Review: Rogue One (Novelization)

There’s no way anyone can prove that I sat on my couch, clutching my ‘This is Fine’ Dog to me as I read the last few chapters of Rogue One. That would be ridiculous if I’d done that. Absolutely… okay, fine. I did.

Novelizations can be so hit or miss that it’s often tempting to skip them all together. After all, you saw the movie, right? For the most part, they tend to be fine but nothing to write home about. Star Wars, however, has already been blessed with the absolute gem that is Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith. It’s a very high bar to meet and while Rogue One doesn’t quite meet it, it comes pretty damn close.

Alexander Freed’s novelization works so harmoniously with Garth Edward’s film that they feel like two halves of a whole. Where as the movie can revel in the action and magnificent space battles, the book allows readers into the characters’ heads and to get to know them far more intimately than before. I have no doubt that the film will have even more of an emotional impact the next time I see it. Continue reading

Princess Leia: Royal Rebel

royal_rebel_coverToday I spent my morning with Princess Leia: Royal Rebel, part of the Scholastic Star Wars Backstories series. Aimed at fans in grades 3-7, it was a quick read: only 128 pages including a glossary and index, and many of those filled with captioned illustrations. Although imperfect in some aspects, it was a cute book and worth the little time it took to devour it.

The book is presented as an in-universe biography of the famous Princess and General and includes an illustrated section on her most famous “friends, family, and foes.” The in-universe timeline for the book is interesting, in that it mentions the events of The Force Awakens, therefore presuming that the key events of the film (the destruction of Hosnian Prime, the death of Han Solo, the discovery of Rey and her Force-sensitive nature) have already occurred. Knowing what we do about Episode VIII following so quickly on the heels of The Force Awakens, it took a little fudging in the suspension of disbelief department for me to get past that.

The introduction is done in first-person by General Leia Organa herself and dovetails nicely onto events in Moving Target–wherein an archival droid is pestering her for a memoir. “I’d much rather be doing things than talking about things I’ve already done,” Leia bemoans in the opening paragraph. And the General’s reticence on matters of her life comes in handy later in the volume.

The body of the book itself is basically a Leia-centric retelling of everything we know about Star Wars. With an at-a-glance chronology that begins with Padme and Anakin meeting, we get a summary walk through the saga focusing on where Leia was and what she was up to at any given time (including her appearances in Moving Target, the Princess Leia comic books, and Star Wars Rebels). There are notable gaps in information available about the years between events of Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens. “These records,” the imaginary biographer posits, “may have been lost when the First Order destroyed the system of Hosnian Prime.” It is also alluded to that perhaps little is known because after the war the Princess kept her private life…well…private. It’s a useful device for allowing this book to bridge the gap in the saga without giving anything away.

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Review: Catalyst (audiobook)

We’re less than a month out from Rogue One and discovering just what a non-Saga, “anthology” Star Wars film looks like. Lucasfilm seems to be dipping its toe in the non-Saga pool gently, giving us a story — the theft of the plans to the first Death Star — separate from but still intrinsically linked to the original Star Wars film. In the meantime, to whet our appetites and give us some backstory for the characters we’ll meet in the film, Legends and Tarkin alum James Luceno has brought us Catalyst, the story of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic (Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn in the film, respectively) and how their unlikely friendship led to the development of the galaxy’s most powerful weapon.

Random House has consistently released audiobook versions of the novels in the new canon, and Catalyst is no exception. Catalyst is performed by Jonathan Davis — not the lead singer of Korn, but the veteran of more than four hundred(!) audiobook recordings, over of thirty of which were under the Star Wars banner.

So, how does Catalyst work — as a stand-alone novel, as a film prelude, and as an audiobook production? Read on to find out! Continue reading

Unintentional Voyeurism by Express Invitation: My Read on “The Princess Diarist”

Today I read The Princess Diarist. Depending on who you are and how you approach fandom, I might recommend that you do the same. Or I might not.

The Princess Diarist is a personal book. It’s less the telling of the story of the making of Star Wars as it is a glimpse into the emotional life of its then-nineteen-year-old leading actress. Through this book we get a very intimate glimpse of what it has been like to be Carrie Fisher- beginning in her youth as the famous-once-removed daughter of Hollywood royalty through to her current experience of the “celebrity lap dance” that she continues to perform thanks to her permanent alter-ego: “Princess Leia Organa, formerly of Alderaan and presently of anywhere and everywhere she damn well pleased”.

If you’re at all into that sort of thing, or even morbidly curious as to what it might be like to get a glimpse inside Ms. Fisher’s head, then picking up The Princess Diarist is definitely worth your consideration. But if celebrity tell-alls and occasionally uncomfortable recollections aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. In The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher not only gives you a glimpse into her inner life, she holds it up to your face and forces you to look at it- in all its sordid and uncomfortable relief, until you’re almost squirming at your own unintentional voyeurism. And if you don’t go in for that level of discomfort, then perhaps you should steer clear. This book is filled with unvarnished truth-telling, but more so in an emotional sense than a factual one. It left me tearful, empathetic, and grateful to Ms. Fisher for her willingness to lay herself so bare to the world. I love this book and I love Carrie Fisher [even more than I already did] for writing it.

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Review: Catalyst

catalystIf you were amongst those who were disappointed that the first Aftermath book wasn’t a more direct prequel to The Force Awakens, Catalyst will most definitely scratch that itch for you for Rogue One. Set during the Clone Wars and the early years of the Empire, Catalyst dives into the long history between Orson Krennic and Galen Erso. I obviously haven’t seen Rogue One and only know what the trailers have told us but after reading Catalyst, I can’t help but feel that this book is a must read for any Star Wars fan who really wants to enhance their first viewing of the film next month. That’s just one of the reasons why I absolutely recommend picking up Catalyst by James Luceno today at your earliest convenience. Or right now. Now would be good too.

If you’re a Luceno fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. The writing style is less dense than Tarkin and will appeal to more people but you’ll probably still learn a new vocabulary word or two. Luceno does a wonderful job of weaving the tale of the slow burn manipulation of Galen Erso across the years without ever leaving the readers lost and wondering exactly when we are. (An impressive feat unto itself.) Primarily, Catalyst is told from the point of view of Lyra Erso, Orson Krennic, and a smuggler named Has Obitt but very rarely from Galen’s. It may seem an odd choice but it works oh so well especially since it can so often be a struggle to get Galen out of his own thoughts and scientific musings.

Although Catalyst is very much a character showcase, it also serves to show a different side of a story than what we already know along with expanding the galaxy a little. What was the last time we got the scientist’s point of view during a war? Catalyst may lack the grand battles that so many assume are synonymous with Star Wars but more than makes up for it with its characters. It’s a big galaxy so it’s nice to see its other facets.

While the book establishes Krennic as being someone you definitely don’t want to cross, the real standout here is Lyra Erso who is also the hero we need and deserve. While some may be disappointed that she’s not a scientist like her husband, she is most definitely her own person and a complex character. We spend a lot of time in Lyra’s head and it is absolutely to the book’s benefit. While yes, the book revolves around Galen and Krennic’s slow manipulation of him, Lyra has agency and keeps trying to do what’s best for their family. She doesn’t just sit there and fret about Galen or just let things happen. She plays an active role in trying to get to the bottom of just what Krennic’s ultimate plan for Galen is. Lyra is exactly the sort of capable female character we need to see more of in Star Wars because she shows us that strength isn’t found in combat alone.

Catalyst will definitely raise your excitement for Rogue One to critical levels. Luceno has done such a wonderful job of weaving together bits and hints of Rogue One into this prequel while also telling a complete story that can stand on its own merits. This is definitely one that Star Wars fans should pick up soon.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing an early copy of the book for review purposes.

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Review: The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (audiobook)

John Scalzi is a busy guy. In between writing novels, winning Hugo awards for said novels, and extolling the virtues of churros on Twitter, he’s managed to write a short story called “The Dispatcher,” which, as read by Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, was released earlier this month as an  Audible exclusive, for free. The audio story will remain free until November 2, so we thought we’d give it a listen and let you know if it’s worth your time.

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Review: Ahsoka (audiobook)

Ever since Ahsoka Tano walked into the sunset in the season five finale of The Clone Wars, I’ve hoped for a novel or a comic series detailing her post-Jedi existence. The release of Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir and Dark Disciple, a comic and a book, respectively, based on storied intended to be The Clone Wars story arcs, heightened my anticipation. Fortunately, right on the heels of the Rebels season two finale — which showed Ahsoka once again striding away from the camera into an uncertain future — we got the announcement that everyone’s favorite Togruta Padawan would indeed be getting her own novel. Heightening the excitement was the later announcement that the voice of Ahsoka herself, Ashley Eckstein, would be performing the audiobook.

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To the jump!

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The Princess, The General, and the Story Group: in praise of old favorites in new canon

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I’m not altogether fond of the way that the new post-ROTJ canon has treated Leia. By the time we see her in The Force Awakens, her career is shattered, her marriage is strained, and her only son has become a Vader-worshipping genocidal maniac. These are not the kinds of things that I ever would have said that I wanted for my favorite character. Half the time I go around sad for her fate and the rest of the time I go around scared for what the future of Star Wars storytelling has in store for her. But this is not an article about that. This is…well… the opposite.

One of my chief complaints about the (much beloved) Legends universe of storytelling was that Leia’s character seemed to be difficult for many writers to nail down, and even more difficult to keep consistent across multiple series and authors. As much as abuse as the new canon has heaped onto Leia, that particular violation is gladly absent from her current portrayal. One of the best things I have found about the new canon and the work of the Lucasfilm Story Group is the fantastic job they’ve done with the internal consistency of the universe- not only as it pertains to the events in the Galaxy as a whole, but also in the portrayals of the passions and the motivations of the individual characters. Continue reading

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Review: Aftermath: Life Debt (audiobook)

By now a great many of you have likely already purchased and read Life Debt, the second novel in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. Some of you may be waiting, however — for payday, for a free moment … or for someone to help you decide between the print version and the audio version. Likewise, there may be some of you who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to (or prefer not to) read the print version, and may be waiting to hear if the audiobook is an acceptable presentation of Wendig’s prose. Hopefully this review will help those folks, as well as anyone else who might be considering the audio version, decide if it’s for them.

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Review: Aftermath: Life Debt

Life DebtLook. I enjoyed the first Aftermath book well enough and it held up favorably during a second reading but Life Debt blows it out of the water. Maybe it’s the broader scope of the story, maybe it’s the inclusion of more familiar characters, maybe it’s the story itself. I don’t know. Point is: Life Debt is one hell of a fun read. Continue reading