While Lucasfilm is taking its time to piece together the delicate puzzle of telling new Star Wars stories in TV and film, the company’s publishing initiative, Star Wars: The High Republic, is in full swing. The first wave of books and comics planted a flag in the unexplored, pre-Phantom Menace timeline, and introduced Star Wars fans to an array of new characters, from Jedi knights to Republic dwellers and the anarchical marauders of the Nihil clan.
Now a new batch of stories is headed our way, expanding the universe as the threat of the Nihil and the monstrous Drengir continue to apply pressure to the galaxy’s renaissance moment. Keeping with the era’s inclusive message and broad-scope of literature, from comics to junior novels and more adult-skewing fiction, the latest entry, Race to Crashpoint Tower, promises a thriller that’s suitable for all ages. And in the hands of Daniel José Older, a young-adult writer and the lead storyteller on IDW’s The High Republic Adventures series, it promises to have a ton of personality.
The book follows Jedi padawan and gearhead Ram Jomaram on the day of a massive celebration for the Republic on the planet Valo. But when he uncovers a sabotaged communication system at a nearby control tower, he and his droid buddy V-18 face their first ticking-clock scenario. He finds a helping hand in Lula Talisola, who previously appeared in Older’s Adventures.
“I had so much fun writing Race To Crashpoint Tower!” Older tells Polygon. “In true Star Wars tradition, this is a fast-paced, danger-filled adventure that also forces its characters to confront difficult realities about how the galaxy is changing around them. We find Lula Talisola and Ram Jomaram both shoved into the wider conflicts of their era, and doing everything they can to help save lives and keep the encroaching destruction at bay. I hope young people take away from this novel that there are so many ways to change the world for the better, and that journey always begins with one single step.”
Race to Crashpoint Tower arrives on June 29. You can check out the first action-laced excerpt below.
Ram had only ever used his lightsaber in practice sessions.
He’d daydreamed about drawing it, sure. Every Padawan had. But those dreams had always seemed like far-off fantasies — tales of a world long gone, when the great wars raged between Jedi and Sith and danger lurked around every corner. These days, he’d be more likely to need his saber to ﬁght off some wild animal than any nefarious baddies. At least, that’s what he’d always thought.
But … the wind rushed against his face as V-18 wailed and the speeder engine blasted them higher and higher above the trees toward three blotches rising into the sky. Three blotches that had already taken a few potshots and probably committed some kind of sabotage on the comms tower. Ram steadied the handlebars with one hand and reached for his lightsaber with the other. His ﬁngers trembled as he wrapped them around the hilt and pulled it from its holster.
“Calm your mind, and the blade will move as part of you,” Master Kunpar always said at practice sessions.
Ha. Easy to say when you weren’t hurtling through the air to face an unknown enemy without any kind of backup. But that was the point, wasn’t it? A calm mind was a calm mind, whether in the training hall or in battle. He took a deep breath, reached out for the vibrant tremble of the Force running through him, and ignited his blade.
FFFZZzzzzzzhhhhwwooosssSHHHHH! Ram’s lightsaber sang as a bright yellow glow lit the twilight. And not a moment too soon, either. Up above, one of the ﬁgures yelled to another, and then an explosion rocked the sky.
“Incoming!” V-18 warned. Ram veered to the side just as the laser blast sizzled past, then pushed the propulsors to their limit. The one who’d ﬁred on him had been forced to slow down to change course. This was Ram’s chance. He steadied himself in the saddle and reached out with his free hand, willing the speeder up ahead to slow.
The ﬁgure on board still had her back turned. It looked like a tall Togruta woman with a gas mask on and various mismatched kinds of armor draped all over her.
Ram felt the Force ﬂow through him, past him, and smiled slightly as it clicked with the rumbling engine of the speeder ahead. He imagined the Force sliding into the metal casing, streaming through the gears and pipes, drawing on the machine’s churning heart. He closed his ﬁst. The buzzing sound stuttered, sputtered, and then stopped completely.
The speeder had stalled; in seconds it would plummet. Ram grabbed the handlebars again with one hand, saber still extended in the other, and gunned the engine.
Uh, Master Ram?” V-18 muttered.
The masked Togruta turned and threw something round — a pod of some kind, about the size of a helmet. Ram watched it plummet toward the ground and land somewhere near the base of the tower with a little golden poof. Then he looked back up just in time to see the woman pull a blaster from her boot holster and point it at him.
“Master Ram!” V-18 shrieked. Ram swung hard to the side as the woman’s speeder started to fall. He waved his lightsaber in a wild arc, winging one of the blaster shots and sending it off into space even as two more zipped past and a fourth slammed into his engine cover with a ﬁzzly smack. V-18 yelped.
“Hold on!” Ram yelled, although he was the only one who really needed to be holding on to anything. The shot had jolted them to the side, and the engine was smoking but not totally busted.
The sudden roar of the Togruta’s speeder ﬁlled the air. His sabotage had only been a temporary ﬁx, it seemed. Ram looked up just as she sent three more shots his way. He deﬂected the ﬁrst two with his saber, and the third went wide, but by then she’d sped past. Up above, a star-ship loomed; the other two raiders must’ve already boarded. The ship wasn’t like any Ram had seen before—a gunship of some kind, by the size of it, with a long cockpit and a rusty, worn-out ring circling its center. The boarding ramp was lowered, revealing a gaping maw that the Togruta zipped into easily, like she was being gobbled up by a space beast.
The ship released a barrage of scattered ﬁre toward Ram, none of it getting very close, then turned and zoomed off.
Ram squinted after it. Something seemed strange about that ring circling it. It almost looked like a—all of a sudden, the ring itself seemed to catch ﬁre as booster blasts shot out all across it. And then, with a series of pops, the ship vanished entirely, leaving only a fading trail of engine exhaust in its wake.
“Whoa,” Ram said, raising his goggles and blinking at the empty sky where the ship had just been. They were sinking slowly back toward the forest as smoke rose steadily from the shot-up engine. V-18 muttered something in a language Ram was glad he didn’t understand.
“Did you see that, Vee-Eighteen?”
“See us almost get murdered by a bunch of space pirates? Yes. Yes, I did. From a front-row seat, in fact.”
“No,” Ram said. “Well, yes. That too. But did you see that ship just make the jump to hyperspace while still in atmosphere?”
“Mm, I guess. I was busy trying not to make the jump to blasted-to-pieces space, myself.”
Ram knew two things for sure:
One, it was weird for such a small, busted ship to be able to make the jump to hyperspace.
Two, even if it could, no one in their right mind would be reckless enough to make the jump from within a planet’s atmosphere, risking almost certain destruction!
And those two things added up to a third, undisputable fact.
The one thing that the entire Republic feared most, the thing the Jedi and local security forces had spent months hoping to avoid, was happening: the Nihil had come to Valo.