generator protecting the second Death Star, the Rebel fleet battles for survival between the Imperial Navy’s hammer and the Death Star’s anvil (or is that the other way around? Doesn’t matter, moving on.) Our protagonist, Shara Bey, is an A-Wing pilot caught in that battle, while her husband Kes Dameron is with Solo’s strike team on the surface. Following the battle, they get a brief respite during the victory celebration, but then it’s once more into the breach as comm traffic reveals a holdout Imperial base on the far side of the planet. Striking that base reveals a sobering fact: the war is far from over. The Emperor had a slew of contingency plans, and the Imperials control the airwaves. Palpatine may be dead, but most of the galaxy doesn’t know that. We then jump to several weeks later, as the Rebels work hard to liberate world after world. Off the front lines on light duty after her fighter is disabled, Shara accompanies Princess Leia to Naboo on a diplomatic mission to gain allies for the fledgling New Republic. Unfortunately, as the Emperor’s homeworld, Naboo is one of the prime targets of Operation Cinder, the Emperor’s program of vengeance from beyond the grave….Meanwhile, Solo’s strike team takes on an Imperial Security Bureau black site. Finally, we jump again to about three months post-Endor, as the grave reality is finally settling in for everyone involved–despite their recent victories, there is no end in sight for the ongoing war. Struggling with the question of whether or not to muster out and settle down with her husband and son, Shara joins Luke Skywalker on an undercover mission to recover an artifact of the old Jedi Order.

Like I said, if you come into this with the proper expectations, it’s solid gold. The writing is top-notch, and the art is incredible. In the middle the series gains a couple backup artists, I assume to help with backgrounds and such given the compressed publication schedule (the whole thing was published over the course of a month and a half), but it was surprisingly not an issue. The whole book is full of delightful blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gems, such as a sly, almost imperceptible reference to the fan theory that the Ewoks were serving roast Stormtrooper at their celebration party, a brief exhibition of Leia’s fledgling Force sensitivity as she feels “cold” when crossing paths with Maul’s imprint, and another semi-appearance of Commander Beck from Han Solo’s Smuggler’s Run (also by Greg Rucka, now that I think of it.) The ties to The Force Awakens range from the obvious (Poe Dameron is the son of Shara and Kes) to the more foundational, such as the war not ending where we all assumed it did. Bottom line: Find this, read it, and enjoy it. Just know what you’re in for.

CONTENT: Moderate violence. Minor to no profanity. Mild sexual content (Shara and Kes wake up together in one scene after one of their rare chances to be together.)

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Review: “Star Wars: Moving Target” by Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry

Title: Moving Target
Authors: Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Disney Press, 2015

Third time’s the charm! Moving Target is the third of three YA novels featuring the “big three” protagonists from the original trilogy, set in that era but seeding elements from the upcoming film. This time we catch up with Leia in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi as the Rebellion first learns of the existence of the second Death Star.

The Empire is rebuilding the Death Star. Once completed, it will essentially spell the end of the Rebellion, as any world that causes problems can be threatened with Alderaan’s fate. In order to buy time to assemble the fleet without the Empire noticing, Leia heads a decoy mission, drawing the Empire’s attention to the other side of the galaxy with a false recruiting mission. But such a course of action is dangerous, both for her team and for the various rebellious types responding to her beacons for a rendezvous that will never happen. Both Leia and the other members of her team are going to have to decide for themselves just what they are willing to sacrifice for the good of the Rebellion….

Whereas Smuggler’s Run and The Weapon Of A Jedi¬† served up lighthearted adventures with our favorite protagonists, Moving Target takes a slightly weightier approach. Throughout the book, Leia struggles with the idea of sacrifice, both how the rank and file of the Rebellion seem willing to sacrifice themselves to protect her and how her decoy mission threatens to make unwitting sacrifices of anyone responding to their spurious recruitment mission. During wartime, tough decisions have to be made…but does that truly justify the sacrifice of innocents, even to ensure the survival of the Rebellion? It’s not a question that has a concrete answer, and the authors don’t insult us by pretending it does. In the end, each of our characters are going to have to decide for themselves just what they’re willing to do in the name of freedom’s cause. The characterization was all spot-on, though it was occasionally odd to have Nien Nunb’s dialogue directly translated to English Basic. I get it, of course, its just slightly jarring given his only onscreen dialogue is in Sullustan. The authors seem to be trying to make up for the fact that most of the onscreen Rebels are human in the original films, populating Leia’s strike force with a Cerean (like Ki-Adi Mundi from the prequels), an Abednedo (like X-Wing pilot Ello Asty from the new film) and a Dressellian (like Orrimaarko, “Prune Face” from the original Return Of The Jedi action figure line. Yes, that was the character’s name for quite a while….), which is a welcome effort. Disney seems to be taking steps to make the Star Wars universe more diverse than traditionally seen, and I for one am not complaining. On the whole, this was a good book and a decent addition to the series.

CONTENT: Mild violence, including a discussion of torture. No profanity. No real sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars–Empire And Rebellion: Razor’s Edge” by Martha Wells

Title: Razor’s Edge
Author: Martha Wells
Series: Star Wars: Empire & Rebellion (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2013

They keep referring to this Empire And Rebellion set of books as a series or a trilogy, but I don’t think that’s very accurate. From what I can see, these are three individual books not connected in any way aside from the fact that they are set around the same time (i.e. between Star Wars IV: A New Hope¬†and Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back) and feature the “big three” characters from the films–Han, Luke and Leia–with one book primarily from each viewpoint. Razor’s Edge is primarily focused on Leia, with Han pulling a significant number of POV scenes as well.

Han and Leia are on yet another vital mission for the Rebellion, hoping to buy much-needed supplies for the construction of Echo Base on Hoth. Only when they come out of hyperspace to pick up the coordinates for their meeting, they’re met with an Imperial cruiser! Damaged and on the run, the Rebels barely escape to the rendezvous point only to find their troubles compounded–the smugglers they’re to meet have just fallen afoul of a local pirate band. Worse yet, the pirates are an orphaned Alderaanian defense crew forced into piracy to keep themselves afloat–and they’re deep in debt to a larger pirate armada who wouldn’t think twice before selling Leia to the Empire. Leia and Han are going to have to think fast and talk faster to maneuver their way out of this one….

This book was a lot of fun, and probably the best bridge between Episodes IV and V for adult readers–most of the other stuff in this period is either YA or side adventures. Getting insight into this stage of Han and Leia’s relationship was a great bonus, as well as seeing the evolution of the various interconnected friendships between the “big three” of the Star Wars films. I loved the biting humor of Han and Leia’s banter, it was great. The insight into Leia’s character was also excellent, and long overdue–Han and Luke both have a plethora of solo stories, but Leia-centric media is strangely lacking. The insight and exploration of her character worked incredibly well, with the band of Alderaanian pirates serving as a catalyst to allow the reader to explore her guilt and grief over the destruction of her home planet. All this emotional and relational drama doesn’t keep the story from being a thrill-ride full of death-defying stunts, however. You may have trouble finding time to breath between feats of daring-do.

There are always issues setting a story in such a heavily-documented part of the timeline, but on the whole the novel managed to either avoid them or handle them adroitly. Since the book wasn’t rooted in a throwaway line from the films, there was no need to explain away earlier stories based on that same line. Lando didn’t appear, so that convoluted relationship grew no more tangled. The only real issue it had to face was the one that’s unavoidable–how do you create drama when we know everyone (or at least everyone we knew going in) is going to survive intact for the film that happens right around the corner? Mostly the author handled this by creating emotional drama, forcing Leia to deal with these wayward members of her own people and the emotions that they call up. She also manages to make us care about most of the side characters she creates, so while we know Han and Leia will come out of all the death-defying exploits intact, you’re still riveted to the page to make sure your favorite side players are doing okay.

CONTENT: Mild language. Brief sexual innuendo and flirting from Han, but nothing too bad. A fair amount of violence, as would be expected from Star Wars.

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