Publisher: Del Rey
Authors: John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, Melissa Scott, and Jason Fry
Released: October 6th 2015
Received: Library Book
Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire is actually a collection of four stories; two full novels and two short stories. The stories include Mercy Mission (short story), Tarkin, Bottleneck, A New Dawn, and finally The Levers of Power. The collection is an interesting choice, when you stop and think about it. Mercy Mission focuses on a protagonist (the same one as in A New Dawn, oddly enough), Tarkin is a novel focused on one of the antagonists of the series, Bottleneck is another short story, with the focus on the antagonists, A New Dawn focuses on a pair of protagonists, and finally The Levers of Power is another antagonist, though of a smaller stature than the other characters previously mentioned.
Mercy Mission by Melissa Scott
Mercy Mission focuses primarily on Hera Syndulla, and the event of the story itself occurs well before the Rebels TV show. It’s clear that even here she’s a more than competent pilot – but it is before she had gained confidence in her skills (there’s a couple of points where we see her hesitating where she would never have done so in the show). This may even predate Hera officially joining the Rebellion. As far as I can tell she’s still working on mercy missions (sneaking in badly needed medicine, food, etc), but there’s no organization she’s attached to.
Obviously the team Hera is currently working with is not the one we know and love from Rebels, and instead it consists of all new characters. Though there is a brief mention of Chopper (fun fact: Apparently Hera is the owner of Chopper, which explains SO much about him and why he hasn’t been ‘fixed’).
This was a great short story that not only helped to establish a bit more of Hera’s background, but her foray into the Rebellion. We also learned a bit more about her people’s struggles, specifically a new disease that’s not really fatal to any species but theirs (hence the desperate need for medicine). Hera is one of my favorite characters, so I’m always thrilled to get any additional detail about her character.
Mercy Mission is likely the first story chronologically in this compilation, which is why we see it here. Additionally it does a great job supporting A New Dawn as these events clearly predate those.
Tarkin by James Luceno
Tarkin is set after A New Hope, but before Revenge of the Sith, though there are some flashbacks to Tarkin’s past, which occurred well before A New Hope or even the construction of the Death Star. This is a great read if you’re looking for some insight into Tarkin’s character, or even just a chance to read more about any of the Star Wars antagonists (I promise you, that while his name is the title, other ones are a part of the story).
Tarkin has long been an interesting character for me. Where many of the Star Wars antagonists are angry and hot tempered (for lack of a better description), Tarkin is cold and calculating. In many ways that makes him more of a danger (though that’s not to say I’d prefer to face Vader). I loved the chance to get more of a character study for Tarkin, and was beyond joyous when that also included some of Tarkin’s childhood. It was more than I could have hoped for.
During the events in Tarkin, we see Tarkin and Darth Vader team up to try and take down and manage a group of Rebels. I’ll admit that while I adored every minute of this novel, I had to constantly stop myself from rooting for the Rebels (the good guys, so to speak); because let’s be honest here, what are the odds that things are going to go well for them, when the whole story is being told from Tarkin’s perspective?
Having a bit of additional perspective on Darth Vader and Darth Sidious was a bonus, in my opinion. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything other than just Tarkin, based on the title (though the description does imply otherwise). Seeing all of the planning and plotting that goes on inside the Empire was intriguing to say the least. Frankly, if Sidious didn’t have all of his men actively trying to one up each other, I’d be wondering how they got anything done over there (one can only imagine how many delays occurring when a backstabbing occurs on the regular).
I found this to be a compelling read, though I’ll admit there were times that it was a little on the slow side. I really enjoyed Luceno’s writing style on the whole, and am glad that he’s been brought into the fold. I can’t wait to see what he produces next for Star Wars.
Bottleneck by John Jackson Miller
After reading Tarkin’s story it may be odd to have it immediately followed up by a short story with him being one of the main characters, but in a way it works. This story is based almost entirely on Gilvaanen, where the production facilities are for the Storm Trooper armor. The other main character of the story is none other than Vidian himself.
As it turns out – the Empire has grown too fast for the production of Storm Trooper armor. They literally have more Storm Troopers than they do armor, which is a crazy thought. Tarkin and Vidian have been sent to Gilvaanen to attempt to boost productivity. Needless to say there’s no room for failure on their part, nor do they intend to humor the idea of it.
Talk about a power team. Tarkin is practical and warlike with his precision, while Vidian is a brilliant organizer and problem solver. Together they make quick form of the two facilities, routing out the problems and bringing in solutions.
There’s also a brief mention of Sloan in this short story – the relevance to which will become clearer later. In this novella she gets a promotion and is allowed her own Star Destroyer (as she is to escort Vidian on his duties).
Establishing Vidian and his abilities/though processes will further help the setting for A New Dawn, but more on that later.
This story did a great job establishing three separate characters and their unique goals. Seeing Tarkin and Vidian and their different approaches to the same problem was fascinating. I almost wish that this novella had been longer, but it is what it is.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
While watching Star Wars: Rebels did you ever find yourself wondering how the characters ended up meeting each other in the first place? A New Dawn doesn’t tell us the full story, but it does tell us how Hera and Kanan met, and since they’re both my favorites of the series (cough totally not biased cough) I’m inclined to consider their meeting the most important.
As far as where A New Dawn fits in with the rest of the canon series, I can give you a pretty good estimate for that one. Movie wise it fits in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. As far as the books go it’s tucked between Thrawn and Lost Stars (both are fantastic, in case you were wondering).
A New Dawn is not quite what I was expecting, but I loved it anyway. This was a great prelude to the Rebels series, if I may say so. I for one have always had questions about many of the characters in Rebels, but in particular I’ve been wondering about Kanan and Hera, and this novel finally gives me a few of the answers I’ve been hoping for. Granted, it doesn’t tell me everything, but I’ll take what I can get!
For some reason I had always assumed that Kanan had gotten Hera into the Rebellion, rather than the other way around, but I’ve officially been proven wrong. In this novel we have Kanan essentially in hiding after the fall of the Jedi (for more information on how Kanan survived that, go ahead and read his graphic novels). Meanwhile Hera is the bold and brave agent trying to gather information and make a difference in the galaxy. I wasn’t expecting that twist, and while Kanan immediately steps up to help Hera out, the fact remains that he may not have had she not been there. It’s interesting food for thought.
I loved the character interactions in this story, as well as getting a chance to know the characters without having the others around (not that I don’t love them all – especially Chopper). So often we’ve been forced to see one or both of them guarded, but here they’re a bit more open. Okay, that’s not completely true, as they both have a lot of secrets, but there’s an instant connection between the two that draws them to each other (okay, it’s mostly Kanan being drawn to Hera, but still).
It was interesting to see both characters in a different point in their lives. Hera is confident in her abilities, but she hasn’t hit the point where she feels comfortable working in a team (even thought that is vital for finishing many of the missions she hopes to take on). Meanwhile Kanan is still hurting from his past, and unsure of what he should make of his future. By joining the Rebellion he’s essentially decided to stop sitting on the sideline and instead start fighting for hope. It’s a great change for him, and is wonderful to see it happen.
The antagonist for the series is an interesting one. While he is more physically intimidating than Tarkin, I almost want to put him on the same level. Vidian is a scary dude – and that’s before taking his cyborg body into account. He’s cold and calculating and clearly has no problem coming to lethal conclusions for the sake of business. In short he’s the perfect antagonist for our newly founded team.
I know I’m biased because I love Hera and Kanan (though mostly Hera – she’s one of my favorite characters in all of Star Wars, which is saying something), but I really enjoyed this novel. It’s fast paced and witty and everything else one would hope to find in a Star Wars novel. Even the battle scenes (the few that there were) were pretty great. I know it’s unlikely we’ll see another full novel about any of the Rebels characters, but I would so love it should another one come out. Here’s hoping!
The Levers of Power by Jason Fry
Remember when I said that establishing Sloan’s character would be useful in unexpected ways? Well I was referring to this short story. This one takes place during the Battle of Endor. Sloan is aboard the Vigilance (as she is in command of it), and is watching the battle by the Death Star (2.0) take place as well as making the attempt to see what is happening on the ground. I probably don’t have to point out what’s going to happen next.
Obviously Sloan doesn’t know which way the battle will turn, but her instincts were surprisingly sharp. It just goes to show that some of the people on the Empire’s side were not there out of blind faith (unlike a certain other member on the bridge…oddly enough he didn’t make it…go figure).
This was an interesting tactical perspective on the Battle of Endor (not to mention it was from the losing side – which was interesting to see). Sloan isn’t the harshest character I’ve met in the Star Wars universe, but she’s on the top ten for most practical; she’ll always prioritize that over ethics any day.
This was an interesting choice for the conclusion of this compilation. It’s obviously the latest as far as chronology is concerned, and likely is the reason it was put at the end. Still, it was a bit of a jump from A New Dawn to this. Once I settled in on the timeframe things went pretty smoothly.