During The Force Awaken, Han Solo informs the newest generation of heroes that “The Force. The Jedi....All of it...It's all true.” And while that may make for a solid quote he probably should have clarified what they'd already heard about historical events as heroes tend to inspire a great deal of tall tales. That's the concept behind the most recent Star Wars novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker, an anthology of potentially false or misinformed stories about the farm boy turned space wizard. Given the nature of this storytelling format, this review is going to be slightly different than usual. More importantly, could this be the first Luke focused book of the new continuity to not completely suck? Time to find out.
The Wraparound Story
Aboard a cargo ship bound for Canto Bight, cremates swap tales of the legendary hero, Luke Skywalker. One of them is helping a stowaway who once had her own encounter with the last Jedi. Unless any of these characters manage to pop up in the new movie, this story isn't bound to prove all that important to the greater universe. That's not really the point so much as to showcase how the very idea of a mystical hero can unit and inspire people. On that point, this wraparound works out just fine, just don't go in expecting some deep emotional pathos or grand hints about the future of the franchise.
The Myth Buster
The first segment gives off some of that classic Arabian Nights vibe of stories within stories. The deepest layer of this narrative chip dip is a conspiracy theory about how Luke was just the key player in a massive con job. Honestly it's a pretty nifty write-up of how the original trilogy could have been a public relations trick meant to sucker the common man into supporting the rebel alliance. Who spearheaded this rouse you ask? Why that would be Benny O'Kenoby, a wise intergalactic grafter. Even the existence of the Death Star is waved off with alternative explanations for how Alderaan was destroyed. Essentially this is a truther version of events though the commentary of other characters along helps to keep it fun, along with an appairent cameo from the main man himself.
The Starship Graveyard
Next we have a tale from an Imperial perspective, told by a soldier who is left near death after the battle of Jakku. A mysterious figure arrives and cares for the solider as the pair braves the dangers of the desert planet and smoldering starship rubble.
Easily one of the better tales in the book, it hinges on the notion that this mystery man may not even be Luke. In fact, it seems quite likely this is just another soldier merely playing the role in order to survive a bad situation.
Another interesting aspect to this story is how Imperials thought of Luke after his duel with the Emperor. In their mind he's something close to a demon. A magical bogeyman fueled entirely by lightning and rage. The same grunt who fears this enemy is able to see another viewpoint when he meets a group of individuals who need a hero to follow.
Fishing in the Deluge
Another solid bit of storytelling arrives with this yarn about a quiet, tropical planet whose populace lives off the bounty of the sea, rides giant birds, and follows the flow of the tide, their version of the force.
Unlike the previous two tales, this seems like a legitimate record of Luke's activities as he visits this place to learn more about how it's inhabitants use the tide. He is met with resistance yet given an opportunity to learn if he can complete a set of challenges with select children as his guides.
While there's nothing massively informative here, this is a breezy and entertaining story that showcase how other people view the energy of the universe.
Things begin to slow down with a narrative told entirely by an enslaved droid. No, the perspective isn't the problem so much as the story they tell is an odd combination of slow and over the top. The droid in question wasn't enslaved by just anyone you see, it were taken to an inhospitable world which houses a secret cabal of rich layabouts who use droid labor to continue their elegant lifestyle.
After being altered to become an enforcement droid to keep others in line, our narrator offers details on a particularly willful specimen called R2-D2 and later a very strange droid that is revealed to be Luke in disguise. The Jedi liberates the robotic lifeforms and brings down the sheltered society of scum who enslaved them, meanwhile earning respect from the droids for his own inorganic components.
The point here is essentially how Luke is a hero to all walks of life, even those who aren't technically alive. Beyond that is a welcome look into one of the lesser elements of this franchise, the bizarre and enduring cruel treatment of artificial life. However, the dull progression mixed with the odd setting make this one a bit laborious to get through.
The Tale of Lugborious Mote
Here's the one that's quickly gotten some flack from the fanbase either because they're taking it too seriously, simply weren't prepared for such an outlandish story, or just couldn't abide it's goofy tone. The plot concerns that of a highly intelligent flea who lives on Salacious Crumb (Jabba the Hut's weird monkey pet). This flea claims credit for Luke's victory over the rancor and Jabba's barge as he tricks Skywalker by pretending to be the force.
Obviously this one is meant to be a laugh as well as a tale of fame by proximity. The person relating this tale claims that the flea in question has an act where it plays out the entire saga of Jabba's palace/barge on a miniature replica. Maybe that's true. Perhaps the truth is some higher evolved insect was witness to those events and simply twisted the narrative for personal gain. In essence, the very sight of Luke doing his heroics could open up an entire career for someone.
The problem when it comes to such a patently silly concept as this one is that it requires a light, humorous touch that simply doesn't come through as strongly as it should. Which means this farce is closer to a chore.
Finally we return to somewhat more traditional narrative about Luke and a biologist finding themselves trapped within a giant space slug and searching for an escape before they are digested. Personal issue; I've never liked the whole trapped inside a big monster trope. Even for someone who loves gore this setting is just too icky and weird for my liking.
Taste aside we are offered yet another take on the force via beings called Mist Weavers and the story flows fairly smoothly. It's just such an odd tale to wrap up with. More so when you try to figure out how the teller would have even heard of these events to begin with. I'd like to chalk this one up to being pure fantasy though it's written with enough of a straight face to seem legit.
In the end, The Legends of Luke Skywalker fares better than other novels based on the character by focusing on what he means to other people rather than another unnecessary tale of his force education. At the same time, this is much more of a playful love letter to the character than a hint of his journey after the original films. Anyone looking for grand tales of his work building a new Jedi academy or teaching his nephew will be sorely disappointed.
Author, Ken Liu keeps the book going mainly by staying light and breezy. Characters are largely stock personality types, events are kept at the right level of interesting while potentially false. Essentially it's the novelized form of a kid playing Jedi in the backyard. That style makes for an inherently comfortable read, just not one that's all that deep or important, making this one tough to place on the rankings.
1. Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
2. New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
3. Bloodline by Claudia Gray
4. Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka
5. Ashoka by E.K. Johnston
6. Tarkin by James Luceno
7. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
8. Battlefont Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
9. Moving Target by Cecil Castelluci and Jason Fry
10. Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka
11. The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu
12. Catalyst by James Luceno
13. Smuggler's Run by Greg Rucka
14. Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
15. Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
16.Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
17.The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry
That's all for today, folks. I've got a mountain of stuff to work on though I plan to bring another update before Thanksgiving. Remember; this Friday is The Feast of Maximum Occupancy so be sure to treat yourself.