Max takes his first step into the bold new chapter of Star Wars storytelling to review The High Republic – Light Of The Jedi
Star Wars: Light of the Jedi is the beginning of a new era in Star Wars story-telling. It takes place 200 years before The Phantom Menace and initially when it was announced; I was skeptical. Before Star Wars was bought by Disney, Lucasfilm had created stories that took place 4000 years before the Prequels and while Knights of the Old Republic was awesome; it had one extremely bad flaw. That flaw was that even though this was millennia before the Original Trilogy, all the weapons, technology, and setting were exactly the same! There was no societal or technological progression whatsoever and that is completely illogical.
Star Wars: The High Republic – Light Of The Jedi | Charles Soule
Light of the Jedi is only a mere two centuries before The Phantom Menace and the setting is quite different. Hyperspace travel to the Outer Rim is still an exploratory, trail-blazing notion and the miraculous healing fluid known as bacta was just beginning to be developed. Yes, they still have blasters but humans on Earth had guns 200 years ago. Some things are static but I believe change is eternal.
A Bold New Chapter
The story opens up with a ship heading to the Outer Rim in search of expansion. It is captained by Hedda Casset, an instantly likable character who gets my full seal of approval as she double-checks everything on her ship to make sure it is safe and functional. Unfortunately, there is an unbelievable disaster and her ship is destroyed. The repercussions of the “accident” then strangely perpetuate into more tragedy; the likes of which the galaxy has never seen.
Hyperspace anomalies begin emerging, which shoot giant debris at the speed of light at the Hetzal system. Hetzal Prime is an agri-world that grows a majority of the galaxy’s crops. The Jedi and Republic are called in to mitigate the disaster and you can’t help fuel feel how appropriate a disaster story is for 2020. I’m sure the author, Charles Soule borrowed from the pulse of real-life events, and I will continue to note the similarities later.
Anyway, the Jedi are in their prime in this era and seem very much more powerful than their descendants. They are also very pure and not one single Jedi character seems to struggle with the dark side which is very unusual for Star Wars. Also, each Jedi views the manifestation of the Force in a different metaphorical way. Avar Kriss (arguably the main Jedi) hears the Force as a song and uses the early trappings of what may be battle meditation. Her friend Elzar Mann loves to stretch the boundaries of the Force, and yeah, all the Jedi characters are just flawless in their morals. I can’t tell if it’s refreshing or boring.
The anomalies cause destruction but the Jedi are able to save the Hetzal system with other brave first responders like the Nautolan Captain Bright. The Republic is in an unprecedented era of peace, largely because Chancellor Soh has infused the mantra “We Are All the Republic” into every character. I love Chancellor Soh. She is the president/politician that could be very useful to have in the real world and she is kind and just and accomplishes a lot. She is spearheading the Starlight Beacon Space Station which will work as an interstellar lighthouse to guide ships through the Outer Rim.
The anomalies are soon referred to as Emergences and nobody knows what they are or how to predict where they will pop up. The Emergences are very similar to the COVID-19 Pandemic, as they are hard to stop, seemingly impossible to figure out, happen so suddenly, and affect everyone. In America, in March of 2020, my home city of New York went into a lockdown and in the Star Wars world, this is mirrored by Chancellor Soh shutting the hyperlanes as we don’t know if hyperspace travel is safe. Soh wants the Jedi to find the piece of debris that contains the flight recorder; to find out why Captain Casset’s ship broke apart in hyperspace so they can prevent it from happening again.
Much like COVID, the government turns to science and ask the top hyperspace people for their opinion. The San Tekka family has revolutionized hyper-science and do not know how this disaster is possible— or so they say. Now, even in the brightest of times, shadows lurk and Soule introduces us to the criminal/raider organization known as the Nihil.
They are fanatic, barbaric, and destructive gluttons who steal and destroy and then drink and do drugs to celebrate afterward. They are controlled by an intricate hierarchy with three leaders who depend on a mysterious being known as the eye of the Nihil. This provided the Raiders with a special technology called Paths; specialized hyperdrives that allow their ships to jump to hyperspace virtually anywhere and are not at the mercy of hyperlanes. Think of them like Phantom hyperdrives, allowing the Nihil to become like ghosts.
The Jedi are trying to uncover the mystery and the Nihil are trying to profit from the Chaos. Soule does an excellent job juggling these stories and the transitions are very smooth and natural. The Nihil is a difficult enemy for the Jedi and is a great juxtaposition to the kind and caring guardians of peace. The Jedi rely heavily on religion to guide their way but the Republic is saved by science. A young tech named Keven figured out how to create an algorithm to predict new Emergences. He can be seen as Anthony Fauci, head of the CDC trying desperately to stop the pandemic and the algorithm can be seen as the vaccine which is desperately needed and hard to create. I am just blown away by the parallels.
The lockdown of hyperspace is even called a quarantine and Light of the Jedi also echoes how the situation has a deep impact on the economy. Reading the Nihil also makes me draw allusions to the dirtbag gangs of America; the Crips and Bloods. The Nihil are very much like them in the sense that beings want to join the Nihil to get away from their bleak upbringing. They want to stop being poor and belong to a “family”. Yet it is all built on lies and just perpetuates violence and avarice. Gang violence is a serious issue and must be dealt with.
All readers will find the tale to be riveting and well written with likable and (appropriately) loathsome characters. It’s hard to fully explain how this is a Star Wars novel as it has a very different tone and an almost “alien” feel. Not alien-like Thrawn: Ascendancy was, but just something you never would have imagined to come from a little movie from the late ’70s. Charles Soule is an excellent writer and I have to give this book its due credit for how seamlessly it connected storylines. My advice is to read it with an open mind, enjoy the parallels with modern real-life society, and keep your eyes open for a mastermind villain who is as different as this novel is to Star Wars.
Great way to start a new chapter. Solid B
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!