In The Rise of Skywalker, it was revealed that Poe Dameron used to be a smuggler, with the Spice Runners of Kijimi.
This of course was a brand new tidbit that we’d never heard hinted at for the hero, and so that created some questions about that background and how it fit with what we already knew about Poe’s story. And so, this month, we got the novel Poe Dameron: Free Fall, written by Alex Segura, to explore Poe’s time as a Spice Runner.
It’s a very easy read and an enjoyable story about Poe Dameron trying to find his place in the galaxy. But while Poe is the main character, Zorii Bliss actually comes to be a main character as well, and we get to explore the background of both of these young people – and their history together.
*** This review contains light spoilers for the novel, but doesn’t delve too far into specifics. ***
The main theme of the book is Poe Dameron looking for adventure, seeking to get off of his home planet of Yavin IV and go on adventures through the galaxy. It’s clear that he’s not happy with the quiet life on the planet, so he runs off to join the Spice Runners of Kijimi. With them, Poe certainly gets the adventure and excitement he had been craving, but if anything, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Poe ‘befriends’ some of the members of a Spice Runner cell, in particular a young woman named Zorii Wynn. The two strike up a friendship that keeps hinting towards romantic, and they make a formidable tandem, being sent on missions together most of the time. But Poe has to wrestle with his new life and whether it’s the right course of action for him, both now and in the future.
And yes, Babu Frik makes some appearances!
Mostly I’m just happy to be getting a story that feels worthwhile that’s set in the ‘sequel’ timeline, as that seems to be a bit rare right now (part of the reason I also enjoyed “Resistance Reborn,” for instance). And I thought that Segura really did a good job at capturing the heart and spirit of Poe Dameron, even though in this novel he’s younger than when we meet him in the films (it’s set about 16 years prior to the start of the sequel trilogy). Poe is a good-hearted kid who just wants adventure rather than a quiet life at home. He doesn’t hate his family, but he also feels his destiny calling. Along the way, though, as Poe joins forces with a criminal organization, he is continually forced to choose between doing what’s right and doing what helps him and the Spice Runners. This tension is what creates the real drama in the story, but there’s also another ‘enemy’ on their trail: New Republic Security Bureau officer Sela Trune, whose interest in the Spice Runners is personal.
While Poe is clearly the main character and the one around whom the narrative revolves, I quickly came to appreciate Segura’s handling of Zorii Wynn, a.k.a. Zorii Bliss, just as much. This book provides just as much backstory for Zorii as it does for Poe, and she is just as compelling of a character as Dameron. She too is trying to figure out her place in the galaxy, but she’s much more committed to the Spice Runners than Poe is – something that continually is highlighted.
And when all of this comes to a head at the end of the book, Poe is forced to choose the path forward, to figure out where his destiny lies.
This story isn’t anything exceptional, as it’s a relatively simple read, but there’s a good bit of mystery that is sustained throughout as Poe – and the reader – comes to know more and more about these Spice Runners. This, to me, is one of those books that feels a bit more important, as it provides valuable and significant backstory to Poe Dameron and Zorii Bliss, and thus to the sequel trilogy. It’s a fairly self-contained story, but it’s one that I found myself sucked into, largely because of my interest in the characters and the time period. If you find yourself in a similar place, you’ll enjoy this one.
My grade: 8.9/10