Weekly Comic Star Wars 100s: Novel Edition

By Rob Siebert
Herf Nerder

For the past few years, I’ve been setting reading quotas for myself. In this instance, “reading” refers to traditional prose books and audiobooks rather than comics. Not because of the antiquated notion that comics and graphic novels don’t count as reading. I just think it’s healthy to have a balance of both. I use Goodreads to track and gamify it.

For better or worse, I’ve been reading Star Wars novels since the fifth grade. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but yeah…it’s been a matter of decades, not years. While I’ve tried to phase them out at various times, they always come back. They’re like the Sith in that sense.

After all this time, instead of fighting the impulse to dive back into that galaxy far, far away, I’ve simply accepted that they’re a guilty pleasure of mine. Thus, of the 15 books I’ve read this year, eight are from the Star Wars Universe. That’s fair right? A roughly 50/50 balance.

Thanks to this lovely pandemic we’re experiencing, I’m one of the many whose had a chance to do quite a bit of reading. And so, in my standard Weekly Comic 100s format, I present to you a set of mini-reviews from my Star Wars selections in 2020. As you’ll see, I’ve made a point to differentiate between prose and audiobooks. I’ve also left out the Rise of Skywalker novelization, as I’ve said quite a bit about that already. (1, 2, 3, 4.)

TITLE: Resistance Reborn
AUTHOR: Rebecca Roanhorse
PAGE COUNT:
PUBLISHED: November 5, 2019

I don’t know that I would call this a thrilling read, nor would I say it enhances the Rise of Skywalker viewing experience very much. The most notable thing it does is bring Wedge Antilles back into the fold for his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the movie.

Still, Resistance Rising is well-written and provides a little bit of context for where the galaxy is at heading into Episode XI. No harm, no foul.

TITLE: Thrawn: Treason
AUTHOR: Timothy Zahn
READ BY: Marc Thompson
DURATION:

RELEASED: July 23, 2019

This wasn’t at all what I expected. The title and cover lead you to believe Thrawn commits all-out treason, pitting he and the Chiss against the Empire. That is not what we get. The “treason” in question is very subdued. You can barely even refer to it as that.

Timothy Zahn is one of the godfathers of the Star Wars novel, and will be returning to Thrawn with a new book later this year. While there’s no one more qualified to write the character than him, I can’t say I’ll be rushing to pick that one up.

TITLE: Canto Bight
AUTHORS: Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, John Jackson Miller
READ BY: Sean Kenin, Saskia Maarleveld, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis
RELEASED: December 5, 2017

Kedpin Shoklop. That’s what I think of when somebody says this title. It’s the name of the main character in the first of the four novellas in this book. You can’t have a more Star Wars name than that.

My expectations weren’t particularly high or low for this one. But I’d call Canto Bight an overachiever. Especially because it’s based on The Last Jedi, which obviously wasn’t received in the friendliest of ways. It peaks early, but it’s still very much a worthwhile read.

TITLE: Force Collector
AUTHOR: Kevin Shinick
PAGE COUNT:
RELEASED: November 19, 2019

Definitely one of the more enjoyable stories leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, as we meet a young Force-sensitive in the years prior to The Force Awakens. As you might have gathered, his abilities manifest in a very specific way.

While this is supposedly a one-and-done, Shinick manages to create enough intrigue with the that I wouldn’t mind at all seeing what happens to Kaz as the events of the sequel trilogy progress.

TITLE: Ahsoka (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: E.K. Johnston
READ BY: Ashley Eckstein
RELEASED: October 3, 2017

I heard the new season of The Clone Wars nullifies something in this book. That’s a shame, as this is one of the better books to come out of the new canon. It’s got an entertaining and action-packed story.

This is one of the few instances where I can definitively recommend listening to the audiobook, as it’s narrated by the actress that voices Ahsoka in Clone Wars and Rebels.

TITLE: Queen’s Shadow (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
READ BY: Catherine Taber
RELEASED: May 25, 2018

Is it a coincidence that both E.K. Johnston books are voiced by their corresponding Clone Wars actors?

Queen’s Shadow is something of an odd duck. The narrative has a strange flow to it. It’s an enjoyable listen, though. That’s an accomplishment, as Padme scenes can be famously boring. I liked it enough that I’ll be reading the prequel, Queen’s Peril, when it comes out next month.

TITLE: Most Wanted (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
READ BY: Saskia Maarleveld
RELEASED: May 25, 2018

This one is more or less what you expect it to be. Which, if you picked it up for yourself, is to say it’s what you want it to be.

We’re with an 18-year-old Han not-yet-Solo. We see a couple of the formative events in his life. Namely the evolution of his relationship with Qi’ra and the first time he experiences space travel. Han also has a nice supporting cast in this book, which is cool to see. Another little oddity about this book? It takes place mostly on one planet: Corellia.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Rey Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the third of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
A.K.A. Rob Skywalker

1. Force-Healing Powers.
Why did everybody get so bent out of shape about Rey’s Force-healing powers? Forget the fact that if you’re into Star Wars lore, you already know there were Jedi healers. But let’s say you’re not, and you’re still upset…

So the Force is a mystical energy field that binds the galaxy together, and the Jedi have access to it. What does that mean? For story purposes, it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

In the original film, it meant Obi-Wan could control people’s minds and make Stormtroopers hear things that weren’t really there. It also meant Luke could see through solid objects, hear Obi-Wan’s voice in his head, and move a proton torpedo with his mind.

Then in Empire, it also meant Luke could jump really high to avoid being frozen in carbonite, and that Darth Vader could stop blaster bolts with his hand.

In Return of the Jedi, it meant that if you were a bad guy, you could shoot lightning out of your fingers.

In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could run super-fast like the Flash.

In The Last Jedi, it meant Luke could essentially project a hologram of himself across the galaxy. Oh, and that Snoke could link Kylo Ren’s mind with Rey’s.

Now in this movie it means Rey can heal a serpent monster, and Ben can save Rey’s life.

Folks, I know a lot of Expanded Universe stuff has been written about the Force, Jedi powers, etc. But at the end of the day, George Lucas was making this stuff up as he went along. He didn’t bend the rules of reality too far, but he used it to suit the story’s needs.

So if Force-healing has always been a thing, why didn’t Luke use it to save Vader’s life? Why didn’t Obi-Wan use it to save Qui-Gon’s? I don’t know. I just know they didn’t. That’s enough for me.

2. Rey Fixed Luke’s X-Wing
Okay, so healing someone with your magic powers? I’m okay with that. But fixing a spaceship that’s been underwater for years and is missing a wing? That’s where I draw the line, damn it!

In the movie when Luke raises his X-Wing out of the water on Ahch-To, it seems like it’s primed and set. As if he’s somehow been fixing it underwater in a translucent scuba suit or something. The book gives us further details. They don’t make the notion that Rey flew Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing into the unknown regions of space any less silly. But I’m glad they’re there.

On page 200 (of the original hardcover edition), we learn Rey didn’t just have to patch the wing that was serving as the door to Luke’s hut. She also had to use parts from Kylo Ren’s Tie Whisper, which she’d just set ablaze, and do a bunch of rewiring. The ship, might never fight againBut it was still fighter class, and its transition from vacuum to atmo was seamless.

Of course it was.

A little Wookiepedia research tells me that, assuming Luke went into exile soon after Ben destroyed his temple, that X-Wing was probably down there about six years. Jedi or not, plop my dirty Honda Civic in the ocean for six years and see how quickly you can get it running. Just sayin…

3. “Be With Me”
Like the movie, the book doesn’t specify who exactly is talking to Rey as all the Jedi of the past are rooting her on. It’s better that way, of course. After all, how would Rey know what Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, or Anakin Skywalker sound like? The only obvious tell is Yoda based on his speech patterns. And of course, she recognizes Luke.

There’s also an interesting line in here about not all these voices necessarily coming from beyond the grave…

Presences filled her awareness, some recent, some ancient, some still anchored to the living in a strange way. Rey didn’t understand. But she accepted.

I assume that’s in there not just to keep Ashoka Tano’s fate a secret, but because certain Force sensitives around the galaxy could feel what was happening and were cheering Rey on. Even if they weren’t quite aware they were doing it. “Broom boy” from The Last Jedi comes to mind. And of course there’s Finn.

4. The Lars Homestead; “Rey Skywalker”
Upon second viewing, the movie is better at covering Rey’s exploration of the Lars Homestead than I remembered. We get a lot of familiar shots, only these places are now partially buried in sand. Probably stripped for parts too.

The implication, at least the way I interpreted it, was that Rey would now be the one to train a new generation of Jedi. She’d do it from the Lars Homestead, where Luke’s journey began, and where Anakin also had strong ties.

As it turns out, that’s not the case. At the end of the book, she and BB-8 get back in the Falcon and fly off. Presumably back to Ajan Kloss.

That’s disappointing. Yes, I’m sure different Empire/First Order survivors or sympathizers across the galaxy know where Anakin and Luke were born. They’re likely more than capable of following their trail back to Tatooine.

But in terms of closing the book on the so-called “Skywalker saga,” it’s poetic not just to see it end where it began. But to see it begin there again. I understand why they closed the movie with the image of Rey and BB-8. But in terms of the book going with the whole “alone with friends” theme might have been better. Sure, BB-8 is there. But we’ve also got C-3PO to help translate old Jedi texts. R2-D2 to do astromech droid stuff, and provide anecdotes from his days with both Anakin and Luke. Then there’s Finn. Rey’s first student.

Finally, the book gives us a brief moment where Luke, as he and Leia’s spiritual presences look on at Rey, grants her permission to use his family name.

It’s yours, Rey.

And so we reach an ending. But every ending is also a beginning.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Palpatine Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the first of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Has a LOT of free time during quarantine.

1. After the Big Boom
The book confirms something that a lot of fans already suspected: The Palpatine we saw in The Rise of Skywalker was indeed a clone. Or rather, the real Palpatine’s consciousness in a clone’s body.

There are more than a few Darth Plagueis references in the novel, which is a nice touch. Having learned from his old master how to cheat death, the Emperor began working on his contingency plan when he sensed the conflict in Darth Vader.

Palpatine’s consciousness left his body as he fell toward the Death Star core in Return of the Jedi. It traveled “far, far away to a secret place he had been preparing.” I can only assume that secret place was Exegol. But his new body wasn’t fully prepared, and his various Sith heretics rushed to sustain him. Obviously they never fully succeeded, as he would eventually plan to take Rey’s body as his own.

I know some fans thought Palpatine’s survival essentially negated the end of Return of the Jedi. I never really got that logic. Darth Vader was redeemed, the Empire was dealt a fatal blow, and the galaxy had three decades of peace. Not a bad deal as far as I’m concerned.

2. “They turned our kids into our enemies.”
Since The Force Awakens, one concept that’s both fascinated and frustrated me is the formation of the First Order. How they came together, what they want, how they’re different from the Empire, etc.

Lando has a few lines in this book that I really wish they’d put in the movie. During the scene on Pasaana where he tells Rey and the others he’s not coming back with them, he says…

“First Order went after us – the leaders from the old wars. They took our kids. … My girl wasn’t even old enough to walk. Far as I know, she’s a stormtrooper now. … They turned our kids into our enemies. My girl. Han and Leia’s son, Ben. To kill the spirit of the Rebellion for good.”

When you take into account Palpatine was been behind the First Order from the start, and that he’s essentially the most patient villain in pop culture history, that makes all the sense in the world. What better way to not only take the galaxy back, but to exact revenge on the heroes of the Rebellion than by targeting the next generation? You turn Han and Leia’s son into your unwitting apprentice, and you get Lando’s daughter as a bonus. The movie never even indicated that Lando had a daughter…

To an extent, the whole “They took our kids” thing applies to Luke as well. Remember, all his students ended up dead. All of them.

Ultimately, Palpatine’s plan worked, didn’t it? Han and Leia’s family imploded, Luke went into exile, and Lando ran away from it all.

3. Stormtroopers and Sith Troopers
The book tells us that the Sith Troopers, a.k.a. the red stormtroopers, were pulled from the regular stormtrooper roster, and designated lost in action somehow.

While the novel never indicates this explicitly, I think putting Palpatine in charge of the First Order adds a nice little irony to the stormtroopers being taken as children and forced into training. Because, to an extent, that’s exactly what the Jedi did.

Granted, you can make that argument without Palpatine. But it’s much more poignant with him.

4. You Have One Unheard Message
The first paragraph of the opening title crawl tells us “The galaxy has heard a mysterious  broadcast, a threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE.”

Gotcha. But what did he say exactly? We never hear it in the movie.

Thankfully, the book fills us in…

“At last the work of generations is complete. The great error is corrected. The day of victory is at hand. The day of revenge. The day of the Sith.”

5. More From Dark Empire
While I’m about to talk about this book yet again in relation to The Rise of Skywalker, it must be said that Dark Empire is one of the most atrociously colored books I’ve ever seen. Obviously it was a style choice. But hindsight being 20/20, a different choice would have been better.

This isn’t so much about the novelization as the story itself. In Dark Empire, Palpatine comes back in a clone body and has a fleet of “World Devastators” at his disposal. In the end, he’s defeated by Luke and Leia as they draw strength from words spoken by Yoda as he trained Luke.

Would Star Destroyers with attached Death Star lasers count as “World Devastators?” Asking for a friend…

I’m not trying to make any sort of salacious allusions here. I just find it amazing how prophetic this story from 1995 would turn out to be in terms of a movie that would come out 25 years later. And feature a much older Luke and Leia.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Star Wars: Bloodline Review – Descended From Darkness

Star Wars: BloodlineTITLE: Star Wars: Bloodline
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
PUBLISHER: Del Rey Books
LIST PRICE: 
$28.00
RELEASED: May 3, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Politics have always been a part of Star Wars. After all, one usually can’t have war without politics. Such things have the spotlight at some points more than others. It’s as much at the forefront in Bloodline as any Star Wars story you’ll ever read. That works to its detriment at times. But ultimately, Bloodline reveals something that may turn out to be a very important factor in Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side.

The book takes place over two decades after Return of the Jedi. The Galactic Senate of the New Republic is divided into two parties. First are the Populists, of whom Leia is a prominent member, who believe planetary authority should be retained by the individual worlds themselves. In contrast, the Centrists believe planets should be governed by a larger government and a more powerful military. Sadly, these two groups are more divided than ever, as such leaving the Senate largely unproductive. But when representatives from the planet Ryloth alert them to the emergence of an organized criminal element, Leia stumbles on to the foundation of a new war for the fate of the galaxy. But Leia is also about to face personal adversity. A secret will be revealed that few have ever known. Even two decades after his death, the shadow of Darth Vader looms heavily.

Star Wars: Bloodlines, postersThe imagery and marketing associated with Bloodline is somewhat misleading. It leads you to believe much of the book is about Leia being nominated for First Senator, more or less the equivalent to what the Chancellor of the Republic was in the prequels. It even comes with a double-sided “Vote Leia” poster, which on the flip side is defaced with an image of Darth Vader and the word “traitor.” In truth, the book has little to do with Leia being part of an election, and more to do with the unraveling of who the criminal group is. This is frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily tarnish the book. Once we get into the second half, and the Vader element comes into play, things really pick up.

One of the reasons many fans soured on the prequel trilogy was the emphasis on politics, and the happenings in the Senate. Such fans will want to avoid Bloodline. It’s less about the action and more about the intrigue. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as much a die-hard as I am, I had trouble staying interested at times. Mostly during the first half.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Princess LeiaThough it plays the political card pretty heavily, Bloodline is somewhat timely for those who are so inclined. The book is largely about a political body heavily divided in its beliefs as they try to elect a leader. If you pay even the most remote attention to the news, that should sound familiar. It even offers us a little ray of hope, as we see Leia learning to trust and befriend a Centrist senator. Apparently even in a galaxy far, far away, one can reach across the aisle now and then.

One of the great things about new Star Wars stories in 2016 is that there’s so much fertile ground to cover between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In various Star Wars novels and comic books (including Claudia Gray’s other Star Wars book, Lost Stars), we’ve been getting bits and pieces of the state the galaxy is in, what happened to the Empire, etc. Bloodline offers a lot of that, including how the First Order and the Resistance were formed.

But the major event of this book involves the revelation to the galaxy that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter. What’s more, Ben Solo, who is off training with Luke Skywalker at this point, doesn’t know the truth about his heritage. That point is understated, but it’s perhaps the most notable development in the entire book. Ben doesn’t know. Imagine learning a secret like that, not from your parents, but from the news. How angry would you be? And in time, wouldn’t you want to know more about the grandfather you never knew you had? For a certain kind of person a fixation, or even an obsession, might form…

Kylo Ren, Darth Vader helmetReportedly, Rian Johnson, the director for Episode VIII, contributed ideas for this book. I’d be floored to learn that either Johnson, or someone on the inside at that movie didn’t float that to Gray. That’s too integral a detail to Ben’s turn to the dark side.

Bloodline isn’t the most thrilling Star Wars book you’ll ever read. Readers will definitely feel its length at times. But it offers an abundance of something many fans are looking for these days: Information. Casual fans may want to leave it on the shelf, but die-hards will gobble this up like a Sarlacc Pit devouring their favorite bounty hunter.

Image 1 from stormtrooperlarry.wordpress.com. Image 2 from cinemablend.com. Image 3 from screen rant.com.

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