Friday, April 24, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: A New Dawn

This week I decided to review Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. The story opens with a short scene regarding a number of young Jedi trainees being instructed about and shown the Emergency recall beacon. One of them, Caleb Dume, is questioned about why the beacon might be activated. After replying, Caleb asks if it might instead be used to warn Jedi to stay away from Coruscant. The story then skips forward to eight years after the events of the movie Revenge of the Sith. The new Imperial class Star Destroyer Ultimatum comes out of hyperspace on the edge of the safe jump zone in the Gorse system and is grazed by a nearby freighter which is unable to evade in time. The Gorse system is a major source of Thorilide crystals, a key component in turbolaser manufacture. The Ultimatum’s mission is to transport and support Imperial Count Vidian who has been assigned to increase efficiency of Thorilide production. The count swiftly orders the destruction of the damaged freighter after determining that getting a new cargo ship will take less time than the worst case projection for repairs. This incident is witnessed by Hera Syndulla, en route to meet a new contact, and Caleb, now known as Kanan Jarrus, has a job transporting highly unstable explosives to the mines of the moon Cynda. Soon after landing, Kanan is approached by Skelly, a Clone Wars veteran and explosives expert who claims to have found proof that if mining practices aren’t altered they could crack and destroy Cynda. Unfortunately when Skelly mentions the Empire having a possible disaster on its hands, the conversation is recorded by Imperial surveillance gear and routed to the team of Zaluna, a Sullustan surveillance worker. She flags Skelly as a potential threat which leads to stormtroopers being sent to arrest Skelly who sets off a bomb and flees. Meanwhile, Hera’s contact, who is part of Zaluna’s team, is arrested, but not before asking Zaluna to deliver some data to Hera. This sets off a wide variety of misadventures as Skelly tries to avoid capture and present his information to Count Vidian, whom he believes will alter mining procedures to ease the stress on the moon, while Hera tries to meet her contact, and Kanan mostly tries to stay out of the whole mess. But when Skelly delivers the data to Vidian, rather than alter procedures to save the moon the Count, who is being pushed to rapidly increase production, decides that cracking to moon open will ease access to the Thorilide buried in the moon’s depths, and sets in motion plans to blow the moon apart. When a test of the technique being planned kills Kana’s closest friend on the moon he, Hera, Skelly, and Zaluna all find themselves allied in a desperate struggle to save Cynda.
I give the book an 8 out of 10. I thought it was well written for the most part and the twists at the end were very well done. It mostly served as a prequel to the Rebels cartoon, but by introducing new characters allied to the heroes, it was saved from knowing that all the good guys will escape unscathed, and the space sequences were well done as well. While not my favorite parts of the story, this is a tale where the kinds of battles I love most just would not make sense.

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