I’ve not liked the new, post-Disney Star Wars books all that much, as a lot of you know. Chuck Wendig’s AFTERMATH was the first one I felt like I could recommend, and I had my reservations about that one as well. Claudia Grey’s LOST STARS, ostensibly a YA book but you basically can’t tell beyond the font size, is easily the best of them that I’ve read, and the first I can recommend wholeheartedly. If you like Star Wars, you should read LOST STARS. If you like Star Wars books, you should drop what you’re doing and read LOST STARS, because I think you want to have read this when the new movie comes out.
The premise is the most YA thing about it. The main characters are a boy and a girl, from the same planet but vastly different social strata within that planet, who meet as children and first become best friends, join the Empire together, rise in rank, fall in love, and then one of them defects to the Rebellion. Their– ahem– star-crossed love spans all three of the OT Star Wars films and the book ends just after the Battle of Jakku, which will apparently play an important role in The Force Awakens. Those couple of shots of Rey in and/or speeding past the crashed Star Destroyer? You see that Star Destroyer crash in this book. The two main characters are in it at the time.
So, Romeo and Juliet, with lasers, right? Well, yeah, I guess, but only if you nutshell it in a few paragraphs, and like I said the premise is the most YA part of the book. The broad premise is purely Shakespearean; the actual execution will not leave anyone anything to complain about. Claudia Gray, who I had previously not heard of but will be looking more closely into, manages to pull off a number of things in this book:
- She manages to show how broad the Star Wars universe is despite starting with two characters from the same planet;
- She avoids the constant problem of trying to Star Warsify common English expressions and animals, which happens far too often and drives me nuts;
- She humanizes the Empire to a great degree without minimizing the fact that they’re the bad guys or being too ridiculous about it; while the character who stays with the Empire and doesn’t defect probably should have figured out what was going on a bit earlier, good cultural reasons are set up well before enlistment that make the decision-making process make some sense;
- She inserts her characters into major scenes in all three of the Star Wars films without being overly Forrest Gump about it, to the point where I want to watch certain scenes to see if a snowspeeder does a certain move at a certain point (pretty sure it does) or if there is actually a character standing at a certain place in the background during certain scenes.
- She manages to use the fact that Disney decided to wipe out the old continuity. In fact, hell, this is the first book that changed things about the previous continuity and made me happy about it.
And then there are the hints about The Force Awakens. Be aware that everything past this point is wanton speculation, and in fact I think I’m going to phrase it in a non-spoiler sort of way. None of this is explicitly spelled out anywhere, but after carefully reading LOST STARS I believe I know the following:
- I think I know where Luke Skywalker has been, and why;
- I think I know why the good guys and the bad guys are now called the Resistance and the First Order rather than the Rebellion and the Empire;
- I think I know who Kylo Ren is.
The last is the most tenuous, and I can come up with reasons I might be wrong, but if I’m right, it’s completely awesome and the fact that they hid those clues in a YA book that at least in the circles I move in didn’t get any real attention is fantastic.
So. Yeah. You need to read this book.