Released in the followup after Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the young adult (YA) novel Poe Dameron: Free Fall takes a look at the early life of Poe, when he was spice runner on the shadier side of the law. Poe Dameron: Free Fall, written by Alex Segura, represents Alex’s first novel in the Star Wars universe.
It has been eight years since Poe Dameron’s mother, Shara Bey, died — an incident mentioned previously in the canon as happening six years after Return of the Jedi. Poe, now 16 years old, is a hot-headed teen hellbent on getting off the backward rock of Yavin IV, where his family had lived for most of his life.
After several failed attempts to get off of Yavin IV, Poe is intercepted by a group of people in need of a pilot, with their last one having mysteriously died. This group, including a young woman going by the name Zorii Wynn, recruit Poe as part of their “smuggling” group, only to later find out he had joined the infamous Spice Runners of Kijimi. Not sure what to do, Poe now has to either adapt into this new life of crime or figure out a way to get out.
And so kicks off this rather fast-paced novel about Poe Dameron’s early, reckless childhood. The novel takes place over roughly a year of time, almost all of which he was involved with the Spice Runners. The novel was written, it seems, to fill in the backstory of Poe as seen in The Rise of Skywalker. How did he know how to hyperspace skip? When did he meet all these shady people? How does he know how to do all these things that a seemingly upstanding citizen and former New Republic pilot shouldn’t know how to do? All these questions and more are answered.
But this story is more than that. Before The Rise of Skywalker, all we really knew about Poe’s backstory was that he went from kid to New Republic pilot to Resistance pilot. We knew he grew up on Yavin IV and sparse information even about his New Republic days, but this story fits neatly into a gap we didn’t realize we had. Sure, the whole “where did you learn to do that” stuff from The Rise of Skywalker felt completely out of place, especially considering that that group of people spent most of year together between all of the sequel trilogy films. But putting all of that aside, this story feels needed now.
While the book tracks a bunch of people within the Spice Runners, it mainly focuses on Poe and Zorii. I wouldn’t call this a romance, but it definitely feels like a childhood romance with a lot of complications thrown into the mix. First off, Poe is completely out of his element going from the child of two of the Rebellion’s heroes to being surrounded by murders and outlaws. And Zorii, who is also a young kid trying to make her name in Spice Runners, harbors a secret that plays out throughout the novel.
If I had to give a one word review of the book, I would simply say that it was “fun”. It’s a fast-paced story with characters we already know we like. We like Poe. He’s charming, funny, and a nice guy. Putting that guy into these circumstances and seeing how he reacts and what he does is part of the charm of the novel. He is written believably as well. Anyone who has been a teenager busting at the seams to just “get out” knows what this is like.
And although we do learn about some things mentioned in The Rise of Skywalker, like how Poe learned to hyperspace skip, this story isn’t centered around that. The story feels like a natural addition to Poe’s backstory without feeling like a connect-the-dots adventure. On top of that, Alex Segura’s writing style was absolutely fantastic. One of the benefits I had noticed to the YA line of Star Wars books is that the sentences tend to be shorter and to the point. There is no filler here — the story fills the page it is in and wraps you up into it immediately. From page one I was hooked.
It wasn’t until I was nearly finished with the book that I noticed some glaring omissions in the book. While we are given a summary of where Kijimi fits in with the Pyke Syndicate (seen in The Clone Wars and Solo) and everything happening on Kessel, we are never really given a good explanation of what “spice” actually is, nor do we ever actually see Poe “running spice”. All of the scenes we see of him are running other various missions for the leadership (though we are led to believe that he did run spice during the gaps in time that the story skips over). Upon finishing the book, this seems like an oddly glaring omission.
There were also repeated mentions that people were in the Spice Runners because they believed in their “purpose”, a purpose I never felt or saw. I never got a satisfactory answer as to why people were in this group. What was their higher purpose besides distributing drugs across the galaxy — which is what I assume they were doing since nothing was ever said outright. My assumption is that the drug references were left out for the YA aspect of the book. That might make sense if the sometimes visceral outright murder wasn’t in your face a whole lot of times within the book. Maybe they wanted to tarnish Poe’s reputation, but not tarnish it too much?
As with many of the Star Wars book releases, I devoured this one in audiobook format. The audiobook, read by Sean Elias-Reyes, was perfectly cast. Sean does a great Poe accent and imbued his reading with the swagger of Poe Dameron perfectly. There are some Star Wars books that feel as if they are meant to be enjoyed as an audiobook and after hearing Sean’s performance, I must say that this is one of them.
Overall, this book still stands out to me as a fun adventure of a reckless teenage Poe looking to make his name in the universe and making a lot of bad decisions in the process. We know where he ends up, but we don’t know how he gets there. What really draws the reader in is that we know this character of Poe Dameron, and he is still the Poe we know and love. He’s just put into these awful situations, making the reader question if this really is the Poe we know and what will he do to get out of it.
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