Back in January, it was announced that author Alex Segura was penning a story that would explore the mysteries of hotshot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron’s past. The YA novel — Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall — has finally arrived on shelves.
Free Fall expands upon Poe Dameron’s previously unknown past as a spice runner, which was revealed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Full disclosure here, I’ve been on the edge of my seat since this book was announced, eager to read something that would continue to flesh out the background of my favorite Star Wars sequel trilogy character. The spice runner plot twist in The Rise of Skywalker was a bit unprecedented, to say the least, so I had high hopes that this story would do Poe justice and make sense of it all (and it did).
The opening chapters of Poe Dameron: Free Fall set the stage clearly for where 16-year-old Poe Dameron is currently at in his life — his patience for the slow and boring pace of Yavin 4 is dwindling as his hunger to fly and explore the galaxy continues to grow. His relationship with his father Kes Dameron, a former soldier for the Rebel Alliance, has been strained since the death of his mother eight years prior. They both mourn Shara Bey in their own ways, as Poe continues to foster the love of flying that the former Rebel pilot had instilled in him long ago.
Whereas Poe is restless with the monotony of life on the planet he and his father reside on, Kes has otherwise found peace in his nondescript and quiet existence. This tracks well with what we’ve learned about the lives of other retired veterans of the Rebellion like Wedge Antilles and Norra Wexley (as described in Star Wars: Resistance Reborn). Poe’s age, paired with his innate desire to be a pilot and the gaping chasm in his relationship with his father (who would prefer to keep Poe safe and close to home), ends up being the perfect storm that sends him tumbling into a situation where he’s truly in over his head.
Warning: Book spoilers beyond this point!
How does a rebellious teenager end up becoming a spice runner, though? Accidentally, really. Poe stumbles across the Spice Runners of Kijimi while they’re passing through on Yavin 4, and he’s dubiously recruited into their ranks with the sparkling promise that he can finally find freedom to explore the rest of the galaxy. He doesn’t realize that he’s signed himself up as the pilot for a crew of dangerous and deadly spice runners until it’s far too late, at which point it would have essentially been suicide for him to belatedly decline the invite. I felt myself breathe out a sigh of relief once it was made clear that Poe hadn’t exactly planned to initiate himself into their ranks, as this was a bit of a sticking point with fans originally.
Of all the knowledge gained about the life of Poe Dameron throughout the book, I particularly enjoyed that it demonstrated where Poe picked up some of his unique skills as a pilot. When Free Fall begins, Poe’s experience is largely limited to what he had gained in his mother’s A-wing. After becoming a spice runner, he’s tasked with learning how to fly various types of ships with no prior training, and he develops a knack for relying on his natural instincts. Free Fall also exemplifies why adult Poe doesn’t hesitate to dive headfirst into risky battles without breaking a sweat, because the entirety of his tenure with the Spice Runners of Kijimi required him to think on his toes with little to no room for error. The hyperspace jumping was also a fun nod to The Rise of Skywalker.
Poe’s career as a spice runner is uncertain at best throughout the novel. Once his need for adventure has been sated — and he realizes that being a spice runner is far more than he bargained for — he sticks around not out of passion for a life of crime, but rather for his loyalties to those around him — Zorii Bliss, in particular. Though I didn’t and still don’t find myself sold on Zorii’s character (and I outright balked when she had the audacity to step in when Kes and L’ulo tracked them down), Poe’s steadfast loyalty to her helps make his morally concerning decision to remain with the spice runners more believable. In the end, it’s really quite sad for Poe when he realizes that despite the deep bond that he had developed with Zorii, they both wanted different things and he would never be enough to sway her otherwise. This was an interesting parallel to the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey in The Last Jedi after the defeat of Snoke, when Rey hopes she’s begun to sway Kylo back to the Light but is stricken upon learning he wants to continue his ascent to the power (and then invites her to rule by his side, just as Zorii did with Poe).
One of my favorite new characters in the novel was hands down the droid Poe inherited on the Moraysian cruiser, EV-6B6. Her cheery and unintentionally humorous personality felt like a balm amid the dark and questionable deeds that Poe found himself tangled up in, and the way that he grew to care for her was endearing. When he first came upon EV-6B6, Poe wasn’t too keen on droids — he hadn’t met many on Yavin 4 and had certainly never befriended one. As she proves to be trustworthy and helpful, Poe learns the value of developing a friendship with a droid, rather than just relying on them in a more professional and clinical manner. This is a nice nod to Poe’s bond with his (future) beloved droid partner BB-8.
Overall, Poe Dameron: Free Fall was an enjoyable read and a pleasant addition to the growing collection of Star Wars books that have been amassed since The Force Awakens. I found myself wanting more at the end, because I was really hoping to see his reconciliation with his father. Also, the fact that the book closed on Poe feeling inspired by Senator Leia Organa (and decidedly certain about his next venture) left things open to be continued. Seemingly, this would then canonically lead to when Poe goes on to join the New Republic Defense Fleet, and then eventually serves under Leia with the Resistance. Though these tales have been briefly explored in different formats, such as the short novel Before the Awakening and various comics, it would be fitting to further expand upon them in a fully novelized version that picks up where Free Fall left off.