Tagged: Jason Fry

Review – “Rey’s Survival Guide” (2015)

Rey's-Survival-Guide-Cover“If you’re reading this, then something’s gone wrong. You’re stranded on Jakku–a barren little planet with nothing but baking sand, hot sun, and wrecked starships. Stranded like me.” – Rey


 

Once again I find myself writing about another kind of book I never thought I’d read–much less write about on here. This time it’s a type of guidebook targeted towards children that is written as an in-universe book authored by Rey, from The Force Awakens.

The real author is actually Jason Fry, who also wrote the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” books The Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target. He has also written a few Star Wars Rebels tie-in novels, and has worked on a multitude of other Star Wars sourcebooks and visual guides in the past. So, writing this kind of book is right up his alley.

One thing that isn’t clear to me is if we’re actually supposed to believe that Rey really wrote this book in the canon. I assume that all the information contained in this book is canon information, but I’m having a hard time believing that Rey was actually writing all of this stuff down, especially since part of the book was written during the events of The Force Awakens. When she’s off camera in the movie, was she really writing this? I don’t know.

Anyway, to be honest, I never intended on reading this book. I actually went to the store on December 18th-the official release date for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens-to buy another book called Before the Awakening, which is a book that gives us a little bit of backstory for Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron from the movie. The store had zero copies of that book in stock, but I saw this book sitting there on the shelf, so I flipped through a few pages. Being irresponsible with my money, I decided to buy it just because I didn’t want to leave the store empty-handed.

In the end I was actually glad I picked this book up. It’s a very short book, but it acts as a neat little supplement to The Force Awakens, and it reading it actually enhanced my experience watching the movie on my second viewing. I picked up on little details that I didn’t before I read the book, and I felt like I knew a few extra tidbits of information about Jakku that most people watching the movie would never pick up on without seeking out additional information found in other sources, such as this book.

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The inside of the book is designed to look like the inside of someone’s actual journal. The pages are colored to look old and worn out, and the font looks like somebody’s handwriting. Throughout the book are also many sketches of different creatures, characters, ships, tools, locations, and other things that are meant to be drawn by Rey. It’s a very visually appealing book. I am a fan of the design for sure.

The book provides information about life on Jakku, all from Rey’s perspective. Rey writes about what the planet is like, what her living situation is like, what life on Jakku is like, etc… She describes the wildlife of Jakku, and gives an overview of some of the geography. She goes into detail about what it is like being a scavenger on Jakku, and what you need to do to survive and be successful on the planet. Rey writes about some of the characters we meet in the movie, and about some we don’t see on-screen.

It’s a fun little look into the life of Rey and a neat way to get a better idea of who she is, and why she is the way she is. It’s also just a great way to get a little more context for her character and for the whole part of the movie that takes place on Jakku.

Rey-Teedo-BB-8My favorite thing about the book was that it answered questions I had after I saw the movie. Questions like “how is Rey such an amazing mechanic?” and “how is she such a good pilot?” and “how does she know so many languages?” This book answers those questions, and helps me to understand her character better.

The other thing I enjoyed were little nods to other canon stories. There are little nods to Lost Starsand Weapon of a Jedi in this book, as well as short descriptions and drawings of some of the characters who starred in Landry Q. Walker’s Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens short stories. There may have been references to other canon works that I could have missed, but those were the ones I noticed.

The book is very short. It is not a novel, but it still manages to tell a bit of a story about Rey, from her own perspective. More than anything this book is a guidebook that acts as fun supplementary reading after watching The Force Awakens.

I only have one real complaint about the book, and it’s that in the last few pages, when the book starts tying into The Force Awakens, and Rey is writing about events that happened in the early parts of the movie, some of the things that are written don’t match up with what we see in the movie. For example, in this book Rey writes that she has no idea who Luke Skywalker is, even though when she first hears his name in the movie it is clear that she has heard of him before. There are other little things like that that bugged me, but nothing big, and nothing that ruins the book. Plus, like I mentioned, these little inconsistencies are only in the last few pages of the book as far as I can tell from what I remember about the movie. That’s always a risk when you have to write a book like this before the movie is finished.

Some of the extra details match up with things we see in the novelization of The Force Awakens, like how Rey tried selling BB-8 to Unkar Plutt for 100 portions instead of 60. Didn’t happen in the movie, but it happened in both of these books, and it was fun to make the connection.

For what this book was, I enjoyed it. This type of book is not my favorite kind of book to read, but this one was written well and put together in a nice way. It helped me appreciate certain aspects of The Force Awakens a little bit more, and if that’s what this book was setting out to do, then it did a good job of it.

Score: 7/10

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Review – “The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure” (2015)

WeaponOfAJediCover“I never knew you, Father. But I swear I will become a Jedi. And when I do, I will honor your service and your sacrifice.” – Luke Skywalker


 

I keep making this project harder and harder on myself. Initially, I was just going to read the adult novels in the Expanded Universe. Then, I decided to explore the adult novels new canon in preparation for the new movie. Now, I’ve started reading even the young adult novels and these “junior novels” (whatever that means). My plate is full and my goal of someday getting through the entire Expanded Universe is getting farther and farther away. It feels impossible. Even for a computer.

With that said, even though I was not initially planning on reading this book, ever, I have to say I am very glad that I did!

The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure is part of a trilogy of junior novels (really, what is a junior novel? I still don’t know. From what I can tell, it’s like a young adult novel, only shorter) starring Luke, Leia, and Han on their own separate adventures that take place in between the movies of the original Star Wars Trilogy. Each book stars a different one of these characters, and each book contains beautiful illustrations by Phil Noto of certain scenes from each story.

EssentialGuideToWarfareCoverJason Fry is a relative newcomer to writing Star Wars novels, however he is not a newcomer to writing and working on other Star Wars projects. Before the announcement that the Expanded Universe was to become “Legends” and the new canon took over, Jason Fry was involved in the creation of many Star Wars visual guide books, and he also co-authored The Essential Atlas, and The Essential Guide to Warfare which both came out near the end of the Expanded Universe’s lifespan. Jason Fry knows the ins and outs of Star Wars better than most people on this planet.

Weapon of a Jedi takes place in between Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. However, like the other two books in this trilogy, it has a prologue and an epilogue that both take place near (or possibly during, we don’t know yet!) the time of the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. This book is part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series, and as such it is dropping hints for what’s to come in the new movie, and introducing us to characters from the film without actually spoiling anything.

JessikaPavaIn the prologue we find C-3PO talking with a young pilot named Jessika Pava, a character who will appear in The Force Awakens. Jessika asks Threepio if he can tell her any stories about Luke Skywalker that haven’t already been told a million times before. Threepio thinks for a second, and then decides to tell Jessika the story of when Master Luke first used a lightsaber in battle.

The rest of the book is that story. After the Battle of Yavin, Luke is asked by Mon Mothma to go on a mission to retrieve some Imperial logs for the Rebel Alliance. Luke takes R2-D2 and C-3PO along with him in a Y-wing and eventually they end up on the planet Devaron, where Luke needs to get repair work done on his Y-wing before he can complete his mission.

Now, let’s remember when this takes place. This is before The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is not a Jedi yet. In fact, Luke has barely received any training at all. He has not yet met Yoda, and so all he knows about the Force and how to use a lightsaber comes from the very short amount of time he spent learning with Obi-Wan Kenobi. His lightsaber training on the Millennium Falcon is about all he’s got, and Ben’s voice hasn’t spoken to him since he was flying in the trench of the Death Star. Luke wants to become a Jedi, but he doesn’t know how to do it on his own.

Where this takes place among the other books and stories in the new canon hasn’t been officially stated by Lucasfilm yet, however the consensus among most fans is that this story best fits in between the novel Heir to the Jedi, and Marvel’s new Star Wars comic series. In other words it goes: A New Hope, Heir to the Jedi, The Weapon of a Jedi, Marvel’s Star Wars comic series, and then Empire Strikes Back. Got it? K, cool.

WoaJTimeline

On the planet Devaron, Luke feels the Force calling to him from what appears to be ruins of some sort. Luke searches the town of Tikaroo, asking the locals if any of them will be his guide and take him to the ruins. The people tell Luke that they can’t because the place is off limits. Eventually Luke finds someone who agrees to take him into the jungle, an alien known as “The Scavenger” named Sarco Plank.

SarcoPlankSarco Plank is one of the big reasons I recommend reading this book. Though he isn’t a particularly amazing character, I did find him very interesting because he is going to appear in The Force Awakens. I doubt he’ll have a large role in the film, but he will be in it, and a promotional photo of him has already been released. Want to get to know a new character from the upcoming movie? Read this book.

Points of interest are Luke trying to understand the Force, and trying to train with his lightsaber. Luke is without a mentor, and completely lost and confused when it comes to the Force and how to become a Jedi. He tries to learn more on his own. He practices using the Force, which is still very difficult for him to do. He practices training with his lightsaber, using the few techniques he was taught by Obi-Wan. Watching Luke struggle with these things and begin to progress on his own is something that I really enjoyed about this book. Luke is not a Jedi. He’s a farm boy with a laser sword who’s in way over his head. He wants to honor his father and become a Jedi, but he doesn’t know how to do it, so he just does the best he can on his own. This book does a good job of bridging the gap between the Luke we see in A New Hope who is just beginning to learn, and the Luke we see in Empire Strikes Back who already has some command of the Force and has enough basic lightsaber skills to be able to duel Darth Vader without instantly losing.

I can’t get into much more detail without spoiling the book. It is a very short book and a very fast read, talking about much more would give away most of the story.

SplinterCoverI think what I liked most about this book was that it felt like something from the old Expanded Universe. This book reminded me specifically of Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which was actually the first EU book ever written (and second Star Wars book ever, after the novelization of the original movie). Both Weapon of a Jedi and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye take place in between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Both books deal with Luke trying to progress in his Jedi training without Obi-Wan. Both books show Luke struggling to use the Force. Both books have Luke ending up on a planet and having to go to some ruins deep in the jungle (or swamp, in the case of Splinter). Other plot points of Splinter appear to be mirrored in Weapon of a Jedi as well. The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. And that made me happy. In fact, in the prologue of Weapon of a Jedi, Threepio mentions how one time they went on a “diplomatic mission to Circarpous.” In Splinter of the Mind’s Eye Luke, Leia, Threepio, and Artoo were on a diplomatic mission to Circarpous VI, before they crash landed on Circarpous V, where the book takes place. Was this an intentional reference to Splinter? Knowing Jason Fry, it very well could have been.*

Like I said before, I had no intention of reading this trilogy of junior novels. However, in the end I am glad that I did. Of the three books, Weapon of a Jedi was by far my favorite one, though the other two were also pretty good, and they both dropped their fair share of hints about the new movie as well. The latter portion of this book feels like it is dropping major hints for the new movie, and it makes me excited to see which parts of this story play an important role in The Force Awakens.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for something to tie them over until The Force Awakens comes out. It is a very short and very fast read. More importantly than that though, it’s actually a good story! It will definitely whet your appetite for the new movie. The other two books in this trilogy are also good, but they weren’t quite as entertaining and it felt like they probably won’t connect as much with the new movie as this book will. That’s just my guess, however. We don’t know yet!

If you’re looking for something fun to read or if you want to start getting to know some characters from The Force Awakens before you see the new movie, this is definitely worth checking out. It is one of my favorite stories of the new canon so far. I’m glad I ended up reading it after all!

My Rating: 8/10

*UPDATE: Jason Fry recently let me know that the nods to Splinter of the Mind’s Eye are, in fact, deliberate. Very cool!