With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soon, Star Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)
Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry (hardback, 2015)
On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars). All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry, billed as “A Princess Leia Adventure,” features Leia Organa on a mission for the Rebel Alliance with the aid of Nien Nunb (in his Mellcrawler), communications expert Kidi Aleri, tech specialist Antrot, and commando Major Lokmarcha. The Rebel Alliance has just discovered the information about the second Death Star that will set the Battle of Endor in motion, but in order for the Rebels to gather their forces at Sullust in preparation for that fateful battle in Return of the Jedi, they need the Empire to be distrated. That is Leia’s mission. As a “moving target” that is too good for the Empire to ignore, she can draw attention away from the fleet at Sullust.
Along the way, Leia faces doubts about whether her decoy mission puts too many people in danger, as the Empire (personified in this case by Captain Khione, another strong Impeiral female in the Story Group’s new canon, of the Star Destroyer Shieldmaiden) nears their own goal of capturing Leia.
Of the three character books from Force Friday, I found Moving Target to be the most engaging (and perhaps the second strongest overall, second only to Lost Stars). The team members are fleshed out to an extent that side characters are not in the other two books in this quasi-series, and there are momemts in the story when the reader will feel heavy emotional impact in terms of the fates of certain team members and Leia’s overall mindset in this era. This is a Leia that is driven but moral, struggling with the costs of victory.
Moreover, Nien Numb’s participation is another step (along with the Princess Leia mini-series and Battlefront: Twilight Company) in making Lando Calrissian’s ROTJ co-pilot into a much more significant character in this new Canon than in the Legends Continuity.
It is a worthwhile read that ties directly into Return of the Jedi.
Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?
Some will argue that a story set in this era is far too early to count as part of any kind of “journey to The Force Awakens.”
For the most part, I would agree, if we are only considering the main story. The book does include a “framing” prologue and epilogue that feature a The Force Awakens era “General” Leia being sought out to write her memoirs. Those segments also feature a bit of discussion between Leia and Caluan Ematt (introduced briefly here in both the main story and epilogue, while focused on primarily in Smuggler’s Run) about Poe Dameron and the mission he is on during the opening of The Force Awakens. Thus, the connection to the film is there, albeit with less of a direct connection (as far as we can currently tell) between the main story and the film than was the case with The Weapon of a Jedi.
A Chronological Note
Unlike the other two character books from Force Friday (The Weapon of a Jedi and Smuggler’s Run), Moving Target, as previously mentioned, takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, rather than between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, alongside parts of Lost Stars and Battlefront: Twilight Company, it is currently the only story in the Story Group’s new canon to be set between ESB and ROTJ.
Moving Target is the best of the three character books from Force Friday and adds a significant story bridge leading into Return of the Jedi. The extent to which it will have any impact on The Force Awakens remiains somewhat unclear, but its impact on ROTJ should make this a book any Star Wars Canon reader should check out.
Recommended for: Those interested about the lead-up to Return of the Jedi, or those looking for a Leia-centric adventure.
Not recommended for: Those looking for significant page time for Original Trilogy characters other than Leia (and Nien Numb, to be fair), or those hunting a story that is set in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens concept seems to imply.
I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.
As an additional disclaimer, I have previously worked with Jason Fry on elements of Star Wars: The Essential Atlas and consider him a friend, though not a close one. That affiliation had no impact on the content of this review.
POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION
I would suggest that Leia’s TFA era segment in the prologue and epilogue are almost certainly set during TFA, rather than shortly before the film.