Book Reviews

Book Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse’s entry in the Riordan Presents imprint was really fun. Nizhoni Begay is my new favorite. Her journey of self-acceptance and perseverance, while being typical middle grade fare, is generally delightful.

I was often hoping during this book that it was the first in a series. While it moved at the relentless pace that one expects from a Riordan-adjacent middle grade novel, some characters and plot elements seemed to get not enough attention. The sole focus on Nizhoni mostly worked, but it felt like there were gaps related to her companions.

Not my favorite middle grade mythology read, but enjoyable nonetheless. Four stars.

Bookish Content

A Million People and a Thousand Places

I recently reviewed Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline. This sophomore novel from the founder of io9 was excellent. Like their first novel, Autonomous, it wove together science and technology, with social change and politics.

One of the main concerns of the time travelers in the book is what they name as the “Great Man” vs. “Collective Action” theories of time travel and social change.

According to the “Great Man” theory, key people and specific times are integral to the time line. Therefore, if one were to say, kill a young Adolf Hitler, one would sidestep the rise of German Nationalism and the Holocaust (or at least the worst of them). I think this idea might be found in the “fixed points” in Doctor Who. Certain times, people, and places, are integral to the way things currently are. Therefore, if one were somehow able to change a fixed point, the timeline would change in dramatic ways.

Those who espouse the collective action theory would argue that any significant changes to the timeline can only be achieved through broad social movements and gradual shifts in attitudes and behaviors. So if one were to kill young Hitler, all of the other factors leading to the Third Reich, etc. would still be in place, and history would more or less play out in the same way, granted with changes in the details. Perhaps certain events could be less or more severe. Events might happen later or earlier. Different people would be involved. But much like the toppling of a powerful autocrat without substantive multilateral change in a government or country, another, perhaps worse leader will take their place.

For me it seems pretty clear that the latter view is much closer to the way the world actually works, though the debate remains only a thought experiment as it relates to time travel obviously.

There is another angle on this discussion, however. While meaningful social and political change may only be achieved through changing the hearts and minds of many people and cultivating a community of action, as it turns out, each individual in that group is vitally important to the end result. Somehow, even though the many, many individuals in a particular movement may not be discernible as one looks back in time, each and every one is integral to the whole. Each is in a sense a “Great Man” within the collective.

Beth, one of the main characters in the novel, writes a paper on these two views. She encapsulates this new angle when she writes that “collective action means that when someone does something small or personal, their actions can change history too.”

The theme of the individual vs. the collective is central to Western culture, often emphasizing the former over the latter. It’s a theme that has certainly been central to my own life, as I became obsessed with Rush, whose early lyrics were initially heavily influenced by Ayn Rand but whose later lyrics were more interested in the tension of personal autonomy in the midst of loving community (more on that here). I think that it’s also been central to my religious life. I grew up in a religious milieu that was hyper-individualized, and I’ve spent the last ten years or so defining myself as “not that.”

There was a moment, then, in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Resistance Reborn, that I simply loved. Poe Dameron, who in many ways represents the classic, rugged, Western individualist, is giving a speech to the rag-tag group of Resistance supporters who are again on the run from the First Order. Then Poe Dameron, the guy who put his own ego above the safety of the Resistance,, tells his comrades that their fight is not about one person and one place but rather “a million people and a thousand places.”

Book Reviews star wars

Review: Resistance Reborn

Del Rey, 2019

Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rebecca Roanhorse has been on my TBR for a while, and after reading Resistance Reborn, I am even more excited to get into her work. My point is: this book delivered, and I highly recommend it!

This review contains light spoilers for the entire novel

Resistance Reborn is peak Star Wars tie-in novel. The main story line of the films is interwoven with other novels and new lore from the Disney canon. Having read most but not all of the sequel era tie-in materials, I was delighted to have this story incorporate elements from Chuck Wedndig’s Aftermath trilogy, Christie Golden’s Inferno Squadron, Charles Soule’s Poe Dameron/Black Squadron comics, and probably more.

Beyond all of the fan-satisfying crossover, though, this was a great novel. The plot is driven by our heroes’ main concern at the end of The Last Jedi, i.e., “where the hell do we go, now?” The Resistance is desperate for supplies, allies, and some space to breathe. A disparate group, made up of former Rebels, Resistance-friends, and even an ex-Imperial, comes together in order to reforge the Resistance through acquiring a list of First Order prisoners likely to be potential Resistance allies and leaders.

Resistance Reborn is primarily plot-driven, though the small character arcs throughout are strong. Poe’s story is the most satisfying. The pilot and Resistance commander must deal with his rash actions during the The Last Jedi. Some of Poe’s self-questioning help get the novel started and set the tone for what is to come.

Two moments in particular stood out. First, when Leia and co. are considering recruiting some former Imperials to the cause, Poe is able to put himself in their shoes because of his own mutinous and destructive behavior. Then, when the rag-tag group is first assembled, Poe takes the lead, but his leadership is called into question by Stronghammer, who has heard about his mutiny and betrayal which in part led to Holdo’s death. Poe has to face what he has done both internally and externally, which was a satisfying move on Rebecca Roanhorse’s part. Our heroes often get away with less than ideal behavior. But in Resistance Reborn, readers are forced to sit with Poe, despite the urgency of the hour, as he self-reflects and determines whether or not he can go on.

Five stars for a great Star Wars novel!

View all my reviews

this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/17/20):

This week, I finished up my third pass through Brandon Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension. See my review here.

For more Sanderson and Mistborn goodness, check out the most recent post in my “Cosmeric Faith” series.

With passing of Rush drummer Neil Peart last week, I opened up the week with a bit of a retrospective of his work and its impact on my own life. For that post, go here.

This week, back at work after a few days off, digging into writing, and life, etc., etc., I have been trying to focus on actually playing when my two-year-old is therefore it. I’ve been startled recently by my own propensity to toward distraction and “what’s next?” while my son just lives *here* in this moment. More on that in What Kids Know.

Speaking of having some time off recently, my wife and I watched A Marriage Story (d. Noah Baumbach, 2019) on our anniversay. Still unclear as to whether it was fitting or not. But I really enjoyed this film. Check out my review here.

I’m still working through Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline, slowly but surely–more on that next week hopefully. Also next week, look for my review of Disenchantment season two!

I’ll leave you this week with a quote from Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, the main tie-in movel with The Rise of Skywalker which, yes, I am also reading (audio books, man). I have a lot to gush say about this novel, so more on that soon. For now, the book leads with Poe Dameron dealing with the fallout of his boneheaded, mutinous moves in The Last Jedi. Seeing Poe have to deal with the film’s events and his own actions has been satisfying, and I’m excited to finish the book.

“Was he talking about former Imperials, or was he talking about himself?”

Resistance Reborn, Rebecca Roanhorse (2019)

While not wallowing in self-pity, which would have been out of character and nearly unbearable, it is striking that Poe can identify himself with former Imperials. His own experience of shame due to misguided actions has made room for empathy and open-mindedness toward others. He puts it beautifully later on, talking to a rag-tag group of Resistance sympathizers, some with questionable backgrounds:

“Many of us have dubious beginnings. It’s how we end that counts.”

Resistance Reborn, Rebecca Roanhorse (2019)