Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars: Lost Stars review

    Lost Stars is the chronicles of the treacherous Thane Kyrell, murderous rebel and terrorist, who betrays the courageous Imperial officer Ciena Ree. Ciena Ree overcomes her budding attraction for the charismatic sociopath and shows the people of the galaxy her tireless loyalty to the values of Emperor Palpatine's New Order.


    Oh, sorry, that's my inner Imperial leaking out. Lost Stars is a Young Adult novel about two childhood friends who find themselves on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War who, nevertheless, keep bumping into each other despite the unlikeliness of events. The two debate issues of loyalty, friendship, love, the greater good, and honor in a galaxy torn apart by the conflict between the Rebellion and Empire. Honestly, this is the best Star Wars novel since Shatterpoint and one of my favorites along with the X-wing novels as well as The Thrawn Trilogy. It is not an epic storyline but it is a well-written personal storyline which I feel touches on a lot of issues which don't normally get addressed in the franchise.

    Lost Stars gives a "man on the street" perspective about the Galactic Civil War, Rebellion, Death Star, Empire, and other elements we've never really seen. It tackles the subjects of war, loyalty, patriotism vs. nationalism, idealism, and even insurgency with a surprisingly deft hand. It is one of the few Young Adult novels I would say stands with The Hunger Games as something I think is worth making into a movie. I would very much love to see Disney do this novel as an anthology movie. Sadly, the fact so much of it takes place dring the Original Trilogy means that it would feel like a bit of a rehash and that's a shame. Have I praised it enough? Well, too bad, because it's going to get some more praise before this review is over.

    The premise of the book is two childhood friends from the Outer Rim Territories, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, are lucky enough to gain admittance to the Imperial Academy on Coruscant thanks to their amazing gift for flying. Thane Kyrell is an atheist cynic from a privileged background who wants nothing more than to fly. Ciena Ree is a poor spiritual idealist who wants to serve the people of the galaxy. Ultimately, they both end up joining the Empire and get assigned to the Death Star as well as Darth Vader's flagship. Their encounters with both influence them as does their budding romance, taking them from the Battle of Yavin to the Battle of Jakku. One will join the Rebellion while the other will continue to serve the Empire faithfully--both of them terrified of accidentally killing the other.

    Honestly, despite the book's meaty size, I think the story's biggest flaw is it actually felt kind of rushed as there's a whole series of Young Adult Novel material spread throughout this novel. I could have easily seen this story spread out across three smaller volumes with some more elaboration on the specific events. Even with the events rather definitely dealt with, I'd like to see a sequel to the novel which follows with their reaction to the Rise of the First Order as well as the ensuing Galactic Cold War.

    The heart of the story is how people rationalize away evil as well as try to have faith in systems which don't, necessarily, deserve them. Ciena Ree believes the Galactic Empire is a force for good in the galaxy that has brought stability as well as opportunity to the universe. We get to watch her deal with illusion after illusion being stripped away from her even as she stubbornly clings to the believe you don't betray your oaths. Thane Kyrell has the more stereotypical narrative of the fed-up Imperial officer who joins the Rebellion but even here there's subversion as he never really warms up to their feel-good noble pro-democracy narrative.

    I actually was really fond of the character Nash Windrider, an Alderaanian Imperial who, in the face of the mass murder of his planet, chooses to double down on his Imperial loyalty and make their genocide into a kind of bizarre sacrifice for the greater good. Ciena Ree, justifiably, thinks Nash is insane, though she has weird reasoning. For example, when Nash becomes murderously angry at Thane joining the Rebel Alliance, she thinks this is a sign of fanaticism versus the fact it's his equivalent of a former Army buddy joining Al-Qaeda. Even if I didn't have my planet blown up, I would absolutely want to kill a former close friend who was now trying to kill me. It's a monumental betrayal.

    I also love how the novel goes about humanizing the Imperials. We often see the Rebels as gung-ho and ready to wipe out groups of them only to switch over to see them going about their daily business. Many times being people we know on an intimate level. I hope we do get a sequel to the book, even if it doesn't need it, and I'd like to see Ciena Ree join the First Order to build a life for herself there. She and Aftermath's Admiral Sloane have many similarities that would play off well against one another.

    Lost Stars has a surprisingly diverse cast from descriptions and I heartily approve of Disney doing its best to make sure the global Star Wars fandom is represented. Another reason I would like to see this made into a movie. Is it a perfect book? No, no it is not. The number of tie-ins and coincidences stretches credibility a bit too much but not so much I didn't love it.


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