– Spoiler Review –
Moving Target is a Leia-centric YA novel in the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” initiative, set between Ep. V and VI, co-authored by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry, with artwork from Phil Noto. While the term YA might conjure up fears and prejudices, Moving Target should not be missed thanks to its solidly written Leia, overall enjoyable tale, and rather adult subject matter covering topics like the costs of always just fulfilling your duty and sacrificing a few to save many.
Set rather close to Return of the Jedi, Moving Target is about making Leia a (literal) moving target to distract the Empire from the Rebellion’s fleet assembling at Sullust for their attack run on the second Death Star. But those who join Leia on the mission aren’t allowed to learn its true purpose so if they are caught they can’t reveal the truth, so instead they are being led to think they’re rounding up allies in a lesser-known sector of the galaxy. For it all to work, even the allies they are rounding up are basically being used as bait, left out to dry at a rendezvous they aren’t actually making. At first Leia thinks it’s worth the cost, sacrifice hundreds to save countless millions, but as the mission starts taking its toll, Leia’s left to wonder what duty in the time of war really means and what’s really worth giving up to carry it out.
Thankfully, the Leia in MT is written masterfully by Castellucci and Fry, allowing them to cover the heady subject matter in ways which feel authentic to Leia as a character. Still having nightmares of Alderaan and struggling with her feelings for the currently carbonite frozen Han, Leia is at an interesting crossroads character-wise. She’s been spending so much time devoted to fulfilling her duty, both she and others see how it’s negatively affecting her. There is a really great talk between Mon Mothma and Leia, probably my favorite of the book, where Mothma covers topics like feeling blame for Alderaan, feelings for Han Solo, and that duty isn’t everything. The seed placed by Mothma informs much of Leia’s thoughts going forward, and provides some very adult-like thinking even some adult novels tend to forget to cover.
The team Leia assembles for the mission is full of some stock stereotypical personalities and squabbles a team of said personalities on a dangerous mission together creates. But Castellucci and Fry give the banter and fights entertaining enough dialogue that even if you’ve heard the arguments a hundred times before, they’re more than readable. Kidi Aleri, a Cerean communications operator; Antrot, an Abednedo “tinkerer” i.e. explosive expert; and Major Lokmarcha, a Dressellian commando all go through their own arcs here, as little as they may be, while some of them surprisingly make the ultimate sacrifice for duty. As stock as they might seem, I still felt some sadness for those who passed so this book does something right with them.
If you read Moving Target just for what hints it has for The Force Awakens, they aren’t much, but at least you get an entertaining book. However, what is here does has some interesting implications for hot shot pilot Poe Dameron. Leia feels he’s much like she was during the events of MT: so focused on duty he might be missing out on the ultimately more important things in life, like love and friendship (though he seems to love flying). In connection with Poe, Leia asks if there has been any news from Jakku, where we know at least Rey, Finn, and BB-8 (Poe’s droid) are all on in the beginning of TFA. We also meet two new characters: PZ-4CO, a female protocol droid who is taking Leia’s memoirs (and will be part of the second wave of TFA action figures); Major Ematt, another member of the Resistance who is originally part of the Rebel Alliance, seen as a Lieutenant at the start of MT. Also he was rescued by Han and Chewie at one point, detailed in Smuggler’s Run. UPDATE: After seeing the film, without spoilers, I can confirm Poe is regarded highly by Leia for his skill and commitment (though spoilers and speculation point to more interesting reasons), Jakku certainly is at the start of the film, and Major Ematt gets a single line of dialogue (and goes unnamed in the film, but he’s the older guy with the white beard in the Resistance base).
Appropriate Age for Moving Target: After some prompting on Twitter, I’ve decided to include this section to discuss Moving Target‘s appropriate age range. As I’ve mentioned above, some of the plot (sacrifice a few to save a whole lot more), themes (duty, love, learning to live with emotional pain), and actions (sacrifices, threats of torture) can be a little too much for the younger crowd. But there’s some really great messages about how duty is only worth it if it’s to protect and help those you love and most of those heavier themes and actions aren’t so explicitly stated or spelled out where a younger skewing crowd would probably miss them/be okay to read. Approach Moving Target like a Pixar film: 4th to 5th grade readers and up might miss some of the deeper things, but once they hit the later teens they’ll finally start finding the hidden adult moments. I wouldn’t go much younger than that for readers. In the end, the ultimate decision is yours dear parent, but I hope this short little guide helps the process.
Here are a few other things:
- Here’s a great Tumblr post which talks about the subtly darker aspects this book manages to show about Leia’s mind-frame at this point in time.
- The Emperor’s plans for the second Death Star are revealed: he was planning on blowing up both Chandrila (which now has a bigger role in the galaxy seen in Aftermath) and Mon Cala. That would’ve been a pretty major blow to the alliance right there.
- There’s a quick mention of the events in the Leia comic series, but unfortunately no Evaan name drop.
- Much like the Lando comic series giving Lobot a personality, Nien Nunb gets an upgrade here as well while also continuing his friendship with Leia seen in her comic series. However, I felt Nunb might come off a little too similar to Han so your mileage may vary with his personality.
- MT also reveals how the Imperial shuttle Tydirium is obtained!
- The folks at the new fansite Spoiled Blue Milk have a lengthy rundown on everything we know and can speculate about in regards to Poe Dameron (slight possible spoilers for The Force Awakens).
While the hints for The Force Awakens are few, thankfully Moving Target is an entertaining enough book on its own that their inclusion almost doesn’t feel necessary and gives us one of the best prose written Leia’s in recent years.
+ Very well written Leia
+ Deep subject matter/good message
+ Great art
– Nien Nunb’s too familiar personality
STAR WARS MOVIE REVIEWS:
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
CANON NOVEL REVIEWS:
Aftermath | Aftermath: Life Debt
Battlefront: Twilight Company
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Heir to the Jedi
CANON YOUNG ADULT NOVEL REVIEWS:
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Before the Awakening