When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this winter, it has a lot of work to do. Not only does it have to satisfyingly resolve the current Star Wars sequel trilogy produced under Lucasfilm’s current owner Disney, but it must wrap up over four decades and nine films worth of “Skywalker Saga” live-action theatrical content, an epic sci-fi/fantasy yarn that began in 1977 with the original blockbuster Star Wars film. Faced with a similar (perhaps even more daunting) challenge is Lucasfilm Publishing’s output of “Journey to The Rise of Skywalker books and comics, as basically everything that doesn’t get wrapped up in a tidy bow in the movie is expected to be dealt with in ancillary alternate-media materials.

The new novel Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by genre author Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning, Race to the Sun) is one of several examples of this endeavor– all set for release this fall– that seek to fill in the gaps between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. This particular volume goes a long way in answering a number of lingering questions from Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII, such as “Why didn’t any of General Leia’s allies answer her calls for assistance?”, “Why weren’t pilot Temmin ‘Snap’ Wexley (played by actor Greg Grunberg in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and his Black Squadron of starfighters present at the Battle of Crait?” and “How can the Resistance possibly proceed– not to mention stand up against the military might of the First Order– after being left with a handful of soldiers and just one ship?”

That last question gets answered pretty much right away in Resistance Reborn, as the first act of the novel sees Leia and hotshot pilot Commander Poe Dameron scrounging for reinforcements in the wake of their near-defeat. Poe pays a visit to Maz Kanata, who come across as very dismissive and unhelpful at first (in her trademark enigmatic way) before proving her intentions and loyalty with some useful information: the First Order has a list of wanted Resistance operatives, collaborators, and sympathizers, along with an inventory of those they have already captured. This could be the data Leia needs to begin rebuilding her opposition effort, and the remainder of the book is spent trying to find a way to retrieve that confidential intelligence.

When we do catch up with Snap Wexley, he’s given the task of fetching his mother Norra and her beau Wedge Antilles– a familiar Star Wars face we haven’t seen for decades’ worth of in-universe continuity– from their retirement on Akiva. I am fairly impressed with how Roanhorse has picked up characters and plot threads from across the vast current Star Wars canon, dropping in key figures from Claudia Grey’s Lost Stars and Bloodline, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, and even 2017’s Star Wars: Battlefront II video game. One of my chief complaints about the recently rebooted timeline has consistently been that individual authors will create their own new characters for each adventure, and then those characters are swiftly abandoned and forgotten about for chronologically later stories and events, so it’s incredibly nice to see that pattern reversed and partially corrected here.

Norra Wexley, in a promotional image from 2015's "Star Wars: Aftermath"

Norra Wexley, in a promotional image from 2015's "Star Wars: Aftermath"

After Leia and friends find a temporary base on the Twi’lek home planet of Ryloth to plan the next steps for their ragtag group, the middle section of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn is devoted to a three-pronged heist mission on Wedge’s birth planet of Corellia, where the above-mentioned list is set to go up for auction at a fancy party put on by an underground criminal enterprise. Along the way, Snap, Norra, and Wedge must rescue a group of political prisoners from a First Order labor prison, while Shriv Suurgav and the other members of Inferno Squad fight their way through Coronet City to retrieve an assortment of starships, helping to strengthen the Resistance fleet once again. If you’re wondering what Rey and Finn are up to throughout all of this, they do both have brief appearances in the text and a few intriguing conversations with the other heroes, but are not given featured roles in this specific tale (rendering the cover illustration into a bit of false advertising)– this is mostly Poe, Leia, and Snap’s narrative, with one cumbersome exception.

Every few chapters, the forward momentum of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn is regretfully interrupted by dreadfully dry interludes focusing on an office of First Order bureaucrats– all new characters whose jobs involve the protection and management of classified information. It’s not something we’ve really seen before in Star Wars (unless you count the Imperial security complex on Scarif in Rogue One), but that novelty doesn’t make it any more interesting. Each time these astonishingly dull characters popped up, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes until we returned to the main action starring our protagonists. Unfortunately, these stuffed-shirt officers and their in-fighting / subterfuge make up a good thirty percent or so of the novel’s plot. It reminded me of the issue I brought up earlier with other newcomer personalities, except in this case I truly hope they never show up again. In the glaring absence of Kylo Ren and General Hux, Resistance Reborn desperately needed a good villain or two, and these First Order lackeys sadly did not fit the bill.

I think that grievance points to the other main problem with this entry in the Star Wars saga: it’s missing something. As far as events of consequence go, the novel succeeds in explaining how the Resistance begins to reconstruct its forces in the devastating aftermath of The Last Jedi. It’s also terrific fan service, paying off the fates of some popular tertiary characters, both old and new. But otherwise, it feels more like a protracted, often tedious gap-filler than an actual story in and of itself. For those who seriously cannot get enough Star Wars in the weeks leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, this will be a good way to pass the time and wrap your head around how the Resistance gets from those few faithful aboard the Millennium Falcon post-Crait to the large group listening attentively to Poe’s speech in the new trailer. For anyone else, I’d recommend doing your best to stay patient for the movie.

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn will become available for purchase on Tuesday, November 5 wherever books are sold. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Friday, December 20 in theaters nationwide.