Before the Force Awakens, Witness the Rise of the Empire

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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Since Disney and Lucasfilm swept away nearly 30 years of Expanded Universe stories (and relegated them to non-canon Legends), they’ve been slowly rebuilding the “expanded” (i.e., non-film) Star Wars universe through Star Wars Rebels, several Marvel comics series, and various novels.

Two novels from the first wave of books recently got a new paperback release, along with a few extra goodies, in the form of Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire. James Luceno’s Tarkin and John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn are both included in this new book. (GeekMom briefly reviewed both books here.)

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Luceno’s book follows a (relatively) young Governor Tarkin as he tries to quell insurgents and guerrilla fighters in a pre-Death Star Empire while simultaneously trying to figure out this mysterious new Sith on the scene. Though it can drag in places, it adds depth to the character and reveals a fascinating insight into his relationship with Darth Vader.

A New Dawn is the first piece of a puzzle that every Rebels fan is trying to put together: How did the crew of the Ghost come together? Miller provides a rich backstory for Kanan Jarrus and reveals how he first met Hera.

As I said, though, neither of these books is new. The Rise of the Empire is a repackaging of both novels. But even if you’ve already read both of those books, you may still want to check out this new edition.

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Included as “extras” in this volume are three brand-new short stories that each focus on a different aspect of the Star Wars universe:

Melissa Scott’s “Mercy Mission” is a prequel of sorts to A New Dawn and follows a young Hera Syndulla on one of her first missions, before she met up with Kanan or the rest of the Rebels crew. The mercy mission in question involves smuggling some much needed medical supplies to Hera’s home planet of Ryloth. It’s interesting to note that, in this story, Hera serves on the Eclipse under Captain Rheden (a woman), serves with several other female crewmates, and is avoiding capture by the imperial Moff Delion Mors (a female).

John Jackson Miller’s “Bottleneck” relates a power struggle between Grand Moff Tarkin and the cyborg Count Vidian, who serves as a wonderful rival to Tarkin’s obstinacy. Reluctantly, they must work together to root out the cause of some labor unrest in the Outer Rim. In short, there’s a shortage of Stormtrooper armor, and the two must investigate the cause at various factories. The story is interesting in that it drills down to the practical, “blue-collar” aspects of the epic battles we’re used to seeing. At its heart, the story concerns itself with bureaucracy and unionized labor.

Jason Fry’s “The Levers of Power” takes place during the final moments of the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star. The story focuses on Admiral Rae Sloane (whom we also meet in “Bottleneck”), and it’s a compelling look at how Imperial power went from apogee to nadir in a matter of minutes. The fog of war has descended on the Star Destroyer Vigilance, and it’s great fun to see the final act of Return of the Jedi from an alternative perspective – one that sees the imperial fleet quickly move from arrogance to retreat.

All three short stories are brisk and entertaining. You can read them all in a single sitting. I’m not sure any are worth the price of admission alone, but as a package and together with Luceno and Miller’s novels, you can’t go wrong.

Coming in at a hefty 720 pages and priced at a very reasonable $15 (less on Amazon), I can honestly say this is an incredible bargain. If you haven’t read either book and were thinking about it, it’s really a no-brainer. You can pick this up for about the same price as either of the two paperbacks. And you get some incredibly fun short stories to boot.

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