Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

‘STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE JEDI’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

‘Heir to the Jedi’ is a journey inside the mind of Luke Skywalker.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
A thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and, for the first time ever, written entirely from Luke Skywalker’s first-person point of view.
Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot–and in the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause.
A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever-resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire.
Challenged by ruthless imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.
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©2015 Kevin Hearne (P)2004 Random House Audio


THE PLOT:

This is a critical time in the life of Luke Skywalker. He has encountered the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi and as a result has taken his first steps towards becoming a Jedi himself. Unfortunately, Ben was killed in the duel with Darth Vader aboard the Death Star and is no longer present in the life of Luke Skywalker to further his training. Luke has also become a hero for blowing up the Death Star and striking a blow against the Empire.
Luke proves that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. He has a very limited understanding of the force and that leads to him doing all manner of experimentation. At one point, he tries and fails to execute the same Jedi mind trick he saw Obi-Wan use on the stormtroopers during the original film. He has no idea how Ben did it or if the accompanying hand gesture that Ben used has anything to do with it. When it doesn’t work after several attempts, Luke is still no closer to understanding. All he can do is guess.
As this novel is told from Luke’s point of view, we are with him at all times. We don’t follow any Imperials and we are only told about their tactics by the expert slicer that Luke and his team are sent to reunite with her family.
If I have one major criticism of the story, it is that you pretty much know the ending from the beginning. Obviously Luke Skywalker and R2D2 must survive because their stories have already been continued in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Return of the Jedi’ and beyond. As for the other characters, they are more expendable because the story continues with or without them. So in that case, it makes it a little harder to care about whether they survive the journey or not. Hearne tries his best to put the characters in some kind of danger where you wonder how they might survive, but it never felt to me like Luke’s survival was anything less than a certainty. That’s the sacrifice you make when you want to tell a story between two other stories that have already been told.
One of the new rules that came about as a result of the switch to a new continuity is that some of the language has been changed. No longer do ships have “freshers”, now they have bathrooms. The change was made in part so that new readers wouldn’t feel like they needed to understand a whole new set of terms to understand the novel.
While I can certainly understand the motivation, I don’t think it works as well in execution. For one thing, it is usually pretty plain by context what a “fresher” is on a ship and I would hope that people’s ability to grasp context hasn’t been diminished that greatly. On the other hand, when you read a section of the story where Luke is struggling to use a coffee maker, it kind of makes the whole thing feel a lot less magical. I don’t really need to spend time wondering if Luke Skywalker will ever become a better cook.
Criticisms of language and story aside, I do feel as though Hearne got Luke’s voice right for the most part. I feel like he was able to get into the mind of the character and capture the emotion of his struggle with his newfound sense of responsibility. We see his anguish over having nobody he can talk to who could further his force skill development, his grief over the loss of Ben, his aunt and uncle and his friends. Luke also must deal with the crushing weight of expectation. How do you top yourself after blowing up a Death Star?
The problem is that while the emotion is there, it is surrounded by a lot of silliness. Luke decides to practice his force techniques on noodles throughout the story. I get the idea that you would want him to start with something small, but did it really have to be food? It seems that something like a lock on a door might have felt more consequential. But in Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker plays with his food, so like father like son I suppose.


THE AUTHOR:

This is Kevin Hearne‘s debut novel in the Star Wars universe. The challenges he faced were quite daunting. First of all, you have the obvious problem of telling a story between two that have already been told, which limits your ability to surprise the reader.
Second, you have a novel from the first person point of view of a very iconic character. Hardcore Star Wars fans think they know how Luke should think, act and feel at all times. Putting thoughts in the head of a character that people think they know so well is not an easy assignment to take on.
I believe Hearne has a good understanding of the character of Luke Skywalker. In some ways, such as his struggle with the Jedi mind trick and his personal sense of loss, I feel he did a good job of humanizing the character. I could have lived without Luke burning the food or making a bad cup of coffee, however.
I hope that Hearne is someday able to write another first person point of view Star Wars novel that can exist in a less confined space. The perspective he brings to the series is a fresh one, even if some of the execution could be improved.


THE NARRATION:

It is another strong performance by Marc Thompson. I find it difficult at times to think of new ways to praise Thompson’s voice work on these Star Wars audiobooks. He is clearly a fan of the franchise and, having narrated a large number of the books, he has an extra understanding of what is going on in the minds of these characters.
That’s what makes this performance so enjoyable. Both Hearne and Thompson are able to get to the foundation of what Luke Skywalker could logically be expected to be thinking and feeling at the time between ‘A New Hope’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Thompson’s reading conveys every bit of the frustration, nervousness, wonder and sometimes hopelessness found in Hearne’s writing of the character.


THE PRODUCTION:

If you are a veteran listener of Star Wars audiobooks, then you know what you’re getting here. There is heavy use of sound effects all over the track and musical accompaniment as well. The track is divided into 24 chapters, one for each chapter of the book.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

I have already reviewed ‘A New Dawn’ and ‘Tarkin’ and this is the weakest of the three. It possesses the most emotional depth of any Star Wars novel I have read in quite some time, and in that sense it is a nice change of pace. However, after you’ve tapped into the force to blow up a Death Star, tapping into it again to lift a fork seems like a bit of a step back.
When it comes to Star Wars literature, you could do a lot worse than ‘Heir to the Jedi’. Some of the supporting characters are quite interesting, and there are some ideas that Hearne presents that are worth further development down the road. A lot of the criticisms stem from the fact that there is really only one way this story could have gone and so it went there, which made it a lot less suspenseful. As I said, I’d like to see Hearne operate in an area where he would have more freedom to tell a story from inside the head of one of these iconic characters.
I do admit I probably liked ‘Heir to the Jedi’ more than a lot of reviewers. This is because I appreciated the emotional development of the Luke Skywalker character and feel that part at least made sense. This story feels inconsequential, but at least I think I have a better understanding of the things that motivated Luke to continue to try and understand the force on his own between his last encounter with Ben Kenobi and his first encounter with Yoda.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi Kevin Hearne Marc Thompson Random House Audio Science Fiction 03/03/2015 9 hours, 2 minutes 6.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE JEDI’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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