Before the Awakening

Add this one to your essential The Force Awakens reading list. Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka not only sheds some great light on three key characters from the film, but also bangs out a book that’s just plain fun to read. Broken down into three stories, this book tells a tale about Finn, a tale about Rey and a tale about Poe. In each one, we get a glimpse of the characters before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We find out what their lives were like before film and what led them to where they are. It ties in very closely with the events of the film, and for those who are going crazy on those unanswered questions, this book will answer a few.

First off, this book is marketed as a middle reader book by Disney Lucasfilm Press, but don’t let that dissuade you. Rucka does a great job of writing these stories for adults and children alike, the only compromise being the lack of adult content which really isn’t an issue with a Star Wars story. The writing and the content isn’t dumbed down. It’s poignant, intelligent and well crafted. At 224 pages, this hardcover will give you a couple enjoyable evenings of Star Wars escapism with some of your favorite characters. Considering what it adds to each, further fleshing out the movie, this book is a must have.

The book kicks off with Finn, which I would say is the weakest of the three stories within. The problem is that the conditions of the stormtroopers in the First Order restricts some of the fun elements we got from Finn in the film. He doesn’t get to socialize much, so we don’t get his wit or any funny interactions with other characters. Instead it’s a story with a very serious tone. We see Finn as a cadet in the top of his class, but struggling with his empathy. Trained by Captain Phasma, the First Order tries to drill out the empathy from Finn. We get to see who his fellow cadets are, two of which are in the movie (the stormtrooper who gets killed and leaves a bloody hand print, and the stormtrooper who yells “Traitor!” and has the fancy stun baton). We also get to see the melee weapons training they undergo which helps explain why Finn is able to use a lightsaber in the film. But the most important aspect is the reasons for why Finn leaves the First Order and why he’s able to turn on his fellow stormtroopers so quickly and so easily. These are not people of empathy and compassion like him. He realizes he’s different, that the people around him aren’t friends, and that they would as soon turn on him and kill him if the order came. There’s no love lost between them, and the one weak tie he had to the order is crushed on that opening battle of Jakku. While it is the weakest of the three stories in my opinion, it still does a good job of providing some backstory for the character. My only gripes would be not seeing any of his likeable humor, or a good tie-in for his role in sanitation on Starkiller Base.

The second story in the book is Rey, which is by far my favorite. Of course Rey is also my favorite new character in the film. In her story, we see what her live of scavenging is like on the planet Jakku. We find out what her daily routine is like, waking up in the morning to search old wrecks, haggling with Unkar Plutt for food, and dealing with other scavengers. While we don’t find out who her parents are, we do find out how she learns to fly. The story shows off her mechanical ingenuity as she fixes things, but also her struggle with trust. Her life on Jakku has been a harsh, solitary existence, one where you can’t afford to trust others without a good measure of risk. In this story, she deals with that issue, and it has some touching moments. It’s a nice look at the character, her mental state and motivations, as well as her skills and determination. If you’re a Rey fan, you’ll love it.

Wrapping up the book is Poe, the best damn pilot in the galaxy. Poe’s story is pretty good. We get some of his wit and humor as he interacts with fellow pilots and his trusty astromech BB-8. The story shows his life prior to the Resistance as a pilot for the New Republic. We see him and his squadron come up against the First Order. There are glimpses of the turmoil between the First Order, the New Republic, the squabbling politics and a dangerous air of ignorance that is allowing an enemy to grow. It justifies why Poe leaves the Republic to join the Resistance, gives readers an idea of how the Resistance works and what they’re after, plus it shows Poe’s own thoughts on his parents, history and duty. With all the starfighter combat, in has an old X-Wing book vibe to it as the prose tackles the challenges of dogfights in space and visualizes complex maneuvers. Rucka does a good job with it, keeping it interesting and easy enough to follow.

With three stories ranging from good to great, Before the Awakening presents an entertaining story that helps flesh out The Force Awakens and brings readers a deeper understanding of the characters in the film. It’s one of the best tie-ins I’ve read so far as it’s one of the only books out there to deal directly with the main characters and the events pertinent to the movie. I highly recommend this one and give it a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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