Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars (Anglais) Relié – 3 mars 2015
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There’s no one around to answer all my questions now that Ben’s gone. It’s a stark fact that reasserts itself each time I wonder what I’m supposed to do now. That brown robe he wore might as well have been made of pure mystery; he clothed himself in it and then left nothing else behind on the Death Star. I know Han likes to scoff at the idea of the Force, but when a man’s body simply disappears at the touch of a lightsaber, that’s more than “simple tricks and nonsense.”
And I know the Force is real. I’ve felt it.
I still feel it, actually, but I think it’s like knowing there’s something hidden in the sand while you’re skimming above it. You see ripples on the surface, hints that something is moving down there—maybe something small, maybe something huge—living a completely different life out of your sight. And going after it to see what’s underneath the surface might be safe and rewarding, or it might be the last thing you ever do. I need someone to tell me when to dive into those ripples and when to back off.
I thought I heard Ben’s voice a couple of times during the Battle of Yavin, but I’m wondering now if that really happened. Maybe I only thought it did; maybe that was my subconscious speaking to me—a kind of wishful thinking. He’s been silent since, and I don’t feel I can talk to anyone else about the Force. My confidants at this point consist of one blue-and-white astromech droid.
Han and Chewie are off somewhere trying to earn enough credits to pay off Jabba the Hutt. They lost all their reward money from the Battle of Yavin and they’re back to being broke and desperate—the galaxy should beware.
Leia is cloistered with the leaders of the Alliance in the fleet, which is currently hiding in the Sujimis sector around an ice planet no one has paid any attention to since the Clone Wars. Not that she would want to hear about my worries any more than I would like to speak them. She has much more important things to do than to waste time putting a bandage on my insecurities. Threepio is with her, no doubt feeling unappreciated for his predictions of imminent doom in over six million forms of communication. That leaves Artoo and me free to run an errand for Admiral Ackbar.
I’ve been dispatched to Rodia in an effort to open a secret supply line to the Alliance. I’m not supposed to call it smuggling—Ackbar has serious issues with the very concept, but the truth is the Alliance can’t operate without it. Since the Empire is trying to shut down our lines of supply in the Outer Rim by going after smugglers’ dens, and the established black markets in the Core are a bit too risky for us to employ, we have to look for other sources to exploit. Rodia is under Imperial control, but Leia suggested that the Chekkoo clan on the Betu continent might be open to working with us. She said they despise the ruling Chattza clan and are highly skilled at manufacturing weapons, armor, and other hardware we could use to fight the Empire. Leia was betting they’d defy the Empire to spite the Chattza clan, and we stood to benefit. Mon Mothma was unsure of the idea, but Ackbar surprised everyone and weighed in with Leia, and that decided it.
I don’t know what it is about Ackbar that tends to quash arguments. He has a kind of moist charisma, I guess, that no one wants to challenge. I know I don’t want to dispute him, anyway.
Once it was agreed, I volunteered for the mission, and they loaned me a beautiful personal yacht to fly in. My X-wing would set off all kinds of alarms if I dared to enter Rodian space in it, but a small transport with minimal weapons would be no big deal. Both Artoo and I whistled when we first saw it in the docking bay of the Promise, one of the Alliance’s frigates. It was less of a yacht and more of a showpiece.
Painted a metallic red and trimmed in silver, the cockpit and living quarters of the ship sat forward and the wings swept back in an unbroken arc, like a half-moon thinking about going crescent. The rear end looked a bit like someone had taken a bite out of a cookie, and it was packed with big sublight engines, jammers, sensor arrays, and shield generators. The power was all invisible from the front or the sides—it spoke of luxury and decadence—but the back told anyone pursuing that they wouldn’t be keeping up for very long. It was built for speed and quite possibly spying while doing its best to look like a rich person’s pleasure craft.
“Nice, isn’t she?” a voice said, causing me to tear my eyes away. “That’s the Desert Jewel. You fly her safely, now.” The speaker was a tall woman with dark skin and a cascade of tightly curled ringlets framing a narrow face. She gave me a friendly smile and I smiled back.
“Is she yours?” I asked.
“Yep! Well, I guess I should say she’s my father’s. But both his ship and his daughter are at the disposal of the Alliance now. Just got here last week.” She extended a hand. “Nakari Kelen. Glad to meet you.”
“Kelen?” I said, taking her hand and shaking it. She had a strong grip, and I tilted my head to the side as I connected her name and the ship’s to a memory. “Any relation to the Kelen Biolabs on Pasher?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes! Fayet Kelen is my father. Are you from Pasher?”
“No, I’m from Tatooine.”
“Ah, another desert planet. So you understand all about my fascination with ships and how they can take me far away from home.”
“Yeah, I understand that very well. I’m Luke Skywalker.”
“Oh, I know who you are,” she said, finally letting her hand slip from mine. “They told me you’d be taking my ship out for some kind of spooky mission, but no one told me you hailed from Tatooine.”
“Ha. It’s not really spooky. Kind of a boring business trip, in fact, but this looks like it will prevent any Imperials from thinking I’m with the Alliance.”
“I should hope so. My baby’s classy and elegant and ill disposed to rebellion.”
“Hey, speaking of ill disposed, mind if I ask you something?”
Nakari nodded once, inviting me to proceed.
“I’ve always wondered why your dad chose Pasher for his biolabs. You’d think a jungle planet would be better suited simply because there’s more actual biology there.”
She shrugged. “He started small and local. The poison and glands of sandstone scorpions and spine spiders turned out to have medical applications.” She chucked her chin at the Desert Jewel. “Very profitable applications.”
“What did you do on Tatooine?”
“Moisture farming. Spectacularly dull. Some weeks were so boring that I actually looked forward to going into Tosche Station to pick up some . . . power converters. Huh!”
“I just remembered I never did pick up my last shipment. Wonder if they’re still there.”
“We all have unfinished business, don’t we?” That was an unexpected turn to the conversation, and I wondered what she meant by it. I wondered why she was there at all, frankly. The comfortably wealthy rarely stir themselves to get involved in rebellions. But I had to admit she wasn’t dressed like the privileged child of a biotech magnate. She wore desert camo fatigues tucked into thick-soled brown boots, a blaster strapped to her left hip, and what looked like a compact slug rifle strapped to her back, held in place by a leather band crossing diagonally across her torso.
I flicked a finger at the rifle. “You hunt sandstone scorpions with that?”
“Yep. Can’t use a blaster on them. Their armor deflects heat too well.”
“I’d heard that.”
“And since so many people are wearing blaster armor these days, a throwback weapon that punches through it is surprisingly effective if you know how to shoot one.”
“Hunt anything else?”
“Of course. I’ve been to Tatooine, actually, and bagged a krayt dragon there. Its pearls paid for the upgrades on the Jewel. She’s still Dad’s ship, but I’ve modified her quite a bit, and I hope to have the credits soon to buy her from him outright. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Both of us were grinning and I was excited, happy to have found someone with a similar background way out here in an icy part of the galaxy. I couldn’t speak for Nakari, but meeting someone with shared experience filled up a measure of its emptiness for me, especially since she clearly understood why ships are important: They take you away from the deserts, even if it’s just for a little while, allowing you to think that maybe you won’t shrivel and waste away there, emotionally and physically. Not that the rest of the galaxy is any more friendly than the dunes. My old friend Biggs, for example, loved to fly as much as I did, and he escaped Tatooine only to die in the Battle of Yavin. I miss him and wonder sometimes if he would have done anything differently if he’d known he’d never set foot on a planet again once he climbed into that X-wing. I console myself with the guess that he would have gone anyway, that the cause was worth dying for and the risk acceptable, but I suppose I’ll never know for sure. The Empire didn’t fall and the rebellion continues, and all I can do is hope the next mission will prove to be the one that topples the Emperor somehow and validates my friend’s sacrifice.
A walk-up loading ramp into the Desert Jewel put us in the narrow corridor behind the cockpit. Unfortunately the ramp was also the floor and with it down we couldn’t move forward—a clear shortcoming in design—so we had to close it and leave poor Artoo on the hangar deck before we could enter the cockpit.
Nakari pointed to hatches on either side of the corridor. “Galley and head on the left, bunks and maintenance access on the right,” she said. “Your droid can plug in there. There’s a lot of emergency supplies, too, survival gear that comes in handy when I’m scouting planets for Dad. Breathing masks and an inflatable raft and suchlike. The bunks are kind of basic, sorry to say. I spent all my credits on speed and spoofs.”
“A wise investment,” I assured her. “Can’t enjoy any kind of bunk, much less a luxurious one, if you can’t survive a panicked flight from a Star Destroyer.”
She sawed a finger back and forth between our heads. “Yes! Yes. We are thinking alike here. This is good, because I want to see my ship again.”
“I’d—” I stopped cold because I almost said I’d like to see you again as an unconscious reply, but fortunately realized in time that she might misinterpret that as an incredibly inept pass at her. I finished with, “—think that would be good for both of us,” and hoped she didn’t notice the awkward pause.
“Indeed.” She waved me forward. “After you.”
“Thanks.” Five steps brought me into the cockpit, where I slid into the seat on the left side. Nakari rested a hand on the back of my seat and used the other to point at the banks of instruments. “She’s got top-of-the-line jammers and sensors from Sullust, a holodisplay here, which is kind of low-end because I’d rather have these high-end deflector shields, and twin sublight engines on either side that will shoot you through space faster than an X-wing. Oh, and she’s got a point-eight hyperdrive for the long hauls.”
“Wow. Any weapons?”
“One laser cannon hidden underneath where I’m standing. You activate it right there, and a targeting display pops up.”
I winced. “Just one cannon?”
“She’s built to run and keep you alive until you jump out of trouble. Best not to get into any trouble.”
“Good.” She clapped me on the shoulder. “Be safe, Luke.”
I turned in my seat, surprised that the tour was over so quickly. “Hey, thanks. What will you be doing in the meantime?”
She opened the boarding ramp and then jerked a thumb at the rifle stock behind her shoulder. “I’m training some of the soldiers in sharpshooting. Heading dirtside to shoot frozentargets on Orto Plutonia. I’ll be plenty busy.” Her eyes flicked down to the hangar deck, where something made her smile. “I think your droid is ready to come aboard.”
“Is he in your way?”
She began to descend, and I called after her as she disappeared from view. “Sorry! He’ll move.”
Artoo rolled up a few moments later, and I found the button that would secure the ramp behind him. He chirped and sounded impatient with me, but as usual I couldn’t understand him. “You can jack in to the right,” I said, and he scooted in there while continuing his electronic scolding.
We had to navigate several different hyperspace lanes to get to Rodia from the Sujimis sector and I was getting used to the way the Jewel handled, so our trip probably took more time than strictly necessary. Fortunately, we weren’t in a hurry and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Jewel was sheer pleasure to fly; the cockpit was quiet, unlike the high-pitched electronic whine of my X-wing.
Artoo successfully installed a program into the Jewel’s computer that would translate his digital beeps into readable language. His words streamed on the holodisplay that Nakari had pointed out to me, and I kept the ship’s intercom on so that he could hear my words.
“Artoo, take us to Llanic, will you? We need to stop there to see if we can find someone to smuggle for us if the deal in Rodia works out.”
Situated at the intersection of the Llanic Spice Route and the Triellus Trade Route, Llanic bustled with smugglers and other ne’er-do-wells in a way that might have moved Ben Kenobi to call it a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” even if it was not quite as wretched as Mos Eisley. Plenty of illicit credits flew through there, and because of that the Empire kept a watch on it. Leia had given me a briefing, warning me that Moff Abran Balfour patrolled the spice route often, and he represented the nearest Imperial presence to the current location of the Alliance fleet. I was not supposed to give him the idea that perhaps the fleet was somewhere in his sector.
I was expecting a lively screen full of contacts when I entered the system, but perhaps not quite so lively as it proved to be. One of Moff Balfour’s Star Destroyers showed up immediately, though it was too far away to pull me in with a tractor beam or engage in any meaningful way. Flying much closer to me were two TIE fighters, pursuing a ship that didn’t appear able to put up much resistance. They were firing on it, and its shields were holding for the time being, but I doubted that would continue for much longer, especially since it was slower than the TIEs. I imagined there would be unidentified rattling noises on the ship, not indicating anything dire, just a general statement of decrepitude and imminent destruction. Didn’t seem like a fair fight to me, but I wasn’t going to make it my problem until I realized the ship was of Kupohan manufacture. The Kupohans had helped the Alliance in the past, and might do so again.
Revue de presse
“An excellent book with rich characters, bubbling humor and poignant emotion.”—Roqoo Depot
“Entertaining . . . action-packed . . . suspenseful.”—New York Journal of Books
“Great . . . [an] entertaining introduction into understanding Luke’s character . . . There are moments in The Empire Strikes Back that I now point to and say, ‘I understand how he got there,’ and it’s because of this novel.”—The Wookiee Gunner
“Pure Star Wars . . . From shoot-outs to narrow escapes, I could practically hear John Williams’s score playing in my head—a credit to Kevin Hearne, to be sure.”—Coffee with Kenobi
“A must-read for fans . . . I left with a much closer understanding of who Luke Skywalker is, and an even deeper admiration for the character. All things are connected in the Force, and I feel more connected to Luke after reading Heir to the Jedi.”—Comicbook.com
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My first reaction when I heard we were getting a Star Wars novel written by Kevin Hearne was a gleeful fistpump. It seemed like a perfect combo, my biggest fandom written by an author with the panache to make druids cool and the creative mojo to see a world where multiple pantheons could dwell. Yep, I was digging it. But as I began to turn the pages and dive into HEIR TO THE JEDI I quickly realized that either Hearne was playing it very safe or the editor had heavily reigned in any attempt at doing anything interesting with this story.
To put it bluntly, this book was as entertaining as watching paint dry for the first 11 chapters. It was painful to read and as my friends and spouse (who knew I had an ARC) begged for my thoughts I had to keep repeating that I thought it would get better. It did. Kind of. At Chapter 12 the pacing picks up a lot but unfortunately I never really felt like I was reading a Star Wars novel. Both for issues with the lack of action and the world building elements that weren't well utilized.
Whether it's something resulting from the canon laws of SW fiction now or maybe Hearne holding back or the editor's choices, one of the most agravating parts of HTTJ is all of the Earthy stuff. One of my favorite things about reading SW books in my teens was being taken away to worlds where the food was foreign, the tech was a bit ridiculous, and the analogies were often amusingly weird. There's nothing particularly alien about buckwheat noodles or tying your captives up with rope. It was extremely disappointing and so distracting that I was making mental notes of it for this review. Are sandwiches and soup universal enough they exist in SW? Sure, but let's blue milk it okay?
The central purpose of the story in terms of its place within SW canon is to establish Luke's dabbling with the Force so we can go from Ep. IV to V with his ability to pull his lightsaber in the wampa cave. That's one of the only parts of the story that I sort of could glom onto. Alas, most of the actual story is spent running and hiding and eating and talking. The relationship between Luke and Nakari felt forced to me and I saw where it was going before I even read the first page. Even if I love romantic subplots I would have been totally cool with them just becoming close platonic friends instead of having awkward flirtation.
What redeemed it from being totally bad was that for all its faults I did find one aspect enjoyable. I really liked Drusil, the cryptographer being rescued, and Luke's interactions with her. I found the challenges he faced in communicating with her to be amusing. I always enjoy the aliens and their cultures when I read SW fiction and both the Givin and Kupohan were interesting, I'd have happily read more about them.
Ultimately, HTTJ was not the SW novel I was hoping for. I was left thinking it was neither good, nor particularly bad. It's the sort of read that you know could have been much more in either direction but it played it too safe and therefore wound up being the type of story where when your fellow Star Wars geeks ask what you thought of it you just shrug and mutter a meh. I would love to see Hearne have another crack at a SW novel but with a completely new and unestablished character set where no one has expectations on who they are. He is one of my favorite writers but I think being sandwiched in between the two films and writing Luke Skywalker killed any potential for a truly amazing book to come of it.
Notes: ARC received via NetGalley.
Hey, remember that time I destroyed the Death Star, or that time when my Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru got burned. Yep, I'm *that* Luke Skywalker. See, every now and then while telling this story, I'll free associate memories like those from my previous exploits in order to remind you that, despite the fact that I in no way seem to think or act like the Luke Skywalker whose hero's journey and dynamic character development resulted in the courageous destruction of the Empire's ultimate weapon, I AM ACTUALLY *that* Luke Skywalker. Which is kind of weird and stuff. Because, in this story, I seem to have regressed so much emotionally and mentally that it's going to be REALLY HARD for you to believe I'm legit that same guy. In fact, my nearly paralyzing inability to interact with a human woman may be utterly confounding to you. It is to me. It's as if instead of exhibiting signs of some sort of latent teen angst fueled by a potential love interest, I may actually be suffering from brain trauma or mad Bantha disease (see what I did there?) Relationship goals, amirite?
Oh, remember that time when I wanted to go into Tosche station to pick up some power converters? I'll actually utter those exact same words in this story completely out of context to make sure you connect the dots. I'll also make non-sensical references to Han and Chewie and have jaw-droppingly benign scenes with Leia just so you and me are on the same page about the whole "I'm *that* Luke" thing. Don't even get me started on "Nerf nuggets" or "Daddy Issues": your eyes can't roll that far back in your head. Literally. Cool? Ok, kewl.
Listen, I'm going to see if I can figure out what to do with this new lightsaber I picked up around chapter 3 or 4 which ultimately has no bearing on the story and disappears in one of a number of plotholes. #maytheforcebewithyou
Of the three adult Star Wars novels released since the EU relaunch (including A New Dawn and Tarkin), I think Heir to the Jedi is the most interesting. But it also has the weakest plot. As the publisher's summary notes, Luke goes on a mission to retrieve an Imperial cryptologist. It's the same premise as last year's Honor Among Thieves. Luke and Nakari basically bounce from one planet to another on a series of small adventures, but that seems more like the backdrop for the story rather than the story itself. I doubt anybody will be surprised at the ending of the book. Certain things have to happen. However, how it happens actually becomes interesting. This is definitely a book more interested in characters than in plot or action.
At its core, Heir to the Jedi is about Luke's relationship to the Force and to other people. Most of the old EU stories set in between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back seemed content to treat Luke as already a fairly skilled Jedi. Hearne realizes that at this point Luke had not had any training in the Force other than Ben Kenobi's instructions on the Millennium Falcon. In Heir to the Jedi, we get to see Luke struggle with basic Force skills. For example, we see the first time Luke uses telekinesis. It's a worthy payoff not just because it's a significant accomplishment but is also so humble. The ending provides an important payoff of a different sort, both in Luke's relationship with the other characters and his relationship to the Force. It subtly contrast Luke's decisions with those of his father.
That said, something about Luke's characterization in this novel feels off. In the Star Wars mythos, Luke Skywalker is the archetypical quest hero. He fights with a "laser sword," directly echoing medieval knights. He's also a fighter pilot, echoing the view of jet fighter jocks as the modern form of knights (at least during the 1970s and 1980s). Luke seems ill suited to "cloak and dagger" missions. In Heir to the Jedi, the Rebellion sends Luke to act as an arms buyer, but that seems more like Leia's area of expertise. I couldn't help but ask why the Rebels wouldn't send a professional retrieval team to rescue the cryptographer (incidentally, they do so for the cryptographer's family). Luke even talks about how he could find enjoyment in planning recon missions, which seems very different from the character we see in Empire Strikes Back.
Much has been made of Hearne's decision to write this novel from a first-person perspective. The only other Star Wars novel narrated in first person is Michael Stackpole's I, Jedi, but even that novel featured Corran Horn, a character who did not appear in the movies. Some fans were worried about the use of first person for a major character, whereas others thought it would provide for an exciting change.
Surprisingly, for most of the book, the first person narration did not really affect my reading of the story. For better or worse, it's generally not intrusive. The narrative and action flows pretty well, with a few observations and insights from Luke. So if you don't like the idea of reading a story in the first person, I wouldn't worry too much. Near the end, there are a few excellent character moments in which Hearne takes advantage of the first-person narration to tell us how Luke feels. At a few points, seeing Luke's thought process helps explain why he ultimately did not fall to the Dark Side like his father.
Overall, I'm glad I read this book, mostly for the payoff at the end. I wish the book had created an original character rather than use Luke in order to avoid some of those character inconsistencies. However, if you can overlook a few moments here or there, there's actually a decent coming of age story in Heir to the Jedi.
[I received an advance version of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
To start, it's unnerving reading a novel in the 1st person character from Luke's point of view. I have read many Star Wars novels over the years, and the vast majority don't employ this device. Maybe I've been conditioned to read SW novels a certain way, and that's why I didn't care for this narration.
I read Star Wars novels to revisit the galaxy “far, far away”. So when I come across an Earth-centric word or object, it immediately takes me out of the story. I'm sad to say this happened in the very first chapter. Examples: “bandage” , “ice cream” and “toothpicks”. Really? The author couldn't find words more appropriate to the GFFA? I'm even more sad to say this occurred throughout the book, not just in the first chapter.
Something I did really like about this novel was that it tackled how Luke received Jedi training after Obi-Wan's death. I had always wondered – in Return of the Jedi especially, how Luke went from barely knowing anything of the Force to mastering it when his mentor had died. Thus, I'm glad this novel addressed that. Indeed, this, more than any other part of “Heir to the Jedi” made reading this book a treat. That is not to say the McGuffin of rescuing a Givin from Imperial clutches was boring. Rather, I just prefer the more esoteric, mystical parts of the Star Wars saga. And that's probably why the Dagobah scenes were my favorite in The Empire Strikes Back.
As to the overall story, I couldn't help but feel there was a paint-by-numbers feel to the storytelling. Although well-written in terms of grammar and vocabulary, I almost felt as though the author was checking off boxes as to how to propel the story along. OK, Ackbar does the exposition to explain the mission, then Luke needs to be shown where to go and who to go to for help, then the mission parameters are defined, etc. etc. For me, “well-written” didn't necessarily mean the story itself was entrancing or exciting.
One part of the novel that didn't quite work for me was the ready trust the Rodians at Chekkoo placed in Luke. Sure, they knew someone named “Luke Skywalker” would be the Rebel representative seeking to acquire weapons from them, but given their high level of security, why were they so unguarded with their security measures, their operational details? Why did they have such confidence that Luke was “Luke”, and therefore, were so open about their catalog of weapons and the security measures in their hidden complex? These entire scenes didn't quite seem plausible to me. This is especially ironic considering Luke's distrust of Drusil, wondering if she might be an Imperial agent. Ah well, I guess the author felt two instances of distrust and suspicion was too much to insert into his story.
I appreciated the few touches of humor in this book. The sewer scenes were both disgusting and entertaining at the same time. And the math! Oh, the math – humor at the expense of a subject I didn't care for at all while I was in school. Delightful!
For fleet junkies, you'll enjoy the dogfights in this novel. You will also love the descriptions of armaments and vehicles, but especially in the scenes depicting space chases and escapes. For those not so inclined, don't worry – the technical descriptions aren't over the top. You will read about interdictors and shield capabilities and missiles and sensors, but they didn't rise to the level of incomprehensible gobbledy-gook.
One thing I always find interesting about Star Wars novels is an author's introduction of a new species/planet into the greater SW universe. In this regard, Hearne did an excellent job with Kupoh and the Kupohan species. The planet reminded me a little bit of Cloud City in the atmospheric conditions and the natives were like earth gypsies crossed with Bajorans from the world of Trek. I wouldn't mind encountering this species in future SW novels.
Something occurred at novel's end that surprised me but if I was meant to feel sad, anguished or bereaved well, I did not. Sometimes, a newly introduced character really captures the reader and becomes a fan favorite (hello Thrawn) and sometimes it doesn't. For me, the demise of this person fell into the latter category.
Overall, I felt this was an adequate book. Adequate in storytelling, plotting and pacing. However, it did advance the story of how Luke improves in his mastery of the Force. That alone would be enough to get me to read this novel.