Poe Dameron wants adventure. The teenager is ready to leave Yavin 4 and his father behind and fly free. But what kind of decisions will he make in order to leave his home? Alex Segura’s upcoming young adult novel Poe Dameron: Free Fall explores the past of the suave, hotshot X-wing pilot we know from the Star Wars sequel trilogy. We got the tiniest glimpse into Poe’s history when he ran into Zorii Bliss in The Rise of Skywalker, but it only left us with more questions. The kind of questions Free Fall will answer. And the exclusive excerpt we have to share focuses on Poe taking a big step towards his future.
Author Alex Segura tells Nerdist about the excerpt, “This is a key, early turning point in the book and for Poe in general. We meet the crew he signs up with, and get a sense of the internal conflict he’ll be facing for the first part of the novel. Did he do the wrong thing in his desperate quest to get off-planet and away from his father? Has he gone too far? Who are these mysterious people he has decided to team up with on a whim? It was a ton of fun to create and fill out the cast that rode along with Poe and Zorii, and this is your first glimpse at some of the most important characters in the novel.”
As mentioned above, we know Poe Dameron as he is in the sequel trilogy. He’s dashing and heroic. He has gorgeous hair. But Segura had to go backwards while still writing a character that’s familiar to readers. “I needed the teen version of Poe to evoke the character millions watched and loved, but also be on his way to becoming that person, as opposed to already being set in his ways. I wanted to make sure the reader immediately recognized this younger Poe as Poe, but also got them interested enough in the journey—engaged enough to want to see how Poe evolved in the pages of the novel to get closer to becoming the man we know,” he says.
Zorii plays an important role along that path. Segura mentions he was able to establish a lot of her backstory and illustrate how she became tough and no-nonsense. The book has Zorii’s origins as much as Poe’s; their histories intertwine. Especially with Zorii bringing Poe into her crew. They need a pilot, and well, Poe’s a pilot. He doesn’t fully understand what he’s signing up for though.
“Yeah, Poe has no idea what he’s getting into. Like many of us as teens, we just see the immediate return, and for Poe that’s getting off planet and away from his hum-drum life. At this point in the book, we learn that Poe’s had some serious tension with his father in the years since his mother’s death, and we know Poe wants to be a pilot but Kes is adamantly against it,” Segura explains.
He continues, “It creates this cycle of Poe lashing out, getting into trouble and then being basically grounded for long stretches. Poe knows there’s more for him out there—to explore, to live. He wishes his father wasn’t so worried for him, but Kes lost Poe’s mother Shara, and he’s not about to lose Poe. That puts Poe in a tough spot and he decides to take action when the opportunity is presented, without fully realizing that he might be aligning himself with some bad people, and the consequences that come out of that alliance.”
Read the excerpt below to learn how Poe meets Zorii’s crew and what’s going through his head as he realizes they’re not exactly on the up and up. They’re smugglers.
The temperature seemed to drop around Poe as he took a seat at the table with Zorii’s group, her hand on his shoulder.
“This is Poe Dameron,” she said after she’d introduced her comrades to him. “And he is a pilot.”
“A pilot? He’s just a boy,” the Klatooinian Zorii had identified as Vigilch said with a grunt. “A pilot of what? A landspeeder?”
The group laughed—the Twi’lek Poe now knew as Marinda Gan heartily, the Pau’an named Gen Tri softly. Zorii remained quiet, her hand still on Poe’s shoulder.
“I don’t see you rattling off any options that might help us get off Yavin 4,” Zorii said. “Unless I missed that while I was recruiting our ticket out of here?”
They want me to fly their ship, Poe realized. He swallowed hard. Was he ready for that? He’d soon find out.
Gen Tri turned to look at Poe more closely, their dark eyes probing Poe in a way that made him shiver with dis-comfort. It wasn’t their appearance—Poe had seen every type of species cruise through the Yavin 4 ports. It was something else. They made him uneasy in a way he’d not yet figured out.
“We do need a pilot,” Gen Tri said, their voice hollow-sounding and whispery. “But are you ready to do what’s needed?”
“If you need a pilot, I’m your man,” Poe said, not missing a beat. “Point me to your ship and I’ll get you where you need to go.”
Marinda Gan laughed dryly.
“That’s all well and good, Poe Dameron, but do you want to go where we’re going?” she asked. “That’s the big question.”
“Well, I mean, I can just drop the coordinates and plot a course. It’s not that compli—”
Zorii’s hand gripped Poe’s shoulder.
“It’s not getting there that’s the problem, Poe,” she said. “It’s what we’re doing. We’re not traders or members of the mining consortium. Our travels are a bit more . . . adventurous.”
Poe waited a beat before responding.
“Adventure’s what I’m after,” Poe said, the words reaching his mouth fully formed, as if coming directly from his heart instead of his brain. “I’m not afraid of that. I’m done with Yavin 4.”
Zorii’s grip loosened, and she took the empty seat to Poe’s right. Their eyes met.
“I’m not going to dance around what we are,” Zorii said. “Because you seem smart, and even if you do get scared and tell anyone, we’ll be gone before it can mean anything.”
Poe nodded. Vigilch raised a hand, as if to try to stop Zorii from continuing. She ignored him.
“We’re smugglers,” she said flatly. “And our pilot is dead. If you can get us off this moon, you will begin a life of adventure and uncertainty unlike anything you’ve imagined. This place will be a blurry memory before too long.”
Poe leaned back in his chair. He hadn’t considered the possibility. But the information revealed the fork in the road in front of him. The pounding in his chest grew louder, drumming through his veins into his ears and head. Was this what he wanted? Like he had said, he wanted adventure—a chance to fly free and leave Yavin 4 behind. But was throwing his lot in with smugglers the best way to get there? To achieve what he’d dreamt of? A chance at a life not mired in the ordinary and mundane?
He’d met his fair share of unsavory characters before—bounty hunters, arms dealers, and other smugglers. They’d wander through Gully’s from time to time. But those were fleeting encounters—and Poe could always keep his distance. This was very different. If he threw his lot in with this group, he wouldn’t just be in the same room as a band of criminals—he would be a criminal, too. What would Shara Bey think of that?
This would not be the kind of thing Poe could back-track from. Joining forces with a group of smugglers would mean he’d never see Yavin 4, L’ulo, or his father again. But it was the only opening that pointed toward the freedom Poe hungered for. Maybe he could make it a temporary stay? Find his way off the moon, then strike out on his own. The rationalization calmed Poe a bit. He still felt a pang of sadness at the idea of leaving, but it was soon replaced by a determination and desire he’d only grazed over in the past few months.
“I’m in,” Poe said with a quick nod.
Poe Dameron: Free Fall arrives on August 4. You can pre-order the title now.
Featured Image: Disney-Lucasfilm Press
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.