Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
Phasma is a novel designed to fill-in the backstory of a standout villain in the Star Wars universe. She was first introduced in The Force Awakens in the initial battle for a desert planet called Jakku. She was looking for information about the location of the Jedi Luke Skywalker, and reprimands when a storm trooper FN-2187 demonstrates independent reasoning by removing his helmet without permission. Later, when it is discovered that the storm trooper has defected, she marvels that he had never shown any tendency toward disobedience in the past. Further, when the Star Killer Base is infiltrated and she is taken hostage, she willingly deactivates the shields before being dropped into a trash compactor.
This act of self-preservation that she perpetrates in The Force Awakens is a continuing theme throughout the book by Dawson. Captain Phasma is an officer of the First Order who is responsible for the training of storm troopers. She is an impassive force behind the chrome helmet and she has elected to remain a mystery to both her enemies and her allies. The only person that seems to know her history is General Hux. Again, this is an essential theme of the book.
The novel mostly takes place on the battle cruiser Absolution where a Resistance spy has been taken by the crimson armored storm trooper named Captain Cardinal. This spy, Vi Moradi code-named Starling, knew Phasma before she became a villainous force and so Cardinal tortures her until she grudgingly begins a narrative that unearths Phasma’s humble beginnings and the heinous acts that propelled her into leadership in the First Order. Needless to say the acts are sufficiently grievous that she doesn’t want those exploits communicated, not even to her superiors.
Cardinal knows that there are secrets to her past that may help to discredit her, in the case of a coup. He recognizes that information is power but extracting the information from the spy is difficult. We learn that Phasma is his hated rival for privilege and power in the First Order and he wants to wield her history over her as a weapon. Gradually, the spy tells the story of Phasma’s origins.
Cardinal had been presented with his personalized red armor, and had been named Captain, about a year before Brendol Hux conducted a scouting mission to the planet Parnassos. Hux’s ship was shot down by an automated weapons system and crashed on the planet. With the help of members of the local Scyre tribe, of which Phasma was a part of, Hux was able to find his ship and make contact with the First Order. Phasma being instrumental to his rescue, Brendol Hux returned with Phasma in tow, along with a young girl from Parnassos named Frey. Phasma had cannibalized an ill-fitting storm trooper armor and along the way demonstrated a propensity for survival that caused Hux to see something in her that made him want to help her in a not-quite-altruistic way. Upon Brendol Hux’s return, Cardinal was instructed to familiarize Phasma with the Finalizer, First Order technology, and her duties as a storm trooper. Cardinal’s role as head trainer was to be split with Phasma, who would focus on training the teenage and adult storm troopers, and he would be transferred to the Absolution. This was not a job that Phasma was unfamiliar with. She trained the fighters in her Scyre tribe. Now she would be training in a larger scale for the First Order.
It’s amazing all the backstory given to what amounts to as an ancillary character, but really a fascinating story about will and self-preservation. Phasma’s desire to excel for the First Order and Brendol’s son, Armitage, in particular, demonstrate what unchecked desire can do to consume you. I really enjoyed this book and the opportunity it provided to get lost in the Star Wars universe.
Delilah S. Dawson did a great job adding to the Star Wars mythos.