Audiobook Review: “Star Wars: Force Collector” Sweeps the Skywalker Saga

Audiobook Review: “Star Wars: Force Collector” Sweeps the Skywalker Saga

One reason I enjoyed the first episode of The Mandalorian, with its quick-shooting droid, is that IG-88 was one of the first Star Wars figures I ever owned. I got a bounty hunter three-pack for Christmas in 1980, when I was five years old, and it was the first time I ever really became aware of Star Wars as something I could care about.

That means the sprawling nine-film series now styled the Skywalker Saga has spanned my entire life — which, when I read the news instead of a Star Wars novel, now feels very long indeed. A lot has changed behind the scenes since George Lucas hand-crafted his game-changing 1977 blockbuster, but there’s been enough continuity for the films to feel cohesive, and it’s been moving to see the three new Disney-era films inspire a new generation.

Kevin Shinick’s Force Collector, the latest and final novel in the “Journey to The Rise of Skywalker publishing series, appraises that epic span through the eyes of a teenage boy. A young adult novel, Shinick’s appealing story mirrors the journeys of fans whose parents are my age, who don’t know why their moms and dads got so excited to see an IG unit actually walk and talk in live action.

Karr Nuq Sin is a Force-sensitive boy on the backwater planet of Merokia, born to a pair of humble…no, not moisture farmers, tailors. He has to wear gloves everywhere, because when he touches objects with his bare hands, he sometimes experiences visions of the past. An ability occasionally ascribed to Force users, this is most dramatically demonstrated onscreen in the form of the flashback Rey has when she takes Luke’s lightsaber in Episode VII; Force Collector is set just prior to the events of that movie.

Discovering this, Karr’s new friend Maize decides to take him for a joyride in her dad’s First Order ship; first with and later without Maize, Karr takes a magical history tour that demonstrates an impressive ability to find Skywalker Saga hotspots. His travels take him to worlds including Utapau (where Obi-Wan Kenobi battled General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith), Jaaku (where he meets the stingy junk dealer Unkar Plutt), and Takodana (where Maz Kanata hands him a piece of machinery that’s seen it all).

The audiobook, which you should experience with earbuds to get the full stereo effect when the kids jump to hyperspace, is narrated by Scottish actor Euan Morton. He shades his characters with class distinctions you may need to be a U.K. native to fully appreciate, but which mark a welcome departure from the squarely American baseline of most Star Wars audiobooks. That said, it’s just as well the story doesn’t require him to match the voices of too many established Star Wars actors, since you wouldn’t recognize his Maz if she walked right up and snapped her goggles at you.

The gentle story is more about stars than wars, with Karr questing for the family history that seemingly bestowed his unusual ability. As with the other “Journey” titles, it’s not entirely obvious what the connections with the upcoming film will be, but Karr does encounter what seems to be an example of one of the most striking props seen in the Rise of Skywalker trailers and learns about its dark history. He also uncovers a bit of history relating to one of the most enigmatic Jedi, Clone commissioner Sifo-Dyas.

Force Collector, though, is less about Easter eggs than about the Christmas present we’re all set to unwrap. It’s about the emotional sweep of a four-decade span that’s about to end, and about young fans (for Karr is nothing if not a Skywalker superfan) finding their place in the story. It even includes a stop at Black Spire Outpost, a place you can actually visit…for a price, of course, but one that many Force collectors are happy to pay.

Jay Gabler