So you’ve probably noticed I’ve made a few Star Wars posts lately. This is probably the last one for the next few months though, unless I do decide to start picking up Star Wars comics again. I briefly mentioned this book in my Why Rey from the Force Awakens is not a Mary Sue post but since I write about all the fiction books I read, it’s worth talking about Star Wars: Before the Awakening.
Written by Greg Rucka, Before the Awakening takes place shortly before the new movie, featuring three short stories that vary in mood and setting. The first is about FN-2187 before he became Finn, and it explores his training as a Stormtrooper and some of the culture within the First Order. The second is about Rey and her work as a scavenger on Jakku. The third features Poe in what’s kind of a fun, short version of an X-Wing book. Phil Noto draws both the cover and six illustrations within, which is a really nice touch.
FN-2187’s story is probably the most interesting of the three since it shows us the First Order’s power structure, culture and training methods. 2187 happens to be one of the most promising Stormtroopers currently in training, landing in the top 1% in almost all areas. No wonder he’s able to plow through other Stormtroopers in the movie. Although he’s a crack shot and tactically smart, his empathy scores are way too high for his superior’s liking, and yes, Captain Phasma is his direct superior. After a few training session and a “diplomatic mission”, the story ends with 2187’s firing team being deployed to Jakku for the start of the movie. Overall, it’s a great story and probably the real highlight of Before the Awakening because it gives us something new in the Star Wars mythology.
Rey’s story is probably the most dramatic of the three, and it’s also quite good. This story greatly expands on Rey’s loner nature and how hard it is to survive on Jakku as a lowly scavenger. At the same time, she does warm up to two other scavengers who help her with a big opportunity she discovers after a sand storm shifts the sand around. I won’t spoil it, but the story gets more fun at about the half-way point, and it shows how she developed some of her more impressive skills that she uses in the movie. Also, it’s mentioned that she jerry rigged a working flight simulator in using part of an A-Wing cockpit and data discs, although it’s not specified exactly when she did this. In the end she learns a valuable lesson that leads into her further character development in The Force Awakens. Unlike the other two stories, this one doesn’t necessarily end right before the movie begins. In terms of overall quality, it’s just as good as FN-2187’s story.
As I said in the introduction, Poe’s story is basically a shorter version of an X-Wing book, and that’s not a bad thing. He actually starts this story off as a New Republic pilot, going on patrols instead of actively fighting the First Order. This story does a lot to explain what’s going on with the three factions. We learn the Resistance’s relations with the New Republic, the First Order and the Republic, and more hints to where the First Order really came from. It’s to the point where I wish some of this was in the movie. After finding some suspicious attacks by the First Order, Poe directly disobeys orders and ends up leaving the Republic to join the Resistance after meeting Leia herself. Yup, Leia is an important supporting character in this story. The story ends right when Poe is about to head to Jakku to grab the map to Luke Skywalker. This story is fun and makes sense of a few details the movie skimmed out on, but it’s not as good as the other two.
All three of these stories are enjoyable in their own way, but more importantly, they add something to the movie itself. Part of what makes Finn a great character is that through him, we can explore the inner workings of the Empire and The First Order in ways we never have before, and that’s exactly what his story does in this book. Rey’s story is a story about survival, pushing your limits and learning how to trust people. Poe’s story adds a lot more information about what’s going on in the galaxy.
Also this is a fairly short read. I’m not the fastest reader in the world – it generally takes me a bit more than an hour to read through 60 pages of a novel, and it usually takes me 2 days to read through a book that’s between 300 and 400 pages. Each of these stories took me about half an hour to read through. It’s marketed mostly toward kids, but the writing is definitely good enough for adults to enjoy as well. If you enjoyed the Force Awakens and would like to know more about these characters or the state of the Galaxy, then I highly recommend this book.