Series Spotlight: New Canon Star Wars
I need to nerd out for a moment here. Not as the type of nerd who reads too much exactly the right amount, but the nerd who has read most of the novels in the extended Star Wars universe, played most of the video/tabletop games and is optimistic about the release of Star Wars Episode VII next month, but who first had to come to terms with an entirely new canon to replace the stories he’d become so familiar with over the past few decades. If you’re not a fan of Star Wars, this is not the post you’re looking for…
I was stunned when Disney announced that the Extended Universe, ruled canon by Lucas and his company, would be no more. It would stick around and be dubbed “Legends”, but it would no longer be the future past I knew. This was Disney’s baby now, and they intended to raise it and shape it however they wanted. That took me a little time to digest. True, I didn’t love every entry in the extended universe. Sometimes I didn’t like entire series arcs – but they often led to novels further down the road that I did enjoy.
In the end I had to recognize that Disney spent a boatload of money on Star Wars, has an awful lot to lose by not doing it right, and frankly has put out some fantastic movies lately. I’ve decided to gamble, and put my trust in them. In preparation for the upcoming Episode VII I’ve been reading the new canon novels. So far, I’m both impressed and satisfied. With one exception…
What is going to happen to the character of Kyle Katarn, first introduced to me through the PC game Dark Forces? He is one of my favorite characters in the entirety of Star Wars, making appearances in multiple videogames and novels. His role in the backstory of the movies and everything that came after in what we now know as Legends is incredibly important to the stability of that future history – or perhaps I’m just incredibly biased. One of the two.
A New Dawn, Tarkin, Heir to the Jedi, Lords of the Sith and Aftermath have all been released. I have had the pleasure of reading the first three, and will hopefully finish the last two before Episode VII hits theaters.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller introduces the characters in the new Disney animated series Star Wars: Rebels. As such, I was expecting a very Young Adult feel. It certainly does lean that way, but not detrimentally so. The villain is very Star Wars, very reminiscent of Darth Vader. So similar, in fact, I was worried at first – but I didn’t need to be, I still enjoyed it. Then again, I enjoy the animated series as well…and lots of cartoons, because I’m incapable of growing up. Ahem.
Tarkin was a pleasant surprise. It was a bit more prolific in description than Darth Plagueis, both of which were written by author James Luceno. Despite this, it really dug deep into Tarkin’s backstory in a way I hadn’t experienced before and made him the hero of the story – despite being the enemy in the original movie trilogy. While I found myself skimming sections at times, I acknowledge it was necessary to spend the time building the foundation for the new canon moving forward. The flashbacks of Tarkin’s teen years and the training he endured made that skimming worthwhile and turned Tarkin from a classic cookie-cutter villain into an intriguing, disciplined man with a brutal past to support his conviction and vision.
Heir to the Jedi has received a mixed response. Let me first openly state that I entered this with a positive bias – I’m a huge fan of author Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. Obviously this will have played some role in my reaction. That said, I enjoyed the novel, which takes place between Episodes IV and V. Beyond Luke Skywalker, it is not focused on the other characters from the movies – rather, it introduces a few completely new companions for Luke to adventure with. This works, as Disney needs to set up some of their own characters to play with moving forward. Regardless, in the end this book does one important thing – it offers an explanation as to how Luke is able to use the force in The Empire Strikes Back to pull the lightsaber to him while hanging upside-down in the wampa’s cave, despite never learning how to do so in A New Hope. That plot hole, albeit minor, always came to mind during that scene.
Note: There are other novels released or planned as New Canon that I did not mention here. Most notable are Dark Disciple, released July 7th 2015 and Battlefront: Twilight Company coming November 3rd 2015.
Percy will be reviewing Star Wars: Aftermath next week, so stay tuned!