After having to wait quite bit for all three books to arrive, I finally was able to read the Join the Resistance trilogy of books by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker. I really enjoyed them! I found myself connecting to the characters and absolutely becoming enthralled with the story, and having a hard time putting the books down. They were absolutely worth the read! They were funny, charming, and provided some good insight into the Resistance and First Order.
Spoilers ahead for the Join the Resistance books by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker!
In the first book, simply Join the Resistance, we're introduced to all of our young characters. There's Mattis Banz, a young orphan from a backwater planet who dreams of being a hero like Luke Skywalker or Admiral Ackbar. There's Klimo, a sweet and excitable Rodian who's eager to make friends and can best be compared to Neeku Vozo from Resistance. There's Lorica Demaris, a Zeltron who's heroics on her own planet have already gained her some notoriety. There's Dec Hansen and the brother his mom built for him, a droid called AG-90, who grew up together on a swamp planet. There's Sari, a big, strong girl with an extensive knowledge of computers. Finally, there's their commander, Jo Jerrjerrod, a stickler for rules with a surname probably familiar to many of us.
Their early days in the resistance go... not so well. Mattis gets lured into a scheme with AG-90, Dec and Sari immediately and finds himself in trouble with Admiral Ackbar. Then Jo has them all doing very extensive training that wears them out each and every day. Jo puts them into what roles he thinks they'll do best- which turns out to not fit what their actual strengths are. For example, Jo frequently has Sari doing the physical parts of jobs because of her size, but she really is much, much better with computers than anyone else on the team. Jo doesn't listen to their protests, though and J-Squadron has a hard time working together as a team.
When the squadron finds Jo up to some suspicious activity, they go to spy on him, sending AG-90 in. They're caught, and a furious Jo goes to have AG's memory wiped before AG can say what he saw. J-Squadron fights to prevent this, and in the process end up shutting power off to the entire D'Qar base. Admiral Ackbar sends them to the planet Vodran to scavenge for parts as their punishment.
The first book hooked me in very quickly, and I really got a good feel for the characters, even if later you learn much more about them all that can change your perspective. I immediately fell most in love with sweet Klimo, his eagerness to learn, help others, and make friends was very endearing, and even after finishing the trilogy I can still say that he was my favorite character.
The next book, Escape from Vodran, was intense. The characters are stuck on this planet overrun by some of Star Wars' most fearsome creatures, like rancors and sarlaccs. They have to work together to survive, and that's when they all really start to bond. Suspicion is cast on Jo as AG reveals what he saw- Jo talking to First Order officers. Jo admits that he was, but that they are his parents who think he's at a flight academy and don't know he's in the Resistance. We also learn that the heroism that Lorica is credited with was a misunderstanding, that she actually had nothing to do with the event that she's famous for, but she's joined the Resistance determined to live up to her reputation.
Then disaster strikes. There are rancor attacks, in which we lose poor Klimo, and then the First Order arrives and drags Mattis, Jo, AG and Lorica to their prison base that once belonged to a Hutt with a love of creatures (hence why there's a variety running around the planet- they escaped from her collection when the First Order took over). Dec and Sari escape on a shuttle, but find themselves on a hidden moon inhabited by droids.
The bulk of the book documents the experiences they have in the prison. It was really heart-wrenching to read these once-excited and optimistic kids become hopeless and fearful, and even distrusting of each other as Jo plays the role of First Order spy to stay on the First Order officers' good side and AG-90 apparently has his memory wiped and is used as his friends prison guard. Mattis slowly seems to lose his mind. They meet two new friends- Cost Niktur, a woman driven crazy by a borgullet and Ymmoss, a large, fluffy Gigoran. Fortunately, at the end of the book they are able to come together and escape when Dec and Sari come back with the droids and the Hutt that once owned the place, and it turns out that AG's memory was thankfully not actually wiped, he only pretended to be a mindless guard to wait for the right opportunity to escape. However Jo's true loyalties with the Resistance are discovered and he's taken away, leaving his friends to chase after him.
The second book was the most compelling, even if it may arguably be the slowest because of the time spent in the prison. But it was really well done. I really could feel the desperation from the characters as they just want to escape and don't know whether the others are okay, or if they've been betrayed or not. It was confusing for the characters as they had to constantly question and re-evaluate things, and that really came through in the writing.
The third book, Attack on Starkiller Base, is probably the most fast-paced. J-Squadron is chasing after Jo to rescue him, and in the process find themselves re-joined by the once thought dead Klimo, who reveals that he escaped the rancors and stole a TIE fighter. Klimo is clearly scarred by the experience, but is still mostly his cheerful self. Their rescue mission has them sneaking through Starkiller Base to rescue him. Meanwhile, Jo is facing his parents disappointment and rage over him joining the Resistance, and we learn more about his background- how he was always loyal to their way of life until his mother had some neighbors "sent away" after their young son- Jo's best friend- accidentally discovered the plans for Starkiller Base in his father's office.
While this rescue mission is mounting, there's some familiar things happening on Starkiller Base. It starts with them seeing a non-First Order dressed girl climbing on a wall. I think you see where this is going. As their rescue mission goes on, so does the battle of Starkiller Base that we see in The Force Awakens. J-Squadron, even after Jo's rescue, finds themselves in the middle of the destruction as Starkiller Base begins to collapse more and more. Thankfully they're able to escape on a shuttle just barely in time- leaving behind Jo's father and being nearly shot down by Jo's mother.
It's a harrowing experience that J-Squadron went through, but at the end of it all they've all become much stronger and closer, and are very grateful to have each other and be able to fight in the Resistance against the tyrannical First Order.
Again, I really liked this trilogy. The characters were all really well fleshed-out, I loved watching their bonds grow and change throughout the book, and the books were able to still sometimes levy humor and charm to get through the darker parts. I'd really recommend this story if you're interested in the sequel trilogy era, they're a compelling and pretty easy read, and a great story to add to the mythology of Star Wars.