We are now almost a month away from the release of the massive publication event Star Wars: The High Republic, which promises to explore the state of the Jedi Order and the galaxy as a whole 200 years before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The first novel to be released set in this time period will be Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi. The author recently sat down with Kristin Baver of StarWars.com to discuss the opening of the novel.
We know that the events of The High Republic are kicked off by a massive galaxy-wide catastrophe, called The Great Disaster. This will be told in Light of the Jedi, and this is what the author had to say about it, as well as the political state of the galaxy in this period:
The Great Disaster is the first real introduction the readership and the fandom is going to get to The High Republic. It’s an opportunity for great heroism or for ordinary people to step up. People really expose who they are and systems really expose how well they work in the time of crisis, as we’re seeing now in a time of crisis in the real world. And it’s funny because I wrote this…I finished it largely before these times and I did a substantial revision during the quarantine. But most of the ideas in terms of the big plotting stuff all came before coronavirus. I don’t want to spoil too much about what happens in The Great Disaster sequence, but it’s long. It’s a third of the book. It’s well over 100 pages of material based on this one event and how it affects a group of people in one particular system where it hits with most of its impact, the Hetzel system in the Outer Rim…and even though Hetzel is isolated — it’s important but it’s isolated — when it’s in danger, people from all over the galaxy try to help. And so I thought that was a way to show the interconnectedness of The High Republic era. The fact that systems exist to help when a system is in trouble.
There’s a phrase that echoes throughout the book, which is, “We are all the Republic.” And that is basically the motto of the High Republic in this era. Chancellor Lina Soh runs the Republic and that is her motto that has become kind of omnipresent throughout the galaxy. And it’s something that people take very seriously. The Jedi take it seriously. The Republic takes it seriously. And the individuals on the planets take it seriously. So I just wanted to show what that would mean. Because that really sets the tone for everything. In a galaxy where people really can say that and believe that, that’s united in that way around a principle idea, and when bad stuff starts to happen, the strength of that idea gets tested.
Soule mentions that he wrote all of this long before the pandemic hit, but in the middle of the current political climate, the entire story is being recontextualized and is actually more relevant than ever. Here is what he had to say about how the COVID-19 pandemic related to his book:
I think it is impossible to believe that this year has not had a significant impact on every creative person’s work whether they acknowledge it and believe it, or not. For me, there are elements in the book that people will not believe that I had in the book before quarantine! But they were there. And they’re based on the way systems and governments and institutions respond to disasters. So it’s not surprising that those things would happen but I do think they will resonate much more strongly because of the shared experience literally everyone around the world is having. If there’s ever a time to think, “We are all the Republic,” we’re all human beings and we all have the same strengths and weaknesses… The main threat in Light of the Jedi is not a virus, but it is certainly something that can pop up anywhere, at any time and be very dangerous. And so people take actions to try to protect themselves from it and, you know, as they said, I wish this had never happened to the world. But I’m hopeful that when people read Light of the Jedi on January 5 that they will find themes that will be resonant because of the time in which it’s coming out and because of the time in which it was written.
Charles Soule went on to insist that, while The HIgh Republic will be set long in the past, it will still feel like the Star Wars we know:
One of the guiding principles behind the entire High Republic initiative, even back when it was still Project Luminous, was to create Star Wars that was quintessentially Star Wars but also that still felt fresh and new. And this is with respect to every element whether it’s creatures, the Republic itself, the space ships, and vehicles, and, of course the Jedi, which have been one of the most important elements of Star Wars since the beginning. This is an era that’s very stable and prosperous. There’s no galactic civil war happening. It’s a time when, thankfully, focus can be placed on development, expansion, cultural pursuits, that sort of thing. So the role of the Jedi in this era is just different. They respond to problems that sometimes are a little bit localized. They negotiate disputes. They have outposts on various planets. But, you know, they’re still the Jedi. They’re going to be very recognizable.
Light of the Jedi will introduce new characters that will be featured across several The High Republic publications, and among them, we will meet Avar Kriss and a master/apprentice duo, Bell and Loden. Here is what Soule said about the new characters and their relationship to the Force:
But one of the things that we thought we’d be able to do was, in a time when there are many thousands of Jedi in the galaxy — and they are not quite so focused on the encroaching shadow of the Sith or a civil war that’s about to break out or corruption in the senate — we thought that we could spend time thinking about the way that they all look at and think about the Force. And Avar Kriss in particular is one of the first characters we meet doing this and she experiences the Force as basically a song, a huge symphony of voices and instruments, assonance and dissonance and all these different things. Harmony and counter harmony and all of these different things that, really, any time you look around our world you see it. You may not hear it, but life is a symphony. And so that’s how she experiences the Force.
Other characters do different things with it. You have a very cool Padawan and Master team Bell Zettifar and Loden Greatstorm, and they each have their own way of experiencing the Force. And what you come to see is that Yoda’s description of the Force as sort of this luminous web of light that connects and binds all of us, or Obi-Wan’s description, the ways we’ve heard it described are only one way to look at something that is truly a very interesting and complex and diverse thing. Just like many philosophies on Earth and religions experience spirituality in different ways, the same is obviously going to be true of the Force. So we see that explored in the book. They also have cool different lightsabers. We see them using different Force powers we haven’t really seen in a while or that are totally new. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are some really, really neat Jedi things in Light of the Jedi and across the whole High Republic initiative.
Light of the Jedi and The High Republic will obviously be very heavy steeped in the Force. Soule is well aware his novel will be most readers first experience in this time period of a galaxy far, far away, so he was mindful of that in his writing, right down to the title of the novel. Incorporating the word light was very important.
The Jedi have always been deeply associated with that word and that idea, whether it’s the fact that their weapon is made out of light — they use lightsabers to protect peace and justice. The fact that they are considered to be guardians of the light side of the Force as opposed to the dark side, which is what the Sith work with. The fact that they consider, at least from Yoda’s teachings, that beings are luminous, that the Force gives us all an inner light. So the idea of “light of the Jedi” is kind of right there. It’s low hanging fruit. But then within the story itself we really wanted The High Republic to feel like a golden age. When you are in need, the Jedi are there. They don’t always succeed. Sometimes problems can overwhelm them. They’re still people. But they will never stop trying to help. And the idea that there’s a Force like that out there in the galaxy, literally and figuratively, that is there just to help, that’s a reassuring thing. So that’s a theme that runs throughout the book and there’s a very literal expression of it. I’m a big fan of movies that include their title in the dialogue at some point so there’s a moment in the book that directly references those four words that I think is pretty beautiful, and I look forward to people getting to [read it].
With the success of The Mandalorian, it’s clear Star Wars fans are ready for stories moving beyond the events surrounding the three trilogies. It is encouraging to hear Soule and the team of writers tasked with creating this era didn’t take that lightly and when we step into it they’ve already spent years crafting the story. If you want a little taste of this inaugural novel, the first eight chapters of Light of the Jedi are available here. Soule also talks about some Jedi we have yet to hear about, specifically an old prospector Jedi named Porter Engle. For the rest of this great interview, head over to StarWars.com.
Also, Del Rey has partnered with Out of Print to release a special edition for Light of the Jedi. Not only is this copy signed by Charles Soule with this amazing cover art by Jama Jurabaev, it comes with an enamel pin and High Republic socks! It only goes on sale once, January 5th (11:00AM EST), so stay on target if you want to get your hands on one, because at $50, that’s a steal. Funds from the sale will also go towards funding literacy programs for communities in need, so you can feel good about spending a little extra money on yourself. Light of the Jedi is also available for pre-order from online retailers.
Light of the Jedi will be available January 5th. Get excited!