Star Wars Books to Read While Freaking Out About the Trailer for The Force Awakens
It’s been almost a full decade since there’s been an advanced trailer for a real Star Wars movie, and the new one for The Force Awakens sent a tremor in the Internet Force so strong that even people who don’t like Star Wars were rubbing their heads like Obi-Wan stressing out about exploding planets. Reading is a great way to calm down, so if you’ve got the Star Wars trailer playing non-stop in your brain (and on your phone) and if you want what to read something that will remind you of the Star Wars trailer, I’ve got you covered. I’ve picked a real-deal Star Wars book (or two) for each of the pivotal elements in the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
As a sort of primer to the list, here’s something everyone should probably know about Star Wars books: their role in how to think about Star Wars is confusing. Here’s the quick real talk. When George Lucas (the creator of Star Wars) was still in charge of Star Wars, his policy was this: nothing in the books or comics “counts.” After Lucas sold Star Wars off in 2012, and allowed the writing of these new movies to be someone other than him, a lot of people hoped that stuff from the 100s of books and comics could be incorporated into the new films, of which The Force Awakens, will be the first. Then, this year, the Lucas Story Group said that all the “Expanded Universe” (those books and comics) were all non-canon, but any new books and cartoons now are. The Internet made a big deal of this.
And yet, when we get real, historically, what the Story Group did isn’t any different than Lucas’s policy, just a little more political. These days, “real Star Wars” can have deniability over a novel plotline being canon or not, but there’s never been a real line in the Tatooine sand over canonicity, at all. In writing the screenplay for The Phantom Menace Lucas straight-up borrowed from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel by retroactively naming and depicting the planet Coruscant just as Zahn did in his Star Wars books. Because of his policy, Lucas wasn’t beholden to have the history of the planet be identical to the way Zahn described it, but he used the planet which — though living in his fictional universe — wasn’t his planet. There are countless other examples of Star Wars changing its story and drawing upon the novels and comic books to feed into the onscreen films and cartoons. And just because all these old books “aren’t canon,” doesn’t mean J.J. Abrams, Michael Ardnt, Lawrence Kasdan, Simon Kinberg, and whoever else wrote the script, won’t cherry-pick from stuff they like. Below are some of those possibilities.
Stormtroopers With Real Identities
The first person we see popping up in the trailer is John Boyega’s character, who appears to be a helmetless Stormtrooper. Of course, Boyega might only be disguised as a Stormtrooper, but a lot of the rumor mill seems to indicate he actually does work as a trooper. The idea that there were “real” people under the helmets and not clones is actually older than the idea that the Stormtroopers were clones. In a great anthology called Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, there’s a short story called “When the Desert Winds Turn,” by Doug Beason. This story is all about a Stormtrooper named Davin Felth and in it we learn Davin is one of the guys tracking down C-3PO and R2-D2 in the original movie. But, after a few revelations of what’s happened in Davin’s past, he realizes he doesn’t like the Empire, he hates it, and it’s up to him to become a good person. If John Boyega is playing a Stormtrooper turned good, it’s possible there’s a bit of mythological lineage connected to Davin Felth. Unrelated to stormtroopers,Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina also rocks as it contains one of the few entries in Star Wars prose having to do with time travel: a story called “One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina,” written by husband and wife sci-fi duo Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
Solo/Skywalker Family Resemblance
Daisy Ridley’s character is featured prominently in the trailer riding an awesome speeder, which the Internet seems to think is a popsicle stick. (I think it look like part of an old podracer that she’s retrofitted, but whatever.) While the rumored named of Ridley’s character is supposedly “Kira,” there’s no doubt that she looks like she’s part of Natalie Portman/Carrie Fisher’s family line. In the existing Star Wars novels, Leia and Han have twins: Jaina and Jacen. They’re both born in The Last Command by Timothy Zahn , but end up starring in their own book series called The Young Jedi Knights, by Kevin J. Anderson. Jaina Solo, ends up being the nicer person of the two, and Jacen, after several, several books, eventually turns to the Dark Side in a novel called Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice by Karen Traviss. (There are nine books alone in the Legacy of the Force series.) Some rumors have suggested Adam Driver is playing Han Solo’s son, and also that Driver is playing the villain, both would seem to check out with what we’ve seen the trailer, and read in these books — assuming the figure with the big-bad red lightsaber is Adam Driver.
New Star Wars movies wouldn’t be new Star Wars movies if they didn’t really continue to screw with established ligthsaber rules. This tradition goes all the way back to Return of the Jedi, when Luke busted out a green lightsaber even though, at that point, we only thought red and blue were allowed. Then, in 1999, Darth Maul got a double-bladed staff thing, and by 2005 we had the faux-robotic-spider-jerk General Grievous wielding four sabers at once. Compared to the insanity of the prequels, the lightsaber in the new trailer is fairly tame. As many, many have pointed out already, it looks like it has a “crossguard” lightsaber section. Lots of lightsaber variants have popped up in Star Wars book and comic books, and in fact, double-bladed sabers existed in the Tales of Jedi comics series way before Darth Maul was around. Meanwhile, a lightsaber with a crossguard has been specifically seen in the Star Wars comic one-off Purge (primarily written by John Ostrander.) Here, a Jedi Knight named Robilo Darte has a little mini-lightsaber coming out of the handle of his lightsaber. Up until this crossguard seen in the new trailer, this is the only other depiction of this kind of lightsaber. BUT, an extra-long lightsaber was first described in the Kevin J. Anderson novel Dark Apprentice in which a guy named Gantoris made himself a dual-phase lightsaber.
The return of the iconic X-Wing fighters made a lot of fans happy, though many are still wondering who that pilot might be! Oscar Isaac’s character is still totally unnamed at this point, but it seems likely he’s flying in some sort iteration of Rogue Squadron, the elite group fighter group which was born out of the few dudes who managed to survive fighting the first Death Star. In the Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston X-Wing books, Rogue Squadron is depicted as being part of the New Republic, which might explain the blue stripes on these new X-Wings. (They’re not the Rebels after they win the war.) Something few have pointed out about these X-Wings: they don’t seem to have little droids sticking out of the backs of them! At least not ones we can see in the trailer! If that’s the case, it’s possible these are some of the special X-Wings from the novel The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Those ones also didn’t need a little droid in the back, though that ended up being a problem because of some tricky sabotage. As far as who Oscar Isaac’s character could be? There’s almost not one single person who doesn’t fly an X-Wing at some point in a Star Wars book or comic book, so, he could literally be anyone.
The Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer may have given us more questions than answers, but for now, these books will be with you, always. As a general rule, these books can oddly be read by anyone with passing interest in Star Wars. If you don’t understand a particular plot detail, that’s okay. Even hardcore Star Wars fans don’t know everything going on in all of these books, movies, and holo-recordings. And that’s what makes the whole Star Wars thing so addicting. We’ll never totally understand it.