We wrap up our coverage of Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens with Lost Stars and Smuggler's Run

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Today, we are wrapping up our coverage of JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.  

Like the last two reviews I did, these books are both classified as Young Adult books. SMUGGLER’S RUN stars Han and Chewbacca. LOST STARS introduces two new characters that have a major impact on the STAR WARS universe. More on that later.


JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS reviews:
AFTERMATH
THE WEAPON OF THE JEDI and MOVING TARGET
SHATTERED EMPIRE #1


JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS- SMUGGLER'S RUN: A HAN SOLO ADVENTURE by Greg Rucka

Hardcover - $12.99
Kindle - $5.90
Published by Disney Lucasfilm Press
192 Pages

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

This story starts in a cantina with some spacers plotting on stealing the Millennium Falcon. A grizzled older spacer interrupts their plotting and offers to tell them a story about the Falcon and why that was harder than they thought. We flashback to right after the Battle of Yavin. Han and Chewbacca are about to head to Jabba the Hutt to pay off their debts, when Leia asks them to help rescue an important Rebel agent who is hiding out on the smuggler planet of Crykon. Han is reluctant, but Chewbacca pushes him into doing it. This puts them into direct conflict with an Imperial Commander named Alicia Beck. At the end of the book, we realize that the grizzled old spacer has been Han all along (I think anyone reading the book…or even this review…realized it immediately).

This book has a real cool structure where the chapters alternate from Han’s view point to Commander Beck’s perspective. It created a cat and mouse game that was paced out perfectly to build the tension. It is always tricky to write a book like this, especially set in this time period, since we know that at the end of the day, nothing real bad could have happened to Han, Chewbacca, or the Falcon, but Rucka still managed to make the whole story feel high stakes.

I also thought this book gave a gritty, realistic look at the costs of war. Early on, a Rebel cell is about to be arrested. One of them executes her fellow Rebels and then herself rather than allowing them to be captured and putting the whole Rebellion at risk. I also thought Commander Beck was a great character. Once again, we get an Imperial officer that is never really a “bad guy,” instead she's a soldier dedicated to the Empire. These are complicated nuances, and not typically what you expect from STAR WARS. At its heart, STAR WARS has always been about good vs evil…though JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS makes it clear those lines might not quite be as clear cut as we always thought.

Really my only complaints are the same ones I’ve been having throughout JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS. Instead of getting a story set between RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS, we get a story that takes place right after A NEW HOPE. It’s an entertaining story, just not quite what I picked these books up to read about. Especially since in AFTERMATH, we get a huge tease for Han and Chewbacca plotting to take back Kashyyyk from the Empire. I actually thought that chapter was serving as an ad for this book, but unfortunately, I was wrong.

But none of that really takes away from my enjoyment of this book. It’s a quick, well-paced adventure, introducing some great new characters. The end of the book suggests that we’ll be seeing more of Commander Beck in the future, and I can’t wait for that. I also hope that we see more of Greg Rucka writing STAR WARS novels.

Score: 3.5/5


Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Hardcover - $17.99
Kindle - $8.17
Published by Disney Lucasfilm Press
560 Pages

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

LOST STARS introduces two new characters to the STAR WARS universe. On the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan, there is a conflict between the “new” aristocracy and villagers who try to live in the old ways. When the Empire comes to town, two children (Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree) end up both trying to sneak into an Imperial hanger to check the ships out. A chance encounter with Grand Muff Tarkin puts both Thane and Ciena on course to becoming Imperial pilots. The book follows their lives from childhood and shows what they were doing on many important dates over the course of the Original Trilogy. Ciena becomes a strong Imperial soldier, which Thane ends up drifting, and eventually ends up as part of the Rebellion.

The timeline of this book covers a lot of ground. It starts sometime before A NEW HOPE, and the book ends at the Battle of Jakku, which is about a year after the Battle of Endor. If you have seen THE FORCE AWAKENS trailer, there is a shot of a crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku. If you want to know how that happened, this is the perfect book for you.

What makes this book unique is that you are given very different perspectives about the events of the Original Trilogy. In STAR WARS, you really only saw things from the vantage point of a select few characters. LOST STARS takes the time to explore both the Imperial and Rebellion perspectives. Even when Thane joins up with the Rebellion, he is never as zealous as someone like Princess Leia, so you get to see things through a much wider lens.  I think that serves the story very well.

One of the major turning points of the book is when the Death Star destroys Alderaan. This has a huge impact on many of the characters in this book, including an Imperial soldier who is from Alderaan who had always had a huge crush on Princess Leia. How these events changed this character, and how he progressed from there is a major subplot, and very well done. You genuinely feel sorry for him, which makes some of the actions he takes later in the book real complicated for the reader to react to. You understand immediately that this isn’t a book about good or bad people, just people trying their best to make sense of a galaxy that makes less sense every day.

I also thought both Thane and Ciena are very well developed through the entire book. You have a clear sense of who these characters are and what drives them to make the decisions they do. LOST STARS is also not timid in pointing out the mistakes these characters make. They are both flawed heroes. At the heart of this story is a tragic love story, with two characters that just can’t seem to get past their own pasts and sense of duty.  The book talks a lot about destiny and fate, but never in a heavy-handed way.

There was one major issue I had with this book though. It feels awfully convenient that these two characters just happened to play major roles at so many pivotal events in the STAR WARS movies. Both characters are supposed to be relatively young and inexperienced. The book tries to lampshade this a bit by pointing out how many Imperial officers were killed during the Battle of Yavin and Battle of Endor forcing characters to get promoting quicker than they should…but even then, Ciena becoming the Captain of a Star Destroyer by the age of 25 seems like a big stretch. It does put her in position to crash the Star Destroyer into the planet Jakku, but it requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief to explain how these two character just happen to be at the “right” place for history more often than not.

BUT, this all works to provide us with some fresh eyes on the Universe. Thane having a heartfelt (drunken) conversation with Mon Mothma might be the best scene Mon Mothma has had in any STAR WARS book or movie. It really helped you see how she viewed the Empire and the Rebellion in a new way. And there are some terrific (though short) scenes here with Tarkin, that helped flesh him out as well. After reading this book, I was real tempted to pick up James Luceno’s book TARKIN. It actually is being re-releasing in an anthology book called THE RISE OF THE EMPIRE coming out on October 6.

Of the JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS books, this was the one I was expecting the least from, but I will admit that in the end, it might have been the best of the books to come out. You get some fresh views of the events of the STAR WARS trilogy, and we finally know what the Battle of Jakku is and why it’s so important. 

I do think that the book ends a little open-ended…which bugged me a little. We spent 600 pages with these characters watching them growing up and evolving into Imperial and Rebellion soldiers. And then it just kind of ends. I hope we find out what happens to them at some point. Otherwise, I am just going to pretend that they managed to find a happy ending. It may not exactly fit the theme of the book, but I am a romantic at heart.

Score: 4.5/5


This pretty much wraps up my coverage for JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS for now. I may review the other issues of the comic series as it comes out, and I will probably read and review a few more STAR WARS books moving forward as well. Right now, I am just very hyped up for THE FORCE AWAKENS, so I guess these books did the job they set out to do.