23 January 2016

Books: Star Wars: Before the Awakening By Greg Rucka (2015)

Back in September, three YA titles that came under the moniker “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, were released. Each short novel featured an adventure with one of the three main characters from the original trilogy. Each story (which I’ve yet to read, but will probably eventually get to) is set during those times, and each was supposed to have some tidbit that was going to tie into the new movie series. 

As noted before, one of the reasons Disney did away with the original Expanded Universe books was so they could create what they called a “unified canon” for novels released now and into the future, and would in some way tie-into the newest trilogy. Greg Rucka’s Star Wars: Before the Awakening (which was released on December 18th to coincide with the films release) is designed to give us some background information on the three new main characters, Finn, Rey, and Poe. Information, however opaque, that would give viewers a better insight into these folks. And, I assumed, the reason it was released then was not to provide spoilers.

But I noticed two problems. If this book is considered canon –and that was the idea- then between the writing of this book and the release of the movie, some things were altered. Finn’s story, and the first one of the three in this volume, gives us a new dimension, a new fold to the film character. You see Finn as a leader, a man destined to rise above everyone else. But, as we see in the movie (and described vaguely here) Finn has a conscious, and is disturbed by what he’s being requested to do. We saw that unfold in The Force Awakens. But Captain Phasma (who is in serious need of a back story) seems to have doubts about Finn in this short story, issues she talked about with General Hux. But in the film, as both Hux and Phasma are reviewing Finn’s (or FN-2187) record, she seems to imply that Finn was an exemplary solider and nothing in his record seemed to indicate his eventual actions. 

I know that things change on film sets, that dialogue and action can be altered on the whim. This book, probably months in writing, is different. Plus, I’m guessing, Rucka was given certain criteria when writing these tales; another words, his wiggle room was probably very tight. 

The next discrepancy is in the second tale, the one focusing on Rey. In the movie, when she and Finn fly the Millennium Falcon, she seems shocked (as is Finn) that she’s able to do what she did. There is some subtle indication in the film that she is a pilot, but like many viewers of the film, we all questioned how she could maneuver the Falcon like she did. In her tale, however, there is some explanation. As we see in the film, Rey is living in a collapsed AT-AT. In the story by Rucka, Rey finds what amounts to video games within the walker; flight programs were she can learn how to pilot any ship in the universe. And because she is bored and has a lot of time on her hands, she’s eventually masters all the different spaceship programs. 

Again, things seemed to change in the film. They decided to make Rey’s background even more unclear, which is fine. But the whole point of this “unified canon” idea was to make the novels, well… canon, something the original Expanded Universe never was. 

The last story, focusing on Poe, gives us some idea about how the character became the best pilot in the Resistance. There is also a little bit of the allusion that the New Republic seems to tolerate and even covertly support the Resistance, as Poe and a few of his comrades were in the Republic military. It also sets up the opening of new film, where General Solo sends the pilot to Jakku in search of Lor San Tekka, who holds the partial key to finding the whereabouts of her brother, Luke Skywalker.

As a Young Adult tale, the book reads very fast. Again, while writing stories in a universe like Star Wars, a writer has strict guidelines as to what he or she can and not do. Rucka does a fine job here, but if Disney is going to make these books fit snugly with the new film series, tying them into the new canon, then someone better keep a better eye on what is being printed on paper and what unfolds on the silver screen. 

I’m onto the novelization next, so it will be interesting to see if there are any contradictions in Alan Dean Fosters tale when set next to Greg Rucka’s.

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