19 June 2016

Star Wars: Bloodline By Claudia Gray (2016)

It’s been rumored that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be a bit more political, as it will be the middle part of a trilogy, it can’t be that action packed. Its goal, most likely, will be to set up Episode IX’s conclusion. But one hopes that if the next movie must start explaining the rise of the First Order, we don’t see the endless people sitting and talking that was so distracting in Episodes I-III. 

Claudia Gray returns to the Star Wars universe with Bloodline, a novel set about eighteen years after the Battle for Endor (Return of the Jedi) and begins six years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  

In that time, the glorious New Republic, the governing body that grew out of the Rebellion following the defeat of the Empire, has split into two partisan factions, each of which has its own specific viewpoint on how the galaxy should be run. And neither group is willing to meet the other one halfway, even when the safety of countless people and planets are on the line. The two factions are known as the Populists and the Centrists, with the former believing that planets should be allowed more control over their laws and regulations than a central government and the latter believing that every planet in the Republic should be managed by a strong central governing body. Leia, who is now a respected veteran senator, is a Populist because she lived through the reign of the Empire and thinks everyone answering to a central authority could be a good way to revive tyranny of the Emperor and the Empire. While she does make some headway with one senator, she realizes no one else is willing to compromise, which eventually makes her realize her allies are small and may be alone in stopping the rise of a mysterious force in the galaxy.”

It’s fairly obvious that Gray is borrowing the Populists and Centrists political gridlock from today’s headlines, which will make you smile or groan. Still, science fiction has always been about setting a story in the future (or a long time ago) and framing it with modern problems and issues. But the gist here is to show that the New Republic is pretty much doomed as political infighting has taken its toll. 

Much like her YA debut writing for Star Wars, Lost Star, I found all the characters to be well written, and Gray has an uncanny ability to capture the true voice of the many famous characters. It’s a brisk thriller that easily blends the details of what happened after ROJ and what we all saw in TFA (and how both the Jedi and Darth Vader fell into myth and legend than real things). It is dense with politics, but it’s also wry, often clever and really expands the character of Leia that Episode VII sort of ignored. This version of the princess, six years out from the newest trilogy, reminds me why she should be a more iconic character than she is –at least in the film series. 

These books, though, do have a tough sell ahead of them. Much like the old Expanded Universe, this new timeline created for their rebooted big-screen adventures are destined mainly for hardcore fans. Yes, these books are deliberately designed to give out dribs and drabs of information that will be part of the newest live-action movie series, and maybe some might find them interesting, but on the whole, they’ll go ignored by the broader audience. It’s a shame, though, because Claudia Gray is a fine writer and it takes talent to weave everything together that explains the rise of the Resistance.  

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