With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soon, Star Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often 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.)
Adventures in Wild Space: The Snare by Cavan Scott (softcover, 2016)
The Snare is book #1 in Adventures in Wild Space, but before I begin discussing the book, it should be noted that there is a “prelude” book, The Escape, that is essential reading before checking out The Snare. It was released for World Book Day in the UK and Ireland in March 2016. I previously reviewed The Escape here.
It should also be noted that The Escape, The Snare, and all the rest of Adventures in Wild Space are a series exclusive to the UK and Ireland. The series does not currently have a US counterpart. (In other words, if you want this one, you will need to hit up some UK sellers like Book Depository or Amazon UK, or try your luck on Ebay.)
Adventures in Wild Space
Adventures in Wild Space (by Cavan Scott and Tom Huddleston, each writing separate books) follows Lina Graf (age 10), Milo Graf (age 9), their droid CR-8R (Crater), and their Kowakian Monkey-Lizard (Morq) as they face off with the Empire (in the person of Captain Korda, an officer with a metal jaw akin to Darth Malak in Legends or Jaws in the James Bond franchise). Their goal is to save their parents, a pair of explorers who have been taken captive by Korda. The Empire, it seems, wants their exploration data about Wild Space as it expands. It is under that premise that a half-length junior novel (The Escape) and two full-length junior novels (The Snare and The Nest) have been released with two more full-length volumes coming soon (The Dark and The Steal).
The end of The Escape left Lina, Milo, Crater, and Morq on their way to the planet Thune aboard their parents’ ship, the Whisper Bird, in hopes of meeting with the Sullustan who arranged exploration contracts for the Grafs, Dil Pexton (a possible reference to Bill Paxton).
I mentioned in my review of The Escape that the kids work well enough as characters of their ages (9 – 10) for a young audience. I did, however, worry that Lina might be suffering from a “Wesley Crusher” syndrome, in that she appears to be extremely tech savvy and able to come up with miraculous saves that seem unlikely for a child of ten. It is in this book that this issue comes to the fore repeatedly.
The story’s first chapters, for example, find the Whisper Bird about to crash due to power generator issues, which force Lina to investigate, go EVA along the hull, and fix the problem with an improvised solution once back inside the ship. I am reminded of Spaceballs when Princess Vespa takes out numerous enemies.
Lone Starr: Not bad.
Barf: Not bad . . . for a girl.
Dot Matrix: Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo!
Yes, Lina, that wasn’t bad. Not bad for a child.
Oh hell, it was pretty good for Chewbacca.
That said, the story otherwise plays out pretty much as one would expect, as the Empire continues to seek important exploration data that the children’s mother transmitted to Crater prior to their capture, which Crater has been conveniently still decrypting since the middle of The Escape.
The story is predictable for adult readers, though younger readers might not yet be immunized to the book’s “twists” by years of reading similar stories. Still, the idea behind the series has potential, and having a new ongoing series for younger readers after the end of (the much more complex) Servants of the Empire is, I believe, a good thing for the saga’s new canon.
Adventures in Wild Space has potential, and while it does not reach the level of plot complexity of Servants of the Empire, it evokes enough of the Young (well, okay, more like Junior) Jedi Knights and Galaxy of Fear series to make it something that adult readers who read those junior series might want to check out. If nothing else, the series will be intriguing to American readers by virtue of being overseas exclusives, much like The Bounty Hunter, Jedi Dawn, the last few Decide Your Destiny books, and many of the comics never reprinted from the UK’s The Clone Wars magazine.
The Snare itself works better than its half-length predecessor, The Escape, but there is little here to surprise most readers. That said, there are a few moments which seem to raise the stakes for the children, and the book sets up the next book in the series nicely, just as The Escape did for this volume, making these relatively quick reads feel like they could one day be enough of a comibned whole to perhaps merit a closer look from more skeptical older readers.
Recommended for: Those looking for a new, original Star Wars series, aimed at younger audiences.
Not recommended for: Those looking for particularly complex storytelling.
The copy used for this review was a retail purchase.