Unless you've been in a coma, you know that a new Star Wars film hit theaters last week. Star Wars is undeniably a mega-successful film franchise and The Last Jedi is sure to follow suit. But let's be honest: Although Disney/LucasFilm is admittedly picking up the pace, for a film franchise that's been around for forty years, the pickings are slim. Only nine films have been released thus far, and some of those included Jar Jar Binks. (#StarWarsBurn) Yes, there are television shows which fans can watch, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the Star Wars universe, the real solution is to read books, which can easily offer much meatier plots and thrilling entertainment in their own right. You might think that media tie-ins are not worth your time. You'd be wrong. Media tie-ins can be just as rewarding as any other kind of book. But don't take my word for it. Check out any one of these recent Star Wars titles that might pique your interest.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was, in my opinion, an excellent film. One of the reasons it worked so well was that it wasn't part of the main Star Wars storyline. The standalone film had a decidedly different tone and introduced new characters as it told the immediate back story of 1977's original Star Wars film: how the rebels obtained the plans for the Empire's planet-killing Death Star. The heroine of that film, Jyn Erso, gets some of her tragic backstory fleshed out on Rebel Rising by Beth Revis. Readers will get to see her complicated relationship form with the rebel Saw Gerrera, an extremist who will stop at nothing to thwart the evil Empire. Gerrera serves as Jyn's mentor, but their relationship is tested when Jyn faces betrayal and she must discover what it is she truly believes in.
Ok...I hear you. Your interest lies more in the main Star Wars plot: the Luke Skywalker story. Ever since The Force Awakens was released, the Star Wars prose novels readily had something to offer by way of the Journey to Star Wars sequence of books. The latest in that series, conveniently offered up in a sub-series called Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, offer excellent stories about the people and places featured in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. For example, there's Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson, a novel about the notorious First Order Captain first seen in The Force Awakens. Phasma's political rival tortures a captured rebel pilot looking for information that will bring Phasma down. This is where readers learn just how tough Phasma can be.
Meanwhile, readers get to see the younger years of everyone's favorite princess in Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray. Here, a sixteen-year-old Princess Leia Organa is preparing herself to take over the throne from her adopted parents Breha and Bail. Her training involves learning survival tactics, practicing politics and participating in missions of diplomacy. All of this training comes in handy when she discovers that her parents and their Senate allies are making deals behind closed doors, thus forcing Leia to make a decision between acting solely for the people of Alderaan as their princess, or becoming the rebel hero that the galaxy so desperately needs.
In The Force Awakens, it was said that the Jedi Knights had fallen into the realm of myths and legends. Myths and legends are propagated through stories, and it's exactly those stories that are told in Ken Liu's recent book The Legends of Luke Skywalker. Built on a framework of a group of deckhands telling stories aboard a cargo ship on its way to Canto Bight (one of the locations of The Last Jedi), Liu now has a platform on which to tell the stories of a legendary hero. If you've read The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, you already know that Liu excels at this type of storytelling. The Legends of Luke Skywalker offers bite-size morsels of Luke's heroic exploits.
Speaking of Canto Bight, the most recent book in the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi series is a collection of interconnected short novels from four authors. Canto Bight by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant & John Jackson Miller offers a set of prequel stories set in the casino city of Canto Bight. This is the city where ex-First-Order-soldier Finn (played by John Boyega) and Resistance maintenance worker Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) seek out DJ the galactic hacker (Benicio Del Toro). Canto Bright offers 4 tales that showing the dark underbelly just beneath the surface of the luxurious casino city.
Star Wars book have something to offer everyone. Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein, for example, offers a book for middle grade readers. The Last Jedi is the film that introduces the Cobalt Squadron, a group of bomber pilots and technicians fighting for the rebel cause. Wein's book includes new characters from The Last Jedi, including the mechanic Rose Tico and her gunner sister Paige. The action/adventure book also includes illustrations by Phil Noto. There are also short fiction Star Wars books. The anthology From a Certain Point of View serves up forty stories for readers to sink their teeth into, each one reimagining a moment from the original Star Wars film, but seen through the eyes of one of its supporting characters. Contributors include Nnedi Okorofor, Daniel José Older, Mur Lafferty, Paul S. Kemp, Delilah S. Dawson, Adam Christopher, Madeleine Roux and Chuck Wendig.
This is by no means an end. There are plenty more good stories on the horizon. The Star Wars book machine is unstoppable. Most notably, next year sees the release of Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, a follow-on from last April's Thrawn. True Star Wars book fans will recognize this character first introduced back in Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy (1991 – 1993). As additional evidence that Star Wars novels are worth checking out, know that it was this decades-old Thrawn trilogy audiences were clamoring to see adapted a few years back when it was first announced that Disney would be taking over production of the Star Wars films. There are great stories being told in the Star Wars universe. They're just waiting for you to discover them.