I admit. I haven’t read a Star Wars novel in 35 years. And I normally wouldn’t be interested in this new tale of Luke Skywalker’s adventures, set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
Except that it’s written by Kevin Hearne.
The Tacopope is one of my favorite authors, not just because he hails from Phoenix (although he has fled to Colorado now), but because his writing is fun. His Iron Druid Chronicles, about an ancient Irish druid in modern Tempe are a riot, filled with snappy dialogue and plenty of snark.
And that’s what he brings to this Star Wars tale. Along with an enthusiastic love of Star Wars, that is.
Told in the first person by Luke as he cools his heels after destroying the Death Star, we see him coming to terms with the Force and his place in the rebellion.
And finding romance.
Anxious to learn and anxious to help he takes on a mission for Leia and Admiral Akbar to help secure a new weapons supplier. This turns into a bigger mission when he saves an alien ship from an Imperial attack, and soon Luke is joined by the beautiful Nakari, the daughter of a rich biotech researcher. The pair, along with trusty R2D2 have to rescue an alien cryptographer who speaks in math formulae.
Along the way Luke starts learning the fundamentals of channeling the force and controlling his emotions to keep the Dark Side in check. A fairly standard bildungsroman that emphasizes just how little knowledge of the Force Luke possesses.
The story comes alive with Hearne’s playful writing, which will feel familiar to fans of Atticus and Oberon from the Iron Druid Chronicles. From rebel bands recording anti-Vader pop hits to the dubious sounding fast food staple, nerf nuggets in rancor sauce, Hearne injects loads of silly fun into his story. He still shows plenty of knowledge (and love) for the whole Star Wars universe, developing certain races and adding his own new creature, the Skullborer. I don’t want to give much away, but those creepy sounding critters spark amusing scenes and should figure into future novels, although they were little more than a set piece in Heir to the Jedi.
Indeed, it almost feels too silly. It still doesn’t exactly seem like Luke Skywalker to me. Of course my knowledge of Luke’s character has been shaped solely by the original trilogy. Caught between the wide-eyed farmboy of A New Hope and the impatient apprentice of Empire, in Heir to the Jedi Luke is funny, flirtatious and a lot more inquisitive.
It took a while for me to wrap my head around these notions of Luke as a character, being so rooted in the movie series. I just never thought of him being snarky, although Hearne does capture his youthful awkwardness and ambition well.
I’m curious how this book will go over with hardcore Star Wars fans. It is part of the new literary canon, which will may upset older fans who bristle at the loss of their favorite stories, and the treatment of Luke might spark controversy as well. But Hearne’s obvious knowledge of the Star Wars universe should allay fears.
I’m not convinced that Hearne’s style translates completely into the Star Wars Universe, but I like this book. Maybe not completely as a Star Wars novel, but certainly as a Kevin Hearne novel. Who knows though, the last Star Wars novel I read was Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
And maybe Star Wars needs more light-hearted banter after the unrelenting seriousness and wooden dialogue of Episodes 1-3. Or at least light-hearted banter that’s better than “Yippee!”, “Wizard Ani!” or “Okee-day!”.
Heir to the Jedi hits stores on March 3.