One of the biggest obstacles for the The Force Awakens was the decades worth of backstory between the previous entries in the series. It wasn't overly expository, which was certainly a good thing. However, it failed to fully expound on the rise of the First Order — the Galactic Empire equivalent for the new trilogy, also led by a mysterious Sith Lord.
Enter Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Bloodline, a political thriller set six years before The Force Awakens. Through the eyes of Princess Leia, who is serving as a senator in the New Republic, we see a similar political divide from the prequel films that began the Empire in the first place.
(Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)
This time, the two sides of the political spectrum are the Populists, Leia's faction that prefers self-governing planets and independence, and the Centrists, a group that wants a similar, overarching authoritative structure as the Empire, but without a malicious leader in charge. The parallels between American politics aren't subtle — the parties' self-interests take precedence over any substantive action, effectively paralyzing the government.
In a way, Bloodline is not just a cautionary tale for the Star Wars universe, but also the real world implications of what happens when you ignore a palpable threat. In the case of the New Republic, it's underestimating the warnings from Leia after she inadvertently discovers how the First Order plans to weaken the government: by funding insurgency groups and crime syndicates.
However, the problem for Leia is that she doesn't know the First Order by name, just that someone is pulling the strings from afar — they are, essentially, a phantom menace. But other, more direct acts, like bombing a senate building during a Populist meeting, make it clear that the First Order is intent on solidifying their position as the new power structure in the galaxy.
The political squabbling continues as both parties blame one another for the bombing, Leia receives a warning before the bomb sets off, so no Populists are killed. These moments demonstrate how the New Republic is ill-equipped to handle a crisis, even when it's at their doorstep. It's frustrating for Leia, just as it's surely frustrating to many Americans that Congress cannot pass the most basic, logical gun reform measures after several mass shootings.
Of course, for the New Republic the eventual consequence of disregarding the First Order is gruesomely revealed in The Force Awakens. With their newly completed Starkiller Base — basically, a bigger, badder Death Star — the First Order destroys the Hosnian system, including Hosnian Prime, the capital of the New Republic.
This destructive power play dismantles any semblance of political structure heading into Episode VIII — it's the haunting scenario where the terrorists win, in spades. It's a good thing for the entire galaxy, then, that Leia was prepared to fight the First Order, just like when she was on the frontlines of the Rebel Alliance to overthrow the Empire.
Ultimately, Bloodline demonstrates that the New Republic failed to learn from the mistakes of the past. Like the Old Republic before it, negligence was its undoing. And like the last time a tyrannical group rose to power, it'll be up to Leia's revolutionaries, and a few remaining Jedi, to take it down.