Book Review: The Legends of Luke Skywalker
Since my most recent Star Wars reading was Kevin Hearne's Heir to the Jedi, I thought it only made sense to follow that up with Ken Liu's The Legends of Luke Skywalker. And I really loved it! You may remember from a few months ago, when I read Myths & Fables as well as its sister book, Dark Legends, I adored those books, and this book was similar. Readers are told tall tales about the mysterious figure of Luke Skywalker (though not always by that name) and his various deeds. It's really entertaining. The stories are sweet and heartfelt, not to mention also being very funny at times. It's really great to get a peek into how the galaxy as a whole feels about this character that we know so well, yet is alien (for lack of a better word) to them.
I really think this is a book that, if you're interested, you should go in fairly blind. Each of the six (technically seven) stories are unique in their own way, and something I don't want to spoil for you if you're thinking about reading this book. I know I was really happy and pleasantly surprised by each story as it unfolded, and I want you to have that feeling too.
However, if you don't care about that, then read on.
Spoilers ahead for The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu.
I'll start by setting the stage for the story that binds all of these tales together. We follow a small band of characters of various species, most of them young, gathered in a ship that they're the crew of on its way to Canto Bight to deliver some fathiers for their races. As they're eating, they begin swapping stories, and the topic quickly turns to the legendary New Republic hero, Luke Skywalker. In between each Luke story we return back to the crew, as a small group of them end up going on an adventure with an old woman stowed away on the ship, trying to help her escape before the scanners arrive and she's found out. They do successfully get her to safety on Canto Bight before they have to return to their duties, though along the way they share a number of stories about the mythical Luke Skywalker.
The first and funniest story is called "The Myth Buster." "The Myth Buster" is a little story within a story- a hooded man who seems to be a little extra knowledgable compared to everyone else, asks a smooth-talker who claims to know the truth behind the stories that the New Republic tells. It was really amusing to hear about this woman's wild conspiracy about the events of the original trilogy. It's too much to really summarize succintly here, but essentially she believes that the Empire faked the Death Star, then the Rebellion faked the attack on the Death Star. Oh, and Obi-Wan was actually a gangster named Benny O'Kenoby who was just pretending to be the lost war hero Obi-Wan Kenobi. His gang consisted of Hansel Shooter, a Wookiee named "Shaggy," and Luke Clodpodder. They would go around conning people with fake shows and taking their money, and managed to convince the Rebellion to use them as war heroes in their cons. It's hilarious and fascinating, and the hooded stranger feels the same way- and we have an inkling of who this stranger might actually be, based on a mysterious hand that doesn't feel extreme heat.
Oh, and the Myth Buster woman also believes that Admiral Ackbar is a droid wearing Mon Calamari skin. And that Senator Binks and Darth Vader are the same person. I would so listen to her podcast. I loved that story a lot, and even if you don't read the whole book, I honestly think picking it up just for that story is worth it. It's completely hilarious.
The second story, "The Starship Graveyard," is much different in tone. A Star Destroyer gunner is one of few survivors after his ship goes down in the battle of Jakku, and he's found by a mysterious man. Believing the man to be Luke Skywalker (who the Imperial alleges he saw using his lightsaber and the Force to singlehandedly take down Star Destroyers at the flick of a wrist), he's terrified and thanks to Imperial propaganda, believes he's going to be tortured and killed by the man, but instead the man is kind, if not a little rough. He leads them through the desert to an old Imperial compound, which is being picked apart by scavengers. However, an apparent reactor collapse causes the compound to be an island surrounded by a rapidly rising pool of melted sand- aka, molten glass. The man creates some makeshift boots out of spare parts that let him glide across the hot liquid, and helps the rest of the scavengers- including the Imperial- build some for themselves, and he guides everybody across the sand. As everyone leaves, the man offers the Imperial a beacon that he can use to get picked up and saved by the Imperial remnants as a final act of kindness. When asked if he's is Luke Skywalker, the man simply says "we're all Luke Skywalker."
That second story was the most intriguing to me. It was the most vague for sure, and the only one where I can't confidently say if that story is actually about Luke Skywalker at all. While the mysterious man certainly sounds like Luke Skywalker in some aspects (he does mention being from a desert world), we also know that Luke Skywalker wasn't at the Battle of Jakku, or even near it. This story was definitely a lot more about the legacy of Luke, and how people in the galaxy use it to inspire others and do good. Though most of all, I'm curious about what the man saw when he saw the robe-clad figure wielding the Force and a lightsaber in such unbelievable ways. What he describes seeing is definitely not any ability we've seen before- did he actually see something that he misunderstood? Was it a dream while he was unconscious in his escape pod? Or did it just get made up as the story was passed along? We may never know, and that's the fun of a fable.
"Fishing in the Deluge," the third story, was very interesting. This one, along with the last one, reminded me a lot of my recently read Luke Skywalker books, Heir to the Jedi and Weapon of a Jedi. It primarily follows a young girl on a water-covered planet that's mostly cut off from the galaxy at large, as it's out of the way and doesn't offer very much in terms of resources that other planets can't provide. The people there are happy like that though, for the most part. They catch fish and fly winged creatures called wind-trusters, which glide through the winds of the planet over the water. In a storm, the young girl's beloved wind-truster is killed by a strike of lightning, and as she falls she is fortunately saved by a flying metal bird with four wings. Flown by a man called the Seeker, he reveals to the village that he has come to learn about their connection with a spiritual force that they call the Tide. The girl's grandmother, the village elder, is reluctant to teach him anything, but with some questioning and convincing she lets him take the trials that they usually offer to children to gage if they can be trusted to learn about the Tide. The Seeker passes each trial, except for the last one- where he must spear a large fish in a dangerous area with a spear a kilometer long. He spears the fish- but decides to let it free, as he merely slightly wounded it, and returns back. The grandmother tells him that from his trials, he learned all that he needed to know, and the Seeker leaves, grateful.
This was an interesting story, primarily because of what Luke learns from the villagers. Though they may call it by a different name, they're all speaking about the same thing- it's the Sight to the Chiss, Ashla to the Lasat, the Tide to these villagers and the Force to the Jedi and Sith. It's always so interesting to see how this same galaxy-wide phenomenon is named and treated differently by all the different cultures, but what I most love about this chapter is how it's clear that the villagers do not have less of an understanding of the Tide or the Force than Luke does. In fact, Luke comes to learn from them. While they may have different ideas about what it is and what it means, none of them are any better or worse than the other for it.
The fourth story, and probably my favorite, is "I, Droid." This story is a droid legend, not unlike one of the stories I really liked in Myths & Fables, "The Droid With A Heart." We get the perspective of a construction droid storyteller, and it's really interesting. She describes in detail what it's like when some slavers put a chip in her to make her more violent, and it's really heartbreaking, as she was once a sweet droid who made small carvings and was only captured in the first place because she sacrificed one of her power cells to help a slower droid escape. She's forced to be an enforcer, shocking droids in some mines and forcing them to sort through acid that slowly melts away their parts, and though she doesn't want to do it she can't really stop herself. One of the droids she has to shock is a curious little blue, silver and white R2 unit, one that's especially resistant but is eventually forced to give in. The droid however, even as acid begins to erode him, still has faith that his master will come rescue him. One day, an odd protocol droid that asks for a safety suit arrives to the mines. In a strange turn of events, the protocol droid reveals himself to be human... though the droid is somewhat confused, because he has a droid arm. The odd protocol droid, Luke Skywalker in a costume, cuts off our narrator's zapping arms with a lightsaber, but then gets into her back panel to remove the violent chip that was installed so she has her own will once again. She tells him that all the other enforcer droids are in a similar position to her, and he uses the Force to bypass the chips of all the droids in the facility. Luke attaches construction arms back to her to replace the zapping arms he cut off, and then he and R2 free all of the droids and travel around to take them back to where they came from.
This story was a really sweet one, both because I love droids and because of how this story showed how anyone can be inspired by any story. At the very end of this story, the droid says that while she knows he's a human, she thinks that he's also at least a very good droid too, because of his hand, and she'll never forget his kindness. This story was the sweetest in my opinion, and I definitely enjoyed it a lot.
The fifth and most entertaining story is "The Tale of the Lugubrious Mote," and it comes from a... unique storyteller. The story is told from the perspective of a mole-flea that originally lived on Salacious Crumb. Apparently this mole-flea (with a very large vocabulary) is the true brains behind the genius comedy acts of Crumb, feeding him jokes into his ear and biting certain parts of his head to get him to move certain ways to do physical comedy like a weird version of Ratatouille. What's interesting about this story, though, is that unlike the others it's actually a story we already know, just from a new perspective. This mole-flea, who ends up befriending Leia while she's chained to Jabba, sees the events of Return of the Jedi in Jabba's palace and sail barge. The best part of the story is when the mole-flea jumps into Luke's hair right before he falls below to fight the rancor. When the mole-flea speaks to him, Luke assumes that it's the voice of an old Jedi speaking to him through the Force, trying to tell him how to defeat the rancor. The mole-flea leans into the role, and it's very amusing. This mole flea is incredibly smart, it seems, as all of Luke's tricks that he uses when fighting the rancor actually came from the mole flea. It's a great little story- bizarre, but amazing.
I really loved the mole-flea story, obviously. Is it actually true in canon? It's hard to say. The little mole flea certainly knows a lot of details about those scenes I can't imagine it would know if there wasn't some truth to it. After all, Ahsoka says "there's always a little truth in legends." I'd certainly like to believe it's true, if only because of how charmingly weird it would be, and what is Star Wars if not charmingly weird?
The final story is called "Big Inside." Not unlike "Fishing in the Deluge," this story is the most personal for Luke. He picks up a hitchhiking biologist to help her get to her next study destination, only for them to end up trapped inside the space slug. Luke and the biologist explore through the slug, trying to find a way out as it closes it's mouth and they're unable to get out that way. They fight of mynocks, build a raft to float over the acid lake of the creature's stomach- and eventually, discover ancient Force wielders that entombed themselves when they too were trapped down there. Luke frees their spirits and he and the biologist are able to escape- alive, but certainly not unscathed.
This was a really interesting story, one that again reminded me of Heir to the Jedi and Weapon of a Jedi. What I appreciated most was how it shows Luke's kindness and optimism. Even in their darkest moments, Luke is hopeful and trying to help the biologist feel the same hope that he does. He helps her when she's hurt, asks her questions about her studies, and points interesting biological things out to her that he thinks she'll find interesting. It's really sweet, and demonstrated how good-hearted Luke Skywalker truly is- though he doesn't know this woman at all, he still makes an effort to help and connect with her so she doesn't feel quite as alone in this horrible situation that they're both stuck in.
Overall, I totally adored this book. I really appreciated how most of the stories prominently featured female characters, that was something I found very interesting. The stories were amusing, inspiring and sometimes both at once. It was definitely a real treat to read, it was fun to get some insight into how the galaxy sees Luke and I hope going forward we get more books like it, maybe about some other characters or stories.