I’ve finished reading through the Del Rey Star Wars 2014 Sampler and overall, I’m pretty happy with how this new era of Star Wars novels is going to be starting. Here are a few quick thoughts on each of the samples.
A New Dawn
I knew right away when the new novel slate was announced that A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller would probably be my favorite of the bunch. So far, that’s holding true. Miller does an excellent job introducing us to a few new Imperial characters, quickly and efficiently giving us a feel for their personalities and motivations. This is followed up with a section focusing on Hera Syndulla, the Twi’lek captain of the Ghost in the upcoming Rebels animated series. She seems like she’ll be an interesting character, and I’m looking forward to reading the whole story to see how she and the Jedi Kanan meet up. I’m excited for JJM to be writing Hera. I love his Knight Errant work, and he did a great job with the female characters in Kenobi.
One other important thing from this excerpt. Right away we’re introduced to an Imperial captain who happens to be a woman of color. This immediately made me wonder if this was a change from the previous Expanded Universe, where the Empire tended to lock women out except in a very few special cases. With a few more appearances by Imperial women throughout the other samples and the Rebels Visual Guide, it’s safe to say that interpretation of the Empire is a thing of the past, which is really exciting for me. I always thought that was an EU creation, rather than something George Lucas directly intended of the Empire. The reason the Imperial Navy was made up entirely of white men in the movies was more a sign of the times in our world, rather than an accurate representation of the galaxy far, far away, and I love that it seems like that’s going to be changing in the franchise moving forward.
This excerpt was the one I was least interested in. I’ve never really felt a strong need to know more about Tarkin as a character, and I’m always worried that any story about him will be on the dull side since he’s so involved in getting the Death Star built and operational. A construction manager isn’t really the most exciting thing to read about. With that said, there’s a surprising amount of action in this sample, so my concern might be needless.
James Luceno writes Tarkin well; this feels like the man we know from A New Hope and The Clone Wars. I’m just still not convinced that there wasn’t a different book that could have better filled this slot, especially when the old EU already had the Death Star novel, which likely covers similar ground.
Heir to the Jedi
This is the controversial one it seems. The story is written from the first-person perspective of Luke Skywalker. It’s always a risky choice to write a story in first-person; even more so when the character is as well known as Luke. The reactions I’ve seen from others online seem pretty split. This is either a love it or hate it so far. I think that Kevin Hearne captures Luke’s voice well, even though he seems a bit more eloquent than you’d expect a farm boy to be. The sample felt like Star Wars to me though, and I’m looking forward to seeing that world through Luke’s eyes.
I enjoyed his interaction with new character Nakari Kelen. Giving Luke another desert world character to geek out over a ship with is a fun idea, and it played well. The nods to some classic lines from A New Hope were also appreciated.
Lords of the Sith
Full disclosure: I haven’t really read many things that have a Darth Vader point of view. The Darth Vader and… comics and James Luceno’s Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader aren’t stories that I’ve gotten around to reading yet. With that said, I was fascinated to get into Vader’s head in this excerpt. We start off with Vader in his meditation chamber, and Paul S. Kemp takes us through what it feels like to be Vader. From how it feels to have such serious injuries, to how he interacts with his armor, to his new and powerful connection to the dark side, I ate up every bit. I hope we get to go so deep into the Emperor’s point of view later in the novel.
The action of the excerpt comes from Vader hunting down a stolen weapons ship. Vader is suitably powerful and intimidating during the scene. The person in charge of the group doing the stealing is Cham Syndulla, who will be familiar to viewers of The Clone Wars as a freedom fighter. He is also some sort of relation of Rebels character Hera Syndulla. It looks like there will be a lot of Rebels connections in the near future while Del Rey works in the Dark Times setting between Episodes III and IV.
With the exception of Tarkin, I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on these novels. They’re well written, with casts that are already diverse after just one chapter. I was smiling most of the way through each excerpt. My only real disappointment is that they’re all set just before or just after A New Hope. One of the things that I always loved about the Expanded Universe was all the different eras being explored. Hopefully once the sequel trilogy gets started Disney and Lucasfilm will be able to loosen the reins a bit and let writers play in different time periods again.