A little while longer ago than we’re used to, but not as far back as you may think…
God, I hate the Jedi.
I know we’re starting this review of Star Wars: Light of the Jedi with one of my patented hot takes, but hear me out: Imagine your world is exactly the way it is now, but crazy superpowers are given exclusively to the quinoa vegan hippies and Hot Topic goth edgelords. Everyone else is just trying to live their lives, minding their own business when some Illuminati cult of space wizards start waging galactic war with each other on your front porch in some sort of cosmic spiritual pissing contest. So, when I received word from my beloved Content Wrangler and Editor Evan Griffin that I was being tasked with reviewing Charles Soule’s novel as the first in a new Star Wars era and that it was an old-timey Jedi centric adventure, I had to apologize to my neighbors for the noise and use of colorful language coming from my house.
Luckily for all of us, Light of the Jedi actually turned out to be rather decent but is still worthy of the assured nits and that will assure you will be picked to be had by a Star Wars fan, so with that said, this is where the fun begins.
When Disney and Lucasfilm finished their sequel trilogy with the film that definitely exists, Episode 9: The Rise of Rey Star Wars, they were quick to announce a new era in the Galaxy Far Far Away in the form of comics and books. The new High Republic series of novels takes place ~200 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin = that old movie called Star Wars where they blow up a Death Star and then renamed to Episode IV). This era of the timeline is back when the Old Republic was still just called The Republic, and the people who rule the universe do so from their stuffy bureaucrat offices and tall wizard temples deciding on whether or not to join a galactic war. Not much has drastically changed in those 200 years, but there is still some intrigue to be had. The biggest hurdle for this novel, in particular, is the understanding that Hyperspace is considerably more primitive during the High Republic, and is widely considered to be one of those conveniences you just used while not having to fully understand, like how most people drive their cars while not knowing how a combustion engine works.
This brings us to the crux of the story: A space cargo ship carrying colonists from the inner galaxy abruptly faces danger when they suddenly come across an obstacle in their path through Hyperspace, and while trying to do a sick drift around the blockage the ship gets torn to bits and blown across the galaxy, smashing planets with chunks of space truck going at just-below-light-speed. The rescue attempt of both the people in the cargo ship’s scattered pieces and the planets that are at risk of impact is how we are introduced to our gigantic cast of Jedi and they fail spectacularly. This causes mass havoc and hundreds of millions of deaths. Now, if you are thinking to yourself “Wait a second, didn’t Space Admiral Laura Dern do basically the same thing in The Last Jedi?” Well, my sweet summer child, you remember correctly, and seemingly the answer to your question is… Shut up. Fun fact: I have no clue how Hyperspace works, but don’t worry, no one really does except for some cosmic space whales.
The galaxy mourns after the sudden shock of having a transportation method that has been considered safe for hundreds to thousands of years having such an event occur. (Maybe less than a hundred thousand depending on whether Knights of the Old Republic is or is not canon anymore.) The sudden cataclysmic danger throws the galaxy in turmoil, cutting off entire systems that seemingly can’t go an entire week on their own without starving themselves to death and putting the whole galaxy’s societal functionality effectively on pause. All of this admittedly sounds like a rather intriguing plot, even to a jaded old man like yours truly, and I was beginning to wonder how the Star Wars galaxy was going to deal with such widely affecting stakes when it comes to everyone’s favorite Science Fiction wet blankets, The Jedi.
To be fair to the book and the age it takes place in, the Jedi aren’t portrayed as some kind of omnipotent, perfect wizards who can tackle any problem without effort or danger. The Jedi of the High Republic are shown as being rather vulnerable, with some of the book’s greatest heroes even being considered “flawed” by comparison to the demigods they’re thought to be in the movies and more recent, film adjacent books. A personal favorite of mine was Burryaga, a Wookie Jedi Padawan who is constantly trying to help and chime into discussions, despite the language barrier of only being able to speak Bigfoot.
Like any adventure series, you can’t have a good conflict without a good villain, and Star Wars has some of pop culture’s best! Joining the likes of such fantastic foils as the Galactic Empire, The Trade Federation Droid army, and the Empire again, we have The Nihil. You read that right, The Nihil. Like Nihilism or AnNihilation. Okay, so not a great name, but how do they rank on the list of Space Baddies? Essentially, they operate like Mad Max‘s marauders but in space, up to and including huffing dubious combat stims and space drugs before combat, and blasting heavy metal music across the space radio waves when they attack.
Before you get too excited about the promise of an interstellar Doof Warrior riding on the front of a battleship, shredding on his intergalactic lightsaber guitar as he flies into combat, the Nihil are actually considerably organized pirates. Each faction has a tier list of underlings and a regimented makeshift raiding army. Ultimately, as far as villains go, it could have been worse (looking at you, J.J. Abrams) and I look forward to seeing how they grow as a galactic threat in the next two books due out this year. Ultimately, Light of the Jedi is an all-around adventurous read that has got some thrills throughout and a sold setup for a new version of the galaxy we’ve never had the chance to explore. If there was a definitive way to recommend the novel, it is absolutely the unabridged audiobook, as Star Wars‘ always go that little extra mile in production value by adding music and sound effects, and it made the week of couch listening and dog walking considerably more pleasant.
Where I would normally make an entire side tangent about how Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron is a great book to start off within the new canon era in that it harkens back to the golden age of Star Wars, I can also say I can highly recommend Light of the Jedi in that it recalls what made the old Star Wars books of the prequel era interesting as a precursor to the Clone Wars series.
The High Republic era has turned out to be quite cool so far, so let’s hope the next fourteen thousand books pay off the story seeds and new characters, I guess.
Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule was published by Disney books and Del Rey. The unabridged audiobook is from Random House and narrated by Marc Thompson.