Star Wars Week: A literary journey to 'The Force Awakens'
Editor's note: With the seventh part in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, arriving in theaters this week, we're celebrating all things geeky from a galaxy far, far away here on the Feed. From helping get you up to speed on what you need to know to offering recipes for a Star Wars marathon and joining the debate on which order to watch the movies in, we've got you covered, rebel scum.
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far way, the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo and crew continued after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star. No, we're not talking about The Force Awakens. We're talking about the Star Wars books that came before it.
You probably know there are Star Wars books in existence. But unless you're real deep in the nerdom, you probably don't realize their scope. There's a whole Expanded Universe out there, folks, created by hundreds of books, hundreds more comic books and several video games.
In the Expanded Universe, the fractured Empire continued to put up a fight and never really went away as the New Republic took over Coruscant and other worlds. Leia and Han got married and had three kids (one of whom eventually becomes the new Sith and kills Luke's wife, ugh). Luke marries a woman named Mara Jade, formerly Emperor Palpatine's Force-sensitive personal assassin who was sent to kill Luke (yeah, quite the relationship, that). And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
When Disney bought the Star Wars franchise in 2014, these books were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and, in essence, de-canonized. Instead, The Force Awakens and following Disney backed movies are writing a new Star Wars timeline.
You can understand how that leaves a few of us who have read, uh, 120 or so of these books a little annoyed, and a lot of these Legends books are still worth reading even if they're not the new canon. (Particularly recommend Timothy Zahn's Thrawn/Heir to the Empire Trilogy of 1991-3, often credited with restoking interest in Star Wars and talked about as a possible Episode VII before, well, Disney.)
But if you're just looking to brush up before The Force Awakens, there's a slew of new canon books in town. During recent months, a handful of novels and short stories were released to get fans pumped for the new movie, labeled "Journey to The Force Awakens." Written by different authors, they all contain stories continuing the saga started by Luke, Leia and Han and many contain clues for the new movie.
Aftermath and Lost Stars
Both of these were released on Sept. 4, aka Force Friday, along with a boatload of new toys, games and clothing.
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig was specifically written to bridge the gap between movies, continuing the story post-Return of the Jedi. It's the first in a planned trilogy that shows the formation of a new government after the Empire's defeat in the Battle of Endor. Like the original trilogy, it all starts with an intercepted distress signal, bringing two Rebel characters to try to eradicate the Empire once and for all. (Side note from Caitlin, who has been listening to the audiobook: The writing in this book leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared with the Legends books that did the same work. But if you really want to know what's going on between Episodes VI and VII, this is the place to look.)
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray is a young adult novel set that begins before A New Hope and traces its events through the eyes of young Imperial Academy recruits Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. It starts with the pair as children on their homeworld, then follows them through the Imperial Academy and into officerhood as they build a relationship over their love for flying and the Empire. Their bond is tested when Thane joins the Rebellion after the Death Star's attack on Alderaan. Now lifelong friends and lovers are on opposite sides of a galactic war. (Side note from Caitlin, who is also reading this one: This book, much better written than Aftermath, is really mostly an interesting personal take of people within the Empire during the original trilogy's events more than a continuation of the movies.)
Moving Target, Smuggler's Run and The Weapon of a Jedi follow key characters Leia Organa, Han Solo and Chewbacca, and Luke Skywalker, respecitively, in their adventures between the movies of the original trilogy.
Before this new canon came into effect, Marvel published a series of 107 Star Wars comics that ran from 1977 to 1986; Dark Horse Comics also published several. Seriously, check out the impressive roster. Like the novels, the new-canon comics published by Marvel fill in the gaps between the original trilogy films and give teasers of what's to come in The Force Awakens.
The ongoing Star Wars series follows storylines and characters between the events in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The rebels may have destroyed the first Death Star, but the Empire was far from defeated. The Rebel Alliance faced many more challenges before the showdown on Hoth.
Skywalker Strikes traces the events immediately following the first Death Star's destruction, and Showdown on Smuggler's Moon follows Luke in his quest to continue his Jedi training. Snuggled into the series is issue 7 - From the Journals of Old Ben Kenobi: "The Last of His Breed" - showing Obi-Wan Kenobi during his exile on Tatooine.
Smaller, mini comic series like Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Lando follow key characters and their personal missions against the Empire. Leia Organa reels from the destruction of her home, Alderaan, Chewie becomes stranded on a planet during a Rebel mission, and Lando follows Lando Calrissian before he became Baron Administrator of Cloud City.
Star Wars: Vader Down is a 6-issue crossover series that brings together characters from Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader during the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Told alongside each other and in the same chronological order, they both have their first story arcs when Darth Vader discovers Luke is his son.
Flash forward past Hoth, the Dagobah system, Han Solo in carbonite and those adorable Ewoks helping the Rebels destroy the second Death Star. The mini-series, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, takes place immediately after the events on Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star. Though only a four-part comic series with more colorful illustrations and battle scenes than commentary, readers can see the transition from an Empire-ruled galaxy to a republic won't be a smooth one.