– Spoiler Review –
The Legends of Luke Skywalker, by renowned author Ken Liu, unveils myths and legends the people in-universe have about the mystical Jedi, and is part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” initiative. Dismissing this book out of hand due to its lack of purely canonical stories about Luke Skywalker would be a grave mistake, as Ken Liu’s considerable talents challenge readers’ assumptions and paints an unforgettable and inspiring portrait of everyone’s favorite Jedi.
With a framing story that takes place on a freighter, the Wayward Current, headed to The Last Jedi‘s casino, Canto Bight, The Legends of Luke Skywalker presents tales of Luke from all sorts of POVs and second/third hand accounts. The framing story, about a group of young deckhands wasting time on their journey, starts out seeming like simply an excuse to hear these tall-tales of Luke Skywalker, but it morphs into something more, becoming, in its own way, another tale of Luke due to how the deckhands respond to and are inspired by Luke’s adventures. As for the legends within? These are LoLS‘s absolute delight, providing whimsical, heartening, and bizarre but always entertaining tales which hold hidden, deeper meanings worth digging for.
While it took me a moment to adjust to each new story’s POV/style change, once I did I was able to let go and dive in, finding even the flea’s tale of helping Luke rescue his friends from Jabba’s Palace amusing and central to the overarching message Liu hides within each story. Despite each legends’ lack of canon status, stemming from how these are characters’ retelling stories, the usual act of focusing on and prowling for all the minute details in a typical canon novel was gone, replaced instead by a relaxed entertainment and ability to appreciate and search for the ultimately more important deeper meaning. The message within I keep talking about is how the book slowly reveals that in-universe, no matter what happened with Luke’s Jedi Order (and Ben Solo), many people still see Luke as a hero to look up to, using his actions as inspirations for their own (which we see in action by the characters in the framing story).
“The Myth Buster” was refreshing to read due to its unique perspective on the events from the films, as the conspiracy theorist’s ideas, as crazy and irrational as they were, actually grew on me as it unfolded. Lots of creativity went into make such a seamless, absolutely wrong story like that. There were a few meta jokes, one specifically aimed at the “Who Shot First” debate, that brought plenty of laughs.
“The Starship Graveyard” was a methodical, intriguing tale told from a Imperial’s POV (sort of), and totally worth it for the “sky walking” moment within. The opening part of the story was given the animated treatment in a recent Star Wars Show episode (I linked to the moment it starts)!
“I, Droid” took place in a crazy, but fascinating place called the Gem, while the POV of a droid altered by a slaver’s evil chip presented, much like most of Liu’s tales here, a unique perspective worth reading for alone. As for how Luke factors in, let’s just say I’ve always wondered if someone would use the disguise he did and I’m happy to have finally seen it happen, canon or not.
“The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” starts off with a laugh and ends on an killer final note, while the in-between is a joyous, funny take on the Jabba Palace rescue. How Liu describes the flea’s life living on heads was a thing of beauty, actually making the situation somewhat relatable. I say the final note is killer here only because it hints at the potential relationship Luke has with the Force Ghosts who might visit him, while also offering some ideas on how Luke could arrive on deciding to end the Jedi. Who knew a tale about someone so small could hold such intriguing revelations about the larger story?
“Big Inside” was the Star Wars/The Magic School Bus crossover I never knew I wanted or needed! The mystery Luke and the biologist uncover is sad and poetic, touching on the power of sacrifice that might make any Luke fan a little nervous about The Last Jedi. Also, who knew exogorths, aka space slugs, could be such an intriguing creature?
For those who’ve read LoLS, you’ll notice I’ve yet to mention “Fishing in the Deluge,” and there’s several reasons for that. For starters, “Fishing” is now my absolute favorite Luke Skywalker tale, ever, even beating out Matthew Stover’s excellent Legends novel, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (which is still number 2, mind you) or the recent Weapon of the Jedi by Jason Fry. Seeing Luke become a student again, opening up to learn a new perspective on the Force, was riveting in its presentation and details, while we also got a tiny glimpse of him as teacher. The main character of the tale, Aya, who may or may not be someone in the framing story (more on that in a bit), was a revelation as a protagonist, giving us and Luke a broader understanding of the Force, while being a character I hope to see in the future of the saga in some way, shape, or form due to her determination and hope. There’s a small potential Aya is already being set up for an expanded role, as she might actually be a stowaway the deckhands uncover, protect, and eventual help escape detection on board the Wayward Current in the framing story. This makes “Fishing” the strongest case for potentially being a canon event, though in the end it matters little to the beauty of the story. On top of all that, the planet and its trials to becoming one with the Tide, planet’s inhabitants take on the Force, involved a rich and exciting ecosystem I’d love to spend more time with as well. The Tide, and how the village’s Elder understands it, begins painting the picture of understanding Luke’s idea for ending the Jedi the best, as it even manages to present the Jedi way, as is, might be comparable to the Sith’s usage of the Force in some aspects (at least how I read it). Overall, easily the best story of the lot and instantly unforgettable.
UPDATE 12/17/17: Now that The Last Jedi is out (my review can be read here), I’m officially calling this the most important book to read for tie-in material released as part of the “Journey to…” initiative. Without spoiling anything, the film seems to canonize “Fishing in the Deluge,” which already felt like the only story to have actually happened, while “Big Inside” will help you get inside Luke’s mind in his closing scenes of the film.
Here are a few other things:
- If you enjoyed this unique look at what Luke means to the GFFA, check out contributor Trinity’s piece, “Through Luke’s Eyes,” for another thoughtful, deep look at Luke.
- Join fans in chatting about The Legends of Luke Skywalker on Twitter from 11/13 to 11/19 using the #LukeWeek hashtag!
- J.G. Jones does the illustrations for the book, and having the Kindle edition didn’t allow me to enjoy them as much, but I went to a local bookstore to appreciate them and I’d suggest picking up the hardcover thanks to his work.
- There are two illuminating interviews with Ken Liu worth checking out: one over at EW.com and the other at the official site.
- Small thing, but the biologist in the final tale, “Big Inside,” attended the same University Doctor Aphra did, and any link to her is always a giant plus in my book!
- Check out Shadow Council’s review, a rather new fansite, for a deeper look at each story. And over at Tosche-Station, Nanci’s review speaks to how this novel expertly sets up what to expect with Luke in The Last Jedi.
Having read Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories last year, before I ever knew he’d write a Star Wars book, I really cherished how his works challenged my expectations and left me at times uncomfortable, but provoked deep thoughts about life and the human condition. The Legends of Luke Skywalker does much of the same thing for Star Wars and the titular legend himself, Luke Skywalker, and is an absolute must-read for any fan.
+ “Fishing in the Deluge”
+ Each legend is an unexpected delight
+ Builds the myth of Luke Skywalker (both in and out of universe)
JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI:
The Last Jedi (movie)
CANON NOVEL REVIEWS:
Aftermath | Aftermath: Life Debt | Aftermath: Empire’s End
Battlefront: Twilight Company | Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
Heir to the Jedi
CANON YOUNG ADULT NOVEL REVIEWS:
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Before the Awakening
Guardians of the Whills