'Race To Crashpoint Tower' Is A 'Star Wars' Story As A Side Quest, But That's Perfectly Okay

This contains minor spoilers.Playing throughout the events of Cavan Scott's new novel The Rising Storm, Daniel Jose Older's Race to Crashpoint Tower (with illustrations by Petur Antonsson) tells the tale of Jedi padawans Ram Jomaram and Lula Talisola. Ram has a cameo in The Rising Storm and Lula Talisola features prominently in Older's IDW High Republic Adventures comic book series.These padawans are drawn into a mysterious plot on the planet Valo when they realize the communications are being jammed. Ram realizes the villainous Nihil are coming and jammed communications mean that the attack is imminent. So begins a race to the communications tower on planet Valo in order to clear the jamming. That way, the Jedi and planetary defenders coordinating the defense of the Republic Fair have a shot at communicating and the day can be saved. Unfortunately, everything stands in Ram's way, from local security and the Nihil to even larger foes.Interestingly enough, the villains in this book are much less the Nihil and much more the dark side-infused plant monsters introduced in The Light of the Jedi, the Drengir. The Drengir barely rate passing mention in The Rising Storm, but figure prominently in the attack on the Republic Fair. Scott allows Older to take all of the terror of the Drengir and put it in this middle-grade book to its benefit. That way, neither book seems like a rehash of the other, though there are moments of overlap. One particularly good scene told from the perspectives of different characters in both books involves former Jedi-padawan-turned-monster-hunting-mercenary Ty Yorrick and current Jedi padawan Ram Jomaram stuck in a holding cell.This book feels very much like it was told in the vein of Super 8 or The Goonies, but the kids that are left to save the day are Jedi padawans. I think this is a sound strategy for delineating the age-ranges of the books. Letting the middle-grade installments of The High Republic center around Jedi padawans that are just about the right age is such a smart choice.One of my favorite things in this book is Ram's deft handling of mechanics and technology, offering us a new, interesting view into a power of the Force. His droid modifications are particularly hilarious. His droid, V-18, ends up getting kitbashed into a lethal speeder transport. And Ram has little helpers native to Valo called bonbraks that steal every scene they're in. Imagine the brownies from Willow with less English speaking and more technological acumen and you have something of an idea. But the way he taps into machinery the way most Force-users tap into the living Force offers a fascinating window to think of how different Force abilities can be for different users. In fact, watching how so many Jedi relate to the Force in different ways has been one of the most interesting things about this era of storytelling and getting to know so many new Jedi.The story culminates at Crashpoint Tower, as the title implies, the major communications hub being blocked by the Nihil with the help of the Drengir. The ending has echoes of Super 8 or Stranger Things, with the Drengir presented as a large, existential threat that's ultimately misunderstood. There are shades of King Kong and Kaiju movies, too. The action has a really great vibe to it, and since it centers on the padawans, I can imagine that feeling good for younger audiences or audiences young at heart.The one downside to the book is that it really is a side-quest alongside the major Republic Fair attack storyline. That's not to says it's not worth reading, it absolutely is. But it doesn't shed a whole lot of new information on the High Republic era. Still, it is is worth checking out because the writing is so good and the illustrations are fun. And, so far, this is our only real hint about how the Nihil are using the Drengir in their war-making, because they're barely mentioned in the main book. Hopefully, that will change in future installments. 


Star Wars: The High Republic – Race to Crashpoint Tower is available now wherever books are sold.