Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

I have a confession to make: I didn't like Rogue One. I know, it's shocking that I didn't like a Star Wars film. But I didn't. There were parts I did like. Stardust. Cassian's face. The soundtrack. "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me." Diversity. Darth Vader's pun. K-2SO. Realistic depictions of war. Overall, though, I was disappointed in it. I was disappointed everybody was saying it was the best Star Wars movie ever! (Really? Better than the Original Trilogy? Better than Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens? Nah, man.) I was disappointed in the lack of character development, the lack of character motivation, the lack of the opening scroll.

But I wanted to like it. I wanted to see what everybody else saw. But I couldn't. I felt they could have done better. (Maybe if they had invested in a live-action TV show all about the rebellion instead of the animated Disney show that I've been told has terrible writing, it could have been better. Maybe if it had time to flourish, for me to understand the motivation of the characters, to know their sacrifices, to feel that their sacrifices were worthwhile, to be invested, it could have been better.) I felt that it was rushed and that parts of the story were cut or left unexplained. (I mean, is there like a ton of cut scenes I'm missing or something? Because I'm confused.) Still, I tried.

So when I heard that Beth Revis had been selected to write a Star Wars novel and that it would be the backstory of Jyn Erso, I wanted to give it a chance. I wanted to see if maybe her book would help give me an explanation behind Jyn's character in the movie, if maybe it would help me understand what I had watched. (After all, Revis' book is canon.)

And it did.

Slight spoilers for Rogue One included below. 

Rebel Rising follows Jyn Erso from the moment her mother is killed and her father is taken away by the Empire up until the Rebel Alliance recruits her for their mission. It tells the missing pieces of her story that Rogue One only hinted at. Her time with Saw Gerrera, learning to fight, learning to rebel. Her time imprisoned in an Empire work camp, forming her attitude against both the Empire and the Rebellion, becoming the stoic, guarded Jyn Erso on the screen.

The book itself starts off slow. A lot happens in a short amount of time, and a lot of it is telling instead of showing. But as the story unfolds and Jyn becomes involved with Saw Gerrera's side of the rebellion, the book picks up. We see her learning to fight, learning to make decisions about life and death, understanding Saw's motivation. We see her being abandoned, left alone to survive. We see her interacting with other people, even falling in love.

Some parts of it may come across predictable. I guess if you've seen Rogue One you know where she'll end up eventually. This is also a Star Wars YA novel. There are going to be certain aspects included, like the love interest, that might seem cliche, maybe unimportant, or predictable. But I also noticed that like Rogue One, Rebel Rising has a significant point to it. The depiction of Saw's rebellion is much different than the one Luke fights for, the one even Jyn fights with during Rogue One. His rebellion is brutal, it's dishonest, and it's sadly realistic. In our world today, there are tons of people who have the same mindset of Saw: kill or be killed. Completely destroy the enemy, no matter the cost, or die trying.

And I think this depiction, along with Jyn's realization of what Saw believes and what Jyn herself comes to believe, is significantly important for our world today. Fantasy has this habit of exploring truths about today's world and humanity in a way that gets the point across. Somehow other books can't always do this, which is the many reason why I read fantasy. It's truth spelled out plainly. And Beth Revis does that through Rebel Rising. She points out the different kinds of rebellions people fight--the different methods of overcoming, of defeating an enemy, of choosing a side--and then she allows the reader to make the decision for himself or herself which is the right way.

And I think that's incredibly important. Just as important as it was for Rogue One to show that victory does not mean everybody survives. That war always means sacrifice and loss. Rogue One realistically portrays another side of the rebellion we don't see in the Original Trilogy; it's the harsh side, the side people don't want to talk about. But we need to talk about it. And I'm grateful that Beth Revis took the next step, through a Star Wars book, to talk about other sides of rebellions as well, even if it's in a small way (though I hope it's not).

And hey, Rebel Rising made me stop and consider Rogue One again. I might try to watch it once more, and maybe the second time around I'll understand where the characters are coming from (or at least understand Jyn's motivation behind her actions). And maybe, I'll enjoy it. But if not, at least I know there are merits to Rogue One, and Rebel Rising follows right alongside those merits in a number of ways.
"You never know. Something small and broken really can be powerful." -Galen Erso, Rebel Rising

~I borrowed Rebel Rising by Beth Revis from my local library. I chose to write a review of the book of my own free will. All opinions and images are my own.~

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