Audiobook Review Bites: Star Wars Canon
An aged Han Solo tells a group of young mercenary types a story about the famed Millennium Falcon, a story set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. After helping Luke during the Battle of Yavin, Han Solo looks forward to going back to his smuggling ways. However, Leia isn’t quite through with Han and Chewie just yet as she requests their help to locate an important figure in the rebellion who has fled after an Imperial ambush. Reluctantly (on Han’s part), Han and Chewie finds themselves back in imminent danger for the good of the people, as they try to outrun a ruthless Imperial captain in search of this contact.
This is a young adult book recommended for the middle school age group. While it certainly has a tone that will appeal to younger teens and tweens, I was surprised at how mature the story felt. Not so much that I would be concerned, but it doesn’t treat them like they’re too young to understand the nuances of life in this universe. There are a few dramatic action scenes. The antagonist was interesting, but she falls a little flat since she isn’t explored much. Above all else, I loved Han and Chewie’s friendship in this book. Chewie serves as the voice of morality for Han who believes he’s beyond such things as caring about the good of the universe. It’s often difficult for Star Wars books to convey the different language, but Rucka did an admirable job creating banter between the two and inferring Chewie’s dialogue through Han’s responses, actions, and thoughts.
Marc Thompson is a well known voice in the Star Wars universe, and as usual he gives an amazing performance. I had a copy of the book on hand as well, and Phil Noto’s clean, stark illustrations fit the book well. This is a straightforward romp in the Star Wars universe with two of its most lovable characters, and an excellent way for fans to spend a bite-sized amount of time visiting characters they love and a great introduction book for youngsters and older readers alike.
Narrator: Marc Thompson | Length: 3 hrs and 22 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library (September 4, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: No (As of this posting)
Star Wars: Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci, Jason Fry
Series: Star Wars Canon
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Tie-In
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press (September 4, 2015)
Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Much like Smuggler’s Run, this story features an older Leia relating a story back to another party prior to the events in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In this case, it’s a droid attempting to work on a memoir about one of the most important members of the rebellion. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia is the last surviving member of House Organa, and finds herself learning to embrace a new role as a rebellion leader with her diplomat status. Leia comes up with an ambitious plan to help the Rebel Alliance gain some time to bolster their forces and regroup, a plan that requires her to make tough choices as her role expands.
Love, duty, and loyalty play a big role in Leia’s adventure. She finds herself conflicted between putting the needs of the people over the needs of the galaxy. She clings to her feelings for Han who has been captured by Jabba the Hutt while trying to reassure herself that she must think of the galaxy first. She comes to term with the fact that duty and loyalty don’t always mean being loyal to a cause over the people who support you–no matter if it is for the greater good. This is a fast story that any fan can enjoy. It balances the action with the story quite well, and I continue to be impressed that these books don’t treat their target age group as if they can’t understand the complexity of the morals and ideas these books are presenting. Also, this book includes a more direct Easter egg for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This is the second book I’ve listened to with Jennifer LaVoy as the narrator. The first was also a Star Wars story set in the same canon (The Perfect Weapon). Even though I wasn’t bowled over by that story, I praised LaVoy’s excellent narration, and I have to do the same here. I can be particular about listening to books with characters from movies or games because it can be difficult for me to associate someone else’s voice with a character from a visual media. However, LaVoy’s narration has been my favorite so far of these books.
Narrator: January LaVoy | Length: 3 hrs and 53 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library (September 4, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: No (As of this posting)
Luke’s story starts a little differently than Leia and Han’s. He’s the only person who isn’t actually “telling” his story for reasons that are obvious if you’ve watched or read Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Instead Luke’s story is told by C-3PO. Luke’s story takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is trying to reconcile his roles as a pilot and as a Jedi. Following the death of Ben Kenobi, he’s left floundering with no master, but the Force is on his side gently pushing him in the direction that he needs to take to better himself as a Jedi.
Out of these three books, this one is probably the one that is more in line with what I would expect of a book for younger teens and kids. It has a very straightforward story with a basic good versus evil concept. While Han and Leia’s stories, especially Leia’s, dealt more heavily with morality and the sometimes ambiguous nature of it throughout their books, Luke’s story only has one moment where that comes into play and it’s more of a personal choice than something that involves thinking about something bigger than himself like Han and Leia’s dilemmas.
You’d think that a story centered around Luke learning to harness the Force would have a bit more action, but nothing truly happens until the book is nearing the end. Most of the book is spent with Luke lamenting about the Force. Still, I listened to these books with my children in mind (because they’ll be listening to them soon), and it’s really hard to go wrong with showing the “hero” learning to control his powers.
Jonathan Davis is one of my favorite narrators, but I have a bit of a mixed feeling here. He certainly didn’t do a terrible job. His narration was beautiful as always. I was just a little underwhelmed with some of the character voices that didn’t seem to show much nuance from one another, even the female voice. Other than that, he did quite well.
Narrator: Jonathan Davis | Length: 3 hrs and 18 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library (September 4, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: No (As of this posting)
I won this Kindle book in a giveaway from RhiReading (thanks!) and I was able to get the Audible book at a discount to read through Whispersync.
Two kids from the “backwater” world Jelucan set their aspirations toward being top pilots for the Imperial Army. Ciena Ree is the daughter of impoverished people who live in the Jelucani valley. They descend from loyalists who chose exile rather than turn on what they believed, and they’re a very proud and familial group of people. Thane Kyrell is a second-waver, people descended from another group that settled on Jelucan some years after the valley kindred. They’re privileged, but Thane’s life is anything but happy as he deals with an abusive father and an indifferent mother. Ciena and Thane form an unlikely friendship and work together to become candidates for the Imperial’s military school and eventually move on to become Imperial officers. Romance is a core part of this story between the two leads. Ciena and Thane’s relationship often pits them on opposite sides of conflict even when they’re working for the same side. It does not overwhelm the story and many other things happen, but it is the driving force for this book, which spans almost twenty years of Ciena and Thane’s lives.
This book gives a glimpse of the Imperial rule from the viewpoint of people who aren’t mired in the conflict between the Rebels and the Empire, and I enjoyed this view of seeing just what normal people think is going on around them. The people don’t see the malevolence behind the Imperial rule. They see a governing body that promises opportunity for everyone. It was surprisingly refreshing to get this genuine view of the people on the “wrong” side. You get to see their hopes, dreams, and fears instead of thinking of them as the faceless, cruel officers whose only goal is to rule the galaxy. It has the added effect of making readers feel for some of the people whose destruction we might’ve cheered otherwise. You also get to view some of the events from the first trilogy through the eyes of the general population.
Being part of the military is a goal many kids have, and it’s seen as an honorable, honest profession by both rich and poor. When the kids learn that things aren’t as noble with the Empire as it seems, Thane is hardly taken by surprise because he is naturally distrustful of authority figures, but Ciena finds herself conflicted and continuing to pledge her allegiance to an order because giving her word is more important than anything else. Ciena’s honor can be a bit frustrating at points because, while understandable, there seems there should come a point when she should realize that the honorable thing to do is the right thing, which does not include trying to talk yourself into believing the Empire is not corrupt. However, she is young and often unable to grasp the complexities of rebellion and war, and her position is one that isn’t different from many soldiers who believe they’re fighting for the right cause, even when they have some doubts.
I haven’t encountered a Star Wars audiobook yet that didn’t have an excellent narrator–in this case, Pierce Cravens. As usual, it’s full production with music and sound effects. I didn’t have trouble hearing the narrator over the sound effects in the story. There’s nothing that makes the various fight scenes really resonate than hearing PEW PEW noises in the background. While there were a few things that annoyed me aside from Ciena’s infuriating honor, they were such insignificant things that I won’t rant about them. Overall, this was an excellent read.
Narrator: Pierce Cravens | Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library (September 4, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
While it is certainly unfortunate that much of the Star Wars Extended Universe has been chucked, after reading four of these canon books, I can say that I appreciate the cohesive story that these books tell together and how they complement the movies. They’re really focusing in on the politics and the people in this war rather than casting about. I’m not knocking the Extended Universe or the books that are part of it, especially since I still plan to read more from the Extended Universe. It’s just nice that they’re trying to give a clearer timeline that can work for new and old fans interested in the books.
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