Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers

firebird-tyersPermit me a brief autobiographical introduction to this microview:

I remember when I was younger–probably about 12 years old–shopping a table at a book sale that was going on in the parish hall at my church. I saw the cover of this book that looked like science fiction and reminded me of Star Wars. I had to have it! There were three of them, a trilogy! I begged my parents and with some extra chores loaded on I received the books.

I devoured them almost instantly, used Legos to try to build spaceships from them. I went to a Christian bookstore and demanded more science fiction from the author. The bewildered staff searched in vain to find anything else from Kathy Tyers. Without any more to read, I forgot the author but the trilogy entered that hallowed place of unassailable nostalgic bliss that we create in our childhood.

Then, when I saw a newly released edition with notes from the author pop up in my recommendations on Amazon, I was instantly intrigued. Lo and behold, sequels were on the way! I purchased the trilogy again, but didn’t read it, fearful I would penetrate that nostalgic bubble and perhaps discover the series wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. Finally, after over a year of owning the book, I opened it up, read it, and will now offer my brief thoughts in the following microview with you, dear readers. I have written more on the themes found in the book on my philosophy and theology site.

There are SPOILERS in this microview.

Microview

Kathy Tyers’ The Annotated Firebird trilogy is undoubtedly a space opera. It spans several planets, three cultures, and the conflict in which they become embroiled. Firebird, the female protagonist, hails from a society with a monarchy that has developed a strong aristocratic power base while those in the lower classes are essentially serfs. She herself is a noble, but is far enough back in succession that she is considered a “Wastling” and is to dedicate her life to the eventual death in conflict or an honorable suicide. She is captured and falls in love with Brennan, a man with psychic abilities from a culture of people who have lost their home and believe in a coming Messiah.

The series traces the path of these two–primarily through the viewpoint of Firebird–as their societies are enmeshed in a conflict which also involves the Federacy, a government of loosely joined planets in alliance. Political intrigue, themes of faith, prayer, and prophecy, and action abounds throughout the series.

There is so much to love about this trilogy that I’ll name only a few major points. First, although Tyers uses the series to explore questions of faith, it is never preachy and the different belief systems presented in the book never feel as though they are a mere veneer for evangelism. Second, the story is extremely interesting as covers a wide range of locales which each are developed well. Third, the characters are entirely believable and experience genuine change and growth throughout the series that never feels forced.

I have to commend this trilogy highly to you, dear readers. It was a real treat to re-read the series and realize that my younger self’s joy in it was well-placed. It is the kind of story that sticks with you long afterwards and the characters are both interesting and endearing.

The Good

+ Epic space opera that spans across several planets
+ Fascinating account of faith in a science fiction universe
+ Interesting annotations from author (this edition only)
+ Never gets preachy, even while sharing genuine insights into faith and inter-religious dialogue
+ Spaceships blow up, assassins run free, and political intrigue abounds
+ Great world building with many interesting locations
+ Diverse set of characters who experience genuine character growth throughout the series

The Bad

– Plot occasionally feels rushed

The Verdict

Grade: A+

Kathy Tyers’ The Annotated Firebird is a stirring science fiction epic of faith and conflict in the far future.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues in the Trilogy in this post.

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, The Annotated Firebird (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord [Enclave], 2011).

SDG.

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Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read Through: “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” edited by Kevin J. Anderson

sw-tobhI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Tales of the Bounty Hunters, a collection of stories about the bounty hunters that show up in some way or another in The Empire Strikes Back. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Tales of the Bounty Hunters

First, what is inside this book? It’s a collection of stories from each of the bounty hunters that shows up to get assigned by Darth Vader to hunt down Han Solo, basically providing background for each of them. The tales are, “Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88” by Kevin J. Anderson (IG-88 is an assassin droid, not pictured); “Payback: The Tale of Dengar” by Dave Wolverton (Dengar is the older looking man); “The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk” by Kathy Tyers (Bossk is the reptilian… thing on the front); “Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM” by M. Shayne Bell (they are the insectoid looking thing and droid); and “The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett” by Daniel Keys Moran (it’s Boba Fett, come on). I adored this book when I first read it when it came out. I was maybe 10 years old. 11? Anyway… how was it on the re-read?

The quality of the stories is variable, with some being particularly good and others being middling or below average. Let’s just go over them. IG-88’s story is full of action and has a massive scope, as is typical of Kevin J. Anderson adaptations (see his Dune books, which I frankly enjoyed quite a bit… deal with it). It also has major plot holes and difficulties that are too easily resolved, a problem that surfaced in his Jedi Academy trilogy as well. It’s not a bad story, but the sheer speed by which the droids manage to take over is surprising, as well as the immediate galaxy-threatening intensity. The tie-in to the movie by having IG-88 in one form take over the Second Death Star without anyone realizing it was a stretch.

Dengar’s story was neat and provided some background for how Boba Fett could survive, so it wins major extra credit points in my book, because I love Boba Fett. It also has some cool look at the insidious nature of the Empire, which is appreciated. Kathy Tyers’ look at Bossk… wow! That was a lot darker than I expected to find in a Star Wars book. Tyers is an ultra-talented writer who penned the fabulous Firebird series (see my reviews). This story really showed her range as she wrote about a somewhat disturbing reptile whose goal is to skin a Wookie and wear its pelt. Yucky. Very well done story, though.

The tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM was also pretty neat. I liked the idea of a kind of transcendental meditation idea crossing over into Star Wars (which has, in the EU, explored a lot about religion, even if it does so obliquely). It has a bit of Dune influence as well. The tale of Boba Fett… well… I wanted to love it. I remember as a kid being blown away by it. But there’s not really that much there. It was kind of a let down, and I think that was in part because I had some huge and kind of unrealistic expectations for it. It wasn’t bad… it just didn’t match up to what I’d remembered it as, which turns out to largely be a lot of imagined additional fanfic in my head that I assigned to that short story.

So we have a somewhat uneven but overall good collection of stories here. I think the Zuckus+4-LOM/Bossk ones are worth the price of entry on their own. IG-88 was fun but way overdone. The other two were decent but not great. The best part was how they all tied back into the films in one way or another, but this also lead to some unnecessarily open-ended conclusions that didn’t so much leave me wanting more as it did leave me disappointed.

Tales of the Bounty Hunters is a good read. I look forward to reading the other “Tales of…” collections.

The Good

+Good background for each bounty hunter
+Darker tone shows depth of Star Wars possibilities

The Bad

-Unresolved storylines at points
-Too ambitious/easily resolved plots in some

Best Droid Moment

IG-88’s utter self-confidence getting wrecked at the end of his story as we know the Death Star blows up.

Grade: C+ “A somewhat inconsistent quality level of stories mars a good collection of rather dark (for Star Wars) stories.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Microview: “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersDaystar concludes the Firebird series (see my review of the Trilogy here). There will be SPOILERS in this microview.

For better or for worse, Daystar can fairly accurately be called a science fiction retelling of the biblical Gospels.

For better: as someone who is, I think, fairly familiar with the Gospels, this re-telling brought forward aspects of the Gospels themselves which are often overlooked. Moreover, the science fiction perspective is never compromised for the sake of trying to make a point. Instead, Daystar fits perfectly well into the universe Tyers has built up in the previous books and feels like an epic culmination of all that has come before.

For worse: the fact that the story does emulate in many ways the story of Jesus means that some readers may be turned off by it.

One other minor problem with the book is that the action at times is not sustained. I am not saying I need action 100% of the time, but there are large swathes of just conversations in this book that may have been better broken up with some more action.

The best part of the book is that, as I noted before, the source material and science fiction aspects are never compromised simply for the sake of trying to make something fit. The narrative is powerful and stands on its own, rather than relying on background knowledge to fill it in. That said, the background knowledge is helpful and leads to some interesting comparisons of parallels. These comparisons and other worldview issues are brought up throughout the book as questions of human nature, freedom and determinism, materialism, and more are all brought up and considered. These different questions are considered from different philosophical backgrounds as well, with the view of the Collegium being a mind-working combination of Platonism, Gnosticism, and materialism.

But again, these themes never are forced upon the readers. They always feel like a natural outworking of the narrative itself. And that narrative is extremely solid. The world Tyers has built feels genuine and massive, yet she ably focuses in on one facet of it and how one cog can turn the entire machine.

Set in context of the whole series, Daystar simply is phenomenal. All told, Kathy Tyers has really given readers a treat. I can’t help but think what an achievement this is as a conclusion to a series. It is an excellent work.

The Good

+Awesome re-exploration of the concept of Messiah
+Good action
+Broad but interesting cast of characters
+World feels genuinely massive and with ancient roots
+Great re-envisioning of parables
+Intriguing worldview questions

The Bad

-Fairly explicit emulation of Christian story will turn off some readers
-Not enough action at some points

The Verdict

Grade: A

A constantly intriguing look at an alternate universe Messiah, Daystar wraps up the Firebird series remarkably well. I think it will go down in my memory as one of my favorite books. See my other site for a look at many of the worldview themes in the book.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers– I reflect on a number of worldview issues that Tyers brings up in the concluding parts of the Firebird saga.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).

SDG.

Microview: “Wind and Shadow” by Kathy Tyers

ws-tyersWind and Shadow is the continuation of the Firebird series (see my review of the Trilogy here) and follows the story of Wind and her struggle to survive in a changing world.

Wind is a descendant of the Shuhr, a people group that was a major threat to the stability and survival of humanity just thirty years before. She walks the line as a diplomat between the people of Mikuhr and the Federation which wants to make sure they never pose a threat again. Meanwhile, a plot is hatching to bring the Shuhr back into prominence and an evil Shadow has descended upon Kiel, a priest of the Sentinels–the people that the Shuhr have historically wanted to destroy.

There are a few pacing issues in the story which are largely due to some lengthy portions with little action. This is a bit surprising given how action-packed the premise is. That’s not to say there is no action–it is there aplenty–but it just isn’t as interlaced through the plot as it perhaps could have been to keep it moving.

The interplay between Wind and Kinnor Caldwell is interesting and Tyers once more does an excellent job potraying the difficulties of interacting among different faith backgrounds. Moreover, the worldview issues Tyers raises through Wind–such as loyalty to one’s own society, political intrigue, justification of genocide, and more–are of great interest.

As in the previous books in the series, the world itself–Mikuhr–feels fully realized with good descriptions and background. It feels like a world and not just a backdrop.

Wind and Shadow is a good sequel which isn’t quite as good as the Trilogy it follows. That said, its different tone and decided focus on worldview questions makes it a very worthy entry and interesting read.

The Good

+Lots of worldview questions are raised
+High stakes in a believable context
+Solid look at human nature
+Setting feels well-developed

The Bad

-At times difficult to follow the cast
-Not enough action to sustain the pace of the plot

The Verdict

Grade: B+

It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of its predecessors, but Wind and Shadow is a worthy successor with much to commend it.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers– I reflect on a number of worldview issues that Tyers brings up in the concluding parts of the Firebird saga.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).

SDG.