During my elementary school years of childhood my parents worked real hard to send me to a Baptist school. Since it was a smaller school there were only one classroom of each select grade from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Now, I did not stay enrolled in until graduation. No, I only attended from kindergarten to fifth grade. Each year sharing class, with almost the same set of classmates. Only things were not sunshine and rainbows as I was the odd one. The outsider (even though I was there each year and did my best). My isolation got the better of me, and I came up, with so many possible ways to get out that school. Get away from judgmental eyes. Possibilities I thankfully never indulged into reality, because I would not cross that invisible line. A line that once crossed would lead down a path of even more loneliness. I was depressed and acted out. I did make a single good friend, who left the same year to public school as I did. Thinking back, I am glad I did not cross that line of selfishness. Burning the bridge of my past in the hopes, for a different tomorrow. In a way this memory reminded me of the novel Phasma by the ever wonderful Delilah S. Dawson. Below is my review.
Before reading Phasma, I read Dawson’s other Star Wars stories: “The Perfect Weapon” (an enovella featuring Bazine Netal) and “Scorched” (short story featuring Greer Sonnel). Both stories I highly recommend (One is even free to read here)! Additionally, I had been lucky to hear recordings of comic convention panels that Dawson has attended. She knows her stuff, when it comes to storytelling and she has a great passion for Star Wars. In her story composition, Dawson is wonderful at creating in her characters a unique voice and perspective that feels natural. Curiously, this made me wonder how she was going to get the reader inside the head of Phasma, who is an emotionally detatched character. Thankfully, Dawson created a story inside a story to unravel the strings to the past of Phasma in a way that makes clear what we should imagine Captain Phasma’s focus is going into The Force Awakens and beyond.
The framing of Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson surprised me. The story followed Resistance spy Vi Moradi (set sometime before The Force Awakens) as she is captured and interrogated by First Order Captain Cardinal on the his ship the Absolution. Cardinal is obsessed in discovering the stains upon Captain Phasma’s chrome armor. This created a secondary story told through Vi about someone in Phasma’s past name Siv. These second hand stories about Siv’s relationship to the planet and group Phasma was apart of fuels Captain Cardinal’s obsession of truth. How did Phasma get off planet to join the First Order? This novel connects the dots. Only how reliable is said truth in this tale of telephone from one’s own prisoner? The back and forth of Siv’s stories to present time were a fun change of pace.
Be warned that Phasma is a brutal novel. Coming off of just reading Leia, Princess of Alderaan, I was whacked right in the face, with a chrome baseball back of pain. There are characters that make very unscrupulous decisions. Aside from the ultraviolence, there are these nasty beetles, and unforgiving environments. Some details of the story are very imaginative descriptions that may make people queasy. Did the violence and heinous actions make sense to the story? Yes, yes they did. The darkness of this novel was beautifully psychotic. It may not be for everyone. Even at the most visually explosive moments of terror, the story kept me engaged. Kept me wanting to know what happened next. The violence was not meant for fluff. It was was meant, for self reflection.
What was interesting to me about Siv’s stories were the visual connections I had to other movies. The most prevalent was Mad Max Fury Road (I have not seen Thunderdome). Being stuck on a planet that was once serene, but only knowing the harsh realities of an unforgiving present environment. There were chases that could easily bleed right into Mad Max. There were imagines in my mind of the movie Wall-E as well. This was closer to the times Phasma, Siv, and others arrived upon former corporate structures long abandoned to the unstoppably work compliant droids. In addition, there was a part in the story that felt right at home to the movie Gladiator. On top of that the movie The Usual Suspects came to my mind as I was trying to decipher the direction Vi and Cardinal’s story would go. Bundled together the feelings of all those movies bled into my reading experience of Phasma. Side note, Siv’s tale evoked memories of reading The Odyssey by Homer. There was just this epic feel to their journey.
Before reading Phasma, I recommend the following stories:
First is the four junior novel Servants of the Empire series by Jason Fry. The stories are set around the first season of the show Star Wars Rebels, and focus on Zare Leonis and Merei Spanjaf as they work to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of Zare’s sister. How this factors into Phasma is the last book introduces Commandant Brendol Hux, who is the person that recruits Phasma.
Second is The Rise of the Empire paperback/eBook bundle. It includes short story “Mercy Mission” by Melissa Scott, novel Tarkin by James Luceno, short story “Bottleneck” by John Jackson Miller, novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, and short story “The Levers of Power” by Jason Fry. Everything aside from “The Levers of Power” is set before Star Wars Rebels, and does a wonderful job of setting the stage during the time the Empire is beginning to tighten its grip across the stars. The biggest focus in these stories is the introduction to the Imperial character Rae Sloane. She plays a big part in the next recommendation below.
Third is Aftermath, Aftermath: Life Debt, and Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig. This trilogy is set during the first year after Return of the Jedi, and focuses on a group of Imperial Hunters. Additionally, these novels set in motion so many snapshots of the galaxy as the planets work through the victory of the Battle of Endor to the final Battle of Jakku. Brendol Hux and his machinations play a part in these novels, and lead into the novel Phasma. For more reading of the first year of the Republic I wrote a reading guide here.
Lastly is Bloodline by Claudia Gray. If there is only one novel to recommend reading before Phasma it is this one. Set about six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline does a wonderful job at setting up the cards to the sequel trilogy, and showcasing why Leia Organa formed the Resistance. For more reading of the lead in to The Force Awakens and where I place Phasma novel I wrote a reading guide here.
After finishing the novel Phasma, there are two stories worth checking out. First is the middle grade novel Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka as it establishes Finn and Phasma’s relationship leading into The Force Awakens. Second is the 4 issue comic Captain Phasma by Kelly Thompson and Marco Checchetto that recounts the events of Phasma after The Force Awakens. The Captain Phasma plays off as a brutal epilogue to The Force Awakens.
Overall, Phasma was gripping tale of cat & mouse. Kill or be killed. Warrior reborn from the crucible of fierce determination & perseverance! A lesson of knowing the truth, and knowing what to do next. It is also a story about how far one will go to achieve their goals. How far one will go to rebuild themselves in the eyes of others. If Lando Calrissian were real, he would be looking at all the angles this story used, and even he wouldn’t predict how it would all end. If you like your Star Wars to be a bit more like Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, then this may be just the story of ultraviolence you have been waiting for.