The Legends of Luke Skywalker is a junior novel that cannot be missed.
Luke Skywalker has had an impact on people’s lives for decades. The fictional lives of those in the Star Wars universe are no exception. The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu gives several accounts of how the Jedi spent has days after Return of the Jedi, some perhaps true, some perhaps apocryphal. All of the stories, however, serve to inspire a new generation to learn Luke’s ways and follow in his footsteps.
Spoiler Free Review
The Legends of Luke Skywalker was announced at Star Wars Celebration Orlando in April 2017 alongside several other exciting books as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi marketing series. These books included the novel Phasma and the Young Adult novel Leia Princess of Alderaan, amongst several other media. Upon its release on October 31, 2017, readers were not sure what to expect from this little-marketed book. Now, in a post-The Last Jedi world, this book is even more worth the visit.
Collections of short stories have been popular recently in the Star Wars canon. The Legends of Luke Skywalker mixes up this formula by weaving six unique short legends between an endearing frame story. The frame this book uses is heightened by the hindsight of The Last Jedi and the provocative final scene where a young stable hand force-pulls a broom towards him as he gazes out into the endless possibilities of space.
Legends of Luke follows several deck hands, a stow-away, a droid, and the crew of cargo vessel bound for Canto Bight as they swap legends about the Hero of the Republic, Luke Skywalker. The stories are each told through entirely unique perspectives and styles. Ken Liu’s impressive ability to write such drastically different tales in a single context draws the reader right aboard this vessel, equally as captivated as the rest of the audiences, wondering whether these fantastic tales are true or myth.
“There Are Lots Of Stories About Luke Skywalker. Some Of Them Might Even Be True.”
A central theme of The Legends of Luke Skywalker is that this man went on to truly shape the entire galaxy after the defeat of the Empire. Every living being, and even droids, have thoughts on the man. The stories told in this book are not all grand or even flattering, however. The very first is a hilarious rendition of A New Hope told from the point of view of a conspiracy theorist. This man has no reverence for Luke like many of the other characters of the book do. Instead, he believes that “Luke Clodplodder” is a Rebel hoax made to weaken the Empire in a widespread propaganda effort.
Another of the six stories shows Luke as a menacing, all-powerful being with the ability to rip Star Destroyers straight out of the sky. Yet, a different side of Luke is discussed as well. One story shows him as at first, a somewhat overconfident, believing that he knows best about the force from his brief training with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is later humbled by a new teacher who helps expand his understanding of the Force and what connection to it people can have. Whether being shown as a hero among droid-kind or a fool with more luck than skill, there is another theme clear throughout each story in The Legends of Luke Skywalker.
The Man Behind The Legend
No matter how Luke is being characterized by the various first and second-hand accounts of his life being shared, he is always humanized in one way or another. Showing his flaws and mistakes is certainly one way, but The Legends of Luke Skywalker does this more subtly as well. Luke is not always mentioned by name in each story. In some stories, it is simply implied that the story is perhaps about Luke Skywalker. This is a storytelling device that allows the monolithic man to come down from on high and be one with the common people. Other times, he is shown directly interacting with the common folk.
It is this humanization of Luke that emboldens the characters within the frame story as they approach their final destination. As they learn to relate deeper and more personally to their hero, they come to recognize that it is not magic powers or pure luck that makes Luke a hero, but rather, his deep care for others and constant desire to learn. He does not judge the conspiracy theorist for his radical tales. Instead, he asks to listen to the story all the way through to its end. He saves an Imperial life for no reason other than because life is valuable. Luke even mounts a rescue for his beloved droid, simply because that is the kind of person he is, and because being that kind of person is what keeps the galaxy safer.
Leaving Luke nameless in the stories is essential to helping the reader graft their own experience and emotions onto the character. With no name, it is questionable whether ever story even truly is about Luke at all. It serves to show that absolutely anybody could be Luke, if only they just do the right thing.
From A Certain Point Of View
The interpretive freedom over whether the stories of The Legends of Luke Skywalker are about Luke serves another bold purpose. It serves to add murk to the modern morass of “canon.” The events of the story overlap with components of the Star Wars canon both new and old. The frame story is considered official “canon,” but the six short stories are all told by unreliable narrators. There is no way to know whether the stories truly happened or not.
Yet, that is the point of the book. The conspiracy theorist even pokes fun at the notion that every detail in Star Wars has to line up perfectly as he proclaims the impossibility of the Death Star’s destruction being portrayed on holotapes in two dramatically different ways. He is referencing here the real-life fact that the original release and Special Edition release of A New Hope portray the explosion quite differently. What Ken Liu is trying to show readers is that just as the tales shared in The Legends of Luke Skywalker are myths whose true account can never be known for sure, the same is true of Star Wars itself. And that is part of what makes it so uniquely beautiful.
Star Wars as a modern myth is as strong as it is because of the ability of its viewers and readers to interpret events different through its decades worth of material. The Legends of Luke Skywalker graciously accepts this tradition as it gives potentially true accounts of events, but undoubtedly accurate depictions of the character himself. Whether the tales themselves are accurate accounts of this fiction history or not might matter to some readers. What is universal, is the insight into the way the galaxy viewed Luke after Return of the Jedi: as a hero, perhaps, but foremost, as a human being they could aspire to.
With The Context Of The Last Jedi
Revisiting The Legends of Luke Skywalker after the release of The Last Jedi, the book was an excellent means of helping audiences recognize that in spite of his self-imposed exile, Luke was always the kind of person to aspire to. The lessons he learns from Rey in the film help return him to the person shown in this book who listens, can accept he is wrong, and is willing to learn from any teacher.
Luke had been largely absent from Star Wars during this new ear. Aside from the Star Wars ongoing comic series from Marvel Comics, which takes place in between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, his only other appearance was concurrent to the book in Star Wars Battlefront II. His return in this book to the spotlight is greatly appreciated as a good, shorter read, and as a love letter to a legend.