Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker (Book)
The latest Disney Star Wars book release seeks to expand what we know about Luke Skywalker in a different way, but is the experience worth your time? Check out my full review to see my thoughts on the new release!
As we roll closer to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a new book that takes a unique approach to filling in some of the gaps on what Luke Skywalker’s been up to since we last saw him on the big screen. The Star Wars galaxy is a large place, and heroes like Luke have reached mythological status. The latest Journey to The Last Jedi book from Disney takes a look at how the denizens of the galaxy think of Luke, by telling various stories of his exploits after the events of Return of the Jedi.
Ken Liu uses a distinct narrative method for The Legends of Luke Skywalker, in that it’s multiple stories within a singular tale. The book sees a group of young deckhands aboard a Hutt cargo ship bound for Canto Bight (one of the new locations in The Last Jedi). Along the way, they find themselves telling each other stories they’ve heard about Luke Skywalker, all while getting mixed up in a little adventure of their own.
The majority of the book is made up of these six different stories about Luke, with the “present day” moments with the new characters treated as interludes. As such, the primary story, around which we here the Luke adventures, is relatively shallow. There's a stowaway on board the vessel, and as a few of the other kids (and even a droid) go about sneaking her around the ship during the night in order to help her escape once they land, more tall tales about the Jedi Knight are shared.
There's no real tension in this aspect of the book, as each interlude is mostly just a setup to get to the next Luke Skywalker story. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the meat and potatoes of the novel revolves around these different stories, but if you're looking for something more in the 'present' day timeline, you're not going to find much. The characters are pretty much all wide-eyed youngsters traversing the galaxy for the first time, and mostly serve to function the literary device being used.
For me, I really enjoyed this approach to the book. Each Luke story (a couple of which are short stories, with the remainder feeling more akin to novellas) is told by a different character, which gives each one a slightly different vibe. This allows for each story to bring in it's own unique aspects and keeps the novel fresh throughout. It makes for a quick read as it feels like you're diving into a new novel every time.
I've already seen some readers struggle with this, however, as so many fans were expecting (hoping) to have a more definitive novel of Luke's journey between the end of Return of the Jedi and his appearance in the new films. The Legends of Luke Skywalker definitely isn't that. It's more like The Canterbury Tales of the galaxy far, far away. You're told from the start that these stories about Luke, are just that: "stories." They may have inklings of truth within them, or could be entirely made up, with at least one story essentially being passed down through a friend of a friend of a friend who heard it from their barber.
In this way, the stories being told about Luke are only as accurate as the storyteller (the kids narrating them) knows them to be. Because of this, by the end of the book, we still don't really know what happened to Luke in the interim years. What we get, however, is a sense of the direction he took following the end of the Empire, and where his mindset was. Despite the nature of the novel, it does offer up some teasing hints about what Luke has been doing (gathering knowledge) and how his character is still as noble as we remember him.
Each story is definitely unique and run the gamut from tearing Star Destroyers out of the sky, to having his actions controlled by a sentient flea (or the galactic equivalent). Of the six stories, three are a lot of fun to read, and even knowing they're "tall tales" I enjoyed them quite a bit. Two of the stories were not so great, and just didn't work for me, while the other was enjoyable but didn’t leave any lasting impressions on me. Fortunately, these were among the shorter ones in the book and it wasn't long before I was onto something else.
Ken Liu's writing style is fun and fluid. He makes great use of the settings within each tale, and makes excellent use of the "less is more" approach. He doesn't bog the book down with over-exposition; instead he fills in enough details to give you an idea, and let's your imagination fill in the gaps. This keeps the book moving at a steady pace (even throughout the weaker short stories), and despite coming in a little over 400 pages, it's a super quick read.
The Joy of Mythmaking
All in all, The Legends of Luke Skywalker is a fun book. While it doesn't fill in the gaps explicitly like some fans would prefer, the overall message of each story being told gives us great insight into Luke as a character and how he's viewed by the wider galaxy by the point in time of The Force Awakens/The Last Jedi.
It's a quick read, well told, and uses a unique narrative device to get its point across. It may not be for everyone, but if you adjust your expectations on what you thought this book would be, you'll find yourself having a lot of fun. Not to mention it has some great ideas on the Force, with some powerful themes on acceptance and trust. Definitely pick this one up.