Category Archives: Star Wars

Leia, Princess of Alderaan – Review

Leia_-_Princess_of_Alderaan_-_new_coverListen to The 602 Club review here!

Leia is one of the most recognized and revered characters in film, yet we still know very little about her upbringing. From the time she was whisked away by Bail Organa, adopted by he and his wife and then shows up in A New Hope, we know almost nothing (we do know just a bit more now, thanks to an appearance by the rebellious princess in Star Wars Rebels). Now thanks to The Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Claudia Gray, Leia’s transition from princess to rebel is now complete.

The Cost

When Star Wars premiered over 40 years ago, the rebellion was more an ideal in the film. Even throughout the next two movies, the cost to those involved was never fully fleshed out. Leia is one of the characters that suffers most from this. She looses her whole planet and we never see the impact that has on her, at least on screen (it is seen in the Leia comic that came out a couple of years ago).

One of the highlights of Leia is the way Gray is able to explore the risks involved for people like Bail and Breha Organa in helping create a uprising against the Empire. The costs for them will be high if they are found to be peddling “treason” to the masses. Bail and Breha know that they are putting their lives and the life of their daughter on the line. In fact, through most of the book, Bail is insistent that Leia be kept in the dark about their defiant activities, with the slim hope that Leia might be spared by the Empire if they are discovered. Freedom is never free. Bail finally resigns himself to the fact that Leia will never be safe, even if she is not involved. The Empire will make an example of them no matter what, if he and Breha are caught, so they might as well allow Leia to be involved. Star Wars has done an excellent job recently of bringing to life the cost being involved in the Rebellion through Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, Twilight Company and now in Leia.

Another price that we see in A New Hope is the annihilation of Alderaan. That loss has never feel so great till now. Gray does a magnificent job of creating a vibrant society and planet that is the jewel of the Empire, free, open and beautiful. The Organas are not just putting their lives in danger, they are risking their whole planet. If their insurgent activities are uncovered, the Alderaan that is will cease to exist. It’s eventual destruction is more poignant now that Claudia Gray enlivened it in the pages of her book.

Coming Together

Palpatine was a genius at using the selfishness of people to his advantage. His continued use of the Senate was a way of getting his hooks into systems and using their greed against each other. Pork-barrel spending and fear allow him to keep the galaxy divided against itself. Mon Mothma makes this point to Leia in the book when she says,

“More than anything else, I’m honored that you trusted me with this. The Empire’s worked so hard to destroy our faith in one another, throughout the galaxy. Only by daring to reach out will we ever make the allies we need.”

It’s a relevant point, even today. The more we are driven apart into our little tribes and groups the harder it is to benefit the whole. Making those connections, finding common ground and coming together are the only way to make a difference.

Connections

This book is under the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi banner and it uses this to familiarize readers with some things that will be seen in the film. Readers are taken to the new planet Crait, that has been seen in the trailer and also introduced to Amilyn Holdo who will be a Vice Admiral in the Resistance alongside Leia. The story also helps in building the character of Leia, showing why she would be able to recognize the danger the First Order presents to the New Republic and be willing to do whatever it takes to stop it.

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Crait and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo from The Last Jedi.

Conclusion 

Claudia Gray has already written two of the best books in the new canon with Lost Stars and Bloodline. Leia is not quite at that level, but it’s still a good book. The best thing any tie-in fiction can do is to enhance your viewing of the films or show it’s connected to and Leia does just that. In reading this book, you’ll never watch A New Hope in the same way again. Gray’s coming-of-rebellion story for Leia is wonderful and worth the read, especially before The Last Jedi. Leia is rated 4 out of 5 lost stars.

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Phasma – Review

phasma2This review originally appeared on The StarWars Report.

Listen to The 602 Club review here.

This review does contain spoilers.

In the lead up to The Force Awakens, the anticipation for the new filmwas palpable. Fans were atwitter about everything they were seeing in the trailers, toys and through the media, including one of the most striking new characters–Captain Phasma. This chrome-plated stormtrooper had many fans asking questions about who she was, where she came from and just how awesome she would be in the movie. It’s not an overstatement to say that she was a letdown in the film as she was given nothing to do other than be thrown into a trash compacter by Chewie, Han, and Finn. Fortunately, the rehabilitation of Phasma has now begun. She’ll be back in Episode VIII, she’s starring in her own comic (where she’ll escape Starkiller Base) and her backstory has finally been revealed in the latest release from Del Rey by Delilah S. Dawson.

The Title Character

Phasma is an enigma, not only for fans but also for the rest of the characters in the latest book. She jealously guards her secrets about where she comes from and who she was before arriving with Brendol Hux at The First Order after helping him escape her home planet of Parnassos. This story offers a character study in who the “real” Phasma is.

Cardinal

Cardinal

In The First Order’s efforts at training children they have “rescued” and molding them into a stormtrooper corp, Cardinal has been acting as Brendol’s right-hand man. This all changes when Phasma arrives and he is demoted to training only the younger children while Phasma is given control over the cadets from their teens to graduation as troopers. A mistrust grows between Cardinal and Phasma in response to this turn of events. Spurred on by his misgivings about her, Cardinal begins digging into Phasma’s past to uncover exactly who she is and if she can be trusted. What he finds will change his life forever. Cardinal captures Resistance spy, Vi Moradi, who has been hot on the trail of Phasma’s history, and forces her to reveal what she knows of The First Order’s “perfect” solider.

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Vi Moradi

Vi Moradi’s story exposes the heart of who lies beneath the armor. Phasma is revealed as the embodiment of Darwinian ideology, survival of the fittest. She knows who she is, a stone-cold dealer of death, and no matter who gets in her way, she is determined to survive. Phasma adheres to no other belief system than her own survival, which is her highest ideal. As Vi weaves her tale, Cardinal realizes that Phasma is a user not a believer. She constantly looks for the next best thing to further her existence; as long as it benefits herself,that’s what she will side with. Phasma proves time and again that she will turn on those “closest” to her if it means bettering her position in life.

The most interesting thing to see is how even on Parnassos, where survival is about being the fittest, Phasma’s approach to life is viewed as an aberration. Her supreme selfishness and lack of care for others shocks those she lives with. Phasma is comfortable with who she is, yet she knows that the rest of the galaxy does not share this opinion, so she covers up her past. She makes sure that everyone she betrays ends up dead, unable to tell the truth, and in doing so, creates her own reality. Phasma truly exists as only what she allows people to believe her to be. She has exchanged the truth for a lie and that lie has become her “truth”.

The First Order 

So far, we have been shown very little about The First Order in the sequel trilogy, and luckily, Phasma lets readers get a peak behind the curtain. The character of Cardinal demonstrates just how committed the Order is to creating an army that will do its bidding, no matter what they are asked to do. Children are taken at a very young age and brainwashed through training, conditioning and subliminal messaging permeating every single moment of their lives.

When The Force Awakens was released, J.J. Abrams compared The First Order to Nazis in hiding after WWII, yet in Phasma, it comes off more like the Soviet regime. The people and military are told that they are going to be saved from the evils of the New Republic, that the corruption of the powerful will be brought down and that all will be treated with equality under The First Order. In reality, those in charge of the Order do not actually care about equality, they only care about control. Phasma explains it to Cardinal,

“Ah, Cardinal. That’s your problem. You were only ever meant to be the tool, not the hand that wields it. You’re what Brendol thought he wanted, a dull creature he crafted to do his will. But me? I’m what he didn’t know he needed. I am your evolution. And that means you’re deadweight. Extinct.”

In The First Order, there is a clear distinction between those who are in power and those who are not. The First Order and its troopers are a dark mirror for the Jedi Order in many ways. The Jedi took children to the temple with the permission of their families andraised them to adhere to the Jedi Code, a philosophy which taught them to free themselves from familial attachments so that they could best serve the needs of the Force and others. Conversely, The First Order takes children in order to indoctrinate them to think and act only according to the dogma of the Order. It squashes all of the humanity out of them, leaving only automatons to be wielded as those in power see fit. This is groupthink at its most dangerous.

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Conclusion

Delilah S. Dawson’s Phasma is a deliciously chilling character study. Its revelations about the character and the nature of The First Order make it a perfect read going into The Last Jedi. The prose is well done and the creation of Cardinal is something that will leave the readers wanting more of him as well as Vi. Phasma is rated 4 out of 5 downed Naboo yachts.

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Inferno Squad – Review

BFII-InfernoSquad-2This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

In the aftermath of Scarif and the destruction of the indestructible Death Star, the Empire finds itself vulnerable for the first time in twenty years. Its time to get serious about the treat of the Rebellion and destroy what is left of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. For this task, the Empire forms a new group who will work on the outside, an elite team who will suss out the Imperial traitors, infiltrate Rebel and Partisan groups to find out where the leaks are coming from and bring them to justice. The group, Inferno Squad.

Moral Quagmire

Christie Golden has given Star Wars one of it’s most thematically rich and complex books to date. Following the Inferno Squad through their missions, they are constantly being faced with the moral questions of just how far they should go to complete their mission. Is it right to kill Imperial subjects to keep their cover? Is it right to loose a member of their team for the same reason? How far is too far in war? Was the destruction of Alderaan justified?

The point becomes even more complicated when Golden introduces the Partisans. Rogue One made it clear that it was Saw’s militancy and extremism that lead to his split with the Rebel Alliance. Calling themselves the Dreamers, what is left of his sect works to continue what Saw began. Yet the actions they are willing to take, to fight the Empire, leave the reader uncomfortable. They are supposed to be the heroes, right? The Partisans are asking the same questions Inferno Squad has, how far is too far? In the end, when do you lose your moral superiority over your enemy?

Golden never makes it easy on the reader and for that she should be applauded. The answers to these questions are not easy and their expansion in the Star Wars universe feels like a milestone. It continues the fantastic groundwork laid in Rogue One and books like Rebel Rising.

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The Book

Many of the books so far in canon have allowed the read to peak behind the iron curtain of the Empire and see what life is like for those among it’s ranks and Inferno Squad continues that trend. Each of the new characters Golden introduces feels fresh and recognizable, creating an immediate sense of intimacy with the story and desire to keep turning the page. Don’t let the brevity of this review fool you. The length is the highest compliment. This book needs to be experienced and read for itself, the less you know going in, the better. Golden has done it once again, batting 1000% in the Star Wars canon. Inferno Squad is a must read and is rated 4.5 out of 5.

This review was completed using a copy of Inferno Squad provided by Del Rey.

The State of Luke Skywalker

This blob was originally posted on NJOE.com years ago and I just came across it in my old documents. Thought I would post it here as nostalgic Star Wars reading.

anewhope“For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”

The Jedi had been a force of peace and justice. As Mace Windu says, they were keepers of the peace – not soldiers. They stood the test of time and conflict and helped shape the galaxy; then war came. The Jedi were thrown into a role that they did not belong to. They were forced into morally compromising situations and made to choose the lesser of two evils. The Clone Wars created a cloud, along with the dark side of the Force, to ensnare the Jedi into become soldiers, not keepers of the peace. As war went on, it claimed many Jedi and not just their lives, it began to eat at the heart of the Order. They lost sight of what was truly important and became slaves to a failed government, instead of following the Force. In the end, as history shows, all were lost but two (there may be more that George has not reveled yet). Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda bridged that divide to raise up a new Jedi Knight to restore peace and justice to the galaxy.

Luke Skywalker has been questioned of late. His characterization is said to be off; it is said that he is no longer that “farm-boy” that we all know and love. He seems cooler and less willing to trust and look for the good in people. Is this the case and is it really uncharacteristic?

Luke has not had an easy life. His aunt and uncle murdered, his hand cut off by his Sith father, and almost electrocuted to death by The Emperor. His training was woefully short as a Jedi, he fell to the dark side for a while… and then there is an endless list of super weapons, warlords, madmen and women that he had to face, Sith, kidnappings of family members, the loss of many loves, the loss of close friends, the death of his youngest nephew, the loss of his oldest nephew turned Sith who was taken down by his niece, and the death of his wife to his nephew-turned-Sith. All of this is surrounded by, and couched in, over 40 years of unrest and war with one group after another. All while trying to find the New Jedi Order’s place in the New Republic/Galactic Alliance. This man is lucky to be alive, let alone sane.

War, as can be seen in the days of Kenobi and Yoda, had a wearing, gnawing effect on the Jedi. Attachments to governments instead of the will of the Force also led to misplaced loyalty and, in the end, devastation of the Order. The Jedi had failed to live for the Force, instead fighting and dying for the status-quo. It was only through Kenobi and Yoda, sitting under the tutelage of Qui-Gon and 20 years of contemplation, that they could see the error of their ways and begin to work their way back to The Jedi Code:

                      “There is no emotion, there is peace.

                   There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

                      There is no passion, there is serenity.

                      There is no death, there is the Force.”

Luke has been battered by the galaxy. Yes, he was that optimistic farm-boy and still is in some ways. Yet, as the years have gone by, he has changed. He is more reserved and cautious. His desire to trust everyone has gotten him into trouble more times than he can count, so he has tempered it with wisdom and discretion. A person cannot be expected to be the same after more than 40 years of conflict, war and death. Just because Luke is a Jedi does not mean he is immune to the pain and anguish that the galaxy has to offer. If Luke was still just as naïve and wet-behind-the-ears as he was in the films, he would be the worst written character ever. But the Luke of Return of the Jedi is much more mature than just a few short years ago. His experiences molded him and honed his character, and they continue to do so throughout the books (even if he does get a little whiny now and again).

Caedus_EAA lot of fans were very disappointed in Luke’s refusal to try to redeem Jacen, feeling that it was out of character for him. And yet Luke does try to reach Jacen and get him to see the error of his ways, but it is too late in the end. Jacen is too far gone. Jacen chose to believe that only he could save the universe and only he could truly understand what must be done. It is the height of arrogance and pride to believe that only you can do something. It is written, “Pride comes before disaster, and arrogance before a fall.” Jacen is guilty of this fault and it led him to becoming unreachable. He became lost in his reason and blind to anything but his own power and will to change the “future.”

Luke is not beyond fault here, though. He should have been more involved in Jacen’s life, especially after his ordeal with Vergere. Luke was woefully negligent in allowing Jacen to just leave for five years, unsupervised, to wander the galaxy and collect Force knowledge.  Dexter Jettster said it best: “I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and wisdom.” Luke’s greatest mistake was not being there to temper what Jacen learned, to teach him with the wisdom that comes from experience and the guidelines of the New Jedi Order’s code,

Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.

Jedi use their powers to defend and to protect.

Jedi respect all life, in any form.

Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.

Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.

Knowledge that is molded by nothing is dangerous.

VestaraAnother major complaint leveled at Luke was his mistrust and (some say) mistreatment of Vestara Khai. They point out that Luke saved Vader from the dark side, so why could he not have some faith that Vestara could perhaps follow on that same path. Darth Vader is a very different person. He was not raised evil or Sith – he was a boy, a kind and gentle boy who “….knows nothing of greed.” It is this that makes The Phantom Menace so important. It lays the foundation for why Anakin could be turned in Return of the Jedi – he was never fully evil to begin with. The same argument can be made with Kyp Durron. Again he was not evil, but possessed by evil and made to do terrible things.

Vestara is a very different character than these two. She is raised her whole life to be a Sith, to live according to their code and cherish their values. A lifetime of teaching is not easily, if ever, undone. Unlike Vader, which Luke can sense good in, Vestara can never truly be read by Luke. Her core being is concealed in the web of lies that she spins and truly believes. Yes she loves Ben in her own way, and is attracted to certain aspects of the Jedi way of life, yet she is never able to let go of her attachment to the Sith way of thinking.  In the end, her very way of thinking is antithetical to the Jedi code. She is unwilling to sacrifice her attachments and, in true Sith fashion, is willing to give up vital information to save herself instead of lay down her life for others. So, is it cold and unfeeling for Luke to be wary of someone like this, especially when his own son is involved? Has Luke not just had his nephew fall to the dark side and seen the repercussions of that on his son, his wife and the galaxy? How could Luke be anything but cautious and circumspect of this Sith teenager? This is not callous, it is wisdom born of over 40 years of hard learned lessons.

There are many things that Luke needs to change and he has many mistakes to try and rectify. The first is being tied to a government. Luke has already begun down this path; he has removed the Order from Coruscant and set it up elsewhere. This is a wise move and it detaches the Jedi from the government in a good way, enabling them to focus on the Force and not the political machinations that are always swirling about. What is right is too big to be attached to any one form of government.

The second issue is the lack of training structure in the New Jedi Order. This was one of the things that the old Order did well. It had a very regimented and thorough program to train Jedi and guide them in the wisdom of the Force. Luke needs to be more hands-on in the shaping and training of the Jedi, as do the other masters. Good training and wise teaching are essential in raising up strong future Jedi. As can be seen throughout all of the Star Wars timelines, knowledge and power without wisdom has deadly consequences for the galaxy.

There is also the issue of Luke holding fast to these visions of the “future.” Yoda said, “Always in motion is the future.” Luke should be careful to not hold fast to these visions as gospel and instead be looking to the Force and focusing on the here and now. Being preoccupied with the future has never worked out well for the Jedi – just ask Zayne Carrick. The biggest problem with knowing the future, though, is that Luke is being forced down a certain path because of the Legacy comics, creating a huge problem in allowing the story to feel organic or true to this axiom of Yoda’s.

Luke_ghostThe last thing to mention (even though there are many more) is that Luke needs a timeout. Like Obi-Wan and Yoda, Luke is in need of some space to contemplate his actions and the effect that he has had on the universe. He needs to be able to reevaluate the course of the New Jedi Order and rethink his role in it. All of the conflicts and wars have left Luke very little time to do any this and he has had the weight of the galaxy riding on his shoulders for far too long. There are many foes that are still lurking in the shadows and to face them, Luke needs a gut check. Who is he? Who has he become? What can he learn from his successes and, more importantly, his failures? Where has he gone wrong in the first place? Has he lost too much of his optimism in light of the ever encroaching darkness? Here’s to hoping that the authors of Luke’s future will give him the time to rest and take it all in. If a person always has to react to a new crisis without the time to process the last, they can never truly learn and grow. If given this time Luke may be able to become an even better Jedi and man for the galaxy; so lets give the man a break and let him go pick up some power converters or a good cup of caf at Cafbucks.

Thrawn – Review

thrawn12f-2-webThis review originally appeared at The Star Wars Report.

It is said that to create a compelling villain an author must make them sympathetic in some way. Villains never see themselves as such, as with the rest of us, they believe they are doing the right thing. Timothy Zahn, in his new book Thrawn, has given us just that; a villain that believes he’s doing what he must to save his people and possibly the galaxy itself from an evil worse that the Empire. Thrawn is a masterpiece in subverting the readers expectations, especially in light of Star Wars Rebels. Many readers will come in expecting the ruthless, cold and calculating character they know from the show, yet that is only one side of the multifaceted Chiss. Zahn has created the most nuanced Imperial to date allowing readers a both, insider and outsider’s look at the Empire.

Breaking the Mold

One of the true highlights of the book is this theme. Both Thrawn and Arihnda Pryce (who fans will recognize as the Governor of Lothal in Star Wars Rebels) must overcome the prejudices of the Empire throughout the story. The Empire is one of the most elitist and xenophobic places you will read about in literature. The Core systems in the galaxy have very little regard for aliens or people from the Outer Rim or beyond. Each of these characters has at least one of these strikes against them and Thrawn has both. Thrawn and Arihnda must overcome these prejudices. They never feel sorry for themselves or blame the system they are apart of, they simply overcome the obstacles in their own way, though determination, hard work and in Arihnda’s case, foul play.

It’s actually incredible to watch Thrawn continually prove his naysayers wrong and obliterate their preconceptions about him, time and time again. He uses all of his talents and skills to his advantage, making himself invaluable to the Emperor and the Imperial Navy. Strange to think one could learn a valuable life lesson from Thrawn, but he never allows anyone else to define his worth, value or to be held back from completing his objectives. Of course, full disclosure, Thrawn is not a perfect role model, but this was a great theme to see play out in the book.

Thrawn_&_Pryce

The Story

Thrawn is an expansive novel that covers a lot of time. It also allows us to get that look inside the Empire, but from the outsider’s perspective. Because Thrawn is not human, he does not always see things the same way and this sheds light on much of the corruption in the Empire as well as the inefficiencies. The story does a good job of sucking the reader in and created a subtle enough character with Thrawn that you are on his side during the book.

Zahn also creates, for this book, a new person to be at Thrawn’s side, his name is Eli Vanto. Think of him as the Watson to Thrawn’s Sherlock. This is a really fascinating character that, by the end of the book you’ll be begging Zahn for more.

As is mentioned above, the story features Arihnda Pryce. The book is set up to parallel her rise to power and Thrawn’s, seeing the different ways they overcome the obstacles to get where we see them in Rebels. She is not to be trifled with and her story is every bit as interesting as the title character. There are many familiar faces in the book, that fans would come to expect from a story tied in with Star Wars Rebels as Yularan, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Emperor and a few more are sprinkled in .

Conclusion

This review is not meant to be expansive and in many areas I wanted to be vague because it’s a book that just needs to be read and experience. Zahn has done exactly what I hoped for and written the definitive, canon book of Thrawn. It ranks up there with the very best of the new canon and is rated 5 out of 5 turbo laser blasts.

This review was completed using a copy of Thrawn provided by Del Rey.

Aggressive Negotiations Contest

ancontest1The Star Wars podcast that I do with John Mills is doing a review contest on iTunes. We are offering an ultra exclusive t-shirt to the winner. All you need to do is leave a star rating and review for the show in iTunes (only open to the US) to be entered in the drawing. Even those who previously wrote reviews will be entered. You’ll get the awesome shirt pictured here in your size. All for about 2 minutes to help out our show! Please share with as many people as you can and best of luck! Contest ends May 1st.

Aftermath: Empire’s End – Review

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Get The 602 Club episode review!

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This review was originally posted at The Star Wars Report.

Star Wars fans’ first taste of the end of the Empire came in Lost Stars as the Imperial characters in that book experienced the Battle of Jakku. It was the first taste of the end of all things for the Empire as seen in The Original Trilogy. Now, in Chuck Wendig’s final Aftermath book, Empire’s End, fans finally have the particulars of what led to the showdown between the Empire and the New Republic over this remote world.

Is This All There Is?

This series has followed two big characters, Rae Sloane and Norra Wexley. Each of these women has been moving closer to the other throughout the story, and it’s in this book that they come face to face at last. What’s most interesting is that even though they are on opposite sides of the war, they find themselves driven by the same thing, revenge. Each woman wants revenge on the person they believe has taken everything away from them. Norra desires revenge on Rae for attacking the New Republic and for brainwashing her husband to help carry out the plan. Rae’s object of revenge is Gallius Rax, who has taken the Empire she loves away from her. As these two women wrestle with how to get their revenge they see that they are truly not that different from one another and are even left with the same question plaguing them: “Is this all there is?” Is revenge truly enough to live for? Their answers will be different in the end, but the outcome will be the same. Revenge is not enough.

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Who is the Enemy?

Building off the previous theme is also this question, “Who is the enemy?” Norra will find that in the end, her understanding of the answer to that question was wrong and she must put aside her presuppositions about Rae, specifically, to fight the right fight.

What is most interesting is to see the way this struggle is mirrored on a galactic scale and how it will plague the sequel trilogy of Star Wars. The New Republic and Mon Mothma specifically have grappled with the challenge of identifying who the enemy is and what actual threat that enemy poses. All throughout the Aftermath series she’s longed to have peace and put war behind her. She might have been too late to act correctly if not pushed by her opponent in the upcoming election to take a strong stance on the security of the New Republic. Seeing the galaxy the way it is and not as she wants it to be is hard for Mon Mothma, but in the fight to bring democracy, the lesson that freedom is never free cannot be lost.

Finding the medium between safety and freedom is never easy. Sinjar says of Mon Mothma she is, “…a woman that wants to give democracy to the entirety of the galaxy. Freedom for all. Oppression for none.” It truly is the noblest of goals. The book does a good job of showing this struggle in all its messiness.

It is fascinating to see how this connects to The Force Awakens. Ancillary materials fill in the details of a senate that does not wish to see the First Order as a threat. Because of their lack of understanding of what’s truly happening in the galaxy, or worse, a blatant disregard for the signs before them, their blindness becomes their doom. A poignant lesson in any galaxy.

Spoilers begin after this point


The Good

The book has some things worthy of praise. The plot. The plot of the book is honestly what many expected from the first book. The portrayal of the inner-workings of the New Republic, seeing characters like Mon Mothma and Leia in their roles, trying to take care of the Empire while at the same time transitioning to a new galactic government, is excellent.

The book also continues one of the best things about the series, the Empire. The power plays and infighting between Grand Admiral Sloan and Gallius Rax as they try to find a way forward for the fledgling Empire are great. Another standout comes in the character of Rax and the revelation of his connection with Palpatine, Jakku, and what’s happening there, ultimately leading to the formation of the First Order.

The Bad

Empire’s End, like the rest of the series suffers from Wendig’s prose; it’s just frustratingly prosaic. There is also a lack of exposition and detail with major plot points, such as the Black Sun and Red Key crime syndicate’s involvement in the attempt to destabilize the galaxy or the full scope of Palpatine’s contingency plan. Each would benefit from more explanation and detail. There are also times throughout  where there seems to be a jump in the story and fuller connection of the dots would be welcome. This is so important because tie-in fiction that’s being written concurrently with a tv series or films will always come in second to those mediums. The major revelations will inevitably be saved for the next movie or episode, and because of this, it’s a struggle for the books to feel important. The Aftermath books suffer from this problem. There really are no major revelations in them and it leaves the series feeling a bit hollow. Therefore good writing is essential to making the reader feel they are being rewarded for their time and that the book is necessary to the canon.

The interludes continue to be an issue. Most of them are unnecessary. With all of the pre-release hullabaloo about Jar Jar’s fate, the actual reveal lacks any punch. The interludes that do work would be better served by being worked into the narrative in a more organic way. The space for the others could better be utilized to flesh out the main plot with more detail.

Most frustratingly, the character’s voices still sound off. Han and Leia do not sound like themselves. Tie-in fiction, when it is at its best, plays like an extension of the show or film it draws from. The best way for that to happen is to capture the “voices” of the characters so that the reader can hear the actor in their heads as they read. Unfortunately for this book, just as in Life Debt, this does not happen.

Conclusion 

Empire’s End is an improvement on the previous two books in the series. The plot is more engaging and seeing the end to the Empire is enjoyable. But with continuing prose, “voice” and importance issues, it’s still not one of the new canon’s best, landing somewhere in the middle with a rating of 2.75 downed Star Destroyers out of 5.

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