The story of Bazine Netal is one of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” cycle, which was intended to give more background to the newest film. The Perfect Weapon focuses on a minor character you might have noticed in The Force Awakens, in Maz Kanata’s place, signalling to the First Order.
Bazine is a mercenary, with the classic setup one would expect from a Star Wars character of her kind. You can think from Boba Fett to Zam Wessel to all the lowlifes from Mos Eisley, not to speak of the countless examples from the former Expanded Universe. She is exactly one of these. The Perfect Weapon follows her latest job, which starts in a fairly clichéish manner. A mysterious contact, using very theatrical introduction, offers her a mysterious job, promising that if she completes it, she would never need to work again (as if any decent mercenary would ever do that). She then embarks on her journey, calling in favours from her old contacts, namely her old mentor, who dumps a young slicer sidekick on her. The fellow is presented as a Han Solo-ish type of scoundrel (only somewhat younger and much more naïve), but he actually does a fair amount of the job himself.
The plot or the characters, as you can see, are by no means very original. Fans of the likes of Talon Karrde and, even more appropriately, the Mistryl Shadow Guards probably won‘t be able to resist the comparison. But then again, how many variants of the mercenary/bounty hunter/underworld person-archetype can you come up with and sketch them out in the course of one short story so that they would be strikingly different from all the others? Then again, it has to be said, Bazine is not off for a bad start. She fits the “dangerous, deadly, self-confident” archetype, but there are bits about her past which give her some extra dimension. In flashbacks, we learn about her childhood, about training under her old mentor, about the instilled imperative “trust no one” – and it seems to me from her story that she actually would like to be able to trust someone, and that it is something she is missing (and one can see how important it is that she can trust at least her mentor). And that is where her character seems to have space to grow – possibly in future books or even films.
It also helps that the story is written from Bazine’s perspective and we get to see a lot of what is going on inside her head. That makes her more relatable as a protagonist. And despite being a dangerous criminal, we get to see a lot of her human side. And that does not mean (as some might expect from the “beautiful, self-confident woman and a handsome scoundrel on one ship”-situation) any syrupy romantic involvement. There is some flirting on behalf the young scoundrel, but that is a thing that comes up naturally when they are getting to know each other and it is rather a matter of lifestyle, and their relationship is not defined by that at all. Besides, Bazine is a practical woman and she always has more important concerns on her mind. You certainly don‘t have to fear that she would start pining after somebody randomly during the mission. That‘s not her at all.
The story as a whole is decent, as much as you can do in a fairly limited space. The writing is actually quite good, the plot not more so, but I daresay the whole plot serves rather as a space to sketch out the characters rather than to be the main focus. It could be any job of Bazine’s with model situations to show us what kind of character she is (and those around her, too). Of course, there are several reasons why it was this particular job. Many of them, however, have to do with the fact that The Perfect Weapon was a part of prelude to Episode VII, and some parts of the story relate to it.
Unfortunately, the story has several weak points. Logical plot holes, I would say. What I have in mind specifically would be spoilers – indeed, the reason they disturb me is because they are left unresolved or unanswered after the story ends. True, the whole story ends fairly open-ended because that is the intention (again, as part of prelude to Episode VII) and the readers are meant to fill in the gaps by themselves. I like that attitude even generally; I am actually tired of books which explain everything as if the reader did not have brains. But even with this in mind, The Perfect Weapon leaves a gap (probably intentional, so that other books, video games, or other media could fill it). But for a stand-alone story, it is too little. So if you want to read it just like it is, you may still be disappointed and (even after having watched Episode VII) ask “and what happened to X?” There is a closure to the story, but not in all aspects (I would say two out of four “main” questions I expected to be answered and matters resolved by the end remained unaddressed). As for the logical gaps, there is for example an occasion when a character, after proving that they are ruthless enough to do anything, spares another character, when it is clearly dangerous and has to backfire. It is important for the plot, but inconsistent with everything else we have been told otherwise.
The things I liked the most about the story was how it sketched out something of the atmosphere of the New Republic, like the existing criminal underworld or the fate of former Imperial stormtrooper veterans from Endor. Also Delilah S. Dawson’s writing is quite good and certainly not boring, with a nice pace. I actually listened to the story also as an audiobook, narrated by January LaVoy, and if you are into audiobooks, I can only recommend it. No excessive performance that would disturb the narrative, but still some nice acting and bits of background sounds that compliment the tale.
All in all, this short story feels like a foretaste. It is a bit too early to make a final judgment about Bazine Netal, and it is perhaps too early to judge the story itself, too. Because it is Bazine’s story and it is not concluded. She certainly has the potential to become an interesting character in the new universe, in which case The Perfect Weapon will undoubtedly be a valuable resource in the time to come.