Review: Thrawn

It’s likely that no book in the new canon thus far has been as highly anticipated as Thrawn. The announcement at Celebration London last year rocked both the ExCel Center and the Star Wars fandom watching around the world. Not only was Grand Admiral Thrawn making his return to canon but he’d also be starring in a book written by his creator, Timothy Zahn. In short… a beloved character written once more by a beloved author. What could go wrong? Continue reading

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Holonet Blast #8

Slow news week in the lead-up to Celebration; we’ve got one bit of convention news, and one HUGE piece of publishing news!

The convention news is: Forest “SAVE THE DREAM!” Whitaker will be at Star Wars Celebration! He will be signing autographs at the Star Wars Celebration Autograph Hall. Please scream-whisper your best crazy Saw impressions at him for me. (source)

The other piece of news is a huge deal: As part of the Star Wars 40th Anniversary, Del Rey has announced From A Certain Point of View, an anthology of 40 Star Wars short stories by a murderer’s row of talent — ranging from old Star Wars hands like Jason Fry and Christie Golden, to newcomers like Meg Cabot and Paul Dini, to podcast darlings Ben Acker & Blacker and Griffith McElroy. The project sounds like the Tales From … anthologies published way back in the Bantam days, as it concerns itself with the characters filling out the background in A New Hope. The anthology is due to be published in October, and you can see a partial list of the contributing authors at the (source).

via StarWars.com

That’s it for now! Enjoy those Rogue One Blu-rays, enjoy Celebration, and we’ll see you back here in two weeks!

Review: Aftermath: Empire’s End (Audiobook)

At long last, the trilogy that began with Aftermath, the flagship title in Lucasfilm’s Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publishing endeavor (man, remember that?) has come to its conclusion. By now, no doubt many of you have already voraciously consumed Chuck Wendig’s novel Empire’s End, but for those of you waiting to hear what the audiobook version narrated by Marc Thompson has on offer, I’ve got you covered. 

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Making Our Own Audiobook: Our Empire’s End Reading Adventure

When you and your husband receive one copy of a book you’ve both been dying to read, and you’re both super wary about spoilers, there’s only one logical solution: read the book aloud to each other!

We received our review copy of Empire’s End on a Friday evening, when we got home from work. I immediately proposed the idea that we spend the weekend (thankfully with no pre-existing plans!) reading to each other. Brian agreed. All in all, it took about sixteen hours to get through the entire book: two hours Friday night, eight hours Saturday afternoon and evening, and six hours Sunday morning and afternoon. We took turns reading so we could eat and rest our voices. It was a great time, and we’d like to share it with you.

Minor spoilers after the cut.

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Review: Aftermath: Empire’s End

It’s been one hell of a ride since we first got the first Aftermath book almost a year and a half ago and wow does Chuck Wendig bring us to an explosive yet satisfying finale with Aftermath: Empire’s End.

Warning: This book will almost definitely take you on a face journey so beware reading in public. Learn from my experiences. But on to the book!

The Battle of Jakku. That’s it. That’s the entire book. (Okay not really but mostly.)

Empire’s End emphasizes that it’s not the overarching end result that matters most but rather how the individual characters get there. While readers already know that Jakku is the Empire’s last stand, they only know part of the battle and they certainly don’t know the fates of the characters they’ve grown to know so well over the last year and a half. Good news: it’s one hell of a ride. All of the hallmarks of the trilogy remain present: Mister Bones is hilarious and homicidal, Norra Wexley is one of the most focused and driven individuals in the galaxy, the interludes take us to surprising places, and Gallius Rax and Brendol Hux are the worst while Rae Sloane is the best. (Okay maybe that last one’s just reviewer bias slipping in…) All of that to say: if you’ve enjoyed the roller coaster thus far, you’re going to get a huge kick out this last fast drop and loop-de-loop. Continue reading

Go/No-Go: Aftermath: Empire’s End

nasa-mission-control-3Welcome back to Go/No-Go, Tosche Station’s regular feature where we offer our spoiler-free opinion as to whether or not you should spend your hard-earned money on a book, film, or other entertainment. Today on the launch pad: Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End.  The finale in our first post-Return of the Jedi trilogy, it’s a book that will definitely have people talking for a while.  We here at Tosche Station kind of lost our minds over Life Debt but are we just as happy with Empire’s End?  To mission control for the verdict!

Bria: AHHHHHHHH *takes a deep breath* AHHHHHHHHHH. Okay, now that that’s out of my system, I guess I have to use actual words to discuss Empire’s End. The final book in any sort of series is always tricky because expectations are riding high. Yes an author can tell you a great story but can they wrap it up in a way that won’t leave people going “Wait what?” or “That’s it?” Good news: Chuck Wendig does exactly that with Empire’s End. Unlike Angelica Schuyler, I am completely satisfied with how the stories of Norra Wexley’s team, Rae Sloane, and the Empire come to their end during the Battle of Jakku. Honestly, I don’t know the last time a series left me feeling so satisfied at the end. A great deal of that has to do with how well-handled the story lines for Sinjir and Sloane were. They are what really make the book. It’s also worth noting that Wendig’s prose has become better and better with each book to the point where I almost shed a tear twice. Just go read this book already. Seriously. Mister Bones commands it. Empire’s End gets an emphatic GO from me.

Nanci: I will admit, I felt the first two Parts of Empire’s End were very slow, and I kept drumming my fingers waiting for THE BIG ACTION(TM) to start. However, once the characters and plotlines begin merging together around a third of the way through the book, I found myself just as enthralled with the story as I did with Life Debt.  I love the post-Return of the Jedi world that Wendig has created, I love the way he writes character arcs, and I love the way he bucks expectations about the way certain plotlines will play out. I will agree with Bria about Sinjir and Sloane’s character arcs carrying the most weight. Sinjir, for me, has been a standout of this series and I am super satisfied with how his arc as played out. (And I really can’t wait to talk about spoilers!) Even the minor characters, like Mon Mothma and Mas Amedda, receive a lot more depth throughout the series. Empire’s End is, without a doubt, a satisfying end to the Aftermath series. If you’ve been a fan, you will definitely enjoy Wendig’s conclusion. A definite GO from me.

Brian: I finished Empire’s End almost a week ago as I’m writing this and I cannot stop thinking about it. Concluding a trilogy is always a tricky proposition, because there’s so much to touch on and tie up, but you also can’t tie everything up neatly. Answer questions, but leave some room for the reader to wonder. But more than anything else, the final book has to be satisfying. And oh boy, Empire’s End meets that criteria and then some. From the conclusion of the arcs for the characters we’ve grown to love (and despise), to the big set piece action, to the seeds planted in the first book that suddenly make sense and matter so much, Empire’s End ratchets the Satisfying Score(TM) to 11. In particular, Sinjir’s arc in this book and series stood out to me. It’s an important one for so many reasons, both textually and outside of narrative. The care in which it was handled deserves praise. The only other thing I’ll say is there’s a spot near the end where, as I was reading it aloud, I cried. That’s how attached I had become to these characters. And that’s a testament to the quality of this book, and the series as a whole. Empire’s End is Star Wars as it should be. Full of action, full of intrigue, full of drama, full of adventure, full of emotion. Is Empire’s End a Go? Absolutely. It’s a wholehearted GO.

Amanda: I finished this book approximately a hot minute ago. And I’m about to read it again. The book did everything I wanted it to do. I laughed, I got misty-eyed, I laughed some more. The politics of the New Republic come to the forefront for a time in this book, so while others might have spent that period waiting for PEW-PEW, I spent those pages riveted by intrigue and cleverness. The characters we have come to know from the OT and those who have only joined the Star Wars family via the Aftermath trilogy all meet with fitting (although not exclusively happy) ever-afters.  The story has been carefully and deliberately crafted over the course of these three books in a way that gives us a payoff that’s well worth the time and energy to read them. It just keeps getting better and better. With excellent cameos from OT familiars and Legendary favorites, as well as moments that made me excited for the future of Star Wars, for me Empire’s End is an unmitigated GO.

Flight Director’s Ruling: Empire’s End is a GO for launch!

Stay tuned for further (spoiler-filled) discussions about Empire’s End here on the blog and the Tosche Station podcast network over the coming weeks!

Note: An early review copy of this novel was provided by Del Rey 

Holonet Blast #2

Lots of news this week! New books! New The Last Jedi details! New hair! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

ARTOO-DETOO RECAST

Though rumored as early as December 2015, it’s now official; following the death of original Star Wars actor Kenny Baker, going forward (beginning with this December’s The Last Jedi) the adorable astromech will be portrayed by Doctor Who veteran Jimmy Vee. I guess this makes him R2-D2-2. (source)

via OhSoSmall.com

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State of the Book Club

Confession: I’ve been slacking on the Book Club. I can blame a lot of things for this. The Thrawncast readings have taken up more time than I expected. I’m also trying to keep up with Tor.com’s Vorkosigan saga read-through as well as the Wraith Squadron arc for Rogue Podron. Then there was Rogue One (I still haven’t read the novelization yet), family in town for Christmas, and — oh yeah — my own writing to focus on.

Needless to say, we skipped December’s pick, Radiance. But it’s a new year and I want to make a new effort with the Book Club. No more excuses! I’m cheating for the first three months and picking books I’ve already read — the Mageworlds trilogy by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald. I love them (the lead is basically Jaina Solo), and I hope you will, too. (For those of you looking forward to reading Radiance, don’t worry, we haven’t skipped it for good!)

Here’s a revised Book Club schedule for 2017. As always, it’s subject to change, and as always, if you have any suggestions, be sure to let me know!

  • January: The Price of the Stars by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
  • February: Starpilot’s Grave by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
  • March: By Honor Betray’d by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
  • April: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • May: Radiance by Catherynne Valente
  • June: The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • July: Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace 
  • August: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
  • September: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • October: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • November: Ash by Malinda Lo
  • December: Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns (releases December 5)

If you haven’t joined the Book Club yet, be sure to do so on Goodreads! You’ll have to request membership before it’s approved.

Review: Wayfarer

After reading Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger/Wayfarer series, I do believe that duologies may be my favorite.  The first book draws you in and leaves you wanting more of the world and the story and then the second book delivers without making things feel too drawn out.  Wayfarer is a highly enjoyable sequel that not only delivers on the promise of this family conflict across thousands of years and every continent but also takes the story in an unexpected direction and adds in new elements to keep the world feeling fresh.

At the heart of the story are Etta and Nicholas.  When last we left our heroes, they were separated thanks to a massive shift in the timeline.  Etta’s a very likable heroine who has been thrust into a fairly awful situation by a mother who’s not exactly in the running for Parent of the Year while Nicholas is such a solidly good person despite life having dealt him a fairly crappy hand of cards.  Bracken both fleshes out her existing cast and expands it in delightfully diverse ways.  The two standouts in this book include new character Li Min and previous antagonist Sophia who not only looks pretty badass now but gets a rather excellent character arc.  (Who isn’t a sucker for a well-executed ‘bad guy turned reluctant good guy ally’ plot line?)  The more I think about Sophia, the more I like her which is impressive given how much I disliked her at the start of Passenger.  That’s another great thing about Bracken’s writing: all of her female characters are distinct and don’t fill any sort of stereotypical role that feels obligatory or like they’re there just to check a box.  (Of course, one would expect nothing less from an author who wrote such a great Princess Leia.)

The entire conceit of Wayfarer allows Bracken to dive into a plethora of locations, time periods, and alternate timelines that keep everything exciting and new especially since I suspect that the vast majority of the readers aren’t familiar with all of the times/locations.  I usually try to avoid spoilers but early 20th century Russian history fans are in for a treat.  It would be wonderful to see more authors take a note from this duology and branch a little further away from the Western norm.  It’s also worth noting that the rules for time travel are kept consistent and logical; something not always easily done.

Most importantly though, Wayfarer’s ending is satisfying and poignant and not depressing; something that I suspect a lot of people in this world could use right now.  That’s not to say that the series hasn’t had its share of sad and tragic moments but the books left me feeling happy and content.  These are books that I would happily recommend to my younger cousins in middle and high school and also to my like-aged friends in their 20s and 30s.  There’s a little something for everyone here in these books and I could happily read more stories about the warring families if Alex Bracken ever chooses to write them.

Like Passenger before it, Wayfarer gets a strong recommendation.  If you’d like to immerse yourself in a fun fantastical world that’s rich in history and filled with excellent characters, both books are well-worth your time.

Thank you to Hyperion for providing an advanced copy of this book for review purposes.

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (audiobook novelization)

Film novelizations are, in their own way, just as tricky a needle to thread as film adaptations of novels. You’re taking someone else’s words and ideas, meant for one medium, and transposing them to another, hopefully doing them justice while at the same time adjusting and adapting them to fit the new medium. At their best, film novelizations can open up the world of the movie considerably, adding more scenes and characters and background information which couldn’t possibly be crammed into a two or even three-hour movie. At their worst, they’re a limp, lifeless transposition of the screenplay, lacking any of the energy or vitality which made the film entertaining. The Vonda N. McIntyre novelizations of Star Trek 2 – 4, or Peter David’s adaptation of The Rocketeer, are examples of the former; the Alan Dean Foster adaptation of The Force Awakens, the latter.

So where does Rogue One’s novelization fall? Somewhere in between. It doesn’t wildly expand the scope of the film, but it fills in just enough gaps in characterization and plot to make it, I’m shocked to report, the first novelization I’ve ever read that I enjoyed more than the film it was based on. Continue reading