#RRSciFiMonth: Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

Sci-Fi NovemberSci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Oh The Books and Rinn Reads this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.

A New DawnStar Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In

Series: Star Wars Universe

Publisher: Del Rey (September 2, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like many Star Wars fans, I was initially disappointed by the news earlier this year that Lucasfilm has pretty much nuked most of the franchise’s Expanded Universe, declaring all of it as no longer official canon. But after some thinking, I’ve come to terms with it and now actually believe that it was a wise decision. Having ballooned into this humongous bloated entity after all these years, if anything needed a hard reset it was the Star Wars EU. And having been a long time reader of Marvel and DC comics, I’ve grown more accustomed to stuff like retcons and massive wipes by now.

Besides, I can finally give up the New Jedi Order for good without feeling guilty about stalling halfway through the series since like forever. Move over, old school stuff, it’s time for new stories. Time for the very aptly named A New Dawn.

As the first Star Wars novel integrating input from the Lucasfilm Story Group, A New Dawn is set in the time between the movies Episode III and IV, not long after the fall of the Republic and the legendary Jedi.

It probably also behooves me to mention that I’m currently following the new animated series Star Wars Rebels, which had a role in motivating me to pick up this book. I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far, so it was only natural that I was interested in reading this. It serves as a prequel to the show, taking place roughly six years before the events in the first episode, and two of the lead characters are featured as protagonist in the book as well. Essentially, it tells the story of how the former Jedi Kanan Jarrus and the Twi’lek rebel Hera Syndulla first met.

That said, you don’t need to know anything about the show to read the book. In fact, I find that the two are completely different in tone and vibe. The show feels geared more towards a younger audience; being on the Disney X-D channel and all, that’s perhaps not too surprising. The book, on the other hand, is more mature, and I’m guessing most people who read it will agree that John Jackson Miller did not dial anything down.

Still, I can’t describe A New Dawn as anything other than standard Star Wars fare, in terms of the quality of writing and story. This was a slight downer, given the publication significance of this book and the fact it marks a new beginning, I had hoped for something a little more…well, just MORE. But on the bright side, it should make readers of Star Wars fiction feel right at home. You have the very recognizable character types, such as the Jedi-in-exile and hotshot starship pilot. You have a ruthless villain and Imperial tyranny. You have sweeping battles in space and the spark of rebellion. So on second thought, being the same-old-same-old might not be such a bad thing.

I also loved the characters. They’re the best aspect of this book, and not just because I really like Kanan and Hera from the animated series (though that helped). John Jackson Miller goes into the background of both characters, giving us great insight into their personalities and motivations. On the show, they’re not only the leaders of their crew but almost like the father and mother figures, and I can appreciate the nature of their partnership so much more after reading this. Other supporting characters that I’ve only met for the first time in the novel were well-written as well, most notably the former Clone Wars veteran and conspiracy theorist Skelly, whose persona is as volatile as the incendiary devices he loves so much.

All told, this wasn’t a bad book, but it’s also unlikely that it’s going to end up on my shelf of favorite Star Wars novels. Still, I enjoyed it well enough. While A New Dawn had a decent story that was entertaining but not all that memorable, the strength really goes to the characters rather than plot, and that’s a huge redeeming factor. It would also make a great jumping on point for new fans, which is why I think all the more a shame that it wasn’t more special, but I think the majority of readers will like it just fine and won’t be too disappointed, which is where I’m standing.

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20 Comments on “#RRSciFiMonth: Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller”

  1. Not going to do it. No new Star Wars EU for me. I will hold on to my old ones secure in my knowledge that it is the ‘real’ EU (I will do my best to ignore Keven J Anderson was ever involved). Besides, I have moved to Warhammer 40k and she treats me better. Not so needy.

    Hell, this could be a post. It’s not you, its me Star Wars.

    Have to think this one through.

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    • I enjoyed several of Anderson’s anthologies he edited…

      I’m okay with starting over. Lot of the older EU stuff was just plain bad, in terms of writing and quality. Standards for media tie-ins are higher now, and I look forward to the fresh start.

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  2. I’ve never actually read a Star Wars book, though I’ve always meant to. (Also, I hated it every time Marvel did a reset.)

    I’m curious what happened between movies III and IV (besides Vader getting a secret apprentice) It’s too bad that this book wasn’t better.

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    • Resets can be really annoying. But sometimes a franchise gets so bloated and ridiculous, it just needs to be done. I think SW was heading there, and I understand why they did it, otherwise there would be no way to make the new movies and have them “fit” in canon.

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    • Probably something I recommend only if you really want to find out more about a character, or what happens beyond the movies etc. But of course, these days you can also just hit up Wookieepedia 😛

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  3. Pretty much the same for me. I enjoyed it as a romp, but it’s not top shelf stuff. It renewed my faith in Star Wars, so no complaints. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t matter whether you read this before or after you watch Rebels; the Kanan and Hera depicted in here as compared to the Kanan and Hera in Rebels are two very, very, very different folks.

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    • I agree. Well, first of all in the show they’re dialed down to be “safer” characters for a young audience. Kanan in the book was a bit more of a rascal and Hera more of a heartbreaker.

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      • Yea, Kanan is basically a Jedi version of Han Solo. I preferred the book version of Hera, though, all the Rebels version ever does is fly the Ghost and provide a Robin to Kanan’s Batman.

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  4. I’ve watched the new tv show numerous times with my three sons, who are fans, but I just cannot get excited about this “new EU” after having invested far too much time in the “old EU.” 😦

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    • I’ve invested quite some time in the “old EU” as well, but for some reason I’m completely fine now with just forgetting it and starting anew. Like I said, maybe it’s because I’ve gone through this enough time with comics.

      I enjoy watching the show too! We record it and watch as a family.

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  5. I love the films but I’ve never read the Star Wars books, pretty much for the reason you stated: the various series seem pretty bloated. I know they have a dedicated following though so I hope this new direction makes the universe fresh for you! 🙂

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