THE LAST JEDI was a controversial movie among Star Wars fandom, even more so than THE FORCE AWAKENS. For many people, the themes of "kill the past" and that the Heroes of the original trilogy had feet of clay (but were still admirable) didn't go over well. I, myself, had severe problems with the handling of Luke Skywalker but have still maintained a mostly positive attitude toward Disney's handling of the franchise. So what did I think of it?
It's okay. This isn't me attempting to damn the book with faint praise but I struggle to really put into words why the book failed to connect with me. It has quite an excellent cast of characters, numerous nods to previous NuEU continuity, and a fairly well-developed plot. It also manages to give us a sense of what the state of the galaxy is post-Hosnian Prime's destruction.
The premise is the First Order has successfully conquered the entire galaxy in a matter of weeks. While the Republic collapsing and their fleets being destroyed was something established by The Force Awakens, it seems that there's no actual attempt by the remaining New Republic forces to resist against them. I find this disappointing and wished we had stories of the First Order battling their way across the galaxy but it seems they all folded like a deck of cards.
Much of the book is about General Organa, Poe Dameron, Finn, Rey, and others attempting to find allies in order to build a new Resistance. They don't appear to be actively seeking out New Republic remnants among their military and politicians but seeking ex-Rebels as well as ex-Imperials. I have severe issues with the latter because it falls into the trap of Imperial apologia.
One of the things I liked about the NuCanon is the fact that it treats Imperials like ex-Nazis, people who revolt the citizenry of the galaxy and are considered the scum of the universe. Recruiting Imperials against the First Order feels like the only way to defeat Hydra is to get the help of the Red Skull. The original recipe Imperials are forgiven in what is a good speech by Poe but I feel like they're people who are getting a lot more slack than they really deserve.
The galaxy feels less like it's been under an occupation for a few weeks and more like several years. Indeed, one character is unintentionally sympathetic because she's a seventeen year old girl working for the First Order. I couldn't help but wonder how sympathetic a young woman who signs up to work for the Axis after a week into their invasion of France would be.
One thing I liked about the book was Poe Damoren dwelled a lot on his betrayal of Holdo. The author establishes that Poe was not actually in the right, got plenty of Resistance soldiers killed, and has been heavily affected by his mutiny. I feel that's the way the movie intended his plotline and am glad someone has finally put it to rest.
While Poe's handling is excellent, I should note that Rey is almost nonexistent in this book despite her epic role in the new Trilogy. She shows up, says she's a junk trader and pilot but there's little talk about her Jedi training or plans to revive the order. She also expresses her regret about not being able to redeem Kylo Ren and overemphasizes her sympathy for him when I thought the movie was about how he's irredeemable. Finn also establishes he's not interested in either Rey or Rose, which seems bizarre given we have two movies of romance set up.
One character I liked was Winshur Bratt who is now one of my favorite Star Wars villains. A filing clerk for the First Order, he easily falls into the brutal and corrupt practices of the First Order. He's exactly how I expect someone who signs up for the regime to be like and he's every bit as contemptible and vile as someone attracted to space fascism should be. I also liked the appearance of Wedge Antilles and Nora Wexley. I'll never get over Wedge not being married to Iella but they make a reasonably cute couple. There's also a return of a popular Claudia Gray character but I'm a little concerned that it undermined the power of the book he appeared in's ending.
Overall, this book is fine but I feel like it doesn't paint a particularly good image of the Star Wars galaxy. The galaxy rolls over for the First Order and doesn't do a thing to resist them despite the fact they've nuked Washington D.C's equivalent. It also pretends there's a difference between the Empire and the First Order when they're equally as bad at best. People signing up to serve a fascist dictatorship that has conquered their homeland is also treated as normal. It's a weird and not very good take on the galaxy. On the other hand, the writer is excellent at battle scenes and I enjoyed their take on Poe.