Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall (Book)
The latest Star Wars novel from Disney Press takes a look back at Poe Dameron’s younger days, showing off his time as a Spice Runner. But is it worth delving into this backstory? Check out my full review to find out!
One of the surprising tidbits of information dropped during The Rise of Skywalker, was that Poe Dameron had, at one point, more of a storied past. His return to Kijimi brings him face-to-face with Zorri Bliss, who obviously holds a grudge and reveals his one time role as a member of their spicerunning gang.
16 year old Poe is chafing at the quiet life he and his father live on Yavin 4. Longing for adventure, Poe develops a reckless reputation with local authorities as he pushes the boundaries, as well as his mother’s old A-wing. After his latest encounter with law enforcement, Poe is more determined than ever to “escape” and seek a place in the galaxy for himself.
Luckily (maybe?) enough, he runs into a disreputable crew in the local cantina in dire need of a pilot to get them off planet. Without time for second-thoughts, Poe casts his lot with them and realizes his dream of piloting and finding adventure among the stars.
The Spice Runners of Kijimi is the latest criminal organization to pop up in the wake of the Empire’s defeat. With the New Republic unable to police everything in the galaxy, effectively, more crime syndicates have attempted to stake a claim on various markets. While newer, the Spicerunners have already made a powerful name for themselves in the galaxy and
Poe endeavors to learn the ropes as an outlaw, growing closer and closer to a young Zorii as he does so, and must pass test after test to gain the trust of the Spice Runners and fully join their ranks. As all this is going on, Sela Trune, an officer of the New Republic Security Bureau, is tracking Poe and hoping to bring down the Spice Runners of Kijimi for her own personal reasons.
This makes up the bulk of the story as he travels with Zorii, encountering all manner of shady characters and close calls, over approximately a year of time. I won’t get into it, as I don’t want to get into spoilers, but yes we do get to see the incident that separated Poe and Zorii, leaving them enemies rather than something more.
Old and New
In many ways, Free Fall is more than a simple prequel story that’s checking off boxes. There are some poignant character moments that give us a glimpse of the man he’ll become in the films (a hero and leader), and I was more than happy to learn more about Zorii. Hell, in some regards this is as much Zorii’s story as it is Poe’s. Frankly, where the book seems to shine most is when Poe’s NOT the focus in certain scenes.
The new characters we meet are almost instantly engaging, and even though some aren’t with us throughout the whole story, they make a strong connection with readers. Each brings a very unique personality to the tale that made we want to learn more about them. From the dangerous members of his new cadre, to the mysterious leader, Zeva, and Trune herself, each of the new characters introduced are full of life and have stories of their own.
Even better, the story manages to mesh all of these new elements together with older things more invested Star Wars fans will instantly recognize. For instance, one of the primary ships in the story (and seen on the cover) is a Hammerhead Corvette. Plus we visit a handful of familiar locations, including one as recent as The Mandalorian!
Rushing to Explain
In other, very frustrating, ways Free Fall is very much a story about ticking the required boxes. We get the briefest of explanations about his prowess as a pilot/starfighter, as well as specific mentions of learning lock-picking and hot-wiring (as seen in TROS), and even his introduction to lightspeed skipping.
I think what rubbed me the wrong way about these moments is how rushed they felt. As I mentioned, the book’s story takes place over a relatively short period of time, which makes some things a bit harder to buy into. More so, the rapid pacing of the book robs some of the more pivotal moments of any real emotional impact. While I felt connected to the characters, things happened so fast, moving on to the next thing, I barely had time to register any feelings on it.
There’s no primary, overarching plot thread for the book. Instead it’s more a series of events showing Poe at various stages of his (incredibly short) time with the Spice Runners and why he left. The events hit at a breakneck pace one after another leaving readers with little time to dwell on what certain developments could mean. This sense of rushing through certain aspects of the story only made those “box checking” moments stand out rather than feel like a natural part of the story.
If the story wasn’t so concerned with its endpoint, and slowed down on certain elements, I think there would be a stronger emotional connection to certain events. This is incredibly true of the book’s ending, giving it a feeling of being tacked on and, ultimately, unfulfilling.
While there are things I found lacking, I can’t say anything negative about the overall writing in the book. Alex Segura does an excellent job of capturing the cavalier tone of Poe Dameron (even in his less experienced days) and moving the story along. The action is easy to follow, while the dialog is tight and flows naturally from characters.
Despite my issues with the story, the book pulled me along at an incredible pace. I managed to breeze through it in just a couple days (no easy task as I’m still having to go to work and help with the four kiddos at home). The strength of the writing and how Segura captures the feel of these characters managed to keep me hooked even when the plot didn’t.
I also liked how they tried to explain his time with the Spice Runners as something other than what it seems on the surface. Even though he’s lumped in with these scoundrels, we see Poe’s morality come through in just about every circumstance. Not only does that make it easier to relate to him as a hero still, it manages to throw out some decent themes on right and wrong in a galaxy that may not care.
While it shines in certain character moments, the book does little to string together a singular plot and shortens the timeframe so much climatic moments are robbed of virtually all emotion. The crazy thing is, it would have worked far better as a Zorii Bliss story, rather than Poe’s. By the time the final chapter comes, the decisions he makes still don’t feel like they make sense outside of the fact it has to connect to the bigger narrative of the films.
There are fun moments, and some neat Easter eggs for fans, but I’d suggest holding out for a library check-out or eReader sale.