The book Poe Dameron: Free Fall, written by Alex Segura, was recently released, and it tells the story of Poe Dameron’s time with the Spice Runners of Kijimi.
It’s a very enjoyable read that feels quite significant to our understanding of Poe Dameron, Zorii Bliss, and thus the sequel trilogy as well, building on one of the main heroes and explaining his past. If you’re a fan of Poe, Zorii, and/or the sequel trilogy, I highly recommend it.
In this article, I want to dive in to some of the things that we learn from the book – but just so you’re aware, this means that *** THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE BOOK,*** so if you plan on reading it and don’t want to be spoiled, then don’t read any further. But let’s look at five things we learned from this book.
1. The backstory of Zorii Bliss!
While the book is definitely about Poe Dameron, it’s also about Zorii Bliss (who also goes by Zorii Wynn as well). And we learn quite a bit about Zorii’s background and her story and her connection to the Spice Runners of Kijimi. This information is revealed gradually throughout the book, as Poe (and the reader) slowly comes to learn who Zorii actually is, but by the end of the book, we’ve got a pretty good idea.
When we first meet Zorii, she is a young, new recruit of the Spice Runners of Kijimi, working with a crew that includes Tomasso (the second-in-command of the Spice Runners), and which Poe Dameron joins when the Spice Runners come to Yavin 4. This is how Poe and Zorii meet, and they strike up a close friendship that borders on romantic at times. But throughout the book, others seem to take a particular interest in Zorii, including rival syndicates. This is because Zorii Wynn is just a cover for her true identity: she is Zorii Bliss, the daughter of Zeva Bliss, the leader of the Spice Runners of Kijimi. Zeva brings Zorii to Kijimi (after killing Tomasso) to appoint her as the second-in-command of the Spice Runners, and this further distances Zorii from Poe.
Eventually, Zeva and the Spice Runners hosted a summit that included members of various other rival syndicates and gangs. Zeva had worked for years to pull this off, and Zorii was given a key role to play in it – which was actually a plot to execute the others, paving the way for the Spice Runners to take more control. Once Poe found out about it, however, he wouldn’t go along with it, so he stopped Zorii and rushed off to fight Zeva, who was engaged in a duel with New Republic Security Bureau officer Sela Trune. Zeva killed Trune, and she was about to kill Poe when Zorii arrived and began fighting her mother. Zorii offered Poe a chance to join her and lead the Spice Runners together, but Poe declined. Zorii then furiously demanded that he run away, and he did. The book never specifies what happens to Zorii after that, but given that she’s alive and leading the Spice Runners (and wearing the helmet that Zeva wears, which is the mark of the leader of the Spice Runners), it is presumed that she killed her mother to take over control of the syndicate.
2. What happened to Shara Bey?
Poe’s parents, Kes Dameron and Shara Bey, were heroes of the Rebellion, fighting for the cause in many battles, including the Battle of Endor. After the war, they settled down on Yavin 4 to raise their son. But it wasn’t ‘happily ever after’ for the family, as Shara Bey was tragically killed when Poe was just eight years old. She was the one who taught Poe to fly, as he would fly her old A-Wing around, but then she was killed, leaving Kes and Poe reeling and mourning – and never really the same.
But what happened to Shara Bey? We aren’t told explicitly, but there are a couple of hints sprinkled in throughout the book. Early on, Poe is shot down while he flies Shara’s A-Wing on Yavin, and we read, “Like Shara Bey, it had been shot down from the sky, right outside his very window.” Shortly after, we read Poe talking about his dad, saying, “He doesn’t want me to die like mom did. In space. Alone.” Based on these quotes, then, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Shara Bey was shot down while flying in space. But what’s interesting is that she wouldn’t have been in her A-Wing, since that’s still around and being flown by Poe (until he destroys it in this novel, which is set eight years after Shara’s death). We also don’t know whether she was flying as part of a mission with the New Republic, or whether it was simply personal. But at least we get a bit more insight into what happened to Shara Bey.
There’s still some ambiguity, however, but what is made abundantly clear throughout the novel is that the loss of Shara devastated Kes Dameron and their son, Poe. The novel talks about how Kes boxed up their mementoes and put them in a shed, as he couldn’t stand to look at them any more. He distanced himself from others on Yavin 4 so that people largely stopped visiting, with L’ulo L’ampar a notable exception. Poe would overhear Kes crying, mourning Shara’s death. And Kes became distant with Poe, which was hard on the kid. Poe also has to deal with his mother’s death, and it hits him incredibly hard as well – and several times throughout the book it’s made clear that he’s still trying to deal with the loss and that his mother is still motivating him. It is also made clear several times that Poe and his father still do love one another, but the loss of Shara Bey devastated the family.
3. The criminal landscape of the galaxy post-Endor
After the Battle of Endor, the Empire fell and the New Republic took its place. But the New Republic had a lot of responsibilities to see to, and this meant that some of the criminal syndicates were left to roam free in the Outer Rim. This book gives a bit more insight into what this was like, specifically as it pertains to where the Spice Runners fit in.
In the wake of the Empire’s collapse, some of the organizations that had deals with the Imperial Mining Guild fell on harder times – most notably, the Pyke Syndicate, identified in this book as “a fading but still formidable galactic criminal organization.” Places like Obah Diah and Formos, where Kessel spice was processed under Imperial protections, became easy targets, and a number of criminal gangs attempted to get in on the spice business. But the Spice Runners of Kijimi quickly emerged as one of the most formidable of these groups, as they would focus their strikes on other ships that were transporting spice, taking it for themselves. Eventually, they would come to have exclusive partnerships with mine operators for Kessel spice. We read,
“The Spice Runners of Kijimi were definitely of particular interest to the New Republic. Like many other gangs and crews, the Spice Runners were working their own, new relationships with the mine operators, choosing business over mindless violence in an effort to assert themselves as a power in the realm of running spice. Unlike other criminal syndicates, though, the Spice Runners confederacy was growing fast – and building a reputation for being cunning and relentless in their quest.”
So it is clear that the Spice Runners and the Pyke Syndicate were two of the more notable criminal gangs in this era, but they were far from alone. The Hutts continued to exert their influence (even after Jabba’s death), while the Guavian Death Gang developed a reputation as even more horrible than the other criminal syndicates. We are told that the Guavian Death Gang had been driven out of the Core Worlds by other criminals, and that, “The Guavian soldiers underwent surgical procedures to augment their physical attributes with cybernetic implants – mechanical reservoirs that pumped chemicals into their bloodstreams to amplify their rage and speed.”
So truly it would be accurate to describe the state of the criminal underworld in the New Republic era as one of chaos. The Pykes had been dealt a big blow with the Empire’s collapse, which paved the way for others to enter more serious competition with them. Between the Pykes, the Hutts, the Spice Runners of Kijimi, the Guavian Death Gang, and many others, there were a lot of criminals attempting to exert their influence on the galaxy.
4. The New Republic can’t keep up with the criminal syndicates
And really, the reason why all these different criminal organizations were able to do this was because the New Republic wasn’t able to keep up with it all – nor was it a high priority for them. Sela Trune, a New Republic Security Bureau agent, noted that there were areas the Republic couldn’t reach and that this problem was more extensive than it was even with the Empire, as “much more of the galaxy was left to fend for itself – dark corners and distant planets and moons that dealt in the trades and violence that had outlasted many a regime.” But it wasn’t just the NRSB that noticed this; the criminal syndicates did too. Zorii Bliss pointed out to Poe that the New Republic didn’t have the time or the energy to care about the Outer Rim, while Zeva Bliss noted that the New Republic was stretched too thin and “more concerned with eliminating ghosts from the past than looking toward the future – and determining what they’d like the galaxy to be.”
And so, ultimately, the New Republic wasn’t able to exert their influence in the Outer Rim over these criminal syndicates. We read:
“There was only so much the New Republic, years after the Battles of Endor and Jakku, could do. The leadership was stretched thin, and the struggle to tamp down any remaining Imperial Remnants took the wind out of the first few years of the new galactic government. They just weren’t able to stem the tide of the underworld, which created a wave of apathy in the galaxy when it came to the new regime.”
So in many ways, the post-Civil War galaxy was the perfect recipe for the criminals of the galaxy to flourish. With the fall of the Empire, the Pykes and other ‘official’ syndicates lost a lot of power, while the rise of the New Republic didn’t pay much attention to addressing these things. As is made evident in this book even by the nature of Trune investigating the Spice Runners, the New Republic did pay attention to these things, but it was too little and too late. They could barely scratch the surface of addressing this rising tide. And that’s really an indictment on the government as a whole, because it didn’t just extend to matters of the criminal underworld but was pervasive: this government was so concerned about moving on from the previous war that they neglected to fight battles that needed to be fought.
And so, in the book, it is Senator Leia Organa (whom Poe watches via hologram) who delivers a message the New Republic needs to hear:
“You cannot defeat evil once and consider yourself victorious. It is our duty as the New Republic to challenge evil when we see it, no matter how scarred or hurt we are from past conflicts. We either stand for what we believe in forever without limit or qualification, with strength and bravery, or we shall fall to the same elements that crushed the Republic decades ago.”
We know from other material that Leia would continue to plead with the New Republic to take these things seriously, but eventually, when she realized they would not, she formed the Resistance to do so herself. It was a good thing for the galaxy that she did.
5. Poe and Leia
Keeping with that point for just a moment, it’s a thrill in the book to, at the end, get an appearance from Leia! As Poe prepares to flee from Kijimi and the Spice Runners, he sees news footage of a message Leia gave in the New Republic Senate (quoted above), and it resonates with him. But this appreciation that the young man has for Leia isn’t anything new. We read:
“She was a legend to Poe. A name whispered in stories he’d heard as a child. But also a person – an old, trusted friend to his parents during their shared time in the Rebellion. He felt a sudden, deep, and impossible-to-rationalize connection to her. A need to reach her, help her, that would’ve been laughable had he tried to explain it in words. But he felt it all the same. He knew what he had to do next. He knew where he had to go. Finally.”
The book says that as Poe listens to Leia, he almost feels like he’s listening to his parents speak through her, since they share similar ideals and fought for the same thing. And while the book doesn’t explain where Poe goes next, we know from other material what happens: he returns home to Yavin 4, and then before long joins the New Republic Defense Fleet. But then, when General Organa approached him about joining her Resistance, the young man obliged. It’s not hard to see why when you read about how Poe, even from a young age, admired the legendary Organa, and how he was inspired by her even here as a wayward teenager. She didn’t begin being an inspiration to Poe when he joined the Resistance; she had already been inspiring him for years before that.