Book Talk: 'Star Wars: Lost Stars' by Claudia Gray - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Book Talk: 'Star Wars: Lost Stars' by Claudia Gray

Alexander Wallace takes a refreshingly different journey into that galaxy far, far away.
Take Star Wars, Forrest Gump, and Romeo and Juliet, in about equal measure. Throw them in a blender for about three minutes. Pour into a cup and drink. The result is refreshing.

I know, I know, the above sounds maudlin at best and ridiculous at worst. You’d wonder who would ever come up with such a thing, let alone write it.

That person is Claudia Gray, that thing is her novel Lost Stars, and it is far better than you would ever expect such a premise to be.

Released in September 2015, it is officially part of the young adult wing of the new Star Wars canon. That may alienate some people; it did me, before I saw a great many grown men in Star Wars fan circles singing its praises to high heaven, so I took the plunge and read it. Lord knows how glad I am that I did.
The plot begins at the backwater planet Jelucan, concerning two youths: Thane Kyrrell and Ciena Ree. They are your Romeo and Juliette, your star-crossed lovers (here more literal than just about any other use of the term) whose fates are put against each other. They are ripped apart because the winds of war blew across that Galaxy Far, Far Away, as Thane joins the Rebellion and Ciena enters the ranks of the Imperial Navy. From there, you bounce from event to event over the course of the original trilogy, seeing the acts of the great from the eyes of the little.

That ‘smallness’ of the viewpoint characters is easily one of this book’s strengths; Star Wars is at its core a heroic epic, and you see its events mostly through the eyes of the great titans of the galaxy. Not so here; you have a rebel and an officer, rather small cogs in rather large machines, looking at the great events with relatively more normal eyes. The characters are not myths, but relatable in a way that the big names just aren’t, and the intimacy of their experience compared with the films is one of the novel’s great strengths.

One of the things that struck me about Lost Stars is the extent to which Gray humanizes the Empire and the people who serve it. For one, there’s a character from Alderaan in Imperial service that gives a heart-rending depiction of the Alderaanian Genocide (which is what it should be called). But even deeper that is the entirety of the character of Ciena Ree, who I felt to be more interesting than her paramour Thane. She serves the Empire out of patriotism and what she feels to be her duty; despite serving such a murderous regime, she remains sympathetic, even unnervingly so. She is exactly what Hannah Arendt warned us about: the person who serves a cause not out of innate savagery or blind idealism, but rather more standard professionalism and ambition. Ciena Ree is the banality of evil personified.

In such an epic franchise, you sometimes need something small and intimate. Lost Stars fills that niche in a way that exemplifies exactly what such an approach can do. We can look to the stars, but we must also from time to time look inward, and see the human element in things. Claudia Gray set out to do that, and she did it spectacularly.

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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