Review: Before the Awakening

I finished this almost a month ago and I only took notes on Finn’s part. The others were pretty good, but I loooove Finn and found his the most interesting by far, so I’m going to talk about that most. But also last.

This book follows Finn, Rey, and Poe right before the start of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Rey’s building a ship of her own and learning to trust people, Poe’s joining the rebellion and learning not to trust unquestioningly, and Finn’s going on his first missions and learning to trust himself. AWWW.

Rey’s story is predictable but still touching. It gives her a chance to shine and show off skills that are only glimpsed in the film. There were some complaints when the film was released that she catches on too fast, but really she’s much more skilled and impressive than the movie shows. What she does in the movie is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Poe’s story is…boring? I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t my thing. It was okay. It has Leia, so that’s cool. But not a lot else going for it. Lots of technical ship-based action sequences. Bleh.

But Finn. Ugh, Finn. How are you so perfect?

This section will also be the most spoilery, in case you haven’t read this but plan to.

So Finn. In the movie, we’re told that he never had a name. It comes across like the First Order is just too serious and dehumanized to bother with silly little things like that. But in this book, not the case. Everyone else gets a name besides their official designation. They give each other nicknames, joke around, generally act like ordinary people. I mean, jerks. But ordinary human jerks.

Finn is the best soldier in his group, the leader. But he doesn’t really fit. He doesn’t seem to have much interest in choosing his own nickname, and no one else bothers to make one for him. He doesn’t join in the jokes and he doesn’t look forward to real missions in the same way as the rest of the soldiers. He shows more empathy than ambition despite his skill, and that doesn’t really fit with the whole First Order agenda or make sense to his peers.

Finn likes learning and using the strategies of battle. The simulation described at the beginning of his story reminds me a lot of Mass Effect and made me want to play it again. And that disturbed me because I like to think of myself as a pacifist, so why do I enjoy a game about war? Finn sort of has the same issue going on. At the beginning, it’s just a game that he plays very well. Once he gets out in the real world and those are people, even the simulation is ruined. It’s not just a game anymore, and now he has to think about what that means.

I like the way names play into Finn’s story, and the way he’s shown to be very loyal to people rather than causes. In the movie, it did feel like he switched sides pretty quickly and it was odd. Like, he didn’t even know where he was going and he just jumps in with former enemies without a second thought because he had one bad battle experience. Like “Oh noes, we hurt real people here, that’s terrible! Well, time to immediately join up with the other side and hurt more real people who also happen to be the closest thing to family I’ve ever known, because that makes perfect sense.”

But in this book, we see names as a sign of belonging. Finn never had a name from the First Order, not because they don’t do names but because he was never really one of them and never belonged there. The first thing that happens when he hooks up with Poe is that he finally gets a name. Whereas his First Order teammates never appreciated his loyalty and in fact the one who owed him the most immediately turned on him when he had a chance to belong, Poe accepts him as he is. These are his people, and now that he had a place where he belongs that’s where his loyalty is. It’s not really a shift at all, he’s always been devoted to the people he’s protecting rather than the ideas they’re fighting for.

Gosh I love Finn. He’s just so great.

And I loved this book. I’m not even a huge Star Wars fan, I just love this trio. If you are a Star Wars fan or a The Force Awakens fan or a Poe/Finn/Rey fan, you will probably like this book. Let me know if you read it!

Also if anyone’s reading the Poe comic, is it good? I have too many things on my reading shelf right now but I want to get around to it eventually.

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