Phasma: Mad Max beyond Thunder-chrome?

Books, Featured, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Top story

Who is that chrome-plated stormtrooper?

Ever since Captain Phasma led the assault on the Jakku village in Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, that’s been one of the new trilogy’s burning, and still unanswered, questions. “The new Boba Fett,” people said — and her role in the movie was short and memorable enough to justify that moniker.

Phasma
Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Phasma, Deliah S. Dawson’s hardcover novel released Sept. 1, brings us our first true exploration of the character realized on screen by Gwendoline Christie. Like her Game of Thrones character, Brienne of Tarth, the answers are complicated and sometimes unexpected.

In Phasma, another distinctive stormtrooper commander in the First Order seems to learn these secrets at any cost. Cardinal, a red-armored master to the youngest stormtrooper recruits, knows Phasma is dangerous and treacherous, and he seeks leverage to use against her. Cardinal is so desperate to get it, in fact, that he captures a Resistance spy who has also been investigating Phasma (as well as himself) and keeps her off the books in a black-site chamber aboard his Star Destroyer, knowing the rules he’s breaking are as dangerous as his rival, but also knowing Phasma must be stopped at all costs before she betrays another First Order leader — again. We learn that she was both recruited into the First Order by Brendol Hux, father of the General Hux of the movies — and that she murdered him to conceal the secrets of her origin.

That origin, on a backwater world left to rot by a careless corporation, resembles something out of the Mad Max movies more than it does the Star Wars we have come to expect, even moreso than wastelands like Tatooine and Jakku.

Set before The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode VIII — The Last Jedi, but well after the Aftermath book trilogy that sowed the seeds of the First Order and the Huxes, Phasma mentions familiar yet mysterious First Order brass like Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren, as well as Generals Brendol and Armitage Hux. We learn the Resistance — specifically, General Leia Organa — is still gathering information about the shadowy Order organization and its leaders. That’s where the narrator, Vi Moradi, comes in — a relatable and altogether normal human spy who becomes wrapped up in Cardinal’s plots — or, is it the other way around? These enemies have much in common, at least in terms of goals — and I don’t think their stories are concluded after Phasma’s pages are exhausted.

Will Captain Phasma be more than an ornamental plot device in Episode VIII? Only time will tell (the movie comes out Dec. 15) — but if this entry in “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is any indication, she could play any number of roles other than background muscle. Let’s hope that’s the case, because the potential is definitely there for a cunning and significant character to make her mark.

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