Book Review – Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne [No Spoilers]

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We move steadily towards The Force Awakens with a new answer to an old question: how did Luke Skywalker learn how to make that lightsaber jump off the floor of the Wampa’s cave? While there’s a lot more to Heir to the Jedi than that, it’s one of best the questions at the core of a good story that gives us a sort of midterm progress report on Luke between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Heir to the JediHe’s Lieutenant Skywalker when we catch up with him, and the Rebellion is out looking for a place to set up shop. In the meantime, the Rebellion finds itself short on contacts, and short on cash, and short on intel, so Luke gets dispatched on his own to solve all three problems. Thanks to some good plot structure from author Kevin Hearne, the book neither gives Luke too much to do, nor does it read like a three-act play; the solutions to the Rebels’ problems comes through Luke’s ability to relate to new people and new situations.

As the story reads mostly like a manhunt/rescue/fight-and-flight narrative, the locations that Luke visits with his new compatriots aren’t as memorable as Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, or Dagobah, that really doesn’t undercut the story–Luke is a hero between stages of his development, so the sense of malleability with the setting as the plot moves from station to station doesn’t reduce the quality of the plot in any way. More, they provide a range of challenges to Luke at a point at which learning to grow in the Force toward Jedi-hood seems impossible. The book isn’t all about these worries, but Hearne does a great job of weaving Luke’s thinking into and out of that concern.

The supporting cast is interesting, mainly because of the math-reasoning Givin spy around whom the plot revolves. There’s some great science in this piece of science fiction, and Hearne makes use of his imagination and develops an interesting race of beings that serve an important role in explaining how the Rebel Alliance continued to gain support and power after the destruction of the first Death Star.

All in all, I enjoyed Heir to the Jedi as much as I have each of these first three LSG-approved Star Wars novels, and with the focus on the post-Clone Wars era being the chief work of the LSG, it’s good to see them fitting the pieces together so expertly. It’s been quite a long time since Luke Skywalker went on an adventure quite like this, and Kevin Hearne does a great job of bringing the character and situations back to life in true Star Wars fashion.

–  Vandal

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NEWS! NEW ‘STAR WARS: REBELS’ SHORT FOR EZRA

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Happy Labor Day, everybody!

To mark the occasion (or to market their product), Disney/Lucasfilm has released the fourth Star Wars: Rebels short, this one featuring Ezra being up to no good:

What really strikes me about these shorts is their production quality: the music is the Star Wars soundtrack, not a sampled version of some of its themes; the animation is fluid, and the characters’ movements natural; it’s funny without being silly.

But what is really striking about this “Not What You Think” short is that the show and its characters are beginning to feel like Star Wars. We’ll have to reserve final judgment on that until we see how the show does, but what we’ve seen from this show looks very promising.

– Vandal

Preview! New Star Wars Rebels Shorts for Sabine, Zeb

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Sabine was here.

Disney/Lucasfilm is starting to ramp up its marketing for its new show, Star Wars Rebels.  While others around here will tell you that The Flash is this fall’s can’t-miss new show, I am here to provide, shall we say, an alternative view.

Posted to the official Star Wars YouTube channel have been several TV spots that are currently airing across broadcast and cable televisions, but more interesting are the three-minutes short films that each center on a single member of the Ghost‘s crew.  A few weeks ago, we blogged the first of these, an Episode IV-spirited look at Chopper the astromech.

Since then, Lucasfilm has sent two more character features our way, with the first focusing on Sabine Wren, a renegade Mandalorian with artistic inclinations toward the civilly-disobedient:

And yesterday, Lucasfilm set us up with a short featuring Zeb, a member of the acrobatic Lasat race whose species is a new addition to the panoply of central characters:

Both shorts give us a glimpse into the nature of these main characters, their looks and personalities, and show off just how terrific this show is going to look and sound when it comes on the air in early October.  We’ll have another preview of the characters when John Jackson Miller’s canonical novel Star Wars: A New Dawn hits store shelves next week, but for now, these short films (and the three we’re still waiting for) should get us through until then.

Star Wars is coming back in a major way this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

–  Vandal

Preview: Disney’s September ‘Star Wars’ Relaunch

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Disney’s 2012 purchase of the Star Wars brand for $4.4 billion came with a predictably varied response.  While some dismissed outright the sale and purchase as a mistake, others concluded that Disney had done a more than adequate job with the Marvel product, and deserved at least the benefit of the doubt with regard to their new acquisition.

More mixed fan reactions came last April, when Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced that all material in the existing books, comics, and games of the “Extended Universe” would be set aside and re-branded as part of a new “Legends” line.  This restructuring of Star Wars media would then make way for a new line of content taking place in a new continuity-controlled narrative universe overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group.  This September and October, we will see the first of this new unified content in two forms.

The first of these releases is the well-publicized Star Wars: Rebels television program, to debut on DisneyXD.  With a wide range of preview material and a robust and well-received showing at San Diego Comic Con in July, it would seem that Rebels will debut with at least as much excitement as the variably good and always disorderly Clone Wars program that saw its sixth season relegated to Netflix distribution.  With an ensemble cast of all-new characters whose story will focus on an early iteration of the Rebel Alliance on and around the planet Lothal, Rebels takes place approximately fifteen years after the Order 66 mandate and arrives in October.

A New Dawn

A NEW DAWN tells the story of the first meeting of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, two of the central characters in STAR WARS: REBELS.

To get set for the new show, Lucasfilm will release its first new in-continuity book on September 2nd.  John Jackson Miller has written an installment that does double duty, a choice on the part of Lucasfilm that I think is a smart one.  Star Wars: A New Dawn will officially introduce the characters of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, two of the principle characters in the Rebels television program.  It will also be the first chronological piece of in-continuity storytelling since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, which has the potential to work as a re-introduction to the Rebel context that prompts the central conflict in 1977’s A New Hope.  It also begins the reboot in a relatively unincorporated region of the Star Wars continuity, so as to let the decision to unify a new, regimented canon enjoy some breathing room as Lucasfilm plans its release schedule, which already includes four novels, three comics series, a television show, a video game, and, of course, the movies.  While these will undoubtedly include visits from familiar characters, Disney appears to be taking a patient approach with this first book, which allows its new-look Star Wars brand a chance to distance itself from the existing material and to generate excitement for this new, welcome direction for the franchise.

Backlog Priority
With Episode VII still over a year away, and with these first new releases dealing with wholly new characters, it probably isn’t necessary to rush into your bookstore at midnight on September 2nd to get set for a TV show that will at that point still be over a month away.  But the fresh look that Disney is giving the Star Wars universe is intriguing, with a clear commitment to a unified continuity that allows the story to function outside of expensive, seldom-released movies.  The fact that they are transparently committed to releasing a product that is at least interested in maintaining a sensible, accessible story (with its relative quality still to be seen) shows that while, in the past, you might have waited to pick up Star Wars extended universe novels in paperback or at the local library, this new approach to a franchise that so many hold sacred might make its sure-to-be-regular releases a matter somewhat more urgent.
Priority Rating: 7.5/10

– Vandal