Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Darth Bane: Rule of Two” by Drew Karpyshyn

ruleoftwoI 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 Darth Bane: Rule of Two, the middle of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Darth Bane: Rule of Two picks up 10 years after the events of Path of Destruction with Bane teaching his apprentice, Zannah. Zannah has become a powerful ally, but due to Bane’s own teaching about the way of the Sith, she is also becoming more and more a rival and possible enemy to Bane. Zannah has begun looking for her own apprentice, seeking to perpetuate the Rule of Two–that there ought always and ever only be one master and one apprentice of the Sith, the master to teach, the student to try to overthrow. She uses this quest to test Bane’s strength but also to gather more forbidden Sith knowledge through collecting manuscripts from those she manipulates. In a battle with some Jedi, Bane is brutally wounded and forces a healer, Caleb, to care for him. Zannah protects her master rather than killing him in his weakened state because she’s decided she still has more to learn from Bane.

The plot of this entry isn’t quite as tightly woven as that of Path of Destruction. It meanders a bit, throwing Zannah all over the galaxy while the eponymous Bane falls into the background. That’s unfortunate, because Karpyshyn had made Bane into such a dynamic character in the previous entry. The portrayals of Bane when he does show up, as well as the development of Zannah, remain quite strong and are probably the highlight of the book. Karpyshyn has truly presented some of the most interesting evil characters I’ve run into this side of Robin Hobb.

The action scenes, when they happen, remain intense, and Karpyshyn deftly writes lightsaber battles that are easy to visualize and pulse-poundingly exciting. It’s not easy to write action scenes, as I’ve discovered myself, so this is another highlight of the book. Another difficulty is the rather ho-hum feeling of the tying off point. The tension at the beginning as Zannah apparently sought to betray Bane by finding her own apprentice fades away and we are left with Bane and Zannah effectively in the same position as they were in the previous book: master with much to teach, apprentice waiting to learn.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two is a good entry in what is already a great part of the Expanded Universe. Although it does drag occasionally and it feels very much like a middle entry in a series, the tone and characterization are enough to make it a worthy entry in the Star Wars universe.

The Good

+Excellent characters
+Good action scenes
+Theme and tone

The Bad

-Not as tightly plotted as previous entry
-Feels very much like a “middle” book

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A- “It doesn’t live up to the stunning success of the previous entry, but it keeps the story going and the theme well enough to deserve its place.”

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe read-through “Darth Bane: Path of Destruction” by Drew Karpyshyn

path-of-destructionI 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 Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, the beginning of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

I’m going to throw this one out right at the beginning: this is one of the best Star Wars books I have read, and one of the few that is capable of standing on its own right as a great science fiction novel (it would be good without the Star Wars franchise/branding). That it does have Star Wars branding serves either as icing on the cake or, unfortunately, to ensure that many won’t enjoy this exceptional plot arc (as they won’t read Star Wars books no matter what).

The story is somewhat straightforward: a man who lives in extreme conditions finally snaps, ultimately engaging in a life that combines elements of mercenary work with even more questionably moral acts. A secret power is discovered inside him that brings him to the attention of the powers that be, and he is recruited, ultimately raising through the ranks.

But the story has its share of major twists and turns. The Sith society is an ancient one, but the man, now calling himself Darth Bane, sees it as a departure from what the Sith ought to be. Power has been distilled and distorted, making a group of weaklings the dictators rather than spurring all on to greater feats of maleficent gains. So Bane goes back to the source, exploring the secrets of the long-dead Sith race and ancient masters. In doing so, he discovers the way to fix the Sith: to destroy them.

The war between the Sith and Jedi rages on, but Bane uses it–and the Jedi–as his tool to destroy the Sith. In doing so, he re-forms them from the ashes. He is the only Sith Lord, and his chosen apprentice is the only apprentice. The apprentice must always seek to kill the master, but only once the apprentice is sure that all that the master has taught that is worthwhile has been taken from him or her.

It’s a much darker tale than most of the Star Wars universe. The Jedi seem morally ambiguous rather than as knights with shining lightsabers. Why are they drawing out a war that could (maybe) be halted? The “bad guys” are the only perspectives given in the novel, and Bane becomes a first-rate antihero. The shades of the past that decorate the pages–ancient secrets, lost artifacts, and the like–provide phenomenal flavor to the world. The characters, though few, are deep and complex–moreso than one might expect for “evil” characters. The pacing is well-done as well.

In short, Path of Destruction easily stands out among the best Star Wars novels. If there is a problem in the book, it is one that constantly impacts the Star Wars universe–some resolutions are gained too easily. There is an air of convenience about some of the plot points, but unlike some of the other books in the Star Wars universe, this one doesn’t ever fall into contrivance.

Another great aspect of the novel is that it (and its successors) never falls prey to the pitfall of over-reliance on the franchise. Indeed, a noticeable lack of droids helps set the tone of the series. It is supposed to be 1000 years before the other books and movies, so different technology ought to be expected. The use of the Sith is equally smart, making them as intimidating as one might expect.

Drew Karpyshyn has given a sterling contribution to the Star Wars universe with Path of Destruction. I highly recommend it and its sequels to readers.

The Good

+Fascinating characters
+Darker tone than much licensed content
+Great pacing
+Excellent use of the license

The Bad

-Somewhat simplistic solutions to problems

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A+ “A phenomenal novel on its own merit, Path of Destruction is an exciting entry in the Star Wars universe that makes it seem broader and perhaps more real than it did before.”

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.

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.

Star Wars: The Expanded Universe Read-Through: “Champions of the Force” by Kevin J. Anderson

champions-of-the-forceI 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, Luke Skywalker continues his quest to found a new Jedi Academy in Champions of the Force, the conclusion of the Jedi Academy trilogy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Champions of the Force

The plot of this one is pretty straightforward: Kyp Durron continues his vengeful quest to find his brother, Luke and his apprentices wrap up their successful battle with Exar Kun, and random things happen “back home” as the building up of the New Republic continues.

The Jedi Academy Trilogy started off really well, but it seems that with the next two entries, Dark Apprentice and Jedi Search Anderson failed to really cash in on the premises of the first book. The strong use of side characters has fallen by the wayside, with the exception of Kyp Durron, the excitement of the first book largely went into extremely improbable extremes, and everything is resolved so easily that it is difficult to get involved with the plot.

It’s difficult to pick one area that serves as the biggest problem. Admiral Daala, a potentially strong enemy in the first book, does get a chance to shine for a little bit again. It is unfortunate, however, that she is largely reduced to a sniveling whiner. Her overarching goals are largely abandoned, though the occasional bone is thrown in their direction. It’s especially difficult to read this having so recently read the Thrawn Trilogy, because Thrawn was a legitimate threat all the way through. Here, it seems Daala was introduced as at least something of a tactical genius, the apprentice of Grand Moff Tarkin, but quickly fell into the background.

Kyp Durron’s story is also problematic. Having effectively given him an invincible weapon, Kevin J. Anderson must try to both use the weapon and destroy it. The best moment is when he accidentally destroys his brother. It’s an emotional moment that was pretty rare throughout the whole trilogy. However, there can be no disputing that Durron by almost any standards would be a war criminal. But what happens to him? Pretty much nothing. He’s just thrown to Luke to deal with, and Luke, ever magnanimous, forgives him. Forgiveness is a great thing, but I’m surprised there was not way more outcry against Durron in this book and elsewhere. Maybe “I, Jedi” will pick this up. I honestly don’t remember that book very much (Don’t spoil it please).

Realistically, the utilization of yet another super-weapon makes the story all feel kind of trite. Oh look, Durron has a weapon that’s more powerful than the Death Star but basically indestructible. What will happen? I think this is the inspiration for The Force Awakens, to be honest, but I still maintain that it’s not very well done here.

Champions of the Force is not a terrible book for the Star Wars universe. Neither is it above average. As I re-read the books across the board, my biggest fear is I would spoil my past enjoyment. I haven’t really been let down so far, though some of my past enjoyment has been tempered. The Thrawn Trilogy was great, of course, but rediscovering the excellent Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin was a delight. The Jedi Academy Trilogy was worth a re-read, but perhaps mostly just for the information of the broadening conflict with the Empire than for anything else. I remember loving it as a kid when it came out, but it just isn’t as great as I remember.

The Good

+Decent character development of Kyp Durron
+Wraps up the storylines decently

The Bad

-Impossible to believe moments
-Improbable character reactions
-Too easily resolved conflict

Best Droid Moment

The introduction of FIDO- First Intruder Defense Organism, which makes no sense but is still kind of fun, was my favorite droid moment.

Grade: C- “I was disappointed to have the promising start to the trilogy be undermined by the next two entries. It wrapped things up alright, but was not satisfactory.”

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.

Star Wars: The Expanded Universe Read-Through “Dark Apprentice” by Kevin J. Anderson

sw-da-kjaI 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, Luke Skywalker continues his quest to found a new Jedi Academy in Dark Apprentice, the second book of the Jedi Academy trilogy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Dark Apprentice

There are two huge problems with this book, and they are largely interlinked. The first is that major characters act extremely out of character a number of times. The most telling example of this is when Han finds out Leia has been in an accident and his first reaction is to gamble with Lando Calrissian for who owns the Millennium Falcon. What? That seriously happened!

The second problem is that there is a whole lot of filler in this book. Unlike Jedi Search, which had a tight narrative that kept the action going, Dark Apprentice has heaping helpings of scenes where the characters do little other than wander around. Case in point: Jacen and Jaina Solo get lost and wander all around Coruscant while Chewbacca and C-3PO scurry around trying to figure out what to do. Once more, this also demonstrates characters acting out of character. It is unthinkable that C-3PO would fail to follow protocol so obviously (he’s a protocol droid!) and that Chewbacca would refuse to do all he could (i.e. notify the authorities) to save the children of them an to whom he owes a life-debt. Going back to the example of gambling above, an inordinate amount of time is spent with Lando and Han going back and forth on who owns the Falcon and gambling away time. These two problems are severe, and make Dark Apprentice feel very much like an in-between book, just taking up space rather than moving the narrative forward.

On the other hand, Anderson does a better job in this book of developing more of the side characters. Notable examples are Kyp Durron and Admiral Ackbar, who each get enough development to feel more real than they did before. However, even Durron is shorted time in the spotlight due to the aforementioned filler material.

The plot of Dark Apprentice feels very much like a placeholder as well. Yes, the development of Durron and his seemingly swift fall to the Dark Side was interesting, but it happened so fast that it was difficult to get into it as much as I wanted to. Other than that, little seemed to happen. A few plot twists were thrown in, and the setting up of Ackbar to take a fall in order to try to split the New Republic was the best moment of the novel. These moments of brilliance make the amount of silliness harder to swallow. It’s one thing to have scenes that resonate with the “fun” of the Star Wars universe, but it is another to do so at the cost of the overall plot.

Dark Apprentice is a filler book. It is particularly frustrating to read this one following the excellent Jedi Search. It feels like so much more could have been done with the plot and characters. Unfortunately, there were too many tough-to-swallow moments.

The Good

+Side characters get chances to shine

The Bad

-Out-of-character behavior
-Lots of filler
-Too-swift development of major plot points

Best Droid Moment

C-3PO losing track of the twins and worrying about getting dismantled

Grade: C- “I expected more after the first entry. ‘Dark Apprentice’ has too little going on to make it a suitable follow up to ‘Jedi Search.'”

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.

Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through: “Jedi Search” by Kevin J. Anderson

Jedi-SearchI 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. Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson is the next up, and it is book one of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Jedi Search

I’ll admit it: I remembered effectively nothing of this book. It came out right as I got into reading Star Wars books (I feel lucky to have largely grown up on the Expanded Universe) and after the Thrawn Trilogy, I picked up The Courtship of Princess Leia and went on from there. It’s been over 20 years since I read this one the first time, so it felt almost entirely fresh.

I’m glad it did. Jedi Search was a fun ride. First, there are several scenes in this book that are distinctively “Star Wars” in their feel. Unlike Star Trek (which I also love, just see my ongoing series of TNG reviews), which tends to at least attempt to be serious and scientific in its approach to the world, Star Wars has always been something of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of adventure. Indeed, adventure is probably the best word for what Star Wars excels at, though the word itself is overused. In Jedi Search, the sheer fun of many of the scenes was incredible. Luke’s recruiting of various potential Jedi was noteworthy–particularly his fight against a lava dragon-worm. However, the best scene was Lando Calrissian’s own attempt to recruit a potential Jedi, which began with him watching a truly hilarious race of jelly-like blobs and ended with Lando in a shootout at the blob corral. Seriously! That was a genius scene, and it was just the kind of wild fun that makes Star Wars shine. I’m still smiling about it.

Kevin J. Anderson also makes great use of the droids. They are characters again! After reading the otherwise excellent “The Han Solo Trilogy,” I felt like droids barely had personalities any more. Here, they’re back and shining throughout (both literally and figuratively). Additionally, the main characters each have chances to shine, including a wonderful scene in which Leia chastises a politician for daring to suggest she ought to effectively abandon her children due to “more important” matters with politics. A real, genuine sense of balance between parenting and career is difficult, and having such a scene helped convey that.

The main plot of the book is well-done also. It could have simply been left to Luke looking for more potential Jedi, but throwing in an increasing Imperial threat was a good idea. The “Sun Crusher” might end up as basically a third Death Star type of thing (where have I heard that complaint before [The Force Awakens]?), but I don’t mind it very much. It does seem a little bit blown out of proportion power-to-size, but it’s not inconsistent with the effectively magical universe of Star Wars.

What is problematic here is what I’ve noticed before in the other EU books: too many things are too convenient. Luke decides he wants to train more Jedi, and look! Wedge Antilles happens to dig up a Jedi-detecting-device! Wow, what a coincidence! Oh yeah, but that might not be easy enough, so Luke discovers he can just probe minds at a certain point and that also detects Jedi! What luck! Hey–there are a bunch of angry Imperials out there with an insanely powerful super-weapon. Han, Chewbacca, and Kyp Durron (a newly discovered recruit) manage to escape from imprisonment in spice mines and run into them! How grand! This kind of thing happens a lot through the book, in case you couldn’t tell, and it takes away from the overall feel of the book. Side characters also get little by way of development and often feel merely invented for the sake of having more characters than they do full-bodied contributions to the plot.

Jedi Search is certainly a worthy entry in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and it reminded me of why I read Star Wars books to begin with. As I’m re-reading the Expanded Universe, I’m struck by how consistently good the books have been so far. Some time ago I weeded out a bunch of the books I thought weren’t that great, so part of that is selection effect, but I’m enjoying this journey immensely.

The Good

+Extremely fun scenes
+Excellent use of main characters
+Good overall plot

The Bad

-Too-convenient solutions at points
-Little development of side characters

Best Droid Moment

R2-D2 and C-3PO each have any number of great moments, but the best was probably when R2-D2 pretended to be a cleaning droid and took down a crook

Grade: A “A fun jaunt in the Star Wars universe with a solid plot. Can’t ask for much more from a Star Wars 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!

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Rebel Dawn” by A.C. Crispin

rebel-dawnI 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 go back to the future past to see the origins of Han Solo with book three of the Han Solo Trilogy, Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Rebel Dawn picks up with Han Solo on his quest to acquire a ship. Of course, he gains said ship through gambling… against Lando Calrissian. Millennium Falcon, acquired. The rest of the plot follows interactions between Han and Bria, his old lost love from the first book in the trilogy, along with Chewbacca and Lando. The growing tensions leading towards a Rebel Alliance are laid out alongside conflict between the Hutts.

Crispin once again does a fantastic job writing the characters in believable ways with realistic motivations, demeanor, and dialogue. Each character feels unique with his or her own motivations and subtle actions to distinguish them from each other. This is particularly interesting when it comes to the Hutts. Crispin makes each Hutt unique in both personality and motivations. She did a fantastic job simply making the Hutts seem like a complete people group, as opposed to just inventing some characters and putting Hutt skins on them, Crispin’s writing presupposes and provides a whole background world from which the Hutts spring, thus giving them much more depth than if she’d simply done it the other way around.

Another interesting part of the novel is that it gives insight into how the Rebellion began. Imperial atrocities are hinted at alongside the activities of characters like Bria who are working to undermine the Empire in whatever way they can. Thus, the stage is set in these novels for the Original Trilogy.

There are two primary downsides to Rebel Dawn. The first is that, like the previous two books, while Crispin is extraordinary in her capacity to portray characters, she does very little to describe the locales in which the characters operate. There are a few exceptions, of course, like Cloud City, but overall the locations are just the blank canvas on which the characters operate. The other problem is that the book seems pretty rushed towards the end as a lot of loose threads have to be wrapped up while also having to skip ahead to the “present” time of the Original Trilogy. It just doesn’t wrap up as nicely as the other two books in the series.

Rebel Dawn is an excellent read that fills in a lot of backstory for Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as for Lando and even in a very small way for Leia. Not only that, but it gives a lot of interesting detail about the lives and practices of the Hutts as well as giving background for how the Rebellion got started to begin with. I recommend it highly to those who love Star Wars.

The Good

+Great character development
+Ties back into the Original Trilogy
+Plenty of intrigue
+The Hutts are extremely interesting

The Bad

-Minimal description of locales
-Seems rushed at points

Best Droid Moment

Droids were too rarely mentioned to have one 😦

Grade: A- “Another solid entry in the Star Wars universe from Crispin.”

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.

 

Hopes for the next Star Wars Movies

sw-fa

We all have hopes and dreams for the rest of the new Star Wars trilogy. Here, I will be sharing mine. There will be all kinds of MAJOR SPOILERS in this post for the movie, so please avoid reading it until after you’ve seen it.

Side Characters 

The informant and her muscle man at Maz’s Castle were particularly interesting. In the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary I discovered that they are named Grummgar (the big guy) and Bazine (the woman with the black and white dress). According to that dictionary, Grummgar is a “big game hunter and gun-for-hire” who enjoys trophies of both the animal variety and the gorgeous woman variety. Having them show up as antagonists later would be pretty fun, in my opinion. I could see them working together to try to carry out an attack on Luke or Rey. Basically, I just want to see them again. I’d love to have a book like Tales from Jabba’s Palace that was instead Tales from Maz’s Castle. They need to get the books going again and expand the universe more.

I would like BB-8 to continue to be comic relief while still having a more serious personality. They did well with BB in “The Force Awakens” and I’d like that to continue.

Rey

First off, I want to say I think it’d be really dumb if she ends up being specifically related to Han/Leia or Luke. For one thing, it would be another example of a problem in the prequel trilogy: everyone knows each other/is related to each other. There is a whole galaxy of people available! Why must everyone be related to everyone else? For another, it doesn’t make sense in the plot they’ve already set up. Han and Leia had no recognition of her–and she remembered her parents well enough to wait for them–so it doesn’t make sense there. As for Luke, it stretches credulity to think that he would just abandon his daughter or that it really makes any sense for him to have fled across the galaxy over his nephew if he’d already abandoned his daughter.

Another intriguing aspect of Rey is what kind of lightsaber she might end up with. Her use of the quarterstaff opens up the possibility of her use of a double-bladed lightsaber, which would be awesome. The movie poster putting Kylo Ren’s red lightsaber along her quarterstaff also highlights this aspect. What color saber might she have? I don’t know, but I’m hoping for her to be a Jedi with the double-blade.

I’ve enjoyed how dynamic the discovery of Rey’s force powers has been, and I hope that continues. It was interesting to have her figure out how to do a mind control trick as opposed to witnessing it or being taught to do it.

Kylo Ren

Kylo Ren’s journey to the Dark Side must be explored, even if it is only through flashbacks. Moreover, they have set him up to go further down the path towards the Dark Side and so the question is whether he will have a redemptive moment or not. I think it would be better to not have a recapitulation of Vader and instead have a final battle scene in which Rey must kill Ren to end his threat. Think about it: a lightsaber scene akin to the Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi Wan scene from Episode I (yes, I do think that scene, at least, was pretty well done) that features Rey vs. Ren. I’d love to see a huge, big scale lightsaber dual between the two as the capstone on the trilogy. Make it happen!

Finn

I’d like to learn more about how Stormtroopers are trained. It seemed like they are apparently taken at birth and trained in the system from birth, but how is this much different from a clone army (apart from not being clones)?

Finn’s development as a serious force on the battlefield is also full of possibility. He has elite Stormtrooper training. Could he end up as a major player in ground battles going forward? I think so. He needs to get a weapon all his own, though.

What about You?

What would you like to see in the movies going forward? What do you think of the scenarios I lined up? Let me know in the comments.

Links

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- A Christian perspective– I offer a worldview-level analysis of the film from a Christian perspective.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review– Here is my more traditional review of the movie.

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!

SDG.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

sw-faAs a huge Star Wars fan, who’s read 100+ Star Wars books and loved the movies since I first saw them, I have to say I loved The Force Awakens. I also know I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Hence, consider yourself SPOILER WARNED. Yes, I consider just about any new information about a film a spoiler, and I don’t want to be the one to spoil it for you. So you have been warned, there are SPOILERS in this review.

Review

I, like just about everyone else I know, have been waiting breathlessly for the new Star Wars movie. Would it be good? Would Disney ruin it? Actually, I never had the thought of “Will Disney ruin it” because I figured the prequel trilogy was already not so great, so it didn’t matter much if Disney did ruin it. I could just pretend they were apocryphal imitations of the Star Wars I knew and loved.

Let’s just get it out of the way: I do not think this movie was ruined. I absolutely loved it. Is some of that the nostalgia they played upon? Absolutely. But does the film have genuine Star Wars feel? Totally.

The Force Awakens is filled with nods to the original trilogy in particular. Some might not like this, but for me it was needed and welcomed. It is like Disney was giving us one big Wookie hug, reassuring viewers that yes, this is Star Wars, and it is back. Along with these nods came some meta-jokes and references to both the Expanded Universe and concepts that were never included or changed in the original movies. I appreciated this kind of fan service, but what I appreciated more was that they never took over the film.

There was a stunning sense of newness intermingled with the sense of nostalgia here. Rey and Finn were fascinating characters (particularly Rey, who is totally awesome) with enough details of their backstories teased to get me quite interested in them in upcoming films. Other characters were tantalizing (like the First Order informant’s at Mox’s place, and Mox herself of course) enough to make me want to come back again and see some books based on them. Could we have a new Expanded Universe, please?

The use of models and real sets (and real-looking ones) made this feel much more like the original trilogy than the prequels. The whole film was clearly Star Wars.

The plot was also quite enjoyable, with the mystery surrounding Luke and Kylo Ren driving the plot. Kylo Ren was not nearly as scary/powerful as he could have been. To be fair, part of this might be because they are clearly building him up. One scene featured him looking at the helmet of Vader and apologizing for feeling like he was tempted by the Light. His choice to kill his father was not unexpected in the flow of the movie, and could lead to him gaining more of a Vader-like persona in the rest of the trilogy. I loved the ending with Rey approaching Luke. Luke Skywalker has pretty much always been my favorite Star Wars character. My son’s name is Luke (in part because it is also my favorite Gospel).

The music was good, though at times I barely noticed it. I think part of this was because unlike watching and re-watching the previous films, I had to pay attention to the plot the whole time. Every time I noticed the music, I enjoyed it immensely.

I loved The Force Awakens and cannot wait to see where the series goes next. Sign me up for the rest of the movies immediately.

The Good

+Star Wars feel through and through
+Great action
+Good use of characters old and new
+Solid music
+Star Wars is back

The Bad

-Kylo Ren not as intimidating as he should be

The Verdict

Grade: 

Links

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- A Christian perspective– I offer a worldview-level analysis of the film from a Christian perspective.

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!

 

 

SDG.

Book Review: “Star Wars: Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig

sw-aftermathI’ve been greatly anticipating the new Star Wars film, and, despite my disappointment with Disney’s decision to discontinue the Expanded Universe novels, I was excited to read the new “canon” novels. For a tiny bit of background, I have read about 123 of the Expanded Universe books, effectively every single one that takes place post-Yavin. I did read a few of the earlier ones but didn’t enjoy them as much. Thus, I consider my review here as a perspective of someone who loves Star Wars, has read many of the books and enjoyed them.

All of that said, I did not enjoy Star Wars: Aftermath at all.

It starts off decently, with Wedge Antilles on a pseudo-vacation. He immediately encounters trouble, however, as leaders of the  remnants of the Empire have chosen the system he’s in to have a meeting. The book follows Wedge and various characters on the planet’s surface as they deal with the heavy Imperial presence.

The most glaring problem with this book is the writing style. Simply put, it’s terrible. I try to be fairly forgiving–and as a Star Wars fan, I wanted to like this book–but I’m honestly astonished to see that this made it past editors. Here’s a brief selection:

She stands. Hands behind her back. Staring down a long hallway. At the end of the hallway: a vent cut free with a micro-torch. Ahead of her, stormtroopers go in and out of doors–cabins, sleeping quarters. [P. 51]

I don’t think that sentence fragments are completely disallowed in novels. In some places, they make sense, like when someone is writing in first person and the character happens to think in fragments or write in fragments. That is fine. Fragments may even be acceptable when the author wishes to emphasize some point. However, this book is entirely written in this style.

Chuck Wendig seems to think that a colon can be used as a verb, as can be observed in the sample above. Again, this wouldn’t be entirely impermissible, but when it is combined with a series of fragments, as is the case here (and many, many times throughout the book), it leaves it to the reader to supply virtually everything. The reader has to think about not just adding verbs but piecing coherent thoughts together from the fragments and colons. In effect, the reader is writing the book for the author. As they read, they must gather together sentences from the scraps that are left dangling all over alleged paragraphs. The entire book reads like this, and it makes it exceedingly difficult to read even a few pages at a time.

Any enjoyment that can be derived from the novel is ultimately squelched by this problem. It is impossible to focus on the plot, because the reader must, in effect, constantly create the plot themselves. There are so few verbs that it is up to the reader to decide how the action is taking place. It reads like a number of stage directions.
I thought about writing the review in the style of the book, but I wanted to have people read the review rather than become too annoyed to finish it. Think: if review like book. You: read the review but must. Sentences–make together with words. Left. Right. That: is the direction you read.

Long story short, I don’t think I could have handled writing like that, let alone reading a review. Again, as someone who really wanted to like this book, I have to say you should avoid it. The fact that Wendig is apparently signed on for an upcoming Star Wars book in 2016 does not bode well for the state of Disney’s leadership of the Star Wars books, in my opinion. I’ll not be wasting my time on any more until I see some truly rave reviews.

The Good

+It has a cool cover

The Bad

-Halting, disjointed writing style
-Distracting sentence structure
-Paper-thin dialogue
-Build-your-own-sentence-structure

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 reviews of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels 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.