For the last few months, I’ve waited not-so-patiently for the release of Star Wars: Poe Dameron Free Fall by Alex Segura. For those who follow me on Twitter, you probably know about my pilot obsession in the Star Wars universe. I’m very protective of their stories and characterizations. I even jokingly told Segura that I have very high expectations on this novel—no pressure, right?
Well, Segura delivered in spades.
Poe Dameron Free Fall is a YA novel that gives context to one of the blindsiding stories from The Rise of Skywalker: Poe’s life as a spice runner. We get a proper introduction to Zorii Bliss and Babu Frik as well, showing their importance in Poe’s life.
I, like (mostly) everyone who has seen the movie, was shocked at the revelation that came out of left field. It angered me that the writers took their only Latinx main character and, for all intents and purposes, gave him a backstory of being a drug runner. We’re given no context as to the how or why. This book, thankfully, gives us the answers we need.
Now, for those who don’t want spoilers, I suggest you stop reading here and go pick up the book.
Here there be Spoilers!
The story starts on Yavin 4, years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Poe is 16 and living on a farm with his father, Kes Dameron. Shara Bey passed away years ago, leaving a tear between the two Dameron men. Poe dreams of a heroic lifestyle flying like his mother had, while Kes wants to keep his son’s feet firmly on the ground.
Enter Zorii Bliss and her smuggling team who conveniently need a pilot to get off-planet ASAP. Following in the footsteps of all rebellious teenagers, Poe takes his future into his own hands and offers to be their pilot, running away from his current problems.
What Poe doesn’t know is that this group isn’t just any normal smuggler team, but they are part of the Spice Runners of Kijimi, an almost cult-like band of people trying to become the biggest and baddest smuggler group in the Outer Rims. Once he learns this, he debates between staying and leaving the group before he gets in too deep. It’s his friendship with Zorii that keeps pulling him back to take “one more job”.
Of course, there’s a New Republic Security Bureau (NRSB) agent hunting down the spice runners. Officer Sela Trune worked her way up the ladder for the sole purpose of taking down the Spice Runners of Kijimi. She remains on their tail, risking her career on her obsession, all out of revenge for the death of her family.
As The Rise of Skywalker lays out, there is a romantic arc between Poe and Zorii. However, it’s not your typical YA love story. I applaud Segura for giving the two a unique bond that constantly keeps the reader guessing on where their relationship stands.
In the end, Poe, Zorii, and Trune are forced to choose sides, knowing that it will define who they are for the rest of their lives.
The biggest draw for me into this story was—surprise, surprise—Poe’s character arc, and by extension, Zorii’s character arc. Both characters have expectations placed on them by others. Neither feels they fit into those molds, and this connection allows them to understand one another early on. Do you stay behind where you know the world, have your family, and are safe—or do you take that leap into the unknown and hope you don’t crash and burn? It’s a struggle that I, at 16, went through myself while deciding to go to college. FYI I chose college and became the first in my family line to go.
This arc is the key factor in my recommending this book to others. The themes of self-discovery, the importance of family and honor, and healthy romantic relationships are the main pillars of this novel. What makes it different, though, is that we already know the final product of who Poe Dameron becomes—a hero, but not without his own faults. Poe Dameron Free Fall gives the reader the roadmap for how he became one and doesn’t shy away from his mistakes and the consequences that come with it.
A few other takeaways to add: first, Segura adds another non-binary character to the Star Wars canon with Gen Tri (they/them). They are the third non-binary/genderfluid/genderqueer introduced to the books. This follows Eleodie Maracavanya (Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig) and Taka Jamoreesa (Last Shot by Daniel José Older). As someone who’s been reading Star Wars novels since 1992, I’m a big fan of the diversity coming into the mythos and hope it never stops.
Second; if you didn’t love Babu Frik by the end of The Rise of Skywalker, you will now. He’s not a major character and only appears in a few scenes in the book, but he steals the spotlight in almost all of them. Plus, he also gets what I think is the best line of the entire novel:
“Babu here, remember me. Not invite you here for kissy-kissy, no-no.” – Babu Frik
Lastly; the novel does not have a cut and dry ending. There are questions left unanswered at the end, which may frustrate some readers. I know it did me (damnit Alex!). But I’m leaning on the hopeful view that the open-ended ending leads to more Poe Dameron novels in the future.
Which I’m totally available to write, Disney/Lucasbooks. Just saying.
At the end of the day, I give the book 4 ¾ X-Wings out of 5. There is one plot point not tied that docked the ¼ X-Wing.
Poe Dameron Free Fall is out now and available at all the usual places as an ebook, in hardcover, and on audiobook. It is written by Alex Segura, with amazing cover art by Phil Noto. Follow them on Twitter, as well as myself @AliSkyRichards. I’d love to hear your comments on the book after reading it below, so make sure you come back to tell me!