Thursday, May 12, 2016
Star Wars: Bloodline
I read Claudia Gray's last Star Wars novel Lost Stars and thought it was good. This time she is taking on the task of explaining how the First Order and Resistance came into being. Anyone who has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens knows there are a lot of unanswered questions in that movie- namely how can the galaxy be more or less in the same position they were thirty years ago, if the Rebellion won? That was certainly on my mind as I watched. It didn't help that the plot structure of The Force Awakens mirrors the first Star Wars movie to such an extent.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Princess Leia but we also get to see the POV of several others, including a rival senator whom Leia befriends. Gray does a nice job here of capturing Leia's personality, her determination and the regrets and scars she carries over from the war. The galactic Senate is a mess at this point, riven by factional fighting and endless debate, and Leia is starting to grow weary and cynical that anything can be done to prevent the New Republic from falling into chaos.
Leia gets wind of a plot that appears aimed at the heart of the New Republic, and with the help of a rival senator she investigates. The other senator at first appears to be shallow and ambitious but Leia soon finds hidden depths, and the two of them strike up an unlikely friendhsip. It's one of the better things about the book, seeing their relationship evolve. The book has a lot of political intrigue- I was surprised just how much the Senate plays a role here- and to be honest it started off slow for me. I was maybe twenty percent in before it picked up, I was a little bored at first. By the halfway point though the story was moving right along and I'm glad I kept on.
There are some things that didn't really ring true for me. One would think that a galactic Senate with thousands of worlds would have complicated politics, but there are two factions within the Senate that everything revolves around, and I found that too simplistic. Also Han Solo is in the book briefly but the explanation for why he's not around much didn't work for me. I would imagine Han playing an important role in the New Republic, even if it's a role very different from Leia's (he's not a politician after all), but he was a general in the Rebellion- and the fact that he's off doing other stuff here seemed silly. He's not smuggling so how we got from here to where he's at in the Force Awakens doesn't gibe. They also are very clearly still in love and together, and since this takes place only a few years before The Force Awakens, I don't understand why in the movie it seems like they've been separated for many years. It doesn't seem to add up.
One thing I did like was the nostalgia we see in some quarters for the Empire. There are those in the Senate who are clearly pro- Empire, which of course could lead to The First Order, and I thought it interesting that Gray introduces that angle- that terrors of tyranny can so soon be forgotten. The job of this book is clearly to serve as prequel to the movie, and it succeeds at that I think, in some ways more than others- I'm not a big fan of the movie so the whole setup here is just okay for me, but if you loved the movie this may be a great read. Another thing I enjoyed were the hints that Leia has Force sensitivity- it seems to crop up a few times and is handled well. And her relationship with Darth Vader is a big part of this book.
I think this is a solid read for a Star Wars fan, especially if you like Leia. She's strong and the author clearly has a good grasp of her character (and Han's too the few times he appears). Again there's a lot of politics but some good character work as well, and it does what it needs to- it sets the stage for The Force Awakens. I personally still think Heir of the Jedi is my favorite of the new novels but this isn't bad. I'm not a fan of the story direction they're going in with the new movie, but you liked the movie and want to know more this is a good place to look.