“Race To Crashpoint Tower has so many highs and lows, I can’t decide if it was brilliant or atrocious! Some things were phenomenal and others were ghastly.”
Race to Crashpoint Tower is a middle-grade leader and one of the first books of The High Republic Wave 2. Normally, I would skip a middle-grade reader as they are a little juvenile for me. But when I read A Test of Courage earlier this year, I realized that I should not be so snobby when it comes to books. It was, In my opinion, better than the Adult and YA novel released at the same time. So now I refuse to miss a moment of High Republic lit.
STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC – RACE TO CRASHPOINT TOWER | by Daniel José Older
This book was penned by Daniel José Older who is widely considered to have one of the best fantasy books of the 21st century! He is a member of The High Republic team and a few years before that, wrote a Star Wars book called Last Shot. I was not a huge fan of Last Shot. Sure, the writing is excellent but I feel Older is a little weak when it comes to plot development.
Race to Crashpoint Tower takes place right before the Republic Fair on Valo (kinda like the Worlds Fair on Earth) and is meant to showcase Chancellor Soh’s “Great Works”. Much how the 1964 World’s Fair showed all the innovations at the time and hints of the future to come. They were also building a Jedi Temple on Valo concurrently. And the story is from the narrative of a Jedi apprentice named Ram Jomaram.
Ram is quite an interesting padawan as he has an affinity for machines (like Anakin Skywalker). And he can even put things together by “feeling” pieces of machinery in his mind! I wonder if that’s how Anakin built things? Oh well. Kudos to Older for such an interesting Force power manifestation. Ram does not like combat and prefers to tinker with machines. But suddenly a comm tower goes out and he needs to leave his garage to survey the problem. Alongside him are a bunch of Bonbraks, minuscule aliens who help him with repairs, and his silly but trusty droid, V-18.
V-18 is nothing new when it comes to droid personalities but plays a very unusual role early on in the story. I admire Older’s creativity in doing this. The Bonbraks are also a lot of fun and Older has perfected his liking of writing gibberish alien dialogue for his non-human characters. He did it in Last Shot and it was kinda annoying. But here it is much less pronounced and easier to get through. Ram’s master also gives us a Gun on the Wall Act 1. Saying to his apprentice that I very much agree with. “I must see the whole for the whole. And each part for the role it plays.” Very deep.
THE B PLOT
Basically, his wisdom is for Ram to see the bigger picture. But also recognize the roles smaller sub-parts can play. That becomes important later on in the story. The B plot (and thank god there are only 2) is from the perspective of another Jedi padawan named Lula and her Force-sensitive but non-Jedi friend Zeen. They are journeying to the planet Trymant IV, which was DEVASTATED by the Great Hyperspace Disaster from Wave 1 books. And they need to find out why the vicious space pirates who caused it, the Nihil, are suddenly interested in this planet.
We see the return of Vernestra Rho, the precocious young Jedi from A Test of Courage, who briefs this team. Vernestra is only 17, but she is already a Jedi Knight. And much like her new padawan, Lula is jealous of the fact that she is so ahead of her, despite only a slight age difference. Jealousy is something a Jedi must NOT have, and it’s fun to see how these characters deal with “forbidden emotions”. Older is very skillful at transitioning from character perspective to character perspective. And the dialogue of the book is very kid-friendly. Lula is a great foil to Ram, as she LOVES lightsaber combat training, and it’s set up inevitably that they would soon meet. Older succeeds in some areas of interpretations of the Force but fails completely with mind tricks.
He just doesn’t get the nuances and technical aspects of it. Oh well. Also, Ram’s story quickly becomes a cliché “I didn’t do it, I need to warn everyone” plot archetype, and it’s something I’ve seen done so many times before. Vernestra is still pretty annoying, but her young age does set her apart as special and gifted, which is something all readers can look up to. Lula admits to Vernestra that even though she’s supposed to be a Jedi, all she has are personal attachments. That’s the number 1 no-no for a Jedi and I highly admire that Lula’s character is brave enough to admit that to another Jedi. Vernestra’s response is also surprisingly wonderful as she assures Lula that Jedi “feel” like everyone else and that the key is to find balance.
I was very critical last year about the “High Republic Jedi hypocrisy” when it came to emotions. But Vernestra has restored my faith a little bit in this. Also, she points out that if you are helping people for THEM and not yourself, you are not forming an attachment. Such wise words!
The Nihil attack the Republic Fair (as expected) and it’s all hands on deck to stop them. The Drengir also appears in the book. But Older made their dialogue just a bit too silly and childish for my taste. But I LOVED how he conveyed Ram’s feelings on the devastation of a city he knew and loved, as things never being the same again. That’s truly how I feel about the COVID-19 pandemic! Unfortunately, Older’s biggest mistake in this book is how he makes an inexperienced Jedi padawan suddenly metamorphosis into a Superman-Esque fighter. Literally jumping like a super-flea from ship to ship and destroying them. Is Ram related to Starkiller?
This book had so many highs and lows, I can’t decide if it was brilliant or atrocious! Some things were phenomenal and others were ghastly. I’ve never seen such an imbalance in concepts. The Nihil devastation was certainly toned down for the children’s sake of the book. And if you want more of an adult perspective on this event, please check out Cavan Scott’s adult novel The Rising Storm. I don’t know what to say about Older. He is quite an intriguing writer and this book, while unbalanced is something you should check out. You must see the whole for the whole and each part for the role it plays.
Star Wars: The High Republic ‘Race To Crashpoint Tower’ by Daniel José Older is published by Disney Books and is available to own in the USA NOW! UK readers can pre-order the book for a July 1st release.
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!