As a megalomaniacal evil empire spreads its way across countless star systems instilling fear and subjugation with its planet-killing superweapon, an outsider warrior from a failing sect of peacekeepers comes into possession of a weapon destined to be wielded by a prophesised saviour. By accepting what everyone believes his destiny to be he might well save the galaxy and, if he’s lucky, stop anyone from discovering he’s an absolute fraud.
First, let’s deal with that big fat pachyderm sat in the corner: yes, Black Star Renegades is highly reminiscent of Star Wars. However, the parallels are intentional, and while this doesn’t entirely excuse the direct derivation, it makes for a good starting point. Star Wars was created as an archetypal hero’s journey that transplanted fantasy tropes into a sci-fi setting, but rather than being a direct homage or parody, the strength of Black Star Renegades is its gleeful subversion. Prophecies, mystical weapons, Chosen Ones, ultimate good and evil, dark mirrors, destiny, all of them receive a firm suppository of realism.
Heroes are not hand-picked by the universe to follow a course of divine predestination, but are rather misfits and outcasts taking all that fate has to throw at them and then hitting back twice as hard. Reluctant hero Cade and his ramshackle assortment of allies embody the best of this, determined to do what’s right despite having been hardened by the hand life has dealt them, carving a swathe of chaos across the galaxy as they frantically improvise one moment to the next to stay ahead of those who would see them dead.
The equivalents to Star Wars are so numerous that to list them would make this review more tedious than The Force Awakens’ litany of self-referential narcissism, and their pervasion has the unfortunate side effect of some revelations and story beats being not only predictable but rather inevitable. Additionally, the book misses the opportunity to truly deconstruct the Jedi as arrogant and ineffectual navel-gazers by having Cade’s masters described almost entirely second-hand, whereas the hypocrisy of the villains is laid bare in the only chapters not told from Cade’s perspective.
Countering the familiar plotting, a hectic and exciting pace is maintained throughout with numerous kinetic action sequences in an array of absorbing settings, in particular an urbanised spaceport that Cade originally called home, the proverbial wretched hive of scum and villainy where every vice that can be imagined is catered for.
A passionate love letter to Star Wars and a kickoff point for a saga in its own right, Black Star Renegades might be overly recognisable, but maintains a sense of timeless fun with an added awareness of its own absurdity.BLACK STAR RENEGADES / AUTHOR: MICHAEL MORECI / PUBLISHER: ST MARTIN’S PRESS / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2ND 2018