Journey to Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker: Force Collector by Kevin Shinick is the last book in the marketing banner leading up the final film in the Skywalker Saga this December. The young adult novel from Disney -Lucasfilm Press (Egmond UK ltd. in the UK) follows Karr Nuq Sin, a seventeen-year-old boy, his trusty droid RZ-7, and his new friend Maize Raynshi as Karr sets out to discover his connection to the Force.
Very Mild Spoilers Begin Here
Force Collector is a difficult book to pin down. It is marketed as a young adult novel, and from the first few chapters, one would easily agree. The book starts off in a school setting and quickly embeds romantic tension between the two leads. Karr has a nerdy but cute personality while Maize is a total firebrand, rebellious badass with overbearing and absentee parents. It seems like the book is setting up a typical opposites-attract romance that I was all for. RZ was also totally spunky and a bit flippant at first, it seemed like to me. I was totally ready to enjoy a young adult novel after loving the most recent Star Wars young adult novel, Zoraida Córdova’s A Crash of Fate.
The book quickly lost all of that luster though. After the first few chapters, the characters quickly lost their depth and intrigue in favor of a rushed plot. The book started to read more like a young reader than a young adult novel. Nobody ever really struggled with anything throughout most of the book. At least, not for more than a page or two.
Not only did the characters stop having much personality after the first few chapters, but the plot of this book breezed by like it was in a rush to get to the next plot point. With no real conflict though, the rush just felt like whiplash more often than a thrill. Despite the potential to create conflict over the First Order presence, the fact that Karr is Force sensitive, or even just something between the characters, no conflict ever lasted for longer than a few sentences. If the First Order was standing in the kids’ way, they moved out of the way after a few pages. If Maize and Karr were in a fight, they resolved it without any emotional conversations. None of this is to say the book was outright dull, it was not, just that it felt like a 600 page young adult novel was cut into 350 pages by an editor that thought this book would sell better with a grade-school audience, for some reason.
Meanwhile, in the world of what-is and out of the world of what-could-have-been, Force Collector is not a bad book by any means. It takes a really interesting concept, what if a kid, other than Rey from the ongoing movies, discovered they had Force abilities? In a world with no Jedi to train them, how would they make meaning of their abilities, learn to control them, and come to terms with the massive disinformation about the Jedi that has propagated for the past 30-40 years? Karr’s struggle is likely not unique, as Broom Boy illustrated in The Last Jedi. The telling of his story, though, is especially interesting leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm’s mysterious Project Luminous, and the infinite questions everybody has about the future of the Force.
More than anything, Force Collector, which takes place shortly before The Force Awakens in the grand timeline, is a giant checklist of major events from the three movie trilogies. The book spends its short time hopping from planet to planet, visiting locations from the movies and other media like Jakku, Takodona, and Batuu, interacting with the likes of Unkar Plutt, Maz Kanata, and Dok-Ondar along the way. It’s certainly fun to revisit old friends and places and see how they teach Karr about his heritage in the Force.
It would be easy to look at this book and its series of incredible coincidences as too lucky to be realistic, but you have to remember that we’re dealing with the Force here. The suspension of disbelief required to cope with how lucky it is that Karr just so happens to find so many items that were once witness to important events in Jedi history is not uncanny, it is exactly as the Force willed it to be. While the Force can easily be a plot-crutch, here, it feels like just a matter of fact, since the entire book is about a kid discovering the Force and how he fits into it.
I can’t help but still be disappointed by the poor characterization in Force Collector. Karr is fine enough as the typical male human protagonist with little to define him as unique in personality from any other similar protagonists, Star Wars or otherwise. I’m upset though by the way Maize is treated. She is an alien who is not being used as a stand-in for minorities, an extreme and unfortunate rarity in Star Wars. RZ-7 is done dirty too, starting out as this sassy droid akin to Rogue One’s K-2S0, and then spends the majority of the book acting like Karr’s wish-fulfillment of a best friend, butler, and babysitter rolled into one. This characterization is not inherently bad, but because the starts off one way and then shifts and doesn’t lean hard enough into Arezee’s knowitallism, it is just really unsatisfying.
She has a full and unique personality and character at the onset, somebody who is totally interesting and competent but also feigning it all a little bit to impress Karr since she has no friends and disconnected parents. Only a few chapters into the book though, she is literally sidelined and sent back home by the First Order after barely putting up a fight. She and Karr sort of talk over space-Skype here and there, but they’re short conversations with no substance. By the time she returns later in the book, there is virtually no pay off aside from a temporary instance of making her the bad guy in a situation where she obviously was not. It’s poor treatment of her and ridiculous in this age that the only female character in the book is literally made obsolete a quarter of the way into the book. She deserves better, and while it’s impossible to tell whether it was the author or the publisher that is most to blame for the way Maize was treated in Force Collector, it makes me sad nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the bad character direction is not compensated for by a satisfying ending to Karr’s story. While I won’t spoil anything specifically, the conclusion to his grand journey across the galaxy does not end with any deep revelations with galactic consequence. Nor does it lend itself to any suggestion of how the Force will manifest in future Star Wars media. In the world as it is, the conclusion is perfectly fine. It’s maybe completely unrealistic for how teenagers act (or how we expect them to act in young adult novels, at least), but everyone’s satisfied and I’m not closing the book upset with the way things turned out, so at least there’s that.
Journey to Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker: Force Collector is available now in the UK and available on November 19th in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the bad character direction is not compensated for by a satisfying ending to Karr’s story. The conclusion to his grand journey across the galaxy does not end with any deep revelations with galactic consequence. Nor does it lend itself to any suggestion of how the Force will manifest in future Star Wars media.