Who is Luke Skywalker? That was the question Kathleen Kennedy initially posed to J.J. Abrams, according to an article Entertainment Weekly released as part of its “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” coverage. Abrams clearly found the question intriguing; it doesn’t take a person with his resume to see why. We’ve seen Luke’s humble beginnings and experienced his hero’s journey, but do we really know him? Does Luke, as a person, resonate in the same ways Han Solo does?
If Han Solo represents who we are, then Luke is the person we aspire to be. He is a cipher, a blank canvas on which our best, heroic selves are to be projected. However,now that Luke’s quest is over, what does the franchise do with him? If Skywalker is the linchpin of this new trilogy, one of the tasks of the new expanded universe must be to add depth to his personality and motivations. “The Weapon of the Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure,” one of three YA novels released at the beginning of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” media blitz, takes on this challenge. This novel begins fleshing out Luke Skywalker’s character by choosing to address his journey to become a Jedi.
Like its two sibling novels, “The Weapon of a Jedi” begins right before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and it sets the adventure up as a tale passed on from C-3PO to a young Resistance pilot named Jessica Pava. After the short prologue, the novel shifts back to a time immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star. Luke’s adventure begins when Rebel leader Mon Mothma asks him to retrieve intercepted Imperial communications logs. After an unexpected encounter with the Empire, he is forced to land on Devaron, a jungle planet that may be a hiding place for priceless Jedi artifacts. While following the call of The Force, Luke encounters a young Devaronian girl named Farnay and an arthropodal scavenger named Sarco. Both characters play a critical role in Luke’s inevitable conflict with Imperial agents, as well as his journey towards the path of the Jedi.
In “The Weapons of a Jedi,” author Jason Fry places much of the focus on how Luke copes with his new life. Fry grounds Skywalker by giving us a sense of how truly overwhelming his journey is. Skywalker is portrayed as a reluctant superstar who’s still trying to find his place in the Rebellion. Despitehis devotion to becoming a Jedi, Luke has no idea how to master The Force without Obi-Wan Kenobi’s tutelage. Throughout the novel, Fry lends emotional weight to these struggles.As readers, we feel Luke’s isolation and, as a result, he becomes more relatable on a human level.
I was impressed by the inclusion of female characters into the story. During a re-watch of the previously released “Star Wars” films, I only counted one female pilot.That’s depressing by any standard. Jessica Pava, despite her tiny presence in the novel, does a lot to tear down the boy’s club that was the original trilogy’s Rebel Alliance. Farnay was also a solid female character, who resembles Luke in many ways. Since the studio has been so quiet about “The Force Awakens,” I don’t know if we’ll see either of these characters beyond this book. Still, the inclusion of more women characters at various levels of the story is important. I hope that this drive towards increased representation expands to include more women of color. Not including more Black and brown women in the cast of human characters is inexcusable, given the energy the “Star Wars” franchise puts into creating a diverse alien population.
Is “The Weapon of a Jedi” essential reading? Again, so much is dependent on how “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” plays out. The point of “The Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the seed plot points that we won’t completely understand until the movie is released. I will say that I didn’t find this book as exciting as “Smuggler’s Run” or as informative as “Moving Target.” It was a fun read, but I can’t recommend this book for any reason other than that. At least, I can’t recommend it until “The Force Awakens” reveals Luke Skywalker’s true identity.
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
By Jason Fry
192 pages. Disney Lucasfilm Press. $12.99
Parrish Swann is a writer who struggles with writing for more than an audience of one (he also struggles with author bios, if you haven’t noticed). His primary passions include speculative fiction, comic books, and “Star Wars.” By day, Parrish helps develop professional development courses for a nonprofit professional organization. He lives in the Washington metropolitan area with his wife and loving family.