“The audiobook leaves behind a gaping hole you didn’t know you had, and will certainly implore even the most casual of Star Wars fans to delve deeper into Doctor Aphra’s deeper canon.”
The sixth of April, 2021 marks the date ‘Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn was published by Del Rey, in association with Lucasfilm Ltd. The book isn’t a novel, though; it’s the script of the audiobook released on Audible back in July of 2020, which in turn is based on the incredible Darth Vader comic series by Kieron Gillen from 2015. Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra has quickly become a fan favourite, with many fans speculating an animated series could be in the works for Disney Plus. It’s easy to see why Aphra is so popular, she’s an LGBT+ friendly, chaotic, female Indiana Jones in the Star Wars universe. She is charismatic and witty, well written and interacts with characters and concepts from across the Star Wars canon.
Despite two separate series of Aphra’s solo comic having been published, it may surprise you that this book does not really delve into that material. Rather, it adapts her introduction in Darth Vader (2015) #3 onwards, with material lifted from Jason Aaron’s Star Wars run, again from 2015.
‘Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra, rogue archaeologist, is in trouble again.
A pioneer in the field of criminal xenoarchaeology, Aphra recognizes no law, has no fear, and possesses no impulse control. To her, the true worth of the galactic relics she discovers isn’t found in a museum, but in an arsenal. This viewpoint has led to a lot of misunderstandings. After her latest plan goes horribly wrong, her roguish ways are on the verge of catching up to her, when suddenly Darth Vader, terror of the galaxy, swoops in with his lightsaber ignited and…saves her life?
Don’t get her wrong—it’s not like she’s ungrateful. Sure, her new boss is a lord of the Sith. And OK, she may have just become a pawn in a deadly game being played by him and HIS boss, who happens to be the Galactic Emperor. And yes, the life expectancy of anyone who disappoints Vader can be measured in seconds.
But she’s back doing what she does best. She’s got a ship to fly, a heist to pull, and two unorthodox but effective metal buddies: Triple-Zero, a protocol droid specializing in etiquette, customs, translation, and torture; and BT-1, an astromech loaded with enough firepower to take down a battlecruiser. Together, they might just find a way to get the job done and avoid the deadly performance review that waits at its conclusion.
Just kidding. She’s doomed.’ – The audiobook’s description by publisher Penguin Random House.
The audiobook and hardcover script book, again like the Darth Vader series they’re based on, are set firmly between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Some listeners may be surprised to find characters such as Maz Kanata and Padme Amidala show up and interact with Aphra, given the setting. Veteran Star Wars audiobook narrators Jonathan Davis and Marc Thompson lend their voices to Boba Fett and Darth Vader respectively, with Sean Kenin providing the voice of the absolutely hilarious Triple-Zero. Sean Patrick Hopkins, relative newcomer to the Star Wars franchise but no stranger to audiobooks, provides an eerily accurate young Luke Skywalker and Catherine Taber reprises her role of Padme Amidala well but sadly misfires slightly with her portrayal of Leia Organa. Scottish singer and actor Euan Morton voices a raspy and sinister Palpatine to great effect, Nicole Lewis does a solid job as Sana Starros and Carol Monda’s Maz Kanata sounds too close to Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in the ‘sequel trilogy’ to be believed. Finally, Emily Woo Zeller, perhaps best known today for her role as Panam Palmer in CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, absolutely nails Aphra’s sarcastic and witty dialogue.
The script book, available today here, is a lovely hardcover volume that will not look out of place with other Del Rey hardcovers. This particular book feels almost to be a spiritual successor to the audio play and script book Dooku. The audiobook expertly blends a full-cast radio play with a single-narrator style audiobook, with Aphra’s tale told as a series of recordings by Zeller. The inclusion of the additional cast keeps the story interesting, with the 336 minutes flying by. The audiobook is split up into 52 chapters, typically less than five minutes each, which makes it perfect for commuting or listening to in short bursts, during chores or as part of a bedtime routine. After the thrilling conclusion to the story in chapter 52, listeners are treated to a ten minute epilogue, which resolves the story’s own cliff hanger and leads directly into the main Doctor Aphra comic series by Marvel Comics.
At Soundsphere Magazine, we rate Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 87%, with due praise for the storytelling and talent behind the audiobook. This is, frankly, how audiobooks should be done and we have high hopes for further audio adventures of our new favourite archaeologist! We would imagine listeners without prior knowledge of the comics could gain more from this than fans of the comic and it does tread a very familiar road, with a solid two thirds of the performance lifted directly from the comics, but there is just enough new material to engage fans. The audiobook leaves behind a gaping hole you didn’t know you had, and will certainly implore even the most casual of Star Wars fans to delve deeper into Doctor Aphra’s deeper canon.
- Doctor Aphra audiobook available from Audible here
- Doctor Aphra hardcover script book available here
- Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen omnibus available here
- Doctor Aphra omnibus available here
Words: Graeme Small