Bloodline by Claudia Gray
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: August 30th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Leia Organa has had enough of government work which takes up all her time and accomplishes nothing. When the Rebellion defeated the Empire and created the New Republic she harbored hopes of all the Galactic Senate could do. Decades later as the Senate is divided between the Populists like her, who favor individual rule, and the Centrists, who long for system wide control, the only time they can come together and accomplish anything is in celebration of the old war heroes, like her adoptive father, Bail Organa. Seeing his statue erected on Hosnian Prime Leia comes to the startling decision that she will leave the Senate. She never sees Han, and as for her son Ben and her brother Luke, she doesn't even know where they are. Han likes the idea of the two of them traveling the galaxy together, but he knows Leia too well and knows that politics and action are in her blood; she just needs a challenge. That challenge arrives when a Twi'lek Senator from Ryloth comes before the Senate begging for help against a new Nikto crime cartel. The Nikto, lead by Rinnrivin Di, are filling the void left by the collapse of the Hutt's criminal empire. The Twi'lek Senator begs for the Senate to do what they promised, stop the proliferation of crime.
Leia sees this as a worthy cause and it could be her legacy for when she announces her retirement. But then due to the opposition's suspicions of the Populists she is saddled with a young blood Centrist, Ransolm Casterfo, who seems to be an admirer of the very Empire Leia almost gave her life to defeat. But investigating Rinnrivin Di brings the two together and they realize that despite their differences, they actually have a lot in common and each has traits the other admires. But while they are bridging party lines and bonding their investigation is bringing to light startling discoveries. The Nikto cartel is being funded by a major player. Could it be the remnants of the old Empire? Or a group calling themselves the Amaxine Warriors who seem to be amassing large stores of weapons and troops in the far reaches of the galaxy? Or could the villain be far closer to home? With such unrest in the Senate and a terrifying new move to have a First Senator, a move Palpatine himself would have approved, whomever is moving against the New Republic has the perfect cover and it's up to Leia to unmask them.
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zhan is THE BOOK that made me a reader. Hands down. It continued the most important story of my childhood, that of the original Star Wars trilogy. When Disney came in and basically redacted the entire Expanded Universe I was sad because I felt that between this radical move and the three prequels I was no longer invested in the Star Wars Universe. And let's face it, The Force Awakens didn't awaken anything in me, being nothing more than a predictable rehash of A New Hope, which is easily the weakest of the original trilogy, or should I say the only Star Wars films that count? I remember a time when just even logging into my Star Wars Galaxies account brought me joy, not to do missions or kill Rancors, which is a ticket to an early grave, but just to walk the worlds and be a part of that universe. When reading a review of Bloodline and how it was written to bridge the gap between the original trilogy and the current film I felt, for the first time, in a long time, a new hope kindling in me. Perhaps this book would address the issues I felt were glossed over in The Force Awakens. Perhaps THIS is what I had been looking for. Of course to put this much pressure on one book with all my expectations isn't wise, yet I still did it.
Bloodline isn't the book that I expected it to be. If you, like me, were looking for the book that would tell you what went wrong with Han and Leia's happily ever after and what exactly turned Ben to the dark side, you're not going to find it here. Han and Leia are still happy, though often apart. If the book could be said to have a glaring plot hole it would be this unexplained scattering of Han and Leia's family. It is inferred that Leia has to have her politics while Han has to have his freedom with his races so to stay happy they are often apart, while Ben is apparently off doing the Jedi thing with Luke. Nothing is ever said outright as to how their family unit reached this point after several decades. Leia just bemoans the fact that it has to be this way. But why? Why does it have to be this way? And right there is your plot hole. We are to just accept that this is the only way their lives could have played out are we? Why is Leia's alienation from her family necessary? And isn't it possible that this alienation is what drove Ben to the dark side? In fact with her staff and colleagues Leia forms a new surrogate family unit and I can't help but think she brought on Ben's defection because of her blithe abandonment of him. But again, this is all inferred from what was never said.
And while Bloodline isn't the book I expected I was won over in the end. We were treated to a rare and intriguing glimpse as to how the Resistance started and how the Empire went about rebuilding to become The First Order. At the beginning of The Force Awakens everything is already in place. Leia is running the Resistance, The First Order is about to make it's presence felt, and it was already a done deal. But it takes a lot to get from singing Ewoks to another war where the Jedi are once again shrouded in myth. A lot had to happen, and while that "lot" didn't happen to feature Ben or Leia and Han going their separate ways we still saw so much. The building of armaments, the funneling of money, the supposedly good senators going to the bad and wanting the days of the Empire back. At the close of this book I felt that despite not having much of what I wanted, it was what I needed. I saw how things fit together in the bigger Star Wars universe. And as this book drew to a close I felt that it was just the beginning. There was a sad inevitability of loss pervading the book, but that just brought us to the beginning of the next chapter, the next story, which happens to be The Force Awakens. For the first time since I saw it in theaters, I thought I just might want to watch it again.
For how much this book won me over I should be very clear that it won me over in THE END, not in the beginning or not even really in the middle. It took quite awhile for me to connect to this book. The reason is simple. Politics. Right now in the US and in fact all over the world politics are crazy. And I mean legitimately capable of being certified and locked away for many many years. Therefore to have this book start out so politics heavy with Leia's work in the Galactic Senate, well, if I really am trying to avoid real politics in order to preserve my own sanity, you can imagine how I feel about reading about non-existent politics. I was having horrible flashbacks to the prequels and all the senators and even freakin' E.T. in those weird pods. Despite having seen The Revenge of the Sith only once I can still remember the horribly written line of dialogue uttered by Padmé "so this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause." I actually groaned aloud at that trite line. So to be right back in the Galactic Senate, even in a "new" form, to be there with memories of cheesy dialogue and ineffectual politics where freakin' Jar Jar could sway the course of events, well, I wasn't pleased. Give me anything but politics and I'm a happy camper.
So it was interesting to see when the shift happened in me from not wanting to pick the book up to not being able to put it down. Because even if the politics bored me, every time I did pick up the book I enjoyed it. Yet it was the "human" connection that made this book work and made me want to keep reading and not needing that reminder every time that I was reading a good book. All the individual characters found places in my heart. From the complex Ransolm Casterfo, to Leia's aid, Greer Sonnel, and her mysterious illness, even to the nefarious Rinnrivin Di, they all captivated me. Once I realized that I was hypothesizing about what exactly was wrong with Greer I knew I was a goner. To care that much that you don't just want but NEED to know if a character has a legitimate health issue, then you're hooked. And right here, this connection, I think that's what I missed in The Force Awakens. I could not care less about Rey. Where she came from, who exactly she is. There's nothing there but a Keira Knightley clone with about the same level of acting skills. She doesn't interest me, and to have a principal character that you're indifferent to? It's a failure before you've even begun. Whereas to have your expectations turned on you, to not care about Ransolm Casterfo to get to a point where it pains you that he isn't around... now that is how you tell a proper story and make a memorable Star Wars story to boot.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Bloodline by Claudia Gray