There are only nineteen days to go before the Force awakens here in the United States – and even fewer for some of our international readers. Ten years ago most of us had simply assumed the saga was complete and that we had all the Star Wars movies we would ever have. But now that has changed. With Disney on board we’re looking at a never ending series of movies expanding the Star Wars universe in pretty much every way imaginable.
Star Wars isn’t just movies, though. It’s never been just movies though before Disney took over the extended universe of books, comics, and video games was an often contradictory mix of stories. Now, however, the old stories have been scrapped in exchange for a very cohesive series of canon media.
Going into The Force Awakens you may be wondering which of the new books, comics, and games you might need to check out before hand.
You don’t need to check out any of them necessarily. The Force Awakens is likely going to be as much of a reboot to the series as a it is a continuation. It’s going to be approachable to viewers who have never seen a single Star Wars movie. But a lot of the new canon that has been released recently supplements the new film in a number of ways. You don’t need to look into any of them but you might just want to if for no other reason but to pass the time before The Force Awakens comes out!
So whether or not you’re a brand new fan who hasn’t seen a single Star Wars movie before or you’re a lifelong nerd who grew up reading the old extended like I did, here are the books, comics, movies and games you should immerse yourself in over the next two and a half weeks to get ready for The Force Awakens.
Heads up: there may be some very minor spoilers after this but nothing that would spoil the stories, I promise!
WATCH: The Original Trilogy
This should be pretty obvious. If you haven’t seen the original trilogy – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi – you really do need to watch them. Even if you have seen them before, it’s worth going back and re-watching them before December 18th.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers or TV spots for The Force Awakens you know that The Force Awakens is taking heavy influence from the original trilogy. From bringing back the trilogy’s main characters to the look and feel of the movie in general, there are going to be a lot of similarities and direct connections. If you haven’t seen the original trilogy you’re probably going to be a little lost when people start cheering in the theatre the first time Han Solo shows up.
Watching these movies is the absolute bare minimum you should do to prepare for The Force Awakens.
READ: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
We love this book. If there has ever been a perfect Star Wars book then this is probably it. Set primarily during the original trilogy, Lost Stars follows two people through the chaos of a galaxy at war. The book re-imagines numerous classic scenes from the original trilogy including the destruction of the Death Star, the Battle of Hoth, and the Battle of Endor. It even goes past the end of Return of the Jedi briefly to explore the Battle of Jakku – a turning point battle after Endor on the planet where Rey meets Finn in The Force Awakens trailers.
Yes, it’s a love story. Yes, it’s been marketed as a young adult novel. Those two things don’t change the fact that Lost Stars is one of the strongest, best written standalone Star Wars novels I’ve ever read.
READ: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
If you can’t get past the romance and the young adult designation of Lost Stars then Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath is probably your next best bet. While the story itself – which takes place shortly after Return of the Jedi – is pretty good the real gems are the interludes spread throughout the book. These interludes give us brief snapshots of life after the Empire for people all across the galaxy and from different walks of life. Many of them give us hints at what is to come in The Force Awakens – including a cult-like group searching for relics related to Darth Vader which could be a precursor to the Knights of Ren.
Aftermath itself is the first in a new trilogy focusing on a group of new, unique characters. It feels like a Star Wars story and hearkens back to the adventure and feel of the original trilogy. It also starts to fill in those thirty years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I recommend it, but be warned the writing style might throw you off. You either love it or you hate it.
READ: The Force Friday Middle Grade Releases
If you don’t mind reading books catered towards younger readers, then you should consider reading the three middle grade books that were released on Force Friday. These include:Weapon of a Jedi, Smuggler’s Run, and Moving Target. The bulk of each book follows one of the primary heroes from the original trilogy and takes place within that same time period.
Smuggler’s Run takes place immediately after A New Hope while Weapon of a Jedi takes place shortly after. Meanwhile Moving Target takes place shortly before Return of the Jedi. The prologue and epilogues of all three books, however, takes place immediately before The Force Awakens. The scenes aren’t long but they are telling – especially the one in Moving Target. And word is that after The Force Awakens is released there will be even more obvious connections to these three books.
I know you’re probably thinking that these are just kid’s books. Let me assure you, though, that they are not. While Weapon of a Jedi is the weakest and most child friendly of the lot, Smuggler’s Run and Moving Target both deal with some pretty heavy subject matter at times. For example, in Smuggler’s Run a character kills her entire team and then herself in front of an Imperial officer just to keep Rebellion secrets from falling into the Empire’s hands. That’s not something you expect from most kid’s books.
READ: Star Wars: Shattered Empire
Now, how about the comics? There are currently three ongoing series – Star Wars, Darth Vader, and Kanan: The Last Padawan – being released by Marvel but there are also a number of other limited series. Many of these are now available in trade paperback format. The question, though, is which should you read before The Force Awakens?
All of them are pretty great reads. You could pick up any one of them and not be disappointed – with perhaps the exception of Kanan: The Last Padawan, if you’re not a Star Wars Rebels fan. The only one you really should read before The Force Awakens, though, is Shattered Empire.
Shattered Empire picks up during the Battle of Endor and continues on briefly afterward. The book follows the adventures of The Force Awakens character Poe Dameron’s parents who were both members of the Rebellion. They team up with Han, Leia, and Luke in a number of missions during and after Endor. Poe is only mentioned a few times but it gives you an idea as to where the character is coming from as the son of two dedicated Rebellion fighters.
PLAY: Star Wars: Battlefront
If you’ve already watched the original trilogy too many times to count in the past couple of months and you’re not really interested in reading any of the above, consider picking up Star Wars: Battlefront! On December 8th, a free downloadable DLC will be released featuring the Battle of Jakku. It comes with two maps and an entirely new gameplay mode.
We’re still working on our full Star Wars: Battlefront review and while it certainly has it’s flaws it’s still a really fun game. And playing through the Battle of Jakku for the week leading up to The Force Awakens is sure to be a great way to keep busy and get hyped. Thankfully the Jakku DLC will be free so it’s a little added bonus on top of the $59.99 price (and steeply priced $49.99 Season Pass).
Alternatively, if you have little kids in your life that you want to get hyped for Star Wars, check out Disney Infinity 3.0! The Force Awakens figures won’t be out until December 18th but you can always pick up the original trilogy play sets and figures to get them excited.
For those of you who want to know as much about The Force Awakens before going into the theater, this is the way to go. Read the books and comics. Re-watch the original trilogy. And pick up Star Wars: Battlefront. But, really, there’s no wrong way to prepare. Some people want to go in blind and that’s fine, too. I have friends who are avoiding any spoilers at all – they aren’t even watching the trailers and TV spots!
If you’re worried about spoilers, don’t worry.
This list will still be here after December 18th and I’m sure the stories will be just as entertaining and informative afterwards. In fact, you might even pick up on a few things those of us who read them before The Force Awakens came out missed.
However you choose to prepare, the important thing is to have fun!