Or Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, but these headlines can only be so long.
Here’s the thing: I’m pretty definitively in they keep pulling me back in mode with Star Wars. I actively despise the fandom as a group, and while there were definitely some things I really liked in the sequel trilogy (I continue to love The Last Jedi, and after a couple of rewatches The Rise of Skywalker has settled in at “dumb, but fun”) I still don’t like the broader decisions that those movies made. Or, to rephrase it in a way might not be helpful, I don’t mind the way they told the story they told, but I wish they’d told a different story.
And with the single exception of Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars and Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn books, I haven’t really liked any of the books that have come out since Disney took over. The comic books have been uniformly pretty superb, but they’ve stuck within the confines of the OT and haven’t really roamed the timeline in either direction. And yet I’m still buying them. I could have dipped out with The High Republic, or at least shifted to waiting for paperbacks, and … well, you see how that worked out. It was a perfect excuse; set 200 years before the events of any of the movies, it would involve all new characters and had little risk of reinventing anything that I’d grown to love over the years.
But, damn it, the list of authors they’d gotten to work on this thing was something else. All of them great. And while authors I love have failed at Star Wars books before– one of my favorite authors, a guy who has written a number of books I’ve reviewed here and a few that have made it onto my end-of-year lists, wrote a Star Wars book that was so bad I couldn’t finish it— it was still all encouraging as hell.
So, yeah, fuck it, let’s read The High Republic. And while I’m not going to go so far as to recommend that anyone who wasn’t already thinking about it pick this up, this is good Star Wars. Charles Soule has written Star Wars comics in the past– and, again, the comics have been uniformly good-to-great, even after Disney took over– but to the best of my knowledge this is his first SW novel, and the high quality continues. One interesting thing that hit me at about the 50% mark of the book was that because they’re starting over with a clean slate (a couple of the longer-lived Jedi are still around, of course; Yoda gets namedropped several times but isn’t actually a character in the book, and there are a few other members of the Jedi Council who showed up in the prequels) he can really get away with doing whatever he wants to his characters. It doesn’t matter how dangerous the situation in the book is, you know Leia is going to be fine, right? You only ever had to worry when the books were pushing “now” forward, so they could kill Chewbacca off at the beginning of the Yuuzhan Vong war, but anything set before that, all of the major characters were going to end up intact at the end of the book.
Well, High Republic doesn’t have any “main characters” yet. If anything, that’s a weakness of the book– it never really settles on a main protagonist, and there’s a lot going on and a lot of characters, so the characterization is a little on the thin side. But the plus side of that is that Soule is free to kill off whoever the hell he wants and nobody is wearing plot armor. You don’t ever get to the level of holy shit did that just happen that, say, A Game of Thrones managed, but this isn’t a 600-page book, either. This is a good setup for whatever they have coming; the central struggle starts off feeling like a natural disaster and becomes more sinister as things roll on, the villains started off really giving off cut-rate Yuuzhan Vong vibes and became something more distinct and unique by the end, and the actual mastermind of the whole thing really comes into his own at the end of the book. Again, if you’re not already a Star Wars person you probably don’t need to join the club for this, but if you were kind of teetering on the edge like I was, this is worth the buy.