A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… there was an expanded universe.
For many that don’t know, books, video games, cartoons, comic books, and other mediums blossomed from the original Star Wars movies after they ended. They told further adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han. They went far into the future of the galaxy as well as deep into its past. They formed a passionate fan base.
I never got into them. Mostly because every time I looked at the plots of these books they just looked like more of the same. Once upon a time, George Lucas spoke of the prequels as poem and rhyme. As in, their stories were never intended to be the same as the originals but there would be thematic connections. He may have not managed those connections, mostly due to poor casting, but the intent is admirable.
There’s a conversation to be had here about The Force Awakens, but I refuse to spoil it.
Anyway, when Disney acquired Star Wars they very quickly threw out the old expanded universe so they could build their new one. Marvel started writing new Star Wars comics that have been critical successes. Why? Because for the most part they were rhyming with the movies instead of recreating them. I expected I would be okay remaining outside the expanded universe, but then I heard about Lost Stars.
Actually that title is incorrect. The full title of the book is Journey to The Force Awakens: Star Wars: Lost Stars.
Ugh. But still, the story is an instant hook. Two children grow up in the Empire controlled galaxy, join the empire, fall in love, and then run into trouble as one defects and joins the rebellion.
Thane Kyrell and Cienna Ree grow up on the planet Jelucan. Part of their culture is that every oath they take must be completely honored. When they are little, the Empire arrives and greatly improves their world.
It’s the empire stuff that is fascinating. For once we can see the humanity beneath those grey hats and uniforms. Thane and Cienna make oaths to serve the empire, and while they’re at the academy we meet many other imperial hopefuls. People from Lothal and Coruscant and even Alderran.
On that note, what makes the book stand out to me is a specific scene that takes place after the Death Star destroys Alderran. This is the moment Thane realizes the Empire isn’t as good as he thought it was. Ironically he never questioned naming a space station The Death Star, where he was stationed for months, but that’s a problem all over the Empire. Their Star Destroyers have names like The Annihilator, The Subjugator, and The Inflictor. Someone needs to get the Empire a PR person.
But I digress. Cienna needs to find a good reason why her Empire would ever do such a thing as catastrophic as destroy a planet. What she and a friend conclude is that what they did was a preventative measure. The Rebels are terrorists, and a war with them would bring about great casualties, but if they could show how much power the Empire has, maybe the Rebels would surrender and no one else would have to die.
For those keeping score, that’s how we in America rationalized nuking a city in Japan.
Which means that by the time the Empire builds Death Star 2, because this story goes from before A New Hope all the way through the battle of Jakku after Return of the Jedi, most of the imperials think about it the same way as our second bombing. Maybe they will understand after a second time.
Lost Stars is written by Claudia Gray, a writer of several YA book series. the Evernight Series, the Spellcaster Series, and the Firebird Series. Their names are all I know of them, but I am greatly considering giving them a look now.
Lost Stars is excellent, despite occasionally suffering from Off Screen Syndrome, where the characters are almost literally right outside the frame of the movies, and I highly recommend it.
If more of the expanded universe books coming out have such singular stories to tell, ones that couldn’t possibly be told in the movies, then I will be on board to keep reading. If I want a story about plucky heroes taking down an evil emperor and a scary star base, I’ll go to the movies. But to get smaller stories, with greater emotional stakes, I think the expanded universe is going to be a wonderful place.
PS Lost Stars is also easily the sexiest Star Wars story I’ve ever read. Han and Leia may be romantic, but Thane and Cienna together is just plain hot.