What is the value of an anthology like “Tales of a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens”?
This is not a review of April 5th’s release “Tales of a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens” as I do not have a review copy to read ahead of time. Unfortunately, I am reading these stories at the same time that you are. What this post will do is defend the concept of Tales anthologies and provide reviews of the four stories released ahead of time.
One of the most important aspects of bigger franchises is that they can explore far more than most franchises. If Suzanne Collins wanted to write a new Hunger Games novel, that would be at the cost of any other material because no other author writes in the Hunger Games canon. JK Rowling’s work on “Fantastic Beasts” necessarily pulled her away from her work on Pottermore and the American wizard stories (unfortunately, it did not stop her). One of the beautiful aspects of bigger franchises like Star Wars is that if an author worked on a side, fun piece, another author could still work on a more “important” piece. That’s exactly the case here: as Landry Q. Walker writes the Tales, Claudia Grey was still writing “Bloodlines”. As Alan Dean Foster worked on the Force Awakens novelization, Chuck Wendig could still write for “Aftermath: Life Debt”. No one’s hands are tied by these types of stories.
Maybe more than that, these stories are fun ways to explore different genres you might not be instantly familiar with. Battlefront: Twilight Company was a great military adventure, while Dark Disciple was a cool psychological, character driven piece. Tarkin was focused primarily on Tarkin and his relationships while Aftermath covered a larger swath of characters. Whereas The Force Awakens was a space opera, Rogue One promises to be a grittier war film. Larger franchises can and should explore every genre they can in order to not grow stable.
Anthology pieces may not add a ton of important data to the canon, but they flesh out big scenes in fun and important new ways. For example, there was no way that Force Awakens could develop the backstory of Captain Sidon Ithano, the Crimson Corsair. In the movie, we had no idea who the two aliens that Finn contacted were. Through the Anthology, we learn all about the Crimsor Corsair and his First Mate Quiggold in a fun story that was so outlandish there was no way it could make it to the big screen. Who is Zuvio? He barely made it in the final cut of the film, but he now has a more developed backstory. There was no need for the novel to do that, but an Anthology story provides a new medium to explore.
Finally, some reviews of the digitally released stories:
All Creatures Great and Small: Remember the long necked alien that stood behind Rey in line to get portions of food? Turns out he is a Nu-Cosnian (related to Tera Sinube in Clone Wars) who is adept at telling stories. This is the most whimsical Star Wars story in memory: it is a fanciful addition to A New Hope that brings enough levity and fun to the story that we know and love to bring it a new life. This is probably comparable to a Star Wars fairy tale you’d tell children to help them fall asleep.
High Noon on Jakku: This Western focuses on Constable Zuvio, head of security on Jakku and the mystery of a turncoat. This story focuses a lot on Droids and raises some interesting questions about the concept of Droids in the galaxy, but ultimately this one suffered without many more pages. More time could have been spent on the droids and on Zuvio, unfortunately.
The Face of Evil: This horror story focuses on the fuzzy yellow creatures in Maz Kanata’s castle, two Frigosian surgeons. To tell much more about the story would ruin the fun – but I will say, this story is slightly sadistic and doesn’t apologize for it. This story is the ultimate example of why you should have more short stories: how many times do you get a horror styled Star Wars book? The Death Troopers duology comes to mind, but we knew what would happen to Han and Chewie. This one takes the traditional horror-surgeon drama that we know and takes a classic Star Wars twist to it.
Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku: Okay, from name only, you’re already interested. I can feel it. I was. This story is a roaring adventure following a pirate gang on a race to find the treasure of Count Dooku lost to time. This story succeeds on many levels. It’s fun: I couldn’t put this one down. I had to finish it as I started it. It brings a depth of characters to each individual in the story that you don’t see in a lot of regular novels. Based on their descriptions alone, I’d love a full-sized Crimson Corsair novel. Finally, it’s a great bridge between the Clone Wars and the Sequel Trilogy. I won’t say how: every connection is more fun when you discover them on your own. That being said, this is the highlight of the collection and is worth the entry price alone.
So, I’ve only reviewed four of the six stories collected (two are new to the print edition). If those four aren’t enough to pique your interest, you might be safe passing on this collection. But for those who are interested in literature in general and love exploring new genres would get a huge kick out of this piece. Those who loved The Force Awakens would love this piece and seeing hints of a post-Imperial world. And, Amazon is selling the ~350 page collection for $7. Can’t beat a price like that – it’s two comics!