Book Review: A New Dawn

a new dawn book cover

First of all, if anyone wants my copy of A New Dawn, I will gladly send it your way for free.  Yup, I’ll pay for shipping too.  If I’m not going to read a book again, I like to share the love and give it to someone else who may appreciate it.  And from there, I hope the book karma continues.

A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller follows the life of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla before they had formed the crew of Ghost as we know it in Star Wars Rebels.  The novel shows how they met and how they decided to stay together as a team.  Watching SWR, I always loved Kanan and Hera’s relationship.  They have a great friendship and my hope is that Disney does not take it in the direction of a romantic relationship only because I think that it’s so rare to see examples of male/female friendships on TV and in movies…so I love seeing this one that works.  And it works so well.

But how did it get to that point?  When did they first meet?  That’s what A New Dawn goes to show us.  The novel has its moments, and I enjoyed some of it, but there were parts that really bothered me as well.

**Spoiler Warning**

We start off by following Kanan and learning that he’s kind of this lone ranger guy (didn’t see that coming).  He works hard at very standard, physical jobs but doesn’t stick around in a place long enough to make lasting friends.  At one such job, there’s a man named Skelly, a former Clone Wars veteran who knows how to build explosives and understands the workings of the planet Cynda and the damage the Empire is doing to it by mining out thorilide.  Kanan realizes it’s finally time to start leaving this planet because he’s been there too long when the Empire starts showing a special interest in its raw material and sends Count Vidian (cue bad guy music) there to make use of it.  Skelly makes a mess of things and Kanan is forced to stick around a little longer than he would have liked, and by mistake, gets attached to Skelly as the story goes on.

Hera enters the story because she is already part of the Rebellion and they want her to find out what Count Vidian’s up to.  Now, it might not officially be the Rebellion yet, but let’s keep it at that for simplicity’s sake.  As she follows around Count Vidian, she inevitably meets up with Kanan and Skelly where they have a bunch of adventures trying to stop Vidian from destroying Cynda.  Skelly dies, as does Vidian (naturally), and Kanan and Hera go off and form a team together.  Though reluctant to have Kanan as her partner, as she also operates alone in missions, Hera does eventually give in and see the advantage of having Kanan with her due to his personality, ethics, and quick thinking in tight spots.  Having the Force probably helps too.

There’s the basic story.  My real thoughts are:

Pros:

  • Kanan and Hera’s relationship stayed strictly as friends. You can tell Kanan wants something more and finds her SloaneKananattractive, but Hera keeps him at a good distance.  Going into this novel, I was most worried about a romantic back story, but none of that happened.
  • A good amount of female characters. We see a female commanding officer of a Star Destroyer in the Empire: Captain Sloane.  There’s also Hera, Lal Grallik (a woman Besalisk manager who mines thorilide), and Zaluna, a Sullustan Imperial spy, but not by choice. She ends up turning on the Empire and helping out Kanan and Hera.  She was my favorite new character in the novel.  Oh yeah, and there are female stormtroopers. Not sure how I felt about that one as I’m not sure it makes sense.  I always assumed the Empire was largely misogynistic at that point in the timeline.
  • Weirdly, you kind of root for the Empire in a strange way towards the end. Miller does a good job at showing the reader that it’s not always cut and dry, good and bad.  When Sloane plays a part in stopping Count Vidian, despite all the promises he threw to her, you cheer for her even though you have a moment of, “Oh wait – but the Empire is bad.”
  • Kanan does a good job at hiding his abilities in the Force. I think as an author, it can be tempting when you have a character with “superpowers” to bring these into the story consistently.  If I remember correctly, Kanan only showed his Force abilities 3 times in the novel, and twice would make it seem questionable to an outsider.  The last time, he saves him and Hera from impending death (of course) and it makes her see him in a new light. Though the last instance was somewhat predictable, I didn’t mind as much because I knew it had to happen eventually.

Cons:

  • Not enough time with Hera. We did get into her point of view occasionally, but didn’t find out much about her background. There was a lot more of that with Kanan and I felt that though the author could have set out to make this a Kanan/Hera story equally, it felt like there was WAY more emphasis on Kanan.  So in the end, it was a male driven story.
  • The story line as a whole seemed like it was trying just a little too hard and playing a little too safe. Miller wanted to make it as Star Wars as possible, but instead it got boring at times and felt predictable. The plot was very convenient and set up in a way that things fell nicely into place.  He wrapped it up in a nice little box that says “Star War Novel”, when instead, the stories that stand out in the EU are the ones that broke new ground and gave us something different, but felt similar.
  • Speaking of predictable, the main nemesis, Count Vidian was not that interesting. I felt like he was General Grievous all over again.  Intelligent, cyborg-ish, and ruthless.    Whenever we were in his point of view, I realized I just didn’t care.

My main gripe with this book is that I wanted more Hera involvement.  I wanted to understand her character, what drove her to ANewDawnbe so passionate about getting rid of the Empire, and what her past was like.

The best thing out of this book is getting to know a lot more about Kanan and understanding that while the Empire is evil, there are some beings within it that make it even more evil.  And sometimes you have to pick between a lesser evil and greater evil, which was what happened at the end of the novel.  You may not be able to take out the entire Empire, but maybe taking out one horrible Count is enough of a small victory.

I’d give A New Dawn 3/5 stars.  It’s a solid book and there are parts of the novel that felt really Star Wars to me, but there were also quite a few times when I thought Miller was trying a little too hard.

Want to read this book?  Let me know.  I’ll mail it to you.

Haiku Me Friday!

For some reason, I think these posts should have an exclamation point.  I mean, they sound so exciting.  HAIKU ME FRIDAY!  WOOO.

I think Ewan McGregor did a great job as younger Obi-Wan, especially when he had some terrible lines.  I also think that Sir Alec Guinness did an amazing job with older Obi-Wan, especially as he had no real knowledge of the character, setting, or universe.

But sometimes I have a hard time acknowledging them as the same person.  It really makes me wonder what happened during those 19 years that he was on Tatooine.  I really want to read Miller’s Kenobi, but another part of me is like, “Why bother? It’s not canon now anyway.”  Yet I’d love to see the author’s take on those many years when you go from one of the greatest Jedi in the universe to having to hide yourself away from everyone.  And also coming to grips with the fact that you trained and became friends with the person who is now a dark monster, creating fear across the galaxy.  He must have had so many “What if” questions. What if I had a closer watch on Anakin?  What if I had investigated Palpatine more closely?  What if I decided not to train Anakin, despite Qui-Gon’s wishes?  What if the Jedi paid more attention to what was around them?  What if the Jedi stayed out of so many political conflicts?

GOSH.  I can’t even imagine living with that for 19 years.  Oh, and do you think he had a set time he was planning on training Luke?  Or do you think he was hoping Luke would be satisfied with being a farmer his whole life and the Skywalker line would die out?  Did he even have a plan regarding Luke or was his only plan to make sure Vader didn’t find him?

These were my thoughts when I crafted my haiku today.

Ewan portrays youth Alec Guinness portrays depth Obi-Wan changes

Ewan portrays youth
Alec Guinness portrays depth
Obi-Wan changes

Scene it on Friday – ANH Scene #58

ANH lightsaber battle

I never got the impression that Ben was “under increasing pressure and strain, as if an invisible weight were being placed upon him.” I just rewatched the clip on YouTube, but didn’t see anything to really signify this tension.

I think it would have been interesting to actually see that weird spaz. It would have shown us how Sith and Jedi not just fight with lightsabers and weapons, but with something much more invisible. It would have given us a slightly larger view into how the Force worked…especially this early on, presuming you saw it in 1977.

Also, notice how the script calls for Ben Kenobi taking the offensive stance and Vader taking the defense. Knowing what we now know with the Jedi, Sith, etc., shouldn’t it have been the other way around? According to Yoda, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack”, which I also briefly touched upon on another Scene it on Friday post. Since this is the first Star Wars movie and maybe Lucas hadn’t fleshed out all the kinks with the Jedi yet, I’ll let it slide.

old ben obi wan vaderCan you imagine what it must be like? For both of them…seeing each other after 19 years? The last time they saw one another, Vader had just taken part of the Jedi Purge and was screaming hateful words at Obi-Wan after a heated (pun!) lightsaber fight. Now Vader is this towering monster of calm, dark energy, which is almost scarier than his tumultuous emotion at the end of ROTS.

Do you think Obi-Wan is nervous in this scene? Frightened? I have always thought that he was, but I’m not sure if I’m projecting my own emotions onto him. When I first saw this, I was frightened by this confrontation of Vader, so maybe I assumed Obi-Wan would also be frightened. He just moves so tentatively toward Vader, as if knowing that this might happen, but hoping it wouldn’t. Maybe he dreaded the confrontation, but when he finally met Vader, he was calm.

Why does Vader say that Obi-Wan’s powers are weak? How can they be weaker? It’s not like a car, which gets rusty after too many years of neglect. (I should really read Kenobi by John Jackson Miller) I’m sure Obi-Wan is just as strong in the Force as he was 19 years ago.

Perhaps, Vader’s strength in the Force is now so completely in tune to the dark side that Obi-Wan’s power feels so much weaker. Though Yoda tells us the dark side is not stronger, I’m sure it seems stronger to those wielding it.

I feel bad for Luke in this scene, as he watches Obi-Wan just disappear. How was he to know that Old Ben would be able to come back and still mentorLuke NO! him through a Force ghost? It’s been a hell of a 48-hour period (I’m guessing, I don’t actually know how long it was) for Luke. His Aunt and Uncle have been viciously burned to their deaths, he’s had to escape Tatooine with an ex-Jedi (that’s a death sentence from the Empire, fo sho), and then gets trapped in the Death Star. Now he’s running around evading stormtroopers and trying to rescue a princess currently scheduled to be terminated. He probably assumed that everything was going to be okay because Obi-Wan will make everything okay.

So I always felt this pang of empathy for him whenever he shouts that “No!” in the docking bay. It’s also a completely stupid thing to do, but I think he’s just in shock. Like…WHAT?! Everything is just changing so fast for him. He’s only known Kenobi a short time, but I feel like he felt like he was going to be with him a long while.

But what I don’t completely understand is WHY would you stay there? Get to the Falcon, kid! I’ll blame it on the shock factor again. Maybe he has some of his father’s anger that consumes him for a small time period and all he wants is revenge…against his father. LOL.

I enjoyed reading the script for this scene. It gave some more in depth insight to the making of this pivotal moment and after reading this, it’s interesting to see what was translated onto the screen.

obi wan duels vader

INTERIOR: DEATH STAR — HALLWAY LEADING TO MAIN FORWARD BAY.

Ben hurries along one of the tunnels leading to the hangar where the pirateship waits. Just before he reaches the hangar, Darth Vader steps into view at the end of the tunnel, not ten feet away. Vader lights his saber. Ben also ignites his and steps slowly forward.

VADER: I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete.

Ben Kenobi moves with elegant ease into a classical offensive position. The fearsome Dark Knight takes a defensive stance.

VADER: When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.

BEN: Only a master of evil, Darth.

The two Galactic warriors stand perfectly still for a few moments, sizing each other up and waiting for the right moment. Ben seems to be under increasing pressure and strain, as if an invisible weight were being placed upon him. He shakes his head and, blinking, tries to clear his eyes.

VADER: You should not have come back.

Ben makes a sudden lunge at the huge warrior but is checked by a lightning movement of The Sith. A masterful slash stroke by Vader is blocked by the old Jedi. Another of the Jedi’s blows is blocked, then countered. Ben moves around the Dark

Lord and starts backing into the massive starship hangar. The two powerful warriors stand motionless for a few moments with laser swords locked in mid-air, creating a low buzzing sound.

VADER: Your powers are weak, old man.

BEN: You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Their lightsabers continue to meet in combat.

INTERIOR: DEATH STAR — MAIN FORWARD BAY.

Han Solo and Chewbacca, their weapons in hand, lean back against the wall surveying the forward bay, watching the Imperial stormtroopers make their rounds of the hangar.

HAN: Didn’t we just leave this party?

Chewbacca growls a reply, as Luke and the princess join them.

HAN: What kept you?

LEIA: We ran into some old friends.

LUKE: Is the ship all right?

HAN: Seems okay, if we can get to it. Just hope the old man got the tractor beam out of commission.

INTERIOR: DEATH STAR — HALLWAY.

Vader and Ben Kenobi continue their powerful duel. As they hit their lightsabers together, lightning flashes on impact. Troopers look on in interest as the old Jedi and Dark Lord of The Sith fight. Suddenly Luke spots the battle from his group’s vantage point.

LUKE: Look!

Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie look up and see Ben and Vader emerging from the hallways on the far side of the docking bay.

INTERIOR: DEATH STAR — DOCKING BAY.

Threepio and Artoo-Detoo are in the center of the Death Star’s Imperial docking bay.

THREEPIO: Come on, Artoo, we’re going!

Threepio ducks out of sight as the seven stormtroopers who were guarding the starship rush past them heading towards Ben and The Sith Knight. He pulls on Artoo.

INTERIOR: DEATH STAR — HALLWAY.

Solo, Chewie, Luke, and Leia tensely watch the duel. The troops rush toward the battling knights.

HAN: Now’s our chance! Go!

They start for the Millennium Falcon. Ben sees the troops charging toward him and realizes that he is trapped. Vader takes advantage of Ben’s momentary distraction and brings his mighty lightsaber down on the old man. Ben manages to deflect the blow and swiftly turns around.

The old Jedi Knight looks over his shoulder at Luke, lifts his sword from Vader’s then watches his opponent with a serene look on his face.

Vader brings his sword down, cutting old Ben in half. Ben’s cloak falls to the floor in two parts, but Ben is not in it. Vader is puzzled at Ben’s disappearance and pokes at the empty cloak. As the guards are distracted, the adventurers and the robots reach the starship. Luke sees Ben cut in two and starts for him. Aghast, he yells out.

LUKE: No!

The stormtroopers turn toward Luke and begin firing at him. The robots are already moving up the ramp into the Millennium Falcon, while Luke, transfixed by anger and awe, returns their fire. Solo joins in the laserfire. Vader looks up and advances toward them, as one of his troopers is struck down.

HAN: (to Luke) Come on!

LEIA: Come on! Luke, its too late!

HAN: Blast the door! Kid!

Luke fires his pistol at the door control panel, and it explodes. The door begins to slide shut. Three troopers charge forward firing laser bolts, as the door slides to a close behind them, shutting Vader and the other troops out of the docking bay. A stormtrooper lies dead at the feet of his on rushing compatriots. Luke starts for the advancing troops, as Solo and Leia move up the ramp into the pirateship. He fires, hitting a stormtrooper, who crumbles to the floor.

BEN’S VOICE: Run, Luke! Run!

Luke looks around to see where the voice came from. He turns toward the pirateship, ducking Imperial gunfire from the troopers and races into the ship.