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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Rebels Review: Legacy of Mandalore

Listen. I know that I have a Mandalorian bias and an even stronger Sabine Wren bias but “Legacy of Mandalore’” is an incredibly solid follow up to “Trials of the Darksaber” and it’s a damn shame they were split up by the break. It’s also a damn shame that we won’t be seeing much of Sabine for the foreseeable future while she tries to help clean up Mandalore and help free her people from the Empire’s choke hold.

It’s not a very happy homecoming for Sabine as her clan initially starts shooting at her when the Phantom appears in Clan Wren space. The episode goes pretty much how you’d expect from there including an awesome duel between Sabine and Gar Saxon. It doesn’t matter if the plot is predictable though because this is a continuation of Sabine’s story as she confronts both her past and her family and finds a new way forward. Continue reading

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 

Knights of the Old Replay: Taris

When I started this project, I had magical dreams about being able to use Twitch to livestream my game play and/or maybe recording videos of my playing and editing them into highlights. Unfortunately, then I remembered that I don’t actually have the technological abilities to make those things happen so uhhhh… gold star I tried?

On the other hand, it’s actually a good thing that you didn’t get to watch me play the game with the exception of those of you who tuned in for a little bit during my very early game play via Instagram. I die a lot. Now before you pull out your pitchforks, let me explain. For some reason, I like playing the game on the hardest setting which is still not terribly hard. Where I throw in the real challenge though is by leveling up my character as little as possible on Taris. What does that mean? It means that my Level 3 Kassia Ettyk dies a lot and poor Carth Onasi has to compensate by frantically shooting people and also dying a lot. (Seriously though: she’s supposed to be like a Level 7 or so by now.) Why do I do this? So I can get more Jedi powers once I go to Dantooine.

The initial levels of a game are often painfully slow no matter what but after almost a year of playing Mass Effect religiously, KOTOR’s older mechanics really suffered in comparison. (It also didn’t help that I’m switching from a PS3 to my laptop.) You’re setting up your actions about 4 moves in advance and you can also switch to actually fight as one of your crewmembers. (That last part is actually pretty nice… it helps me die a lot less.) The downside is that it feels a lot slower and less exciting. Getting off the Republic ship just made me want to take a nap until it was over. (Literally no one cares about you, Trask.)

Thankfully, things get a lot more interesting once you crash on the planet because now you and Carth Onasi (my boyfriend!) have to figure a way off Taris and then past the Sith blockade. This involves a lot of running around the Upper and Lower City levels, breaking into apartments, and either helping people or being a massive jerk to them depending on whether you’re being a light sider or dark sider. There’s approximately zero nuance involved with the light/dark choices. I think that’s why I never had a problem playing as dark side because you’re evil to such a comical extent that I never felt like a total jerk. Also the powers were cool.

Because I just wanted this planet to end, I skipped doing all the death ring battle matches this time around and I definitely didn’t play Pazaak with anyone. Instead, I just killed a Sith soldier, stole his armor, went down into the really Lower City, tried to avoid getting infected by these creepy Rakghouls, and then dived right into the sewers. Along the way, I picked up/rescued Mission Vao and Zaalbar to help me break into one gang’s base so I could steal back a prototype engine and give it back to another gang who let me ride the swoop bike so I could win a race and rescue Jedi Knight Bastila Shan. And all of that sounds way more convoluted when I actually write it out. Wow.

But wait there’s more! I also teamed up with Canderous Ordo to acquire an astromech droid (T3-M4) so I could break into the Sith base and steal codes and then we stole a ship from some crime lord and blasted our way off the planet while Darth Malak tried to bomb it into oblivion. (Nice try, buddy. Come back when you’ve got a Death Star.) Thankfully, I’m finally off Taris and have made my way to Dantooine.

One of my favorite things about this game is getting to know your crewmates and that kicks off almost from minute one. Carth has more trust issues than any one man really should but he also flirts with my player character and calls her beautiful so it all evens out really. I also love his interactions with Mission and Bastila that are randomly triggered as we run around the city. Mission and Carth clash because she’s a teenager pushing back against authority and Carth and Bastila clash because… she lost her lightsaber? Actually that last one’s just funny. If I didn’t play favorites, I’m sure that I would have encountered more of these conversations already but… well… Listen: I just know which crewmembers I really like, okay? Curse you Bioware for only letting me take two with me at a time!

Taris may have been a bit of a drag but I’m hoping that things will pick up now that I’ve made it to Dantooine and can get cool Jedi powers! I’m readjusting to the older game mechanics and the story’s more fun now. And hey! Maybe I’ll even remember to take screenshots while I’m actually playing this time…

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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Review: Poe Dameron #11

Okay can we please start by discussing how drop dead gorgeous this cover is? Phil Noto is rarely anything but excellent but this is another level. I want this framed on my wall.

But about the actual content of the issue… Oh Terex. You’re certainly not going to win First Order Officer of the year and frankly, I’m increasingly concerned about your contining existence. (It’s shocking that Phasma hasn’t broken his spine already.) That said, Charles Soule is presenting us with an interesting comparison with our two sides. Leia formed the Resistance because the New Republic was blind to the threat and now Terex is using his own private army to strike against the Resistance because the First Order can’t. It’s a thought-provoking contrast especially since the First Order is so focused on….uhhh…order. It’s surprising that they’d bring Terex in at all and now that he’s in and pushing back so strongly against Phasma… how long will he stay a part of the First Order especially if he loses to Poe?

We still don’t know who the spy is for sure and it’s driving me insane! While Poe comes to the same conclusion that I did several issues ago, I have a feeling that there’s going to be a twist. This is comics: there’s always a twist and I can’t wait to read what it is.

Sidebar: If someone doesn’t pull together a Lord-General of the Rancs of Kaddak cotsume soon, I’m going to be very disappointed.

Poe Dameron #11: Charles Soule/Writer, Phil Noto/Artist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Holonet Blast #1

Welcome to the first edition of something new we’re trying here at Tosche Station: the Holonet Blast. Over the last year or so, we’ve gotten away from being primarily a news blog but we don’t want to completely ignore it so we’ve found a solution with this once weekly round up of all the Star Wars news that hits the internet! As a note, we’ll be dealing with confirmed news only and not rumors because if we did rumors, we’d be here all year. But hey! We did learn things this week so strap yourselves in and let’s blast off!

Celebration is less than two months away and we’re finally getting some news about guests! If you’re an autograph collector, start saving now because Felicity Jones, Ian McDiarmid, and Jeremy Bulloch will all be at Celebration Orlando! Hopefully more guest announcements will be made soon so people can try and budget accordingly.

The Marvel comics will be kicking off their next crossover in May! Titled ‘The Screaming Citadel,’ the story start with a one-shot by Kieron Gillen and then go back and forth between the main Star Wars book by Jason Aaron and the new Doctor Aphra book by Gillen. Per the official site, “Luke reluctantly team[s] with the shady-but-cool archaeologist to investigate the Screaming Citadel, an infamous castle located on the edge of space.” Given how well Vader Down went, Screaming Citadel is definitely something that fans are going to want to pick up. You should also give the interview with Aaron and Gillen a read because holy crap am I excited for this story!

In news much further in the future, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced on a call that the Star Wars Lands in Disneyworld and Disneyland will open in 2019. From what everyone’s saying, that’s a fairly aggressive build schedule. As a note, Iger didn’t say when in 2019 they’ll open. Some folks are speculating that it’ll be in time for Celebration (so hypothetically April 2019) but it could also easily be later in the year. And let’s be honest… they’re going to get our money either way. Personally, I’m guessing it’ll be later in the year because why not (hypothetically) get our money from park visits around Celebration and them again when the new attractions open? Again, that’s just speculation and we don’t know anything for sure except that we’re getting it in 2019. (For now.)

The New York Times ran a nice profile piece on some of the women help create the Star Wars universe, specifically those at Industrial Light & Magic. It’s definitely an interesting read if you have a few minutes especially since most of these mainstream “Women of Star Wars” pieces tend to focus on either the characters or Kathleen Kennedy.

And as always, the Star Wars Show is a delight! This week, they chatted with Laura Jane Grace, Pablo took us to the Rogue One creature shop, and Andi went skateboarding?

But most importantly… February 6th marked the first birthday of Millicent Hux. For those of you who somehow aren’t aware, Millicent is Hux’s ginger cat imagined by Pablo Hidalgo and she uses Kylo’s vat of ashes for her litter box. Needless to say, fandom (including myself) took the concept and ran with it and basically she’s canon now. All hail Millicent!

Review: Doctor Aphra #4

My favorite new comic continues today and uhhh yeah. It’s not looking great for Team Aphra. (It’ll be fine! It’s only issue #4 of an ongoing series, after all.)

Surprisingly, while Aphra continues to be awesome, she wasn’t my favorite part of this issue. That honor goes instead to our antagonist. Despite debuting so recently, Captain Tolvan is already turning out to be a lovely surprise and seems to be a character who’ll be sticking around for a little while. She’s good but she’s not perfect and, were this her story, she’d be working through a personal redemption arc. On a related note, it seems that Marvel’s previous references to events in Rogue One weren’t throwaway lines and I sincerely hope we get more of this.

I mentioned this during the last review but I sincerely love that this is first and foremost the story of a rogue archaeologist that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. It gives the book such a distinct feel from any other Star Wars stories we’ve gotten in recent memory. There are familiar locations and characters of course but it all just feels so fresh. I’m almost as invested in finding the Ordu Aspectu as Papa Aphra is. (Side Note: Does anyone else think of Wesley the Rogue Demon Hunter from Buffy the Vampire Slayer every time they read the opening scroll? No? Just Me? Okay never mind.)

Actually, I take back what I said earlier. My favorite part of the issue is a panel of the murderbots a few pages in because it made me laugh so damn hard. I won’t spoil it for you but I promise you’ll know it when you see it.

Doctor Aphra continues to get a “hell yeah!” from me and I would really like Issue #5 in my hands already, please and thank you.

Doctor Aphra #4: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Pencils, Marc Deering/Inks Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Knights of the Old Replay: The Cosplay Interlude

So listen. There was a plan. There was a great plan when I started this series that I was going to play the first game in January and casually work on my Visas Marr costume for Celebration at the same time. That? That went out the window around the time when I decided, “Hey what if I made the costume in time for Katsucon in February and got it 501st approved by then too?”

We’ll just consider this an interlude. All the cool writing projects have them now, right?

I’ve loved Visas ever since I first played the second KOTOR game over a decade ago because 1) Rule of Cool and 2) I just really liked her character and backstory. I think I played favorites with her, Atton, Mandalore, and HK-47 once I got the latter two. Visas has been on cosplay wish list for at least five years now and when I discovered during Dragon Con that some of my friends were still as into the KOTOR games as me… honestly, it was meant to be. (If only you could have seen the aggressive high fives that kept occurring that weekend once we decided to do this group for Celebration and Dragon Con next year…)

One of the best things about making a costume with the intent of submitting it to the 501st is that breakdown your research is done for you. You just have to look up the CRL, study the breakdown intensely, and then go from there. It’s just a matter of finding everything and making it. That’s the real struggle. Thankfully, I lucked out with finding my fabrics. For the leather, I already knew from a previous project that JoAnn’s carried one that would work and for the red, my magical fabric warehouse place came through and gave me what I needed for a good price. Continue reading