Merokia

Star Wars: Force Collector (Review)

There are times when one comes across a book that is so good that you simply refuse to put it down or stop thinking about it. Sometimes such a book is a Star Wars book, hijacking your imagination and transporting you to the galaxy far, far away. I can say, without a doubt, that Star Wars: Force Collector by author Kevin Shinick is unequivocally NOT one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, Force Collector does take place in the Star Wars galaxy, with familiar places, species, and concepts popping up over and over again. Yet, the novel is otherwise dull and one-dimensional, constantly falling back on a bland formula while simultaneously adding nothing of substance to the Star Wars canon. On the other hand, Force Collector goes out of its way to undermine one of the most important episodes in The Clone Wars with baffling nonchalance. Allow me to explain.

The plot of Force Collector is rather straight-forward: it is about a teenager who wants to learn about the Jedi Order and better understand his own Force abilities. Set prior to the events of The Force Awakens, the teen in question is Karr Nuq Sin who has the gift of psychometry, the Force ability to gain information in the form of sights, sounds, and emotions by touching objects. This is the same power which Jedi Quinlan Vos (The Clone Wars) and Cal Kestis (Jedi: Fallen Order) both harbor, although the stark difference for Karr is that his psychometry ONLY manifests when he touches an object that is associated with the Jedi in some way, shape, or form. This important fact about Karr’s psychometric power, established right out of the gate when Karr buys/wears the helmet of a stormtrooper who once had his mind manipulated by a Jedi, is also a fact that is entirely contrived to drive the plot of the book. Psychometry is a worthy concept for exploration, and that Karr spends a great deal of the story growing to control and accept the intensity of this power makes sense. Yet, the notion that psychometry would awaken in one while simultaneously being limited to Jedi-objects only is absurd. “That’s not how the Force works,” as Han Solo would say.

Then again, without any type of Star Wars group overseeing the possibilities and limitations on Star Wars concepts like psychometry, I suppose the Force can work in whatever way an author/writer might need for the sake of a plot. More and more this seems to be the case in Star Wars, with the Force serving as a convenient plot device to account for the most unlikely of eventualities (such as the time travel in Rebels which ensured Ahsoka Tano would survive her duel with Darth Vader). That Karr can only experience visions associated with Jedi objects is pretty convenient for a book in which the main character wants to become a Jedi and needs to learn more about the Jedi Order. Just give the protagonist a Force ability that is directly tied to this desire and, shazam, you have the magical ability to insert all manner of Jedi-specific objects with Jedi-specific information just waiting to be unlocked and collected.

Unfortunately for Karr, though, he is stuck on the planet Merokia and cannot head off-world to discover the secrets of the long forgotten Jedi. That is, he can not do this until he meets Maize, the new girl in school who is willing to steal her father’s company-provided yacht (the Avadora) to whisk Karr on a galactic scavenger hunt. Who does her dad work for you ask? Oh, just the First Order. But you know, the First Order is pretty chill about one of their ships being stolen because it is clearly the type of organization that just lets things slide.

First Stop: Utapau

So, the grand adventure begins. Karr and Maize, along with Karr’s droid RZ-7, decide their first stop will be Utapau because it was the location of one of the final battles of the Clone Wars. Fair enough, you have to start somewhere and Utapau is as good a place as any. Once there, Karr and company will come upon a junk dealer (the son of a clone trooper) who conveniently owns the staff of Tion Medon, the Pau’an port administrator who meets Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith. Karr touches the staff, a flashback to that scene in Episode III ensues, with additional details we don’t see in the film, and Karr has some new information about the Jedi to mull over.

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Tion Medon speaks with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Naturally, there is no better place to mull things over than in a diner. Discussing aspects of the vision with Maize, Karr name drops “Skywalker” – Anakin, mind you, has absolutely no role in Kenobi’s interaction with Medon in Revenge of the Sith, but is added to the vision so the Skywalker name can be mentioned in the diner – and another patron perks upon hearing this name. In turn, the patron points Karr, Maize and RZ-7 to the planet Jakku because, rumor has it, at the Battle of Jakku the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker pulled Imperial ships out of the sky using the Force.

What are the chances that Karr would be on just the right planet, in just the right location, at just the right time, to gather a clue about the next stop on his journey? I mean, those chances would have to be astronomical, so it is reassuring to know that this only happens one time in the book. Except, this happens every time he travels to another world, with a standard formula of convenience really stretching the imagination. Over and over, the ability to suspend one’s disbelief is tested in Force Collector, with Karr arriving at the perfect locations and times for things to fall into place for his journey of Jedi discovery.

Onto Jakku

Arriving in Niima Outpost on the planet Jakku, the group sets out to find more Jedi junk. First, they meet Unkar Platt, the blobfish from The Force Awakens buying salvaged wreckage for food portions. When Platt’s collection ends up being a bust, Karr and company decide to poke around the Outpost. What do they come across? Well, a run-down and grimy Corellian freighter of course! I won’t provide the name, as it isn’t revealed in the novel, but you already know the name...

Boarding the freighter the teens and droid end up finding a curious looking orb, “gray, dotted with silver circles.” Touching the orb, Karr has another vision, this time experiencing a scene from A New Hope. Or rather, the scene is entirely made up, details being filled in prior and up-to the moment when Obi-Wan Kenobi senses the death of millions which is where the vision ends. That details are added is not a problem in and of itself, but what his vision leaves out, which Karr desperately needs on his quest to become a Jedi, is the actual lesson which Luke Skywalker learns in this scene in A New Hope. Instead, the added “backstory” to the scene is meant to do one thing: simultaneously name drop Skywalker and Kenobi, making Karr question how his scattered visions line-up.

Fortified with this new vision, Karr and his pals exit the freighter and run into two First Order stormtroopers. Yikes! Sent by Maize’s father to take her back to Merokia, the stormtroopers leave Karr and RZ-7 alone on Jakku but do not reclaim the Avadora. But they DO let Karr and Maize have a moment to say their goodbyes because First Order stormtroopers are pretty chill.

Remaining on Jakku, Karr goes about searching for more Jedi clues and eventually comes across a Pyke who has information for him about “the crashed ship of a Jedi Master” that went down a long time ago on the desert moon orbiting Oba Diah, the Pyke homeworld. The Pyke also tells Karr that Oba Diah and it’s moon harbor many criminal outposts, warning the teen that if he travels there he may never leave.

From Jakku to Oba Diah

Landing in a canyon on Oba Diah’s desert moon, Karr and RZ-7 head west, towards evidence of a crash which the droid detected. After poking around for an hour, Karr comes across a “drag mark etched into the stone.” Being the “only sign of disruption on this whole eroded planet” – a completely ridiculous and naïve assessment – the two follow the mark and come across the wreckage of a ship!

Is this wreckage the crashed ship of a Jedi Master, a crash that took place a long time ago? Come on, you already know the answer is yes. More importantly, Karr finds a piece of debris with the serial number 775519, and also notes that “a ship crashed here, and somebody took the wreckage away, but they didn’t get everything…” And what, besides the debris, was left? Answer: a storage locker containing a recording of the Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas in the final moments of his life.

Okay, let’s pause for a moment. If you have not figured it out yet, the crashed ship of a Jedi Master which Karr finds himself exploring comes from “The Lost Ones,” a Season 6 episode of The Clone Wars. At the outset of the episode we find Jedi Master Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion on a desert moon searching for the wreckage of a ship that had been in the possession of a Jedi Master killed long ago. When they find it, Plo Koon enters while a clone in the background states, “the scans check out, it’s a T-6 shuttle alright. Serial number 775519.” Finding a lightsaber buried in the sand, Plo Koon immediately turns and says, “I want the entire area cleared. We’re taking everything back to Coruscant.”

“Everything?” a clone inquires.

“Everything,” Plo Koon exclaims.

Did you catch that? Plo Koon wanted the entire area cleared so they could take everything, EVERYTHING, back to Coruscant. Except now, with Karr and RZ-7 searching the exact same crash site, we discover that Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion “didn’t get everything.” Up to this point in the book, I had found myself rolling my eyes at the series of impossibly convenient events playing out. I was at least willing to continue reading, to overlook some of these unlikely moments and just move on. It wasn’t about accepting the way things were unfolding so much as it was to say “okay, whatever, let’s just head to the next stop on the journey.” Yet, when Karr finds the crashed ship of Sifo-Dyas and says that whoever excavated the site “didn’t get everything” I became annoyed, really, really annoyed.

Clone troopers in the 104th Clone Battalion search the desert moon of Oba Diah.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6, Episode 2 “The Lost Ones”

In my opinion “The Lost Ones” is easily one of the best episodes of The Clone Wars and one of the most important. With the discovery of the crash on Oba Diah’s desert moon, the Jedi Order set out to discover the fate of their long-lost friend Sifo-Dyas, attempting to piece together his fate. In doing so, they are led on a journey which takes them to a point they were neither expecting or fully prepared handle: the Clone Wars was secretly orchestrated by the Sith. This revelation is a gut-punch to the Jedi, the Council recognizing that they have been playing by their enemies rules this whole time, and they must continue to play along until they can uncover the deeper layers to this Sith plot.

The opening of the show sets the stage for this stark revelation. With the initial explanation and voiceover, we learn that the Jedi have stumbled upon a clue to an enduring mystery and have dispatched Plo Koon and his clones to investigate. The set up explained, we are then transported to the moon, a raging sandstorm concealing the view of the clone troopers and vehicles scouring the landscape. The sandstorm is an appropriate metaphor, a symbol for the turbulent mystery obscuring the Jedi from discovering a harsh truth. Added to this is the ominous music which captures the foreboding discovery and exploration of the wreckage. This may be the crash they were seeking for more than ten years but the music presents a heavy tone and stark warning: what they have found is also a harbinger of a deeper and darker web which has ensnared the Jedi Order.

“The Lost Ones” is meticulous in peeling back the layers of mystery only to unveil even more nefarious truths lingering below the surface, truths which the Jedi are aware of but can not fully grasp. Force Collector is anything but meticulous, offering nothing more convenient plot so Karr not only discovers the crash site of Sifo-Dyas’ vessel but also wreckage which, as noted, Plo Koon and his soldiers failed to salvage from the site.

For Master Koon to demand “everything” be found, only for fans to later learn that “everything” was not found is ridiculous, a canonical bait-and-switch which makes Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion look inept and undercuts the profound importance of The Clone Wars episode. That even one piece of wreckage remained of Sify-Dyas ship – and a critical piece at that, an actual recording he made prior to his death – is flabbergasting. Nothing in “The Lost Ones” lends itself to this possibility. Absolutely nothing.

Frankly, although I have only presented half of Force Collector’s plot in this review up to this point, I genuinely have nothing left to say about the book. Don’t get me wrong, I did finish reading it, and I certainly have opinions about the remained of the story. Yet, the way Force Collector so willfully undermined “The Lost Ones” put such a foul taste in my mouth that I see no reason to elaborate on anything else. The moment Karr stated “they didn’t get everything” my opinion about the novel was made.