Traverse the internet and social media these days and you’ll frequently read or hear about someone referring to “their” Star Wars. It is so common that I feel like most just take it to mean that which they identify with the most. However, I disagree in part with that perspective. Star Wars is generational. Every generation has their new piece of Star Wars that they grow up with, and is inherently theirs because it spoke to them at their specific point in development. If we take the words of The Maker, George Lucas, to heart, then Star Wars is aimed at kids. Specifically kids in the age range of 8 to 12. Historically, Star Wars was always rated PG (granted this was the only one of three ratings it could receive for the first three films) and it wasn’t until Episode III that it received its first PG-13 rating, meaning it was parental guidance suggested. Now, I’m not stating that these films aren’t accessible or enjoyable for adults, quite the contrary, I’m only stating that the target demographic that would learn the most from these morality plays are the young that are impressionable and developing into adulthood.
I was born in the early 1980s and Return of the Jedi was released when I was still too young to know or care. But being a child of the 80s meant I came into awareness of Star Wars at a young age because it was still everywhere. The Ewok movies came out when I was very young but I can remember renting the VHS tapes to watch and also having recorded copies of the Original Trilogy that we made from broadcast television. However, there were no new theatrical releases and the Special Editions would not be released until 1997. This has come to be known as the “Dark Times.” After those Ewok movies, which were originally aired on television in the United States, the only real new Star Wars content we had were roleplaying game source books, the occasional video game based on the Original Trilogy, and in 1991 the relaunched Expanded Universe (or EU, now Legends). This was my 8 to 12 years old reality!
As I’ve stated in other reviews written for Talking Trek Wars, it was my Mom that bought me my first Star Wars book as she felt it would get me to actually read, and boy, oh boy, was she right. I took to them like a moth to light. You see, it was difficult being a fan in those days. To most of the rest of the world Star Wars was a dead property. People acknowledged its pop culture significance in the past but with the conclusion of Return of the Jedi it was not a part of the mainstream. Sure we had other science fiction properties to entertain us, which is one of the reasons I’m also a Star Trek fan, as that property was alive and well and churning out product. But as much as I love Trek, it wasn’t Star Wars, which was my first love. The thing that fired my imagination, consumed my dreams. I needed to know what happened to Luke Skywalker and the Jedi after the defeat of the Empire!
Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy was great and beloved by fans, and still is to this day; however, that was not what hooked me. It was Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy that did it. It was the answer to my dreams of what became of Luke and the new Jedi. Not only did it move the post Original Trilogy Jedi forward but it also tied into the Dark Horse comics of Tales of the Jedi set 5,000 years prior to the events of A New Hope. This is when I knew that the literature side of Star Wars would be my jam.
With that personal knowledge of me and why “my” Star Wars is the EU, imagine sitting in your living room in front of a TV. You know the prequel hype is in full swing with toys and advertisements everywhere. Whisper Episode I into the air and ears perk up to absorb any possible info. But on your television screen comes an image and a voice. It’s Luke Skywalker, he sounds scared and is talking about not being prepared for what is coming. Then the title card flashes and it says Star Wars: The New Jedi order coming from Del Rey books! As excited as I was for the prequels, this one little commercial did enough to divert my attention. It was a continuation of “my” Star Wars, in the format that I loved, with a new enemy. Long since had the books wore out the Imperial Remnant and new Imperial Warlords as the principal villains. Sometimes we got a new Jedi turned dark, or even an ancient relic of the past shaking up the present, but in truth it had become derivative.
Would you find it strange to read that my all time favorite character is one that will never be seen on screen, whether it is in a video game, live action media, or even animation? It is true. Anakin Solo, youngest son to Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo, brother to Jacen and Jaina Solo is my one true favorite character. [My second favorite, Kal Skirata, is another literature only character but that is saved for another time or go read the Doctor’s paper on the Republic Commando series (here) and discover why] Anakin was young, carried the hopes and dreams of the new Jedi order as heir to Luke Skywalker even more so than his siblings, was touched in the womb by the reborn Emperor, and represented his mother’s forgiveness of her father by being named after Anakin Skywalker. The weight that he carried as a character endeared him to me. In the first five books of the NJO he saw his father’s best friend die for him, was trained by Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker, was one of the strongest fighters to face the Yuuzhan Vong, and saw his family separated by strife. And yet he still carried on.
As a character he was that perfect mixture of Luke and Han. Whereas Jacen was more Leia and Jaina was more Han, it was in Anakin that we saw the light of the Jedi and what we believed to be the future of the order. Alas, it was not to be. In Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Star by Star by Troy Denning, Anakin would sacrifice himself and die to save his siblings, burgeoning romantic love interest, and friends, to ensure their survival and escape in what is to me the best Jedi death EVER! The book was released in October of 2001 and I remember buying the book the morning the store opened and consuming at a furious pace the tale until those fateful pages had me crying and questioning whether I even wanted to continue. This is why I love Star Wars. This was why I loved Star Wars literature, my Star Wars.
Now to take a step back to shortly before Star by Star. The NJO had its detractors, and some felt that it was too dark. Prior to that book there was originally a trilogy planned tentatively titled Knightfall, in which the story would get even darker. Also at this time production was underway on Episode II with Anakin Skywalker featuring even more prominently than in The Phantom Menace. Now, rumor has it (this is not confirmed), that Anakin Solo wasn’t going to die in Star by Star and it was to be Jacen Solo that sacrificed himself; however, it was George Lucas himself that felt it should be Anakin Solo that should die so there wouldn’t be fan confusion between the two characters, and Anakin’s fate was sealed. The hitch was that the writers hadn’t really set this up as Jacen and Jaina had received more focus in the storytelling up to this point so with the cancellation of the Knightfall trilogy and the change in character direction, Greg Keyes’ Edge of Victory duology was born. They were to be almost principally focused on Anakin and help provide the narrative gut punch that was to be Star by Star.
Greg Keyes did a masterful job. Not only did he make you believe even more in Anakin as a character, he did what others in the past had done and drew on previous media to give those connective tissues, primarily pulling on the Anakin Solo junior grade books, the Junior Jedi Knight series. He also wrote a short work of fiction that appeared across Star Wars Gamer and Insider magazines featuring a character from that junior series as well.
That short work of fiction was the gift recently given to me. Now, I had actually read the conclusion as I had that copy of Insider, but I had never read the whole story before. For a time it was free on the Star Wars website, then also a part of their Hyperspace membership, but at that time the prequels were still coming out along with corresponding literature, the NJO was in full swing, and I was also knee deep in college. Somehow, this fiction, Emissary of the Void by Greg Keyes, got lost amongst all of this from my radar.
Imagine if you can, being gifted what you once thought lost to you, from your favorite era, now relegated to Legends and not to be published again but made yours once more. It was a “Force Back” of memories. I was transported back 21 years ago to another time, another life. The story itself is a lovely build up post Edge of Victory and pre Star by Star, but in all honesty, the content doesn’t really matter to me and there’s no way for me to review it objectively. I was going to love this no matter what.
The status of the EU being Legends and the future of Star Wars being altered for the Sequel Trilogy doesn’t diminish or remove my memories of a time when my Star Wars fired my imagination and gave me hope. I love Star Wars, all Star Wars. Some may not be meant for me, or may not meet my expectations of what I’d like to see but I would never take away another child’s turn to discover theirs.