Rebel Rising by Beth Revis gives the insights into Saw Gerrera and Jyn Erso that Catalyst and Rogue One couldn’t give us.
This book tells a personal tale of Jyn Erso while still telling the story of the galaxy as the Empire’s influence spreads. It spans the time period between the opening prologue to Rogue One – when Jyn loses her parents – until Jyn’s rescue from Wobani by the Rebel Alliance. It not only tells what Jyn was doing during that time, but, more importantly how she felt.
We get a glimpse into her feelings about her father being taken by Krennic and her response to her hearing that he continued to voluntarily work for the Empire. We see how Saw teachers her to fight as well as how she earns her rap sheet by the time of Rogue One. The backdrop is set as Saw Gerrera is trying to determine why the Empire is capturing so many materials. We also see the continual spread of the Empire’s control over the galaxy. We even get a first hand glimpse of what the Empire is willing to do to cover its tracks.
There are a few take aways that I found particularly interesting / confusing / confounding about this book.
Jyn’s not a killer
I was really surprised to see that Jyn never really killed anyone (at least not in this book). She was raised to fight and was fantastic at hand to hand combat. She went on various operations, but none were out-right gun fights. This seems a bit strange given how readily – and without hesitation – she was able to shoot storm troopers on Jedha in Rogue One. She was never convicted of murder by the Empire. But that we never saw her confronted with having to take someone’s life – even in 5 points.
What exactly was motivating Jyn?
It’s not clear from this novel what Jyn’s motivations were. There are a lot of people who are abandoned by parental figures and have run-ins with the law. There are still things that motivate them. It may dive in head first into crime. Some search for some level of safety. Some just exist on the fringes. So what was Jyn trying to do with her life? Why didn’t she continue to find quiet, backwater places to hide? Why did she stay present in the more criminal
Why did she ever go back to 5 points? What else was she doing as she crossed the galaxy? Why didn’t she keep finding remote places to hide?
5 Points station seemed like it was a critical turning point for Jyn. It was her first sink or swim moment in her life where she had to learn to handle herself among the dregs of the universe as well as the Empire. Why, then, would she ever go back. I mean, I’ve only been back to my high school like twice since I graduated 20 years ago – and I generally liked the place. If I had Jyn’s experience, I’d never go back there.
But more broadly, we don’t learn more about what she did in the ensuing years or why she did those things. Those are interesting stories. But more importantly, they are events that should have shaped her identity. But given how it’s presented, we are perhaps thought to think they do not drastically change her life’s trajectory. Why not? Doesn’t something drastic happen to every 20 year old that can change their life? Jyn’s perhaps, had several of those occurrences throughout her childhood. But at the precipice of adulthood, there’s always a fork in the road. What was Jyn’s fork? Where did she make the decision to keep moving around the underworld of society rather than becoming a moisture farmer somewhere?
So, how did she feel about Cassian?
Perhaps the most heartbreaking point of the book is when Jyn loses her surrogate mother figure and her new boyfriend trying to escape the Empire who had come for her. They ultimately were caught in a battle between the Empire and Rebel ships – she didn’t know which had destroyed her new family.
What I found a bit confounding is that we don’t really get to see sorrow from Jyn after losing her parents, Saw, and the Ponta’s. These are people who cared for her and protected her. And when they’re taken from her, we don’t really a kind of grief or sorrow from that kind of loss. We don’t really get a sense of how important these relationships were to her – in part because she’s conscious of eluding the Empire. We don’t see her develop any kind of dysfunctional behavior (drinking; carelessness;etc) that is common among people who lose these types of relationships. She doesn’t turn to drinking or carelessness as is common among many who live among societal fringes in real life. She doesn’t resemble the type of self-destructive behavior that her – later – cell mates would on Wobani.
So given she’s had these relationships, what was her impression and feelings towards Cassian in Rogue One?
Overall, this is a very good book. But I’m not sure that I’d recommend this book to anyone but hard core Star Wars fans. This book is an important reveal of Jyn Erso, but not of Star Wars. It connects the dots of the bits that we learn about Jyn’s backstory, including those that related to her father and Saw Gerrera. We don’t get much of a climax other than to tie together the parts of Jyn’s story that we’ve been shown in Rogue One.