In the last issue of Star Wars Insider #150 on page 8 we learned that all fiction published within the magazine would in fact be canon. This started with the two-part Blade Squadron story written by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams, where we follow rookie B-Wing cadet Gina Moosong, as the attack on the second Death Star rages above the forest moon of Endor.
With this in mind I thought it would be a nice idea to write a short review each month covering the latest exclusive fiction published within Star Wars Insider. I certainly don’t plan to write about crucial plot points, or go into specific details, as I don’t wish to spoil anything for you. It’s simply my intention to offer you my thoughts and hopefully encourage you to read the story, if you haven’t already done so, or provide you with another fans perspective if you have.
This month’s short story is One Thousand Levels Down, written by Alexander Freed with art by Joe Corroney and Brian Miller. The title refers to the story’s setting, Coruscant’s underground. Freed paints a very stark and gritty picture of what I imagine to be one of the many slums found on the planet. We’re taken deep down into a greasy, industrial underworld with soot covered walls and the rancid smell of human waste fills the air. This is certainly not the affluent and vibrant cosmopolitan we see in the Prequel Trilogy. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins or Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner comes to mind. We’re in a dark place, both geographically and narratively speaking.
Here we’re introduced to Anandra Milon, a sixteen year old Alderaanian and her eight year old brother Santigo, both desperate, both sleeping on the streets, and both on the run from Imperial Stormtroopers. Anandra is very much the protector in this relationship, often losing her patience with Santigo as her role changes from sister to a more motherly figure, thanks to necessity. Unexpected events have clearly taken its toll on Anandra. A girl on the edge, out of her depth. Tempers are running high. Santigo is scared and not fully aware of the reasons behind their current predicament.
One Thousand Levels Down takes place during the early days and weeks following the destruction of Alderaan. Confusion spreads among the populace of Coruscant. Confusion and lack of information breeds anger and vigils turn into riots on the streets. This is met with swift, unremorseful action from the Empire – in the form of white armor clad Stormtroopers and the dreaded underground police. Rioters are arrested; citizens who rise up against Imperial corruption are shot in the streets, Alderaanian’s are relocated on a mass scale, and the HoloNet is shutdown.
It’s up to Anandra to get her brother to some kind of safety, whatever and wherever that may be. They’ve already missed the shuttle off-world and now the planet is in shutdown while order is restored. Family friends have let them down. They’re on their own. Every lead takes them deeper and deeper into the underground.
Freed has skillfully captured the imagination by painting a dark, realistic feeling, relatable world. Setting the story in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Alderaan, and in turn exploring the chain of events following, is a stroke of genius. I find the reaction by everyday citizens and the resulting lockdown by the Empire a fascinating subject. As I was reading the story I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Nazi German occupation during World War Two. This is a thought provoking human story of survival against impossible odds and reminds me just how cruel the Empire can be.
You can pick up the latest copy of Star Wars Insider #151 from your local bookstore. Alternatively why not head on over to their website and subscribe!