A New Hope: The Life of Luke Skywalker
by Ryder Windham
Published by Scholastic
Adrick's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Hidden away at birth, he would believe himself an orphan.
Watched over by a mysterious hermit, he would discover incredible abilities.
And by finding hope where others found only evil, he would restore balance to the galaxy.
This is the legendary story of Luke Skywalker, from his childhood on Tatooine to his fierce battle with his toughest enemy—himself.
The young adult Star Wars biography, as previously written by Windham in The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader and The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, is a strange beast indeed. Telling the life story of individuals involved in so many momentous events--even if one were to only cover the films--in about two hundred pages is a difficult task. Windham has always given us plenty of intriguing, unique looks at the characters he covers, but the first two volumes in the series were somewhat uneven, and it’s clear that Windham was trying to figure out what exactly he could do with his limited space.
In A New Hope: The Life of Luke Skywalker, Windham has finally struck a good balance. The scenes recounting Luke’s early years are fully fleshed out, and relevant to the narrative. These are actually drawn mostly from early Expanded Universe stories—Windham seems to have realized that readers who pick up these books can probably fill in the blanks as far as the films go.
The framing story takes place after Return of the Jedi, as Luke grapples with the true nature of his father. He returns to Tatooine, where he slowly learns a few of the mysteries that were kept from him over the years. Fans who may have felt that Luke was unfairly left out of Troy Denning’s Tatooine Ghost will want to check this book out. I don’t want to give anything away, but I find remarkable that after Denning did such a marvelous job of retroactively inserting Leia’s quest to discover more about her father at a relatively early point in the timeline, Windham has done just as well in retroactively inserting Luke’s quest even earlier.
But it’s not all about the prequels here. Windham has dedicated this book to the late, great Archie Goodwin, and many of the scenes of Luke’s life come directly from the pages of Goodwin’s Marvel and daily newspaper comics. It’s remarkable that while these adventures were written at a time when authors of the proto-Expanded Universe knew next to nothing about the storyline that would coalesce into the prequels, Windham is nevertheless able to effectively tie Luke’s reminiscences to his discoveries of what was hidden from him by Ben and Uncle Owen.
Fans should realize going in that, unlike the Vader and Obi-Wan editions, this book does not cover Luke’s life to date—but this doesn’t disappoint me. Windham spread himself a little thin in the previous two volumes, but here there is a more complete story here. Even the one line references to some of Luke’s other exploits are relevant to the storyline—there’s none of the shoehorning that plagued the Vader novel. In short, we have here a fantastic addition to the young adult Star Wars line, a great retelling of Luke’s early years, and an excellent tribute to the early years of the Expanded Universe.
Again, this is more like Volume One of a Luke Skywalker biography than the more complete Vader and Obi-Wan books. I really don’t see a problem with this, but it may put some readers off. The only complaint I have is that Windham might be a little too faithful in his use of the original dialogue from the comics and radio dramas. As in the Vader and Obi-Wan books, the character’s “voices” tend to change wildly from source to source. Also, the dialogue tailored to suit a certain purpose in one medium (such an Imperial governor’s repeated identification of himself as such, in order to recap for readers who’d missed the last installment) don’t really work in a novel format.
Which is worse: finding out your crush is a short-lived robot, or that she’s a evil witch in disguise?