Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII’s most underutilized badass in chrome gets her own novel . . . in which she continues to be underutilized as her story is told by someone who heard it from someone else who was “there.”
This is only the second work by Dawson that I’ve read, the first being The Perfect Weapon (Star Wars short story), and I have to say I liked TPW much better. And it’s not that Phasma isn’t good. It’s got plenty of action and adventure and aliens and the requisite super-harsh Star Wars desert environment. I didn’t care for the third person present tense shifting to past tense, but that was a minor issue. The framing of the story just didn’t work for me.
Resistance spy Vi Moradi is caught by the First Order on her way back from a fact-finding mission. What was she digging into? Phasma’s past. What does her captor just happen to be interested in? Phasma’s past. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! (Never tell me the odds!) So the majority of the book is Vi reciting—in the prosiest of non-conversational basic—the story of how Phasma met Brendol Hux and came to join the First Order. Her interrogator just lets her indulge in prolixity for twelve hours or so, and Dawson has to go to the trouble of establishing his inexperience in interrogation to explain his remarkable forbearance. Alas, I never really bought into it.
What really got my goat was that such a huge deal was made of Phasma’s survive-at-all-costs personal code, including a strong implication that if the First Order’s best interests ever conflicted with hers she’d burn the whole thing down, and that could have led to a payoff in the films so much bigger than what we got. In the end, this just felt like a weak 378-page justification for Phasma lowering the shields on Starkiller Base when she had a blaster to her head. *cue Sad Trombone soundbite*