Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens is a collection of short stories by Landry Q. Walker set in the Star Wars universe, targeted at a younger reading audience aged 8 to 12. Contained within are six stories about some of the aliens that make up the background characters of the film The Force Awakens, some more conspicuously than others. The book is labeled “volume one,” but whether or not another book is in the works is unknown to me. I don’t typically read books written more directly for children, but as a fan of the franchise I was drawn to it for the promises of stories more lighthearted as well as outside of the norm by focusing more on aliens than humans.
While these stories are certainly a lot more straightforward I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did not shy away from having a bit of an edge to them. This made them read appreciably more like all-ages stories, rather than precisely targeted at kids. The worlds explored in this book—divided almost equally between Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana and the junkyard desert world of Jakku—are full of backstabbing scoundrels and shady characters and they never felt especially declawed for the sake of the audience. There was a surprising about of murder and cruel punishments, in fact, which does make me wonder a little at how hardline the age range really was.
Each story is largely having fun with its premise however, which changes between each one. Each of the six stories presents a distinctive genre/subgenre: Western, murder mystery, fable, twisted love story, mild horror, and a pirate quest for treasure. Walker does a really good job of making each story feel distinct in terms of tone. Each is self-contained and ultimately pretty low-stakes, though not in an unappealing way. There’s fun danger and daring along the way, but typically a status quo is maintained among the characters that has them in roughly the same place that they started. I enjoyed these as episodic outings, but I can understand why this may be a drawback for others.
The different alien characters in each story are made intriguingly distinct but not too unfamiliar that you cannot relate to them. I liked the little tidbits of information about their biology that give them unique problems or advantages when needing to adapt to the harsh climates found throughout the galaxy. This book did amplify a continuing issue I do have reading Star Wars however, namely that it is a galaxy full of alien races and names get thrown around a lot. Each story does have an accompanying illustration that does shed some light on how key characters look, but quite frequently I found myself having to put the book down and look up an alien name just to get a good indication of what it looks like. There are a fair few I am familiar with, but with every background alien that has every appeared in the franchise having a name to its species it’s really hard to know it all.
My favourite story, which was admittedly the biggest motivator for me picking this book up, was “The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku.” The title character, clad in distinctive red armour, is one of the more visually interesting characters from The Force Awakens and I was excited to see him given a little more background and character. This story is a Mad Max-style race through a tempestuous sea of sand between the Corsair’s crew and a bunch of other pirate groups trying to find this lost treasure from the Clone Wars. It was ultimately a simple story like the rest, but a nice high point to end on in terms of excitement, which also tied into the greater lore of the franchise and some of the other media in a noteworthy way.
There’s nothing really essential about Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens, but it’s a good fun read for all ages. If you’re a diehard fan and you’re not sure because of the target audience, I’d recommend checking it out in spite of that. Otherwise, you could skip it without missing much. It’s simply a good little collection of the wide range of stories that can be told in the galaxy far, far away.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5