Book Reviews · Books · Galaxy's Edge · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire – Review

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This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club Review!

Most of the Resistance did get wiped out by the First Order, but that’s the tricky thing about doing what’s right and fighting the good fight: people just keep doing it no matter what.”

Black Spire p. 221

The celebration for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge continues as Del Rey Books releases Delilah S. Dawson’s Black Spire. Picking up where her previous book Phasma left off, as well as the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Vi Moradi is tasked with helping the decimated Resistance by traveling to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu to set up a new base and recruit. Unfortunately for her, she’s not going alone, as General Leia sends her with Archex, who was formally known as Cardinal of the First Order, newly deprogramed and freed. What could go possibly go wrong?

Freedom Isn’t Free

One of the stand out themes of Black Spire is something Vi struggles with while trying to recruit new members for the Resistance among the denizens of BSO. She finds that most people are of the opinion that if they keep their noses out of galactic affairs they will be safe from the tyranny of the First Order. She is frustrated with the lack of interest in the common good and reminds them that, “…if you keep letting bullies bully other people, eventually they run out of other people.”(p.164). It brings to mind the age old adage about evil flourishing when good people do nothing. Vi’s pleading with them harkens back to Obi-Wan telling the gungans in The Phantom Menace, “You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other. You must understand this.”. It’s a lesson that the Star Wars galaxy struggles mighty with but it’s also one that feels universal for the real world as well. The fight for freedom and the protection of it takes constant vigilance. It’s a fight that can happen in many different ways, but the commitment must be total and the character arcs of this book illustrate that perfectly.

The Trauma of Life

Life has a way of beating people down and Black Spire is very much about the ways people deal with the trauma that happens along the way. Vi is suffering from the torture she received at the hands of Cardinal which continues to give her nightmares. Archex has lost his entire way of life. He’s been a slave for most of it, being told what to do, what to believe and how to behave since birth, first in a Jakku orphanage and then as a “recruit” for the First Order. The psychological trauma of going from never having to make up his mind about anything and always know his purpose, to feeling broken and purposeless has taken it’s toll. He sums up his feelings when he says, “I’ve been through some bad things…People have hurt me. Most of the time, I manage to ignore it to hide it, but it’s always there, lurking underneath. And what I’ve learned is that the only way out is through. That I have to feel the fear, acknowledge it, and do it anyway. Fear can’t hurt you.'(p. 282)

His John Wayne philosophy of, “Being scared to death and saddling up anyway” is at the heart of each one of the characters in the book. Each one is having to face a fear, brought on by the trials of life and the only way to get over them is to deal with them head on. It truly is a beautiful reminder that the only thing that can beat us is us, if we give up; that’s when we lose.

The Book

The Galaxy’s Edge series has been about introducing fans to the new planet and location for the theme parks. Yet what sets Black Spire apart from A Crash of Fate is that it truly makes you feel like you know this place. Dawson’s descriptions are fantastic, but more importantly she brings BSO to life through the characters and their experience in this world. The book also does an incredible job of following up The Last Jedi and through this story of absolute desperation showing just how fragile the Resistance is after their narrow escape on Crait. With all of the themes talked about, you’d think this book is dower and serious and yet Dawson’s wicked sense of humor and sarcasm are on full display through the characters. This adds the levity needed in the story and truly makes the book a joy to read. Black Spire helps fill in the gap between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker perfectly and is the perfect way to fill the time waiting for Episode IX. Black Spire is rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Force Awakens · The Last Jedi · Uncategorized

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.

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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.

FirstOrder

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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