“The Force?”, Rey says, as Kylo Ren bears down upon her with his crackling blade, wondering why he can’t best a scavenger from a nowhere planet in the Outer Rim. The Force is a myth to most people living in the era of a galaxy far, far away – even the descendants of the Force-sensitives who managed to survive the destruction Palpatine carried out against the Jedi and anyone who could be a threat to him. Enter Karr Nuq Sin, a teenager awakening to the reality of what it means to be Force-sensitive and what the Force is trying to tell him. Force Collector is Karr’s story, but it draws from so many familiar threads of the saga, it’s hard not to put yourself right in his shoes and feel like it’s all of ours.
This is a non-spoiler review and I’m going to tread VERY lightly with that in mind. This is a story best read with no knowledge or expectations, as there is so much to discover. Force Collector felt like a love letter to Star Wars fans. This story is so pure it almost reads like meta commentary on what it is to be a Star Wars fan these days. Since Lucasfilm hit the reset button on the canon and when we learned The Force Awakens was on it’s way, many of us have read every single piece of content we can get our hands on. Speaking for myself, I want to understand and I want to know all the answers – but at the same time, I hope I never find them. Force Collector is the desire we all seek to understand where we come from and what may happen next. Karr’s existential and spiritual quest is one he almost has no choice in undertaking and I could hear John Williams’ score in my head when he finally set out to find out why he’s felt bonded to something inexplicable his whole life. Karr joins the likes of Rey and Luke Skywalker in searching not only for answers about the Jedi – but a greater understanding of how he fits into the legacy of the Force.
Karr Nuq Sin is not well when we meet him. However the Force came to make itself known to Luke or Rey – well, there’s nothing subtle here for Karr. He experiences violent headaches, hallucinations, and overall impairment when the Force reaches out to him. One thing that’s important to know, this book takes place before The Force Awakens. The First Order is certainly around, but they aren’t the behemoth of totalitarianism stepping on the neck of the galaxy at this point. The history of the Republic, Empire, and everything in between has become convoluted. You can’t just run down to your local library and pick up a book about the history of the Jedi. For Karr, his quest begins at home and leads him across the galaxy.
Karr has to rely on the knowledge of a family member who is well aware of how touched he is. I kept thinking back to this scene in The Last Jedi of how so much of the fight against darkness is having faith in the descendants who follow the battle, hoping they will be prepared for their own. “We are what they grow beyond…” is a very appropriate sentiment to keep in mind when you open the first pages of Force Collector. This is a story about legacy, not so much tied to the Jedi, but to the Force in general. Karr is incredibly Force-sensitive when it comes to tactile touch, so imagine the Force-back scene from The Force Awakens even more intense. And, like Rey, Karr has no idea what he is seeing and where these visions come from. More importantly, he knows he is connected to it but doesn’t understand why. Karr realizes there will be no simple answers but he still sets out to find out what happened to the Jedi and why the Force is calling to him.
There are a lot of echoes of Rey, Luke, Cal, and Ezra in this book. Not so much direct references – save Luke, because he’s a legend – but feelings we’ve seen before. Karr feels compelled to understand his place, not for selfish reasons, but because he can sense the galaxy is on edge. We know now the darkness was rising and it peaked during The Force Awakens. Karr feels a call toward the greater good and only wants to know what he can do to help. He’s also searching for the story of his familial legacy. Each time he gets close to answers, more questions arise. Karr’s position is not an enviable one, because he strives to be a scholar, family historian, and Jedi Knight all in one story. He’s juggling a lot here and the challenges he’s faced with don’t make it any easier.
Fortunately, Karr has some allies to accompany him on his journey. Maize Raynshi, who is the daughter of a First Order officer, meets Karr in the beginning of the book. Both of them are outsiders in the school they’ve been placed in at the edge of the Unknown Regions. They form a friendship quickly, but it is often overshadowed by her father’s allegiance to the First Order. While the First Order hasn’t blown-up Hosnian Prime at this point, not a lot of people feel good about their presence in the galaxy. Karr and Maize share a great deal of uncertainty between them – he’s not sure what to think of her First Order connections and she’s not sure what all this Jedi business is about. Remember, many people in the galaxy believe that the Jedi tried to overthrow the Republic. Again, there is no clear picture of what happened and the piecing together these friends do is essentially the story of Force Collector. And like Force-users before him, Karr has built a droid – RZ-7 (Arzee). There is certainly a lot of mirroring going on with Karr, but Arzee turned out to be one of my favorite droids. Arzee is incredibly thoughtful, especially during very difficult times for Karr and Maize. The droid is equally determined to find out what Karr needs to do and he’s a very loyal friend throughout the story.
Ultimately, what Karr faces is the past. He must reconcile his own family’s history with the Jedi with the knowledge of the Force he seeks. Once he’s learned his truth, he takes a step back and realizes it might not be the galaxy’s truth. Karr not only wants to protect his family and friends, he wants to tell the story of what he’s learned. He’s been sorting through artifacts and stories his whole life. When the truth is presented to him, Karr isn’t exactly sure what to do. Does he risk repeating cycles from the past he’s learned so much about? Does he seek out the last Jedi? I think you will find Karr’s decision refreshing and hopeful. As we’ve learned, there is much more to a Jedi than wielding a lightsaber and facing down villains. The Jedi embody wisdom, peace, and love.
Again, I’m being very careful with spoilers. Kevin Shinick has written a story which takes fans on an incredible journey through the history and future of the Jedi – and most importantly, the Force. I have no idea if Karr, Maize, and Arzee will come swooping into the final battle of The Rise of Skywalker, but I know all three of them will be there in spirit. I have a feeling Karr will be an invaluable resource to the galaxy in whatever the aftermath is. Force Collector is a great addition to the canon. There are a lot of familiar beats, but Shinick does a great job of keeping them fresh and relative to the characters and story. You won’t get bored and I flew through this book once I started reading it. I can almost guarantee you will remember the first time you sat down to watch a Star Wars film once you start reading. There is so much wonder in this book. The questions Karr asks are many of the same ones we fans ask about the story. What is right? What is wrong? What is their purpose? And ultimately, what is the Force?
Force Collector is available now at your local bookstore and online retailers. Special thanks to Disney Lucasfilm for the advanced copy used for this review.