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The galaxy is full of questions again. With the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the rebooting of the expanded universe, the once densely packed canon is wide open and ready to be explored. Following their return trip to a galaxy far, far away, plenty of viewers are already mulling over the film’s spoilery revelations and general world building points.
While we definitely won’t learn the answers to major questions (Who are Rey’s parents? Is Snoke really taller than Shaq?) from sources other than the films, there’s already reading material available that fleshes out the new “Star Wars” universe. How did the First Order rise to power? What’s the deal with those eye-catching aliens from Maz Kanata’s castle? How did a kind-hearted guy like Finn become a stormtrooper? All of these questions — and more — are answered in the following reads.
If you’re looking for the book with the highest information-to-page-count ratio, look no further. Like previous visual dictionaries, this one by Pablo Hidalgo includes vital information that helps shape the decades in between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” The formation of the First Order and the Resistance are detailed (did you know that Leia Organa formed the Resistance?), our heroes are assigned ages (Poe is 32, Finn is 23 and Rey is 19), General Hux’s heritage is revealed (he’s the son of a high-ranking Imperial Academy official), Han Solo’s other career (as a “successful racing pilot”) is mentioned and Kylo Ren’s unique lightsaber is analyzed (it’s powered by a cracked kyber crystal), among many other things.
The enduring popularity of X-wing ace Wedge Antilles proves that certain “Star Wars” fans love Rebel pilots. “The Force Awakens'” trench run against Starkiller Base introduced a whole new squadron of Resistance pilots in addition to Poe Dameron — and two of them come straight from expanded universe novels. Those interested in more Resistance pilot action can check out Temmin “Snap” Wexley’s (played by Greg Grunberg) teenage years in Chuck Wendig’s novel “Star Wars: Aftermath.” The book also stars Wexley’s mother, herself a Rebel pilot, and Mr. Bones, the rattling battle droid built by a teenage Temmin.
“Game of Thrones'” Jessica Henwick plays X-wing pilot Jessika Pava, a character first introduced in Jason Fry’s junior novel “The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure.” The novel focuses on a story that C-3PO tells Pava about Luke Skywalker; while Pava isn’t the lead character, we do learn more about her appreciation for the Resistance’s roots in the Rebellion, specifically her admiration of Skywalker.
Remember that high fashion mercenary that ratted out our heroes to the First Order at Maz Kanata’s castle? Her name’s Bazine Netal and she’s the star of Delilah S. Dawson’s short story “The Perfect Weapon.” The short story might even have a greater connection to “The Force Awakens”; a fan theory posits that this short story might reveal how Kylo Ren came to possess Darth Vader’s helmet, an artifact that traveled from a funeral pyre on Endor to a First Order Star Destroyer during the lost decades.
It would be an understatement to say that “Force Awakens” fans are smitten with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. How many other “Star Wars” characters have inspired body pillows? If you’re up for risking sensory Poe-verload, you could cozy up to this pillow and read Marvel’s “Shattered Empire” comic series by Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto. The story takes place immediately following the events of “Return of the Jedi” and stars Shara Bey and Kes Dameron — Poe’s parents. Poe’s mother, Shara, was a Rebel pilot while his father, Kes, fought on the ground during the battle of Endor. The series shows Shara and Kes interacting with Luke, Han and Leia and tracks their journey from Rebels to parents of a very young Poe.
If you’re looking for narrative action from the “Force Awakens” leads that takes place after their infancy, then Greg Rucka’s “Before the Awakening” should satisfy. The book focuses on Finn, Rey and Poe almost immediately leading up to where we first see them in Episode VII. The anthology shows Finn’s stormtrooper training, Rey scavenging for a flight simulator, and Poe running a mission for General Organa. The stories lay track for both Rey’s proficiency as a pilot and Poe’s mission to meet with Resistance ally Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow’s mysterious character from the beginning of the film). The Finn story features pertinent information for fans of the First Order defector, as it shows how he related to his fellow troops and his first inklings that life in the white armor might not be for him.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is in theaters now.