Steve Titcomb analyzes the three stories from the prequel novel to The Force Awakens.
This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: Before the Awakening.
Star Wars: Before the Awakening
by Greg Rucka
By Steve Titcomb // Before the Awakening is everything a fan of The Force Awakens needs. Even those hesitant to like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars newest characters will enjoy this read because it gives a greater understanding into this generation of films’ “big three.” The novel by Greg Rucka is split into three different stories that focus on one character at a time. The novel contains a common theme of trust. Finn’s store delves into his inability to share the doubts he has about the First Order and the fear of what they will do if should they find out. Rey has trouble trusting in general–trusting herself and those around her. Poe is someone who needs to be able to trust the person he is taking orders from.
Finn’s journey is a journey inside his own mind, dealing with the doubts he is having and about his role in the First Order. He wonders if others feel the same fear of what will happen if he reveals his dissenting thoughts prevents him from doing so. Finn just didn’t decide to quit the First Order out of the blue and The Force Awakens helps you along his journey understand his motivations. In training, Finn is the ideal candidate for a stormtrooper. A natural leader and first in results, Before the Awakening deals with him questioning everything the First Order stands for after simple mining negotiation turns into a bloodbath. Unable to even trust those closest to him, FN-2187 takes a journey that turns him into one of the newest beloved characters of the series.
Rey’s backstory is an interesting read. While it doesn’t give the reader any more information on how she ended up on Jakku, to a certain extent it does help the reader understand why she doesn’t want to leave Jakku by the time the movie begins. Rey’s upbringing on Jakku has a lot do with her being able to do the things she does and shows how she has access to flight simulators of all sorts to explain why she is able to fly so well–even after a rough start. Rey is a junker that works alone and trusts no one. Working to live, the desert of battles long past are where she makes a living. She one day finds a ship that she believes she can repair to get her 5,000 portions from Unkar. The thought of leaving the planet never even crosses her mind–even after drawing the attention of two characters, Devi and Strunk. Forming an unlikely alliance, Rey’s trouble to trust keeps being tested as Devi and Strunk live up to their word in helping repair the ship. The pair end up taking the ship after Rey is about to reveal it to Unkar Plutt, and the story becomes a little unclear at this point. Rey ends up just hopping back on her speeder and going back to her home. It is a strange ending and doesn’t leave the reader with a satisfying ending.
Poe’s section is a fascinating read that does an excellent job explaining his motives and why he acts the way he does. A better upbringing by far compared to Finn and Rey, Poe is a well-established pilot first for the New Republic and then the Resistance by the time The Force Awakens occurs. Poe is already on his path by the film’s beginning and he comes off as a man who knows his mission in life. Before the Awakening gives you his background and how having parents who served in the Rebellion helped shape him into the man he is. Poe doesn’t have faith that the New Republic is taking the threat of the First Order seriously and his willingness to go above orders to seek answers brings him to the attention of General Organa. A shuttle is hijacked by the First Order and Poe is prevented from finding out the answers by some higher ups. This leads to Leia seeking Poe out and sending him after a Republic senator suspected of being a First Order spy and benefactor. This is a fun section that gives you a deeper understanding of the threat that the First Order poses and the corruption in the New Republic senate that has helped it grow.
Before the Awakening is a good companion read to go along with The Force Awakens. It has a few drawings that are basic but capture moments from within the story. Finn during his melee fight; Rey in front of her speeder and Poe while evading the First Order. Nothing outstanding but enough to help you get the picture of the character in your head and give you a break from the reading. It would have been nice if more drawings of scenes had been included, but the few that are do a decent job of summing up who that character is. The stories serve their purpose in setting up the character arcs in the film. Poe’s story maybe my favorite, and also has glimpses of his parents that are introduced in the comic series, Shattered Empire. Finn’s story helps explain why he took the actions he did in the film. Rey’s story disappointed me, however. Rey is my favorite character in the film, and while I didn’t expect answers to essential plot points, the story didn’t explain her internal struggles within its own framework as best as it could have. Greg Rucka does a good job revealing how growing up on Jakku gave Rey the abilities she has, but this story arc feels incomplete in the end.