REVIEW: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse
In this book I thought I was going to get an explanation of where the giant Resistance armada we see in the trailers for The Rise of Skywalker came from, but alas no luck. Resistance Reborn takes place hours after The Last Jedi and goes at most a week or so beyond that.
But what I did get, and what made it a spectacular book nearly unparalleled, were canon connections!! I'm talking connections to video games, comic books, novels, TV shows, e-ve-ry-thing! Either Roanhorse has actually read, watched, and played all the canon material that's out there (which is doable since I'm about 90-95% of the way covered on all of the above not including reference books which I'm pretty behind on--but it's dang hard to keep up!) or the story group really got together on this one and just blew it out of the water. Why would this book in particular need so many canon connections? Why haven't they done something like this before if that was the case? I mean, other novels have connected canon but not to the degree this one does. It was, simply put, mind blowing. Although Force Collector may be a close second--I'm about 65% of the way through it and its connections are pretty darn awesome as well!
So, while I wouldn't say this book is integral to understanding/feeling the impact of the upcoming movie like Catalyst was for Rogue One, it is still most definitely a worthy read. And you still have a few days to catch up with it! In all honesty though, it might be more beneficial to read the book after seeing the movie to get some of that backstory feel for what we see on screen. Like I said, if you don't read this book, I don't think you're going to miss out on any secret knowledge going into TROS. But definitely take the time to read it if you get the chance...especially if you're a canon junkie and keep up with a lot of the material that's out there because this book truly does reward you for that effort!!
We start off with a prologue that seems completely disconnected from the rest of the book. I went back and looked over it after finishing reading and still couldn't figure out what it had to do with anything else in the novel. It does introduce the fact that Coronet City on Corellia has now become a ship building machine for the First Order. That was fast!! Especially since this novel takes place about a day after the Hosnian Cataclysm. Regardless, the First Order has a firm strangle hold on the city and its planet. The one thing that might connect to the rest of the book is the fact that the main protagonist of the prologue wears a "small snake pendant" around her neck and the crux of one of the book's five plotlines is a group called The Collective whose symbol is "a white-horned serpent. A water species known to symbolize a capricious or mercurial nature." The Collective is "an underground organization of engineers, technicians, and scientists bent on stopping the spread of authoritarianism in all its forms via the use of technology." Their slogan is "All Knowledge Must Be Free." I'm wondering if this Collective will make an appearance in TROS??
The novel is loosely separated into two parts that divide the book equally. The first is a mishmash of storylines as everyone works toward coming together on Ryloth. Once the gang is all there, and after some disagreements and working out the kinks with the resulting motley group, the second part begins with five storylines occurring simultaneously: 1) Leia and Rey on Ryloth, 2) Poe, Finn, and Suralinda on Corellia at a fancy dinner party/illegal auction, 3) Wedge, Snap, Norra, and Kare on Corellia infiltrating a shipyard, 4) Shriv and Zay on Bracca, an impoundment planet for New Republic ships, trying to snag a few of said ships, 5) a First Order officer named Winshur and his assistants Monti and Yama on Corellia.
A little more detail on each storyline can be found below:
1) Rey is experiencing doubts and personal trials as she tries to figure out what her place is in "all this." She confides in Finn and finally in Leia. Leia makes the choice that it's not her place to guide the young Jedi, but that that is someone else's job. She knows destiny and fate will work things out the way they were meant to be.
2) The First Order has a highly classified list of all Resistance sympathizers and it gets into the hands of an old acquaintance of Maz. So, the thousand year old pirate manages to acquire two invitations to the associated illegal and very secret auction for the list. "One for a handsome but unscrupulous profiteer from Canto Bight [Poe] and his junior business partner [Finn], and one for the ambassador of Ryloth [Charth] and guest [Suralinda]." The list contains two sections: Subversives and Currently Detained. Maz's acquaintance who's running the auction and simultaneously holding her birthday party wears a living albino eel around her neck like a necklace. How in the world is this eel able to breathe out of water?? It just sat there, coiling around her neck the entire time, even in the midst of a gunfight. I found this really strange, and honestly, it put me out of the story a bit.
3) Ransolm Casterfo (from Bloodline--see below) is being held prisoner by the First Order and part of Wedge, Snap, Norra, and Kare's mission is to free him from the First Order's clutches. Eventually, this plot line runs smack dab into plot line 5. While attempting to procure ships--the other part of their mission--they run across a CR90 Corvette (think Tantive IV) and a Baleen-class ship (think Han's ship from The Force Awakens, the Eravana).
4) "'Bracca is a junker planet,' Agoyo said. [...] 'I have a sister who moved there for the work and joined the Scrapper Guild.' 'Bracca has become the place that the First Order sends any and all claimed New Republic ships to be decommissioned and junked,' Finn told the room. 'It's bound to be a treasure trove of the kind of ships we want. Parts, too.'" Bracca itself is "a murky ball streaked in shades of blues and grays." "'Bracca is run by the Scrapper Guild,' [Agoyo] explained. '[...] The guild is divided into Riggers, Hazmats, and Cutters. Different jobs for different kinds of people.'" Riggers enact "'demolition and salvage in hard-to-reach locations. Climbers, mostly. Daredevil work.'" A giant toothy creature called the Ibdis Maw eats the ships. The team that goes on this mission is dubbed "Dross Squadron" by Shriv.
5) Winshur is a horrible human being who lets his position get to his head, thinking he can physically and emotionally attack anyone that is under him, especially Yama, the backwoods fifteen-year old girl who acts as one of his two assistants. He praises Monti and it turns out that praise may be misplaced. He has the two entirely backward in regards to where their loyalties lie, but then the tables turn and hearts are changed and he may have been right about some things after all. This storyline is sometimes hard to read with the violence that Winshur enacts toward his underlings. But it was certainly fun watching the man crack after everything he goes through!
We get a good deal of character development and dealing with his own demons from Poe. Example, "Poe was a man of action and he had been grounded, made helpless, and he had almost burned it all to the ground because he couldn't take it." A direct quote from Poe after several of the new recruits buck at his command follows, "We've all made choices. Choices that caused harm, led to destruction, even at times death. We are all responsible for our deeds. The great and the terrible. But if we define ourselves only by what we've done, only by our failures, then this Resistance, this spark? It dies here and now. [...] We're all here because we have a chance to change things. A chance to change the galaxy. A chance to change ourselves. But we have to make that commitment. That choice." So powerful and reminiscent of his speech at the end of the "Poe Dameron" comic series about saving the small part of the galaxy that you are connected to and bit by bit that adding up. He really is a fantastically deep and well-developed character!
There's an interesting thought Wedge has in regards to First Order sympathizers on Akiva, "a lot of folks were looking for the First Order to come in and clean up the mess that the fall of the New Republic had caused. The irony being that the First Order had caused the mess to begin with, but people didn't think of it like that. All they saw was that the New Republic had made promises and failed to keep them. And now there was a new boss in town who would make things better."
Similarly, Monti, the First Order assistant thinks, "he had never thought of [Winshur] as evil, of what the First Order did as evil. Oh, he knew about Starkiller Base and the destruction of the Hosnian system like everyone else, and yes, that was evil. But that was high command's doing. It had nothing to do with what he saw of the First Order on Corellia. Here the First Order brought order and jobs and pride in one's accomplishments. What happened to the Hosnian system felt distant, unreal. After all, Monti hadn't known anyone personally who had died there, and there had been no newsfeeds showing actual people suffering. The evil, if that's what it was, was decidedly divorced from his everyday reality."
Both of these perspectives sound very similar to how the Empire was able to embed its claws throughout the galaxy, especially since the Death Star was thought of as a myth. I wonder how much people really believed or knew about the Hosnian Cataclysm...what did the First Order tell them had happened?
My favorite new character is Teza Nasz. She's an ex-Imperial Officer turned warlord on Rattatak. She reminds me of a combination of Lexa and Octavia from "The 100." I would LOVE a FUNKO Pop of this character!! "She wore a one-shouldered jumpsuit that looked like it had been stitched together from a mixture of animal hides and discarded armor. Her exposed arm displayed an elaborate stretch of short slashing lines that had been cut into her dark skin from shoulder to elbow, and below the elbow she wore a leather bracer. Her thick hair was dyed blood red and she held it back in dreadlocks that trailed down her back. [...] Her face was painted in streaks of ocher and coal lines vertically crossing her cheeks." Her character design is fantastic! And her attitude goes right along with her clothing--she is a bada** through and through. And she's on the good side of things. She references her old Imperial way of thinking and shrugs it all off saying, "Yeah, it was wrong. I know that. Oh well, I think differently now." If she shows up in TROS I will be over the moon!
-Bloodline (adult novel): The Napkin Bombing on Hosnian Prime is referenced. Ransolm Casterfo plays a role in several different ways. Leia thinks back on him as "the young, charismatic senator from the Inner Rim planet Riosa. Ransolm had been her rival and then her co-conspirator and friend and her enemy again when he had revealed that Darth Vader was her birth father to the open Senate, and thus the entire galaxy. [...] In the end, he had been a friend. [...] He was a good man who had not deserved his fate, a man who would have been an asset to the Resistance. Someone who could have made a difference. Exactly like the type of people they needed now." Leia's reminiscence leads her to realize what's left of the Resistance could go to Ryloth for help from her friend Yendor, a Twi'lek, whom she had saved from the crime lord Rinnrivin Di while working with Casterfo. The Populists and the Centrists are mentioned as the New Republic's two political parties that "ripped the Senate apart."
-Battlefront II (video game): Zay--daughter of Iden Versio and Del Meeko--and Shriv--a Duros pilot--are called Inferno Squad in honor of their origins.
-Leia Princess of Alderaan (YA novel): Gatalentan tea--Admiral Amilyn Holdo was from Gatalenta.
-"Poe Dameron" (long-run comic series): Ikkrukk is where the series ends and is where this novel picks up on the story thread, mention of Grail City being secured and the First Order running from the planet, Black Squadron celebrates with the local populace and tries to get them to join the Resistance but this turns out to be a no-go with how afraid the people are of the First Order, reference to Jess of Black Squadron being "The Great Destroyer" when it comes to droids, mention of Pastoria where Black Squadron's mission led them before Ikkrukk and how they were "duped into doing the dirty work for some unscrupulous jerk", acknowledgement of Poe's using Grakkus the Hutt's loaner ship--SO many connections with this one. It was a seamless transition from the comic to this novel, absolutely brilliant.
-Aftermath (adult trilogy of novels): Wedge Antilles and Nora Wexley have settled down on Akiva close to the capital city of Myrra and are raising poultry while living a quiet life in retirement. Snap's lesbian aunts are mentioned! Phantom Squadron returns as several pilots from the squadron of retirees and rejects that flew in the Battle of Jakku come to join the new fight.
-"The Clone Wars," "Rebels" (animated TV shows): "The most notorious guerrilla leader had been Cham Syndulla, who had liberated Ryloth from the Separatists during the Clone Wars." C-3PO runs down Ryloth history and says to Leia, "Did you know that early in the Clone Wars, your ancestor Anakin Skywalker helped fight for Ryloth against the droid armies? The Ryloth forces were led by Cham Syndulla. [...] his daughter Hera Syndulla served as a general in the Rebellion and New Republic. Her contribution to the record is quite remarkable." "When Sabine Wren had showed up to help [Wedge] defect to the Rebellion, he had been more than ready to go."
-"Resistance" (animated TV show): "The [subversives] list broke off after several encrypted names with the last location listed as Castilon."
-Servants of the Empire (middle grade series of novels): grav-ball
-Ephemera: Where Poe goes to convince Maz to join up with the Resistance, and she's Maz-y as ever--"you don't have time for a psychedelic experience do you, Dameron?" "[O]nce a mining planet, like Bespin [...] But here they mined the tibanna gas to extinction. After it was all gone, the Empire abandoned its colonies and most of the settlers ran with them. [...] It left the planet back in the hands of its original inhabitants and a few holdouts who weren't there just to cash in but had grown to love the place. And then, surprise, they discovered tuusah [...,] the residue from the mine runoff. Turns out tuusah has medicinal properties, so a new industry was born." The capital is Wish, one of the largest spas in the galaxy. Apparently Ephemera is covered in cats, despite there being no solid ground, and their poop has healing properties as it is actually naturally produced tuusah! Oddly enough, flora and fauna of the planet is mentioned...but how can there be flora if it's a gas planet??? So confused!
-Tovash Tchii--Nien Nunb wants the Falcon to go there to fuel up.
-Cardo Minor--a planet near Akiva
-Gheia Six--Raidah is a known criminal there
-Spira--Poe had vacationed there before
-While Winshur is doing work, waiting for his computer to do something he thinks, "it was boring work and entirely uneventful, unless staring at a screen with a rotating planet to signify the passage of time was considered an event." Haha! The spinning beach ball of death Star Wars style.
-"Rey flushed scarlet and took a gulp of her tea. She choked briefly and quickly set the cup down. She pressed a hand to her mouth, coughing hard. 'Are you all right?' Charth asked, leaning forward. 'Fine,' she said, coughing again. 'Shall I hit you in the back?' C-3PO offered. She shook her head no in alarm. 'I'm fine!'"
-Just as in Spark of Resistance, there's commentary on how nice Poe's hair is. I really don't get where this comes from. Personally, I think Anakin's hair was pretty darn nice! And everybody talks about Kylo Ren's luscious locks.
-Not necessarily funny, but definitely witty, "'My father was Darth Vader,' Leia said, pitching her voice so that it rang out clearly through the room. 'Is there anyone who wants to question my loyalty to the Resistance?'"
Phew!! So much to cover and say about this splendid book!! I whole-heartedly recommend it, but if you don't get around to it before seeing TROS, don't despair, I think you'll be just fine. And for all canon junkies, this is an absolute MUST read! Your time and effort spent reading, watching, and playing everything will certainly be rewarded if you do!
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As a person who is deeply passionate about every aspect of the galaxy far, far away, I'm always looking for ways to spread my Star Wars joy and love.
I've spoken at cons and written articles on a variety of topics but one of my biggest passions is the canon literature. I hope to help you find your way through the Maelstrom because what is out there is truly amazing!