Welcome to the latest edition of Books on GIF, the animated alternative to boring book reviews. This Sunday's book is 'Ahsoka' by E. K. Johnston.
YES, I'm doing another Star Wars book. I know it hasn't been long since I reviewed 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye' or used only Star Wars GIFs to review 'Fates and Furies,' but I love the Star Wars universe, and I love this character. Johnston, a woman, has written a book about a female character who lives by her wits and strikes a blow against the evil galactic patriarchy by kicking the crap out of bad men who want to oppress people and destroy the environment. I thought it had a good message about being independent and not needing men to accomplish important things, from starting a revolution to DIY droid, spaceship and lightsaber repairs. But you might be wondering who Ahsoka is, since she never appeared in any of the live-action films. Here's some backstory. Ahsoka Tano first appeared in a 2008 animated feature film called 'Clone Wars' that I actually saw by myself in a movie theater surrounded by a bunch of children. And it wasn't weird at all. Nope, not at all. She was a 'youngling' introduced as Anakin Skywalker's Padawan student, and was subsequently by his side for the several seasons of the 'Clone Wars' TV show on Cartoon Network. Here they are deflecting laser bolts together in one of those episodes:
My guess is that she was created to appeal to kids, but over the course of the show she grew into a character with depth and nuance, and became a fan favorite because she was tough, smart, funny and also vulnerable. Her relationship with Anakin was complex; they were partners, and he learned from her as much as she from him. Their pairing, and this show, also made Anakin a much more interesting character than what we saw in the films. (Is it possible that a cartoon can out-perform a human being?) At the end of the final full season of 'Clone Wars,' before it was cancelled after Disney bought Lucasfilm, Ahsoka was framed for a murder, put on trial and expelled from the Jedi Order. Once her innocence was proved, she was invited back, but felt disillusioned and hurt by the Jedi's lack of faith in her. She rejected their offer and left Anakin behind to live life on her own. The scene where this happened not only helped explain Anakin's eventual turn to the dark side, but it was actually poignant and sad:
Ahsoka would resurface in the 'Star Wars Rebels' animated series, which concluded this month after four seasons. The show takes place years after the Clone Wars when Anakin has become Darth Vader, the Empire controls the galaxy and the Rebellion is just getting started. Ahsoka is no longer a child; she has constructed two new lightsabers for herself and has become a Rebel secret agent called 'Fulcrum,' who coordinates attacks against the Empire by various Rebel cells. Here she is in that show:
The book 'Ahsoka' fills in the gaps between her leaving the Jedi and becoming Fulcrum. When it begins we find Ahsoka lightsaber-less, having faked her own death and bouncing around remote planets under an assumed name, passing herself off as a mechanic. Nearly all the Jedi have been murdered under Order 66, which we saw in 'Revenge of the Sith,' and Ahsoka, assuming Anakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda have all been killed, feels very much alone. She winds up on a farming planet called Raada, befriends some local farmers and sets up shop fixing things. The Empire shows up and brutalizes the farmers into increased food production for their war machine that threatens to ruin the soil and wreck the planet. Ahsoka can't stand by and let this happen, so she helps the farmers form a guerrilla resistance. Since they're not trained soldiers, they bungle her plan, and she has to flee. She then becomes a masked vigilante who zooms around the Outer Rim thwarting pirates and other ne'er-do-wells before attracting the attention of an Imperial agent, who hunts down surviving Jedi, and Bail Organa, the adoptive father of Princess Leia (who has a cameo as a toddler) and founder of the Rebellion. He recruits her to the cause when she realizes she has to stop running, face up to who and what she is, and help those suffering under the Imperial regime fight back. So she returns to Raada to rescue her farmer friends and face the Jedi hunter like:
She defeats him bare-handed, takes his lightsaber crystals to make her own blades and saves the day. I enjoyed this book because it's about a character I like doing badass things. But I'm not sure it would have much appeal to readers beyond hard-core Star Wars fans as there isn't much here that's profound or revelatory. The writing is fine and for the most part it's fun to read, too. So, if you're looking for something for a tween/teen Star Wars fan, this book would make a good gift. And if you love Star Wars as much as I do, it's worth a read.
'Ahsoka' by E. K. Johnston was published in hardcover in 2016 and in paperback in 2017 by Lucasfilm Press. 356 pages.
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Next Sunday, and the Sundays after that: We'll get back into grown-up literature next week with 'Little Reunions' by Eileen Chang, which I'm currently reading. Also in the queue are 'The Good Earth' by Pearl S. Buck, 'The Story of the Lost Child' by Elena Ferrante and 'The Vorrh' by B. Catling, among others. Got a bestseller, a classic or a forgotten gem you want me to review? Shoot me an email.
If you missed last week's edition, here's my review of 'Every Hand Revealed' by Gus Hansen.
Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to Donna for editing this review!
Until next time,