The Legends of Luke Skywalker is the latest book from Disney Press and is part of the “Journey to The Last Jedi” publishing campaign. It is author Ken Liu’s first Star Wars novel after his debuted in Star Wars fiction with the short story “The Sith of Datawork” in the short story collection, From A Certain Point Of View.
As a cargo ship rockets across the galaxy to Canto Bight, the deckhands on board trade stories about legendary Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. But are the stories of iconic and mysterious Luke Skywalker true, or merely tall tales passed from one corner of the galaxy to another? Is Skywalker really a famous Jedi hero, an elaborate charlatan, or even part droid? The deckhands will have to decide for themselves when they hear The Legends of Luke Skywalker. A collection of myths and tall-tales about the legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker, written by Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy award-winning author Ken Liu.
The book is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats. For this review I listened to the audiobook which was read by January LaVoy. The book is 432 pages long and the audiobook weighs in at 402 minutes.
Unlike the most of the other big books from Disney Press, it turns out this book is at a Middle Grade reading level not a Young Adult level like Leia, Princess of Alderaan. I didn’t realize this when I began the book but made sense because the prose and word choice in the first story in particular is simplified to a degree that was noticeable and distracting.
The book structure of the book is a framing story set aboard a cargo vessel on the way to the planet Canto Bight which will appear in The Last Jedi. The book opens by introducing crew members including some younger adolescents who are serving as deck hands to a ship captained by a rather nasty Hutt. Through the course of the book we get five stories about Luke Skywalker told by different narrators and in between we get interludes which move the current story aboard the cargo vessel forward and also set up the next story.
If you have ever picked up an old copy the novelization for Star Wars, then you know it included the title “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” and if you are any kind of fan of Star Wars it is hard not to enjoy the idea of more Luke Skywalker stories. So going into this book I was pretty excited, now the book itself is part of the new canon but the stories being retold within it are not necessarily true or accurate. The stories within the book are a true mixed bag. The third story “Fishing in the Deluge” is literally one of the best stories of any length in the Disney publishing era, while “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” is one of the worst. The other stories vary somewhere in between. The first story “The Myth Buster” is a cool concept, a bar fly conspiracy theorist spinning a tale about the true nature and identities of Luke, Han, Chewie and Obi-Wan, all while a hooded unrecognized Luke is listening along and asking questions. It is a great story concept which is poorly executed, it plays like G-rated Deadpool with the 4th wall breaking and winks. This story was annoying enough listening to that it almost made me stop.
The second story “The Starship Graveyard” is set on Jakku and told by an Imperial Gunner aboard a ship that crashes. He is rescued by a figure whom he comes to believe is Luke, but he is feverish from infection and dehydrated, so his perceptions may be off. This story isn’t bad, but feels like it goes on a bit too long. It works better as a story if you assume that it wasn’t actually Luke but a brave individual that used the idea of Luke to inspire others, because it doesn’t really make sense for it to be Luke if you think too hard about it.
The fourth story “I, Droid” is an interesting little tale about R2 being captured by some evil rich jerks who force droids to mine for rare pearls in a highly corrosive environment that leads to their death. It is told from the perspective of a droid who was enslaved as a security guard and forced to torture other droids. Luke goes undercover in a droid shell and rescues Artoo. This story is fun in that it feels very much like something Anakin would do but also shows Luke’s connection to the little droid as well. It also gives a demonstration of pretty awesome Force power that Luke employs on a planet wide scale.
The fifth story “Big Inside” feels like it is largely just here to take up space. It does give us a potential new romantic interest for in a biologist who has the adventure with Luke, but seems likely that will never be revisited. The big takeaway is that we are introduced to a new group of Force users called Mist Weavers who might be more ancient than the Jedi. They are able to make corporeal strands of the Mist (the Force) and using it in interesting time altering ways. It shows Luke’s continued search for knowledge, but again it feels like a story that was overly long for the payoff.
The fourth story “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” is basically a retelling of the first act of Return of the Jedi at Jabba’s Palace and on the Sail barge by a sentient insect named Lugubrious Mote who began his life as part of a colony of insects on Salacious Crumb, the Kowakian monkey-lizard jester at Jabba’s court. None of the other members of Lugubrious’ colony would accompany Salacious off his home planet to pursue an entertainment career. Lugubrious is very intelligent and Salacious is very dumb so it is up to Lugubrious to control Salacious by biting and pulling hair to get him to perform various acts of physical comedy. The partnership doesn’t work out well and Lugubrious wanders meeting and interacting with both Leia and then Luke. All the stuff that Luke does in the Rancor pit and at the Sarlacc pit are all because Lugubrious was telling him what to do. That is the story. It is obnoxious as a read because Luke is played like he has the intellect of a character from Bill and Ted or Dumb and Dumber. Doesn’t feel like Luke at all and is mostly just annoying to listen to or read.
The third story “Fishing in the Deluge” is amazing. It is the story of Luke traveling to the planet Lew’el, a water world with scattered islands. The islands are populated by humans who ride great flying creatures known as Wind-trusters who spend most of their life in the air, mostly gliding but also flying. The story is told by Aya, who was a young girl when Luke arrived in his X-Wing and rescued her from a horrific storm that killed her Wind-truster and almost killed her. Luke has come to learn this culture’s use of the Force, which they refer to as “The Tide.” He is known as “The Seeker” throughout the story and is repeatedly rebuffed in his attempts to learn about the Tide from Aya’s grandmother who was the elder of their community.
This story is a delightful tale that introduces a compelling new character in Aya and best seems to capture Luke’s character. It also goes on to play with Force philosophy in interesting ways as they discuss their different views of how the Force and the Tide connect and interact. We even get some parallels to the Jedi Order in that there are three trials that younglings must past to learn about the Tide and the idea that this colony’s ancestors had Force knowledge that they fled to keep from being abused.
I would have been delighted to read this story expanded over a full length novel and can see the skills of the author really on display here. As much as some of the other stories didn’t work this one did.
The book closes as the cargo ship arrives on Canto Bight and our rag-tag group of storytellers escape. Through the course of the interludes it is revealed that Aya now an adult has left her planet and is going by the name Flux. This is really interesting and is a character that I hope we see more of in stories going forward or possibly even in a minor cameo in The Last Jedi.
In the end this book is cheap enough at around $10 on Amazon that I can recommend it for a purchase on the strength of “Fishing in the Deluge” alone, which I think is a must read. Unfortunaely it feels like a missed opportunity, a book with some interesting concepts but with some very uneven execution.
You can listen to a sample of the book below: