Poe Dameron – Free Fall
By Alex Segura
Disney Publishing Worldwide
Pub date: 04-Aug-2020
AMBER LOVE 23-June-2020 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
Ages 12 and up
Learn more about the dashing hero from the new Star Wars films! Telling a story hinted at in The Rise of Skywalker….
It’s been a few years since Poe’s mother passed away, and Poe and his father, who was a pilot for the Rebellion, have had more and more trouble connecting. Not sure what he wants to do with his life, teenage Poe runs away from home to find adventure, and to figure out what kind of man he is meant to be.
This may shock some friends, but Poe Dameron Free Fall is the first Star Wars novel I’ve ever read. I haven’t even ready any of the comics. I did a rewatch of the newest trilogy movies as I was reading this book and it was such a great idea. They feel like a fresh version of the original three, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss.
After Rise of Skywalker came out, I saw my Twitter feed fill up with many angry fans. They had various things to vocalize, but the main thread was that the PoC characters weren’t treated fairly. When it came specifically to Poe Dameron, people were furious about the insinuation that the only Latino man was a drug dealer. For whatever reason, smuggling anything else is fine, but not “spice.” It’s not my lane, so I probably retweeted other voices that made more sense on the subject. I was curious to see what a YA novelization about Poe would bring to the table especially considering author Alex Segura is Hispanic and representation matters.
To clarify: that means this reviewer is white. Also to be transparent, Alex Segura and I have been in the same anthology (Protectors volume 2).
Nowhere in Free Fall does it refer to any human ethnicity; it’s a distant galaxy far, far away in a different time so what we think of as race or ethnicity may not even exist. Alien species are described well for those like myself who don’t have the Star Wars universe memorized. Also, give a shout out for Gen Tri, they are a non-conforming, non-binary gendered character. A Pau’an, a Klatooinian, and Twi’lek walk into a bar…
Like human ethnicities, there is no mention that “spice” is actually a drug. Readers only know it’s an illegal substance and that it’s run by smugglers like the Spice Runners of Kijimi, the most powerful of the star-crossing crime families. But, readers aren’t stupid and we know that spice is supposed to be code for something like IRL cocaine or meth or what-have-you.
Poe Dameron is sixteen through this story; sometimes to referred to as a boy, sometimes as a man. It begins with Poe living with his father Kes Dameron on Yavin 4. Here readers will see the teen angst of Poe who feels stifled and trapped. His parents, Kes and Shara Bey fought in the Rebellion with General Leia Organa (there’s a glimpse of Leia at the end while she’s still a Senator and it’s a beautiful moment). Before she died, Shara Bey taught young Poe everything about piloting spacecrafts. Naturally that gives him the drive to be in space and explore. As a young foolish person, Poe doesn’t care how it happens. If his father won’t allow him to enlist between the wars, then he’ll take whatever comes his way to get off Yavin 4.
Poe’s emotions feel genuine and real. Throughout the story, readers will see him question himself, his closest friend, and all authority figures. Being sixteen in this other galaxy places Poe and Zorii at the brink of adulthood. They’re expected to be adults in many ways, especially Zorii. Kes would rather keep Poe in childhood a little bit longer for his emotions to mature. Zorii is far more independent and knows how to survive compared to Poe. When they meet in a bar and he finds out her crew needs a pilot, he goes all in without knowing a thing about them. They aren’t just a small crew of thieves — again something Poe would be cool with just like Han Solo; they are part of the massive organization called the Spice Runners of Kijimi.
After a couple of life-threatening jobs, Poe, Zorii, Marinda Gan, Tomasso, Vigilich, and Gen Tri head to Kijimi. I think you can tell by the foreshadowing that not all of them will make it to their destination. The challenges and battles along the way are intense. One such battle is against a Zabrak named Ledesmar. She sounds every bit as mesmerizing as other Star Wars baddies. Ledesmar is described as as: “a tall Zabrak woman draped in a flowing red cloak, her pale forehead framed by smallish horns above and around it. Designs decorated her face and visible skin. She weilded a long spearlike weapon with blades on each end.” Ledesmar was so interesting, she could have been the “boss” villain at the end, but wait, it does build up from here.
There’s something about Zorii. Something special. The couple of people who know won’t tell Poe, including Zorii despite their intimate relationship. I won’t spoil it here. She’s more than Poe’s first love. She’s called an asset of unimaginable importance.
The next character that helps craft Poe into the kind of man we meet later in Rise of Skywalker, is the droid EV-6B6 or Eevee for short. In Skywalker, fans got to see Poe’s bond with BB-8. It was just as vital as Luke Skywalker’s friendship with R2D2. In Free Fall, Poe begins with a lot of hesitation and bias against droids. He doesn’t trust them at all. Eevee is cheerful to the point where she’s frequently annoying the other crew members. She only becomes part of their crew after the battle with Ledesmar. She’s driven to help others and chooses the spice runners as friends because her masters (other thieves in the Pyke organization) have died and Ledesmar “wasn’t very nice” to her. She has no one left from her ship/home. Ledesmar stole the ship from the Pyke crew and destroyed all of them except some droids. EV-6B6 has her own thought processing and beliefs. She makes her own choices even after it seems Poe is her adoptive new master. If something goes against her morals, she rejects it. Her relationship with Poe is earned and mutual. Because of EV-6B6, readers also get to meet Babu Frik, another character on Kijimi from Rise of Skywalker.
The New Republic is much stronger than fans see in Rise of Skywalker where it pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a young leader who has a personal vendetta against the Spice Runners of Kijimi. Sela Trune is more driven than Zorii and Poe put together. Sela Trune is an officer for the New Republic Security Bureau and she will not let anyone – not even direct orders from superiors – keep her from going after Zeva, the Spice Runners’ mysterious leader.
The biggest character breakthrough is Zorii Wynn, a sixteen-year-old human who was forced to grow up faster than Poe. Sometimes she’s referred to as a girl; sometimes a woman. She’s as mature as a woman twice her age. She’s been ferociously trained for hand-to-hand combat and space battle though she didn’t know how to fly a ship until Poe teaches her. She’s torn between love and her call to duty. Like many Star Wars characters, Zorii is seemingly locked into her destiny and it’s a deeply tumultuous inner struggle for her to make her own choices and feel like she’s doing the right thing. Free Fall is legitimately just as much Zorii’s story as it is Poe’s. If anything, it proves that she deserves her own book or movie.
In the final act, readers get their first real look at Zeva, the ruler of the vast network of murderers, thieves, and smugglers called the Spice Runners of Kijimi. She’s a commander with skills for leading all these disconnected bands of criminals and making them a cohesive force feared by all. So feared, that the New Republic looks the other way if she’s conducting business on a place like Kijimi and off their radar. Sela Trune is the only one who is willing to go after her directly no matter where she is. Zeva is such a legend that some people don’t believe she exists, but that won’t stop Sela Trune.
The ending battle is one of chaos between a variety of villains, Sela Trune, and a more self-aware Poe Dameron. Poe and Zorii continue to surprise each other right to the very end. They’ve switched demeanor on each other more times than I watched the gif of Poe and Finn hugging.
In a nutshell, fans who were troubled by Poe being a spice runner will not be let down by Free Fall. He knows Shara Bey and Kes Dameron raised him better than that. At sixteen, his mission is about finding a direction in life and that’s what exactly what happens at the end after the dust settles on the fight with Zeva.
“Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot. But you know that,” Zorii said.
I have to know if this quote by Zorii is a reference to the Batman Beyond episode where Terry and Bruce are watching Batman: The Musical and the lyrics say criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.
Rating: 5 stars
Action and character evolution the way you wanted it.