Let's talk about Star Wars.
As I was looking at a decently long wait time to get into Star Wars: The Force Awakens a few months ago, I consulted my former roommate and Star Wars guru as to some literature that would fit the theme of the evening. He did not disappoint and offered me numerous possible titles to pick up. I chose Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon and as far as Jedi stories go, it was a good choice.
I should start by saying you should not expect to see Luke, Leia, Han or any of your old favorites here as this story is set many years before A New Hope - 25,793 years to be exact. Nor are any of these characters meant to be the very distant ancestors to those characters. There are not even lightsabers. Really, the strongest (and maybe only) connections to the cinematic Star Wars universe are the ideas surrounding the Force, the Jedi class and a world order that focuses on a balance between good and evil. Oh, and there are spaceships. And a cranky but lovable Droid who can’t actually speak.
Lanoree Brock is one badass female protagonist. She’s a Je’daii Ranger, born with an incredibly strong connection to the force, imbued with a plethora of natural gifts, focused on her duty to the Je’daii and committed to bringing peace and balance to her world. Yet she is so incredibly human in her emotions. Her brother, Dal, is basically her polar opposite.
At the top of the book, an adult Lanoree believes her brother to be dead until the Je’daii masters call her in for a special mission: there are rumors that Dal is not only alive, but that he is the leader of an underground society that is intent on discovering the mysteries of an ancient civilization and unleashing a power that may destroy the universe. Her mission is to stop him, by any means necessary. Yeah, it’s pretty intense. Lanoree is accompanied by Tre Sana - a Twi’lek with a seedy past and contradictory world view - who takes her into the belly of numerous underground operations that will challenge everything she thought she knew about good and evil. Alternating with chapters showing a young Lanoree and Dal growing further and further apart, this book is equal parts sci-fi adventure, old folk tale and political drama with the most intense sibling rivalry you have ever seen.
To open up a much broader conversation, sci-fi has for decades been a friend to strong, awesome, independent female characters. This is perhaps the result of leaving the reality we know and having the ability to create new rules, new ethnicities/races, new class structure and new gender “norms.” It might be a little bit (traditionally) men writing the kind of women they fantasize about, who are far less helpless than popular media would have us believe. Possibly it is just the result of authors getting bored with the same renegade cowboy hero and looking to diversify. It might be a combination of these, or simply an indication of a more open-minded readership. Whatever the reason, I have often noticed a broader scope of characters when reading sci-fi and the Star Wars universe is no exception. Yes, the video showing all the lines spoken by women not named Leia in Episodes IV-VI is embarrassing and the complete decimation of Princess Amidala’s gumption through Episodes II-III is egregious. But that’s film. When it comes to the expanded universe, there are strong women everywhere. Just check out Aurra Sing, An’ya Kuro, Asajj Ventress, Mara Jade, Shaak Ti, Jaina Solo, and Darth Traya among others.
Into the Void was exactly what I was looking for - it’s a great foray into the Star Wars universe without being held to George Lucas’ plot line. It’s an exciting, multi-dimensional adventure story set in space with a good amount of heart. And the main character is a woman who is, at times, seemingly superhuman but also…just human, with all the conflicting emotions that come with simultaneously loving and fearing your family, and wanting to do right for the world but understanding that answer is not always crystal clear.
Science Fiction & Fantasy