Friday, September 5, 2014
A New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller - Book Review
From the publisher: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .
“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.”—Emperor Palpatine
For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed—and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.
Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.
But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off. . . .
The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.
A New Dawn, by John Jackson Miller, is the first Star Wars novel to be written and published since Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, and the creation of the Lucasfilm Story Group. As such, it's the first non-movie adaptation to be considered "canon" in the Star Wars universe. Finally, A New Dawn also functions as a prequel of sorts to the upcoming animated series Star Wars: Rebels. It was with all this in mind that I eagerly, yet cautiously, began reading A New Dawn.
My reaction? It was mixed. I enjoyed getting a glimpse at several of the new characters, and liked the idea that this book will "count", that it's contents will matter in the grand scheme of things. However, I wasn't particularly taken in with any of the new characters, and the villain(s) seem to be the same-old, same-old.
Kanan is a trying to fly below the radar, keeping his head down as he delivers explosives for a mining company. Meanwhile, Count Vidian, Captain Sloane, and the crew of a Star Destroyer arrive to create more efficiency for the Empire's important mining interests on the planet Gorse, and it's moon, Cynda. When an unstable explosives expert, and conspiracy theorist, named Skelly sets off an explosion, nearly killing Count Vidian, the wrath of the Empire is brought to bear on Gorse. Enter Hera, a mysterious woman looking for information on Vidian and for people who are unhappy with the way the Emperor is running things. Stir in several mysterious pasts, and you have the ingredients for Star Wars: A New Dawn.
Kanan and Hera seem to be the characters who will be a key part of the Rebels storyline. They have the potential to be very interesting, but there isn't a whole lot revealed about them in this book, especially Hera. It's a good set-up for Rebels, but not the greatest for a novel. I found that I wasn't really invested in them, because I didn't know anything about them. I kept pressing forward in the hopes more would be revealed, but was not rewarded.
I think this "Dark Times" setting has a ton of potential. There is so much that can be covered between the formation of the Empire and the slaughter of the Jedi, and the opening of the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Again, though, this book served only as an intro to Rebels, so it is tightly focused on its one corner of the galaxy.
Finally, the villains weren't really anything new. Captain Sloane came off as just another Empire/Emperor toady. Count Vidian was the biggest disappointment of the book for me, though. He is just too similar to other bad guys in the official Star Wars universe. He is greedy, selfish, manipulative, and imposing. He is also part man and part machine. He isn't as cool or menacing as Darth Vader, but reminded me a lot of General Grievous, from Attack of the Clones and the Clone Wars series.
My final verdict is that while there is a lot of room for growth, improvement, and cool stories, Star Wars: A New Dawn is just average, not adding a whole lot. If you read it like a prequel to Rebels, it functions okay, but it isn't really that entertaining as a standalone novel.
I received a preview copy of this book from Lucas Books and Del Rey Spectra in exchange for an honest review.