A Reader’s Guide to A New Hope: Top Five Canon Reads to Start Today
Updated: May 22, 2019
We don’t have much canon literature based on and around A New Hope but what we do have is really good--and we got lucky with the 40th anniversary introducing us to a couple of these gems. There’s the novelizations in a sense like the junior novel by Ryder Windham and The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken. Then we have From A Certain Point of View--an absolutely brilliant take on A New Hope with 40 short stories from the points of view of minor and previously undisclosed characters.
For a deep dive side-story branching from one verbal exchange in the movie, we have Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure by Cavan Scott. And finally, we have the comic Age of Rebellion: Grand Moff Tarkin “Tooth and Claw” by Greg Pak which shows us the moments leading up to and after the destruction of Alderaan. Now I’ll break down each of these a bit to give you a better feel for where you might want to dig in next.
Windham’s A New Hope (a 40th anniversary canon edition of the book that originally released in 2004) is definitely worth the read! Despite its being a fairly direct recounting of the movie and a junior novel, it still adds a lot to the narrative. Minor references are made to The Phantom Menace and Rogue One which creates a wonderful sense of connectivity. Rebels, Imperials, and droids are all individually named which makes everything feel more grounded and real. We even get a bit of direct thoughts and feelings tied to why R2-D2 and C-3PO are not recognized when the Jawas bring them to the Lars Homestead. Other scenes from the movie that always left me pondering are also fleshed out in this rendition quite well. Examples include why Ben and Luke stop on the plateau overlooking Mos Eisley, where the target remote came from that Luke trains with, and why the sentries outside the Millennium Falcon on the Death Star don’t jump at the noise banging around inside the ship. There’s even some description of how Luke experiences the Force in his X-wing during the trench run. There’s so much in this that adds to what we get to see in the movie!
It’s been a long time since I’ve read Bracken’s The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy but I liked it and the other two books in the series (following The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) so much that I put a poster of the series on my Star Wars canon cabinet. The first section of the book is about Leia “the Princess,” the second part Han “the Scoundrel,” and the third part Luke “the Farm Boy.” This book adds HUGE amounts of information and backstory to all three characters and reads like a true re-telling, a version of the story told from three very different perspectives but still in the order we all know and love. It’s super easy to breeze through with a flowing writing style and just so much new information you can’t help but want to gobble it all up. I can’t say enough about the brilliance of how this book is written and the number of extras that we are privy to. I highly recommend this one.
Then there’s one of my absolute favorite bits of Star Wars canon out to this day--From A Certain Point of View with its 40 authors and 40 short stories. Following, I’ll provide some examples of the types of stories presented in this collection. We have “Raymus” by Gary Whitta which directly connects to Rogue One with the Tantive IV’s escape from Scarif straight into the boarding by Darth Vader--Raymus being Captain Antilles. “Master and Apprentice” by Claudia Gray that reveals Obi-Wan communing with Qui-Gon after Luke runs off to check on his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru--a story that explains quite a bit I’ve questioned for some time. “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here” by Chuck Wendig about the bartender, Wuher, of Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley--he and his parents were attacked by Separatist droids making his aversion to the beings completely sensical. “Born in the Storm” by Daniel Jose Older which gives us the other side of what it’s like to be mind tricked--the whole story is extremely funny especially in that it takes the form of a military incident report. And “There is Another” by Gary D. Schmidt in which Yoda proclaims his desire to train Leia far and above his reticence to train Luke. All 40 stories (except for a couple of outliers--a weird comic panel and a Shakespearean poem written by Palpatine) are so incredibly good. They enliven A New Hope like nothing you have ever experienced and make it even more special than it already was. During my recent rewatch of the movie, I was thinking about this book the entire time which made the movie even deeper and more impactful. If you read any bit of canon literature to do with A New Hope, read this!! I sincerely hope that a book like this comes out for every single film in the franchise!!
Cavan Scott’s Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure tells the story of how Han dropped Jabba’s cargo! I’m sure we were all wondering what the story behind that incident was as soon as Greedo brought it up in Chalmun’s Cantina and here we get it although only briefly at the beginning of the book. But what takes place afterward is actually quite the fun ride and the canon ending is very clearly laid out, something that came as a relief to my canon-obsessed brain. So just like any other “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, you must make choices throughout the story for how the narrative will proceed. When things don’t follow the canon ending, you get “The end. Can you go back and help Han make a better decision? Where will the adventure lead next time?” and this happens a lot as there are many shorter pathways through the story that end abruptly. When you finally get to the canon truth, you get “The end. Congratulations! You helped Han and Chewie make it through their latest adventure!” For most of the choices, the canon path only goes one way, although there are a couple of places where the canon path could go a few ways--I guess it could depend on a character’s point of view as to the way the story really went... Regardless, you always end up in the same place. We meet a wonderful new Twi’lek character named Meecha Odon who is being held captive on an unidentified planet. And the adventures Han, Chewie, and Meecha go on are a blast to read! Essentially, the only way for the canon ending to be reached, is for Han to be a decent guy...which plays into his character quite well, honestly.
Lastly we have Pak’s Age of Rebellion: Grand Moff Tarkin “Tooth and Claw,” a deep dive into Tarkin and how he manages his troops on the Death Star. This comic shows Tarkin as one intense dude who is not to be trifled with. It harkens back to the trials of his youth on Eriadu which are detailed in James Luceno’s Tarkin novel and shows how those trials have impacted the way he thinks and behaves even now in his adulthood. The end of the issue reveals several gunners hesitating as they are ordered to fire at Alderaan and the aftermath of that hesitation. The way this comic connects to that moment in A New Hope is quite beautiful and I definitely recommend this book as creepy as it is.
So from recounting to retelling to deep-dive stories, the canon literature surrounding A New Hope has a lot to offer. There may not be much out there, but what is out there is absolutely worth checking out. If you have any further questions you can always ask me. I love the Star Wars canon print media and hope that others will find as much joy in it as I have!
We are excited to have Marie part of our Star Wars conversation. She will contribute with content weekly here on BeyondTheBlastDoors.com and will appear on our weekly live show from time to time.
Marie has presented at numerous cons on a wide range of topics in the Star Wars galaxy. She is a respected voice among fans with her work on her own blog and various other places in the Star Wars community.