Star Wars: The High Republic - INTO THE DARK Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Wars: The High Republic - INTO THE DARK Review

Alexander Wallace brings a flashlight.
Claudia Gray is hands-down the most influential of the Star Wars authors brought aboard with the coming of the new canon after Legends was wiped away (unlike Timothy Zahn or James Luceno or their ilk who had written in the old canon). She dazzled the fandom with Lost Stars, with its deep characterization of its two star-crossed lovers (quite literally, as a space opera setting would imply) who end up on opposite sides of the conflagration that defined the original trilogy. She asked why someone would rebel in the character of Thane Kyrrell, and why someone would ever serve a state so cruel as the Galactic Empire in Ciena Ree, a potent example of the ‘Nice Nazi’ against whom Hannah Arendt cautioned. It’s an impressive book, all the more so for being a young adult novel of which I have heard many, many grown men sing its praises.

Gray is part of the coterie of authors that is driving The High Republic, the new Star Wars media push, ever forward. Having triumphed with Lost Stars, she now gives us Into the Dark, another one of her intensely character-driven Star Wars novels that shows how good of a writer she is and how well she understands the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Much as Charles Soule did in Light of the Jedi, Gray shows us the Galactic Republic in its full splendor; as you read this book you feel like you are living in a golden age; there’s an overwhelming sense that everything is working, at least on the surface, as it should be. In a franchise where so much of the plot is driven by political dysfunction on all levels, it’s something of a breath of fresh air. The Jedi Council, for what little you see of it in this novel, acts sanely, rationally, and with the best interests of those to whom it is responsible at heart, as does the Republic itself.

There is a running theme in this novel about belonging and the uncritical acceptance of orthodoxy. You have multiple Jedi characters who are wondering what the Council demands is reasonable; in particular, there is a master who is wrangling with the fact that the emotional self-denial required by the Order goes against what human beings naturally feel (this is why I say on the surface things feel right and proper). This is juxtaposed quite well with a character loyal to the Byne Guild, a shipping group, her familial connections to it, and to the things that it does behind closed doors

Into the Dark could be fairly criticized for having an unimaginative title (it’s certainly no The Cestus Deception), but as you read the book you see just how apropos such simplicity really is. Much of the book involves a hyperspace irregularity (and there seem to be a good amount of time dedicated to these in The High Republic) that has an ensemble cast of a diverse bunch of characters stuck on an ancient, abandoned space station that crawls with all sorts of strange things that I will not spoil for the reader but I will say are absolutely worth it.

Gray does what all great Star Wars writers do well: making that universe feel grand and endless, that sense of wonder that science fiction does well and that which made me fall in love with Star Wars all those years ago. One example I found to encapsulate this so well: one of the main characters is a padawan learner who has read much galactic history; he recognizes the space station as one belonging to a now-vanished culture, and can recite aspects of its history and otherwise make sense of some of the things he sees there. It’s one of those things that really makes this whole universe feel lived in and engaged with, not just something propped up to have a background for a novel.

With Into the Dark, The High Republic has given a second triumphant novel. Between this book and Light of the Jedi, I am beginning to see hints of the planning that is undoubtedly being hashed out even now, and it makes me want more (and what greater compliment can you give to an entry in a series?). In my review of Light of the Jedi, I said that the future of Star Wars looks bright, and this book has done nothing to dissuade me of that notion.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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