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Star Wars: A New Dawn
by John Jackson Miller
Del Rey, 2014, $28.00, 367pp
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Dark times have overtaken the Jedi. Young Caleb Dume had been one of the most promising of the Jedi-in-training when Obi-Wan’s warning and farewell scattered what was left of the Order. Now, as Kanan Jarrus, he keeps a low profile and stays on the move. The call to action may or may not come, but only a survivor would be alive to answer if it did. He has to suppress his skills, and for the most part they stay buried with his name, and his hope.

Then he comes to the mining planet Gorse, a major source of thorilide, which makes it of critical strategic importance. One of the Emperor’s hand-picked men, Count Vidian, is in charge, continuing his galactic record of improving efficiency and productivity for the greater glory of Palpatine. Vidian is one of those characters I find seductively horrible, or perhaps horribly persuasive, because he strives for perfection, something I am inclined to sympathize with. He has the glamour of a Miltonic Lucifer or a Lewis-ian Superbia (see The Pilgrim’s Regress.)  Trouble is - he is oblivious to the price paid by the miners and their families. With his array of cybernetic enhancements, Vidian is literally inhuman as well as inhumane.

Rea Sloane, newly minted captain of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Ultimatum, quickly figures out that success in this regime follows obedience to orders; she shows a positive genius for anticipating orders and swiftly actualizing them. And yet, no matter what she goes along with or does, there is a sense of the hero-in-waiting about Sloane. Since I get the sense some of these characters are going to have famous, or infamous, offspring, I definitely have my eye on her.

Hera is an infiltrator, an instigator, a rebel to the core. Zaluna is one of those cool aliens with the long cranial extensions, who becomes a rebel by accident, as she follows one impulse of kindness after another and becomes Hera’s strategically placed agent. When they uncover an insanely destructive plot, it is a race against storm troopers and time to prevent a catastrophe – even if it means the Emperor benefits from their intervention.

Miller writes excellent Star Wars novels; in part, I think, because he has such a love for the visual forms of storytelling: comics and movies. Maybe he scripts these books as graphic novels in his mind, or asks himself, “How would George Lucas show this?” and then describes what he sees in his mind’s eye.  But he still pays attention to the parts of a story that cannot be shown: what goes on inside someone’s mind, the subjective view.  ~~ Chris R. Paige

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