Spoilerish Review. The tenets of the story will be discussed below.
The gist: A Star Wars: The Force Awakens Resistance pilot asks Threepio about Luke and is told the story of the Jedi’s first duel with Sarco Plank. The book does not get very deep in to much of anything and is simply a fun Star Wars read that feels like it might have had its hands tied on what it could explore.
Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens’ Weapon of a Jedi was a strange read for me. A part of me really loves it. A part of me was bored with it, and another part of me wants to know what is significant if anything about this book. Jason Fry writes the book well, but it feels like the focus on the micro events of Luke’s life make the book feel insignificant.
Weapon of a Jedi opens in The Force Awakens era as Jessika Pava installs software onto Resistance droids to make sure they’re up to date. Such a mundane task then unfolds into the tale of a great adventure as she realizes she’s talking to the droids that served with the great Luke Skywalker. Threepio tells her a story that has never been told before: the story of the first time Luke Skywalker used his lightsaber in a duel.
While on a Rebel mission, Luke takes a detour and stops by a forbidden temple on Devaron. It turns out the forbidden temple used to house “sorcerers” (i.e. Jedi) according to the locals. There were times when it felt like it might start to turn into a Luke Skywalker Indiana Jones-type adventure. But in truth, it really amounts to Luke Skywalker exercising with training probes on a setting made for Indiana Jones at best. This is something Skywalker can and has done on the Falcon. Many of the moments in the temple could have been a bit more mystical and metaphorical, there could have been more traps and danger. I fully expected to see Threepio setting off all kinds of traps in the temple as he and Artoo accompany Luke, and the moments like that aren’t really capitalized on to the extent I would have liked. However, if you want some ghost Obi-Wan dropping quotes in Luke’s ear while he swings a laser sword, you won’t be let down on that front. It is also worth noting that Threepio and Artoo are well written in this novel.
The big thing for The Force Awakens is that Luke Skywalker hires a guide whom he later duels named Sarco Plank, a dude from The Force Awakens. This character is pretty much one note. He’s a dick. That’s it. He wants money. He will kill you for it. He will take you out into the jungle and rob you when he can. We get some insight into his role in The Force Awakens because he find things people are looking for (for money). So if you follow The Force Awakens spoilers at all, you can figure it out what his role in that film is, based on set photos we’ve seen.
One thing I find peculiar about all of the Journey to the Force Awakens young adult books is that a character will tell the story but the story is not told in that character’s voice, which would be strange, but delightful. Instead Threepio begins to tell the tale and then all of a sudden what came before falls away and really feels separated from the characters hearing the stories. It is almost as if these stories already existed and were reworked to fit into this series. We never cut back to Pava and Threepio as she asks questions about the story unfolding. In other words, these “bookends” feel very tacked on.
You do learn a few things relevant to the The Force Awakens but they are really minutiae-type things like Pava’s call sign and so on. But for the most part, this is stuff that could be revealed in the “fact” books about The Force Awakens coming out and the core story here is just another Luke story in which he is confused about what to do without Ben Kenobi at his side.
I was also a little let down by the idea that Luke fights blind and comes into his own during that battle with Sarco Plank during the culmination of the story. I just read this plot device in a Marvel comic issue in which Boba Fett blinds Luke and he uses the Force to defeat his potential captor. Don’t get me wrong–it is a good device, and I really enjoyed it when I read it in the Marvel issue. It knocked the wind out of this book’s sails though. I get that Luke has a lot to learn, but Luke learning the same lesson this close to together in print is making him feel a little dim. I also really didn’t appreciate that Sarco appears to die in the book and then Threepio just informs us he didn’t (because he’s in the new movie, duh!). Why write a satisfying ending to the duel just to take it away?
I could be wrong, but I feel like this book is a giant red herring of significance. At the end of the day it probably amounts to Obi-Wan Kenobi sighting Garindan and punching him in the face one time had there been a Journey to A New Hope series in 1976. What’s my point? Enjoy the book for what it is, not what you hope it could be. It isn’t a bad Luke adventure, it is just more of the same type of materials we have been getting since the death of the old canon.