Lucasfilm and Disney might have reset the Expanded Universe (that giant collection of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames) in 2014, but it hasn’t been until this past September that the 30-year gap in between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens was started to be filled in. Officially called “Journey to The Force Awakens,” the initiative has, thus far, comprised five books, one comic series, five short stories, and two videogames, with much more already scheduled to be on the way once the film releases on December 18.

That’s a lot of time – not to mention money – to devote to that galaxy far, far away, and we understand that not many of you will have either the resources or the desire to make the investment. That’s why we’ve done it for you.

Below is a complete breakdown of everything that’s been published by Lucasfilm in its efforts to build up to the paradigm-changer that is Episode VII, which has ranged from the more subtle (hinting at storylines that eventually come to fruition in the sequel trilogy) to the more direct (introducing characters that will appear, even if only in the background, in the new movie). And don’t worry — we most certainly don’t venture into spoiler territory in our summary of the changes that have affected everyone’s favorite galaxy across the past three decades.

The breakdown

Perhaps taking a cue from its sister company, Marvel Studios, “Journey to The Force Awakens“ has been broken up into several phases, with the first having started on September 4 (that’s Force Friday, if you’ll recall) and ending on December 1. This has been, by far, the biggest chunk of the publishing program, and it’s beneficial to do just a quick overview of what’s already out there and where all our information is coming from.

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Shattered Empire
Format: Four-issue comic book miniseries
Timeframe: Three months after the original trilogy
Release date: 09.09.15 – 10.21.15

Shattered Empire follows A-wing fighter pilot Shara Bey, the mother of young Poe Dameron (one of the three new leads in The Force Awakens), as she fights in the Battle of Endor up until she musters out of the service three months later to return home to her family. During that time, she has key encounters with all the main characters from the original trilogy in which she helps run diplomatic missions that lead to the formation of the New Republic and, even, helps Luke Skywalker make preparations for the re-starting of the Jedi Order.

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Format: Novel
Timeframe: Six months after the original trilogy
Release date: 09.04.15

In an attempt to right the sinking Imperial ship and plot out a new future, several high-ranking Imperials – ranging from an admiral to one of Emperor Palpatine’s personal advisors – hold a summit on the distant jungle planet of Akiva. The just-formed New Republic, however, is tipped off about the plot and moves to either capture or eliminate the Empire’s leftover leadership.

In “interludes” set on several different planets all across the galaxy (including audience’s very first glimpse at Jakku), readers learn what the overall response to the Emperor’s death is – along with getting some hints at new factions and conflicts that will arise in the years to come.

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Format: Mobile game
Timeframe: Six months after the original trilogy
Release date: 09.10.15

Using one of Aftermath‘s interludes as its starting-off point, Uprising is set in the Anoat sector (home to Hoth, Bespin, and Burnin Konn) and tells of how its Imperial governor, Adelhard, attempts to erect an Iron Blockade and keep the events of the greater galaxy out. Players create their characters, join up with other users, and attempt to liberate the sector from tyranny.

The free-to-play game’s developer, Kabam, has said that it has enough material to seed throughout the experience to potentially cover the entire 30-year period leading up to Episode VII, depending on audience demand.

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Lost Stars
Format: Young adult novel
Timeframe: One year after the original trilogy
Release date: 09.04.15

Lost Stars is a unique title in the Star Wars canon: it starts 11 years before Episode IV: A New Hope, runs all the way through the entirety of the original trilogy, and finally ends one year after Return of the Jedi. The story revolves around two young, optimistic, and promising Imperial cadets, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, as their relationship grows from friendship to rivalry to romance. Along the way, as they learn the brutal truth of Palpatine’s New Order, one defects and joins the Rebel Alliance, making them enemies as well as lovers.

Their stories converge at the Battle of Jakku, the final conflict of the Galactic Civil War.

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Format: Console/PC videogame
Timeframe: One year after the original trilogy
Release date: 11.17.15

Although the main game is firmly rooted in the original trilogy, Battlefront’s first piece of downloadable content takes place during the Battle of Jakku, one year after Return of the Jedi. Since the title doesn’t have a single-player campaign mode, Jakku serves more as the background for multiplayer action instead of providing an actual narrative, but there are still one or two hints dropped about this new section of the Star Wars mythos.

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“The Perfect Weapon”
Format: Short story
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 11.24.15

Each of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” short stories – currently only available as eshorts at Amazon – focuses on one specific background character from the upcoming film and provides a backstory for him or her. In some cases, specific details relevant to Episode VII are included; in most, however, the events are simply extra adventures meant to provide some depth to what are really only extras in the movie.

In “The Perfect Weapon,” readers are introduced to Bazine Netal, who has essentially taken up Boba Fett’s mantle as the greatest – and most dangerous – mercenary the galaxy has ever seen.

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“The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku”
Format: Short story
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 11.30.15

Sidon Ithano, nicknamed the Crimson Corsair, and his motley crew of pirates aboard the Meson Martinet race to retrieve the long-lost treasure of Count Dooku, which has suddenly appeared on the desert planet of Ponemah.

(This short is a direct sequel to Star Wars: The Clone Wars’s sixth and final season, making this a must-read for that show’s fans.)

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“The Face of Evil”
Format: Short story
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 11.30.15

Ryn Biggleston, a notorious thief, seeks refuge at Maz Kanata’s castle on the forest planet of Takodana, where she crosses paths with the Dr. Frankenstein-esque pair of Frigosian cryptosurgeons named Laparo and Thromba. (Laparo, Thromba, Maz, and her castle all make an appearance in Force Awakens, for all those unaware.)

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“All Creatures, Great and Small”
Format: Short story
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 11.30.15

Bobbajo, a member of the mysterious Nu-Cosian species, visits the remote village of Reestkii on Jaaku, which is located over 400 kilometers away from Niima Outpost, the “only settlement on the planet worth noting.” The tale reveals why many Jakkuans refer to him as either the Storyteller or the Crittermonger.

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“High Noon on Jakku”
Format: Short story
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 11.30.15

Zuvio, the no-nonsense constable of Niima Outpost, has to solve a bank heist – and survive a gunslinging showdown in the Jakku desert.

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Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
Format: Young adult novel
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 09.04.15

In the present day, some 30 years after Return of the Jedi, an old and grizzled Han Solo sits in a bar and regales a gang of young mercs with a story about the Millennium Falcon, which they hope to apprehend for some type of illicit job or another.

In the flashback of his story, we jump to the immediate aftermath of A New Hope, where we see Han Solo and Chewbacca be convinced by Princess Leia Organa to do another job for the Rebel Alliance: locate and rescue Lieutenant Caluan Ematt, the commanding officer of a special recon unit called the Shrikes, before he is captured by the Imperial Security Bureau.

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The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Format: Young adult novel
Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens
Release date: 09.04.15

At the Resistance’s base, a young X-wing pilot endures the boring job of inventorying the astromech droids stationed there when she encounters C-3PO, who is only too happy to recount an early adventure of the legendary Luke Skywalker.

The story is set several months after A New Hope and follows Luke as he locates and trains at a long-lost Jedi temple, where he is forced to use his lightsaber in combat for the very first time against Imperial agents that have tracked him there and a mysterious, dangerous scavenger named Sarco Plank (who also, it just so happens, is a background character in The Force Awakens).

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Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
Format: Young adult novel
Timeframe: Immediately before The Force Awakens
Release date: 09.04.15

PZ-4CO, General Leia Organa’s personal protocol droid, is interviewing the princess for her memoirs, which are being published for the benefit of the Resistance (and the rest of the galaxy, of course). Leia tells the important story of how she and Lieutenant Ematt conceived of a plan to distract the Empire from learning of the Rebel fleet’s preparations for the imminent Battle of Endor (placing the action just before Return of the Jedi, of course), but then cuts off the interview when Ematt – now a major and one of the key leaders of the Resistance – arrives to tell Leia that her protégé, Poe Dameron, has arrived at Jakku.

Which “Journey” to take?

Let’s go out on a limb and say you either can’t or just won’t purchase all 13 “Journey to The Force Awakens” titles, but you’re interested in partaking in just one or two before the film drops. That’s easy — the novel Aftermath, despite the controversy over its unusual writing style, is, by far, the singularly most important piece of the post-original trilogy time period thus far; not only does it contain the biggest cross-section of story beats and the most overall clues to Force Awakens, it also has the most crossover with the rest of the “Journey” releases (most obviously Uprising).

A close second would have to be Shattered Empire; although a quick read (as is the case with any comic book), it hits a wide array of salient plot points, and it features all of the principal characters from the original films, unlike any of the other “Journey” installments. (Though, in terms of pure writing, it’s hard to beat Smuggler’s Run, which is the closest to pure gold that “Journey to The Force Awakens” gets.)

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The ones to steer clear from, purely in terms of continuity (and certainly not in terms of construction or quality), are the two videogames. Battlefront’s Battle of Jakku DLC is multiplayer-only, meaning that the only story is just setup for the online carnage. And while Uprising is set right in the thick of “Journey to Force Awakens,” it’s more concerned – and rightly so – with the Anoat sector than with the overall state of galactic affairs, making the time-invested-to-narrative-payout ratio rather high for a limited return.

In terms of the printed content, the last four short stories are all rather poorly written and feel somewhat underdeveloped (which stands in stark contrast to the first short, “The Perfect Weapon”). Although only two or three dollars per pop, they still come across as not quite delivering their money’s worth.

Next: Beyond Return of the Jedi

The post-“Return of the Jedi” timeline: Year one

Although the Galactic Empire was dealt a massive blow at the Battle of Endor, with the destruction of the second Death Star and the extinction of the Dark Lords of the Sith (including, obviously, Emperor Palpatine himself), there are still hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of stormtroopers prowling the galaxy, along with dozens of Star Destroyers and one remaining Super Star Destroyer. After being initially elated at the Empire’s seeming defeat, the Rebels quickly realize that the war is far from over; indeed, its forces engage in combat nearly every single day for the first several months after Endor, dramatically undercutting their enthusiasm for peace and democracy to return to the galaxy.

Still, the Imperials are shattered into dozens of different parts, headed by various high-ranking individuals: admirals, moffs and grand moffs, governors. Though some attempt to maintain unit cohesion in order to keep the Empire together as a massive, overwhelming force, most are interested in grabbing as much power as possible for themselves, with dozens of leaders even going so far as naming themselves the new emperor. Squabbling and inter-Imperial fighting marks a good majority of the first year after Endor, helping to increase the Rebellion’s successes on the battlefield, pushing the Imperials out of long-held planets in the Core (and forcing them to attempt to compensate by gaining new ground on other worlds, typically out on the Outer Rim).

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Operation: Cinder

One initiative that manages to cut through the Imperial bickering is called Operation: Cinder, which is put into place by Emperor Palpatine himself in the event of his death. The contingency plan calls for the immediate destruction of dozens of worlds in order to “exact vengeance against his enemies, as well as to preserve the secrets, treasures, and knowledge of the Sith Lord.” Chief among these targeted worlds is Naboo, his home planet, but also on the list are Cadovant, Abednedo, Commenor, and Burnin Konn (one of the locations featured in the Uprising videogame).

Rebel forces are successful in stopping all of the sneak attacks, thanks to a raid of Imperial intelligence (spear-headed by General Han Solo), but at least in the case of Naboo, reprisal attacks continue for months afterward; seen as a symbol of the might and influence that now seems to be leaving them, the Imperials take it upon themselves to launch no fewer than two additional sieges on the planet.

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The New Republic

In the three months immediately after the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance is able to slowly but surely push the Empire out of giant swaths of the Core and the Inner and Mid Rim – with the notable exception of Coruscant, which is a hotbed of civil unrest and holdover Imperial attacks; no one side will be able to confidently claim the planet as its own for a long time to come.

With the Galactic Empire gone, a power vacuum ensues, and the Alliance to Restore the Republic is able to finally do just that – instate the New Republic, uniting several of the most prominent planets in the interstellar community to do so, headed by Naboo (which is only too happy to try and wash the stain that is Palpatine from its reputation). Mon Mothma, a member of the Old Republic’s Senate in the prequel trilogy and a high-ranking Rebel general in the original films, is elected the new supreme chancellor, and everyone acts as if the past 23 years of Imperial rule never happened: Mothma not only inherits the chancellor’s office, but also all the emergency powers relegated to it at the outbreak of the Clone Wars.

This, however, is a fact she hopes to remedy as soon as possible. Mothma plans on demilitarizing the Republic as quickly as she responsibly can, in an effort to return the government to its pre-Palpatine days and to demonstrate to the galaxy at large that the New Republic is not going to be a fascistic police state. In practical terms, this drawdown will consist of cutting the New Republic Army by 90%, with the remaining 10% devoted to peacekeeping, generally, and training the militaries of individual worlds, specifically. Furthermore, until this plan can go into effect, Mon Mothma institutes a military council of “wise voices,” including Admiral Ackbar, that will oversee the Republic’s military presence and overall strategy.

Needless to say, such a decision is a controversial one among the new chancellor’s advisors, as they believe that equipping smaller armies across the galaxy will only result in an increase in smaller civil wars, at the least, and a rebuilt Empire being able to reassert itself at some point in the future, at the most. As it turns out, these points end up being eerily prescient, as The Force Awakens shows us.

Six months after Return of the Jedi, the Provisional Senate, as it is temporarily called, convenes for its first official day “back.” Given the continued unpleasantness on Coruscant, the new capital of the Republic is Chandrila, Mothma’s homeworld (and, incidentally, what would have been the second Death Star’s first target, should it have been completed).

Democracy has officially been restored to the galaxy… for now.

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The Battle of Jakku

One year and four days after the Battle of Endor, the broken and battered Imperial Starfleet manages to cobble enough of itself back together for one final major confrontation with the New Republic. Imperial planners are confident that this will be remembered as the conflict that turned around the Empire’s defeat; instead, it ends up becoming the final battle of the Galactic Civil War.

The New Republic has two objectives at Jakku. First and foremost, it moves to neutralize an Imperial weapons facility that it has just learned about. Secondly, it hopes to remedy the long-term problem of its lack of vessels; with most of the galaxy’s major shipyards still in the hands of the Empire, the Republic’s leadership hopes to infiltrate and overthrow a Star Destroyer, claiming it as its own.

The Empire – and its weapons depot – is, indeed, defeated on the desert planet, thanks to its inability to adapt to the changing military situation; not only are its forces exhausted and drained, its generals still adhere to a strict top-down hierarchy that is easily overwhelmed by the Republic forces’ now-mastered asymmetric approach to warfare.

Still, the “Rebels” do suffer one major setback in the battle: their inability to capture an enemy capital ship. After boarding the Star Destroyer Inflictor and disabling its self-destruct capability, the vessel’s captain rams her into the surface of the planet, providing the backdrop that is already so familiar to Star Wars fans thanks to the Force Awakens‘s trailers.

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The Treaty

Within a month after the decisive Battle of Jakku, a treaty is signed between the New Republic and the Galactic Empire, dividing up the galaxy into two spheres of influence, with both sides agreeing to remain on its own respective side. In this way, the Empire is largely relegated to the Outer Rim, although it still has some patches of territory in the Core and the Inner Rim.

It’s easy to see why the Republic would pursue such a treaty; in the long term, it emulates the United States of America’s policy of containment against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, in which the Russians were forced to remain in their own territory while their economy was eventually destroyed thanks to their constant attempts to maintain martial parity with the US. Clearly, Mon Mothma believes it’s only a matter of time before the Empire will eventually crumble, particularly if it’s relegated to mostly backwater planets that are bereft of natural resources and manpower. And in the short term, it allows Supreme Chancellor Mothma to reach a state where she is comfortable claiming an end to hostilities and, therefore, able to enact her plan of largely disbanding the New Republic Army and Navy.

As should be no surprise, however, the Imperials use the truce as an opportunity to consolidate what little forces they have left, gathering a new starfleet in the safe confines of various nebulae, which keep them hidden. As far as they’re concerned, Palpatine’s vision is far from dead, and now they have all the time in the world to prepare their next eventual strike.

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The Operator

A major component of the Rebel Alliance’s successes at pushing the Empire (mostly) out of the galaxy’s center and transforming itself into the New Republic is an informant who only goes by the handle of “the Operator,” someone who is clearly at the highest echelons of the remaining Imperial command and who is, as such, able to provide such juicy intel as when certain Imperial cargo shipments are scheduled to take place and which remaining governors can be bought off.

Interestingly enough, the Operator turns out to be a fleet admiral who is in command of the Ravager, the last remaining Super Star Destroyer. He believes that most of the pieces that the Empire has been broken into should be cleared away, to whittle away the impure or the unworthy – even those officials who want to maintain the Empire as it was under Palpatine’s stewardship. This unnamed admiral says that a new version of the Empire is the only way forward:

“The Empire became this… ugly, inelegant machine. Crude and inefficient. We needed to be broken into pieces. We needed to get rid of those who want to see that old machine churning ineluctably forward. It’s time for something better. Something new. An Empire worthy of the galaxy it will rule.”

It is he who first secretly summoned and then leaked the location of the Imperial Future Council on Akiva (as depicted in Star Wars: Aftermath), and it is most likely he who tips off the Republic about the Empire’s plans for the Battle of Jakku. Now, with no one left to oppose him, he can command the remaining Imperial factions and forge them into something leaner, meaner, and more ideologically pure.

The “Journey to The Force Awakens” titles don’t ever reveal this fleet admiral’s identity – not yet, at any rate – but it is largely believed that he is the character who will be known as Supreme Leader Snoke, the commander of the First Order in Episode VII.

The post-“Return of the Jedi” timeline: The year before “The Force Awakens”

After Jakku, “Journey to The Force Awakens” conspicuously jumps forward some 28 years in the future, going to a point just months before the first installment of the sequel trilogy. Unsurprisingly, the information here is nowhere near as complete as in the other materials – Lucasfilm doesn’t want to give anything substantial away from Force Awakens, after all – but there are still some juicy plot points to consider.

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Someone Is Trying to Steal the Millennium Falcon

There are unseemly elements in the galaxy’s underbelly that are itching for a fast, maneuverable, and heavily shielded vessel for one sordid mission or another. Though readers never get much on the specifics, they do get the names of some of the crews after the legendary vessel: the Irving Boys, the Guavians, and Ducain. Han Solo and Chewbacca – and an old friend, introduced in Smuggler’s Run – get the drop on some of the mercenaries in their employ, thoroughly embarrass them, and then ask them to relay one simple message to their masters: the Millennium Falcon’s crew isn’t afraid of anyone.

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Criminal Machinations

Delphi Kloda is one of the galaxy’s most accomplished pirates, having been one of the highest-ranking individuals in the Kanjiklub gang (which, yes, makes an appearance in The Force Awakens) – until injuries force him out and he opens an underground combat school in his retirement.

He also has a long-term plan in place. He adopts Bazine Netal from an orphanage and trains her to become, essentially, the perfect weapon (hence the title of the short story she stars in), honing her combat skills and secretly eliminating anyone she becomes either emotionally or physically close to. Nearly two decades later, after Bazine has become one of the deadliest mercenaries the galaxy has ever seen, the time finally comes to initiate the endgame.

Netal is contacted by a mysterious cloaked figure and tasked with tracking down a former stormtrooper by the name of Jor Tribulus (Imperial designation TK-1472) and returning a steel case he possesses. Once she obtains the item, Kloda appears, revealing that she was trained the whole time just to be his patsy on this mission; he snatches the case from her – claiming that it’ll be “the biggest score of all” – and leaves her for dead. Unfortunately for him, Bazine ends up being too perfect a weapon, and she’s able to reverse the situation, killing her former mentor/parent and triumphantly re-securing the target.

Intriguingly enough, while Kloda knew what the case contains, Bazine Netal doesn’t care – she just wants the considerable sum of money that the dark figure promised her.

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Poe Dameron’s Secret Mission

General Leia Organa, convinced that war is set to break out with the First Order any day now, officially kicking off the Second Galactic Civil War, has dispatched her best X-wing fighter pilot and brightest pupil, Poe Dameron, on a secret mission to Jakku. At the end of Moving Target, Major Caluan Ematt summons Leia to the command center to review the situation, and the Force tells Leia that something major is about to unfold around her.

The post-“Return of the Jedi” timeline: Bits and pieces

Beyond grand historical developments across this hitherto unexplored portion of the Star Wars timeline, there are a handful of highly specific events that occur that are more than worthy of taking the time to point out; some look to have a direct payoff in The Force Awakens, while others seem to be the launching point of other, future Expanded Universe storylines.

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The Tree(s) of the Force

Three months after the Battle of Endor, Luke Skywalker and Lieutenant Shara Bey sneak into one of the Empire’s most secret research facilities, located on the planet Vetine. In the complex’s inner lab, which only the Emperor and the building’s commandant can freely access, the only two surviving fragments of the tree that grew at the base of the Jedi Temple are stored (an item that was originally introduced in The Clone Wars, providing yet another reference to the cancelled television series). Claiming that the tree was somehow Force-sensitive, Luke says that it’s necessary to his plans for restarting the Jedi Order.

Interestingly, the last Jedi didn’t know that there’d be two fragments in Palpatine’s sanctum, and hearing that Bey is going to muster out of the service to settle down on Yavin 4 with her family, he gives the other tree to her. She plants it outside her home, meaning that young Poe Dameron, destined to fight alongside Luke’s sister in the ongoing battle against the Dark Side, grows up with the Force apparently focused right outside his bedroom window.

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The Acolytes of the Beyond

On the planet Taris, a group of Sith Lord-looking apprentices gathers in order to purchase what they are told is the late Darth Vader’s lightsaber (in the background, spraypainted on one of the room’s walls, is the stencil of Lord Vader’s helmet, with the words “Vader lives” underneath it). When the seller, a Kubaz, asks what they are – since they’re obviously not Jedi – they simply respond that they’re adherents to the Force that call themselves the Acolytes of the Beyond. They state that they are not a violent order – not yet, at any rate – and that they wish to buy the saber in order to destroy it and return it to its master in death.

Although this is the only instance of the Acolytes appearing in all of “Journey to The Force Awakens,” and although Lucasfilm has (unsurprisingly) refused to elaborate on them, it is largely believed that the adherents will eventually, over the course of the next three decades, transform into the Knights of Ren, the order that Kylo Ren is a member of in Episode VII.

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Boba Fett May Be Alive… Again

In the original iteration of the Expanded Universe, which started 24 years ago, Lucasfilm wasted no time in resurrecting Boba Fett, who had become the most popular character in all of the original films; the official story is that Boba was able to crawl out of the Sarlacc Pit almost immediately after falling in, and since the Sarlacc takes such an incredibly long time to digest his prey, no damage was done to the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. (Of course, when the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi came out a few years later, it added a monstrous beak to the Sarlacc Pit, leaving no doubt as to Boba’s real fate.)

Now, it seems as if history is repeating itself. In Aftermath’s interlude set on Tatooine, a pair of customers – one a member of a new would-be criminal syndicate, the other the new would-be sheriff on a formerly lawless world – enter a Sandcrawler in order to purchase weaponry from the Jawas. It’s clear that the little scavengers have been to the Sarlacc Pit and picked through Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge, claiming everything they can get their hands on. The crown jewel is a complete set of Mandalorian battle armor, “pitted and pocked, as if with some kind of acid.” While Sheriff Cobb Vanth ultimately secures the suit for himself, to help protect against the undesirable types he’s going to be hunting down, the fact that the armor has been reclaimed at all suggests that, perhaps, Boba Fett was able to crawl out of the pit for a second lease on life.

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The Source of the Dark Side?

As part of the Imperial Future Council that is convened on the planet Akiva, Yupe Tashu, one of Palpatine’s advisers and something of a Sith historian/cultist (he’s actually one of the purple-clad guys seen on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi), suggests that the only way forward for the Empire is to leave known space and explore the dark reaches of intergalactic void:

“Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years, he, with our aid, sent men and women beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the Dark Side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.”

Is this a small tidbit laying out a possible narrative thread for future Expanded Universe works, most likely the Aftermath trilogy itself, to follow? Or is it a telltale piece of foreshadowing that signals the direction that Lucasfilm is heading in with the sequel trilogy?

We should know soon enough.

Future “Journey to The Force Awakens” phases

As mentioned previously, “Journey to The Force Awakens” is a publishing program that will continue for the foreseeable future, even after Episode VII releases; currently announced titles stretch all the way out to summer 2017.

More immediately, the young adult novel Before the Awakening hits store shelves the same day as Force Awakens and goes in-depth into the backstories of Rey, Finn, and Poe. And bringing up the rear as the last 2015 installment of “Journey” is “Bait,” a short story appearing in the Star Wars: Insider magazine (issue #162, which will be released on December 23). Like the five previous short stories, this tale will focus on a Force Awakens background character, this time Grumgarr.

star wars special c 3po complete guide to the force awakens backstory Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory

In 2016, one comic book and two further novels are scheduled for release: Star Wars Special: C-3PO will ship on February 24, with New Republic: Bloodline (which is set six years before Force Awakens) and Aftermath: Life Debt following on March 29 and May 31, respectively.

Finally, the sole installment announced for 2017 – thus far – is the third and final entry of the Aftermath trilogy, Aftermath: Empire’s End, with the nebulous release date of “summer.”

It is undoubtable that future “Journey to The Force Awakens” books, comics, short stories, and videogames will be released as the two-year wait in between Episodes VII and VIII arrives.

Have you read the books and think we’ve missed a salient plot point? Have your own hypotheses about how these storylines will pay off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Sound off in the comments below.

And, in the meantime, be sure to check out our 10 Biggest Mysteries Heading into The Force Awakens for even more narrative analysis.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.