The full title for this novella is “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure”, but there is no way in heck I am writing all that out more than once, so from here out it is simply going to be “Moving Target”. This story, along with four others, was released on September 4th — the so-called “Force Friday” — in preparation for the new movie, The Force Awakens. The hype machine has officially begun rolling, and a lot of books all hit the shelves at once so it can be hard to tell if there is anything worth reading in the bunch. Fortunately of the three I have read so far (the short ones), and the parts of the other two I have gotten through, they all seem to be fairly solid. Of the three short ones their connection to The Force Awakens is fairly minimal, but just tangible enough to justify it on a marketing level (though I certainly would not consider them important by any stretch).
The first of these I am going to touch on is “Moving Target”, since it ties a tiny bit into the comic series, Princess Leia, from earlier this year. The connection is only in the fact that Nien Nunb appears in both, and sadly Evaan Verlaine does not even get a mention. In regards to its connection to The Force Awakens, this is limited to the prologue and epilogue which frame the rest of the narrative as part of Leia’s memoirs that she is dictating to a droid. There are only two points of significance that I can see, with the first being her mention of Poe Dameron, who is seen in the trailer as an X-Wing pilot, and the second being that the droid refers to her as “General Organa”, not “General Solo”. The latter of these suggests that Han and Leia are not married in the new continuity, though we will have to wait to see if that is the case or if Leia simply did not take his name. Of course, we have been hearing rumors since December that the two are on less than positive terms by the time of Episode 7, so that does seem to bear out the idea that they either never got married or decided to divorce.
As for the story itself, this is the only one of the bunch that takes place between Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi (the rest take place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back), which puts it in a unique position. In fact this is a fairly important story as far as doing some legwork for Return of the Jedi as it establishes both the origin of the shuttle Tydirium, used to gain access to Endor in the movie, and Leia’s final motivating push into mounting a rescue mission for Han. We are still missing a lot of details outside of Leia’s sphere of knowledge, but this story does clear up quite a bit.
The core of the story is that Leia is in command of a mission to make the Empire think the rebellion is up to something in a remote system so that they are not concerned about the fleet building up to attack the second Death Star. She leads a team of commandos into the outer rim to try and recruit new rebels, while making a general nuisance of herself. Leia is in the group since she is high profile enough to make the Empire interested in her efforts, which they might ignore if it was someone less important. The mission is supposed to appear covert, but one that the Empire will learn about without it appearing too obvious that they are supposed to learn about it. The Empire learns of the mission pretty much from the beginning, so that objective is pretty successful. Unfortunately that also means that the group is being hounded, and is under assault for the entire book. Why they don’t just scrap the plan once it is obvious they have the Empire’s attention is a bit of a mystery to me, but that is neither here nor there.
The adventure world hops several times and we do get to see a number of planets that had not been featured in Star Wars at this point, which adds some more character to the universe. Her team is composed of a wildly diverse bunch of soldiers, and each gets their own moment to shine during the course of their adventure. Given the limited space in this short book it actually is something of an accomplishment to have everyone in the group fleshed out a bit, although some shortcuts are used here and there, too. In particular it is pretty obvious from the beginning that the two who bicker all the time will end up as an item since it parallels Leia’s relationship with Han (which the book is also keen to point out). On the other hand none of the characters were particularly memorable, which is probably a side effect of the short story format. Unlike some of the other stories that came out at the same time, most notably Lost Stars, I do not really care whether or not we see these characters pop up again down the road. Disney has gone out of their way to build up a cast of secondary characters for their writers to draw from, so I do not doubt some will pop up again, but their involvement in this story will likely be something only the most hard core fans will notice.
It does not take long to read Moving Target, and unlike the other two short stories that came out at the same time it does feel like there is a lot of action to the story. They manage to land on three different planets and engage in a space battle in roughly the same name of pages it takes Luke to practice with a lightsaber and Han to make a smuggling mission for the Alliance. That is not to take away from those stories (both of which are great), but this one has a unique sense of urgency to it that the others sort of lack.
Moving Target is billed as a junior novel, but it would still sit well on the bookshelf of anyone who read the more serious (I use this term very loosely) Star Wars novels. If you haven’t picked it up already I might recommend waiting to see if they release a collected volume that has this along with the other two junior novels that came out the same time, but it is cheap enough that this probably won’t make too much of a difference. Don’t dismiss it because of the ‘junior’ label, this is well worth taking an afternoon to read through.