One of the recurring complaints I heard coming out of The Rise of Skywalker was that Poe’s backstory had been changed from the New Republic turned Resistance hero pilot to the backworld spice runner turned Resistance hero pilot. So naturally, when I heard that Poe would feature in his own novel, I was very interested to see how that would fall into place.
Granted, some of that probably came from the weird place Star Wars had been in since a couple years before, where many were actively looking for things that were wrong. Still, though, my main questions when reading Free Fall by Alex Segura were two-fold: does it bridge that gap in Poe’s backstory, and is it fun? Let’s jump into the review and answer them both.
Let’s start with what I consider the less important of the two questions. Yes, I feel Free Fall adequately answers how Poe can be both a spice runner and later a respected New Republic pilot. Why do I find this to be less important of the two questions? It’s simple, really. There was no reason from the start the he couldn’t have done both, and essentially, this novel just establishes that.
But if continuity and canon and retcons are supremely important to you, I think this novel will do well in easing those fears.
Now, on to the good stuff. Is it fun?
For me, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Remember that this is a young adult novel, so at times some plot points feel a little convenient or the dialogue a little simple. But for a young adult novel, this is pretty stellar.
It starts with a very restless Poe on Yavin 4, wanting very much to break free of everything that he feels is holding him back. His mother, Shara Bey, is dead, and he misses her terribly. His father Kes is overprotective and Poe, as any 16-year-old would, has difficulty dealing with that. So he sets out with the Spice Runners of Kojimi. What ensues are a series of close calls, action-filled encounters with other pirates and gangs, all while running from the New Republic.
Along the way, Poe meets Zorii Bliss (who goes by Zorii Wynn for a good portion of the novel), and this is really their story. So all that tension in The Rise of Skywalker? It has context now. And it’s very well done. Their first meeting in Episode IX has so much more meaning for me now, because I know what went down and it was written in such a way that it feels like it ties perfectly into how Zorii feels when they are reunited.
Zorii and Poe aren’t the only familiar characters that make an appearance in Free Fall. Babu Frik is back, and fans of the comics will also remember L’ulo L’ampar. And the fun of recognizing characters and names doesn’t stop at those two. The planet Sorgan is a main stop along the way, a place we’ve seen in The Mandalorian. It was also fun to see the Guavian Death Gang make an appearance.
I really couldn’t help but equate a lot of this story to Solo. Very much like what happened with Han in that story, this is Poe’s coming of age tale, mixed with a compelling love story and great use of the pirates and criminal enterprises of this galaxy. I think that’s one of the elements that made it such a fun read for me. And if Solo is a film you enjoy for those reasons, I think you’ll enjoy this novel as well.
My only real complaints about Free Fall are tiny little nitpick things. For example, the name “Spice Runners of Kijimi” is pretty bland. When you’re used to things like the Pyke Syndicate, the Hutt empire, or even the Guavian Death Gang, something as simple as “who they are and where are they from” isn’t quite as original as I’d hope for. Also, as much as I love seeing Babu Frik, his Basic is just a tiny bit too good. He seemed to know barely enough of it in Episode IX, but in Free Fall, he’s able to string sentences together pretty effectively. It’s far easier to read than Anzellan, that’s for sure, and for a young adult novel I can understand that need.
But with those really being the only elements of this novel that I feel I can gripe at, I have to say that means it’s a success. And it really is. I read this novel front to back in the span of about 3 days, which is not the normal for me. It helps that it’s an easier read, but it also helps that it’s just a well-written novel that captures the essence of the characters I wanted to know more about. Alex Segura did remarkably well on this novel, and I’d love to see him work with these characters again in some capacity in the future.
Free Fall by Alex Segura releases August 4, 2020 wherever you buy books. We hope you check it out!