Recently, massive multi-media pushes have accompanied everything from films to new TV shows to video games. Battlefront was accompanied by the Twilight Company novel, while Rebels gained a little supplementary material from My Rebel Sketchbook. The Force Awakens got two supplementary young reader’s books: both Rey’s Survival Journal and Poe Dameron: Flight Log, or even retellings such as Finn’s Story. Similarly, Rogue One released alongside the Rebel Dossier. How does this dossier stack up against the previous supplements?
For some reason that’s hard to nail down, the Dossier feels like it accomplishes far less than it set out to do. Actually, it’s sort of hard to nail down what it’s purpose was. Whereas Poe Dameron: Flight Log was presented as Poe’s Flight Log of previous missions leading up to the destruction of Tanuul Village, the Dossier is a random assortment of notes collected by General Draven for Mon Mothma. The notes include character bios and history, communications sent between Rebel leaders, bios on planets and locations, mission briefings, and even more. Another way to describe the communiques in this book would be to compare it to the interludes in Alexander Freed’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novel.
While it’s nice to have a guiding principle to bind this book together, the collection feels like an odd combination at times for an in-universe collection. For example, it’s hard to imagine why Mon Mothma would need to be briefed on the history of the Empire and the fall of the Republic. While of course I am overthinking a concept designed for younger readers, it made it a bit more difficult for me to read. Younger readers who may not necessarily think about the “meta” aspects of this book would find much to enjoy here, as a reminder of the events of the Prequel Trilogy might frame the movie in a way that a 12-year-old may not consider at first. While I appreciate that it was an attempt at an in-universe approach, this book might have done better as an out-of-universe primer.
If you’re the type of reader who will only look at canon material if it adds some new pieces of information, I have some bad news on that front. New material is sprinkled throughout the book, but I can’t say there’s any section that offers a plethora of interesting new lore. (For what it’s worth, I buy every canon piece that comes out. Having said that, I am the type who would prefer a lot of new canon information to be revealed in each release.) Hardcore fans might find some interest in the names of planets and systems peppered throughout the book, but their immediate importance is not necessarily easy to see. Birth places, names of planets borrowed from Legends, and even some throwbacks to the RPG game come in the form of shout-outs to planets and systems (I will admit a lot of joy in seeing how the Story Group affects every single release under the Star Wars banner these days!). Character bios about the Rogue One team may shed new light on them, but any new material was also revealed in the Visual Guide (with a review forthcoming!), a much better use of time and hard-earned cash. Other characters, like Darth Vader, are mentioned because they are featured in the movie, but that material, being constrained by in-universe perspectives, does not shed a lot of light on the character, their role in the film, or their role in the universe at large. These Easter eggs may be fun for some readers. I enjoyed seeing a few of them.
One particular point deserves a bit more discussion: the Dossier shows just how criminally underused Mon Mothma was in the film. If any character was serviced by this book, it was Mothma. Though most characters suffered without time in the limelight, the secondary material to the film all adds wonderful new moments for Mothma. Alexander Freed adds a discussion between Mothma and Jyn on Yavin IV, and the Dossier adds a note that Mothma is concerned for the state of Cassian Andor’s mind and heart after everything he has done for the Alliance. This was a highlight of the book, but it was all contained in a single paragraph. Despite this new look into Mon Mothma’s mind, it’s hard for me to justify the $10 price point for anybody looking to learn something new from the book, unless they were a MAJOR fan of the character.
Granted, supplementary material does not always need to add new information to a story. A young reader’s book, aimed at an entirely different audience, may not reveal anything new at all, and it would almost be the height of silliness to expect it to do so! But there is quite a bit these books could do to add to the universe or enhance the reader’s experience, like re-framing old material into a new story or world-building. I base this opinion on comparable material released previously, which shows a better way of doing supplementary books like this. Poe Dameron: Flight Log combined narratives from Before the Awakening, The Force Awakens, Poe Dameron, and C-3PO, and was a true delight. Flight Log took disparate material, released over a long period of time and different formats, and put it altogether in a single story, bringing new life into the stories we had read separately. Not to mention that they did this in a young reader’s release, drawing from material these younger readers may not have a chance to look over on their own. Rey’s Survival Journal made massive steps forward in providing world-building for Jakku, Rey’s home. For Poe Dameron: Flight Journal, the charm was not in adding new information, but in how it presented old information. Rey’s Survival Guide was fun not because it offered a new, groundbreaking hint into Rey’s parentage, but because it helped us imagine a bigger Jakku than the one we saw in The Force Awakens.
Unfortunately, the Rebel Dossier does not bridge together material that hasn’t been connected before, nor does it do a whole lot to paint a new picture of the Alliance. I would have loved to see this book move a bit further back and mention canon material set in the Dark Times, such as Lords of the Sith, or Ahsoka, to widen the contextual vision of the events of Rogue One. In fact, it seems like there are plenty of stories that could have been drawn into this narrative. Part of the charm of the Flight Log is that we saw a bigger picture of Poe, and understood more why he was more desperate to fight the First Order when we came to the events of The Force Awakens. Imagine how much more we would have appreciated the fact that Cassian is a Fulcrum if we were reminded of when Ahsoka became the first Fulcrum, or when she helped the crew of The Ghost operating under the Fulcrum title. Or, because the battle at Scarif was one of the first times that most of the Rebel cells came together, it would have been nice to see the history of different cells. We could have read more about Phoenix Squadron (who was at the fight, we presume!) or the cell on Ryloth that almost managed to kill Darth Vader and Palpatine. Not only do I think this would have boosted the draw for older readers, but it would have introduced younger readers to a far grander world of story telling. Alternatively, we could have had sneak peeks into discussions about Yavin IV, and expanded our knowledge of the planet. We could have learned more about the temples, more about why the base was preferable to Atollon or Dantooine, and much more.
I hope I don’t come across as too rough because I’m not from the target audience. For the most part, I love most pieces of the canon, despite their age range. In fact, some of the non-narrative pieces are the best so far (such as Propaganda or Galactic Maps). It’s just that the Rebel Dossier operates on a much, much lower level than most of the other supplementary material. While it may be worth thumbing through at Target, the Rebel Dossier ends up getting a pass from me.
Canon Novel Reviews:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars Young Reader Reviews:
Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape (Prelude)
So You Want to be a Jedi?
Beware the Power of the Dark Side!
Poe Dameron: Flight Log
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06