Tag Archives: book reviews

The skimmed book review: The Complete Vader

Clearly, I need to take a speed reading course. I don’t know how anyone can quickly get through the coffee table books that seem to come out each year for your holiday pleasure. There’s always so much text involved. So why not just do a review on first impressions? For instance, the awesomeness that is The Complete Vader by Ryder Windham and Peter Vilmur.

This book basically takes you through the story and pop culture development of Darth Vader over the years; from his development to The Clone Wars television show.

In between? Awesome things inserted into the book. And I do love me the special books where they have things stuck in them. For instance, towards the beginning is a folder that allows you to take out a copy of the piece-by-piece instructions for putting on the Vader costume that was used for public appearances. (Sorry. Did I just crush some childhood dreams there?) And there’s also an early costume sketch that is all aged and faded looking, as if it was smuggled out of the Archives. And then there’s a look at the early toys associated with Vader.

And this is basically how the book unfolds. You hear about story developments in the years being addressed. Expanded Universe products. And the toys and pop culture  happenings.

My only complaint about the book would be its construction. The pages and inserts are so heavy that it exposes the binding; giving it a flimsy air. Although I don’t believe it’s actually flimsy precisely because it’s stitched in, instead of glued. However, this might turn off well-meaning relatives trying to get you that awesome holiday gift.

So is it worth getting and/or putting on your “Star Wars things I haven’t actually purchased” list for the holidays? Absolutely; especially for fans of the pop culture aspects of Vader. It’ll be a fun stroll down memory lane.

Book reviews: Speak Wookiee, Darth Paper and standalone The Jedi Path

Every year, the publishers try to come out with fun books that the long-suffering relative of a Star Wars fan can grab as a nifty gift. Since the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year, it’s no surprise that you can start getting a few of them right now.

How to Speak Wookiee is a really cute board book with sound board. You get a Wookiee-shaped sound board with ten phrases that you can use to get on everyone’s nerves by playing them over and over. The illustrations by JAke are adorably cute with lots of funny details. And the write-ups by Wu Kee Smith made me laugh out loud. Knowing bookstores, they’re probably lurking in the childrens’ section, but it’s worth the hunt.

Darth Paper Strikes Back is the follow-up to the surprise hit The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The adventures of our intrepid middle school students (from Ralph McQuarrie Middle School) continue with a case study of Dwight’s suspension from school, as told by various witnesses. Adults should not blow off this book because it’s set in middle school. It’s very cleverly written. Always funny. And it will have you hurtling back to your own middle school days in no time. (Okay. Maybe that’s not really selling this.)

The Jedi Path has been released in book form without the nifty bells and whistles of the “vault” presentation box and its various trinkets. But you really don’t need the extras. This book is really well done, with a nice combination of serious background information and hilarious written notes from its various owners over the years. If you missed the high-end one, don’t miss this one!

It’s just the beginning of the onslaught. And while you’re there, don’t forget your Star Wars calendars!

Book review: Troy Denning’s Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

After teaming up in Allies, relations between the Lost Tribe and the Skywalkers have turned a bit sour. Abeloth has been defeated, but the two sides are determined to keep secrets and double cross one another (both are good stalling tactics, after all). Luke and Ben tread dangerous ground, but it isn’t long before the pair is forced to flee the planet when they discover Abeloth did not die after all. Taking Vestara with them again, the trio travels to the moon of Pydyr to track down and destroy her, hopefully for the last time.

On Coruscant, the secret mission intended to aid Luke and Ben, has been stalled. The Jedi Council is increasingly growing tired of Master Kenth Hamner’s stubbornness. It becomes apparent that there’s something he’s hiding and the other Jedi Masters are fed up. When young Jedi begin recovering from their strange psychosis and Daala refuses to acknowledge this progress, the Jedi Council is especially convinced that rescuing Valin and Jysella Horn will accomplish one of three things: reassert the Council’s autonomy, discredit Daala, and serve as a distraction while the Stealth X-Wings deploy for Pyrdyr. As it turns out, Daala is the least of their problems. An unexpected friction arises that threatens to unravel the Council Luke has worked so hard to achieve. Continue reading

Book review: Introduction to Jedi Knighthood

I have a particular fondness for the independently-published Star Wars philosophy book. People are all over the board in how they see the Force and Star Wars and these books reflect that.

Jedi Manual Basics: Introduction to Jedi Knighthood by Matthew Vossler came across to me, from its description, as a book written for kids (another fondness of mine). But it’s actually a workbook for those wishing to study Jediism as a religion or personal philosophy.

Jediism has been gaining ground as a religion in recent years. This book lets you walk through the basic precepts and examine your own understanding of the Force through a series of studies and writing assignments.

I would have liked to see a bit more actual background over assignments. And the use of URL’s as reading assignments could be problematic as sites go down and change.  As a result, its usefulness in the long term is doubtful. But if you’re at all interested in Jediism, this would be an interesting way to explore it further.

Our top 10 Star Wars books of 2010

Can’t end the year without a list, can we? Here are our staff’s picks for the ten best books of the year.

Be sure to check out more favorites at StarWars.com. They asked us to do the literature portion, but other contributers include Kyle Newman, Ashley Eckstein, TFN’s Eric Geller, Steve Sansweet, and Bonnie Burton!

10. Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle by Daniel Wallace, Pablo Hidalgo, Gus Lopez, and Ryder Windham
Rounding out the list is the one book that has it all. Expanded Universe history? Check. Oddball merchandise? Check. Museum exhibits? Early versions of Yoda? Mark Hamill on Broadway? Check, check, and you better believe it. Star Wars Year by Year compiles over four decades (yes, four) of highlights, lowlights, and trivia – think of it, perhaps, as The Essential Franchise Chronology. But its scope goes beyond Lucasfilm productions. The authors also spotlight various milestones in science, pop-culture, and politics, giving readers a sense of the events that helped shape Star Wars, as well as how Star Wars changed the world. – Stooge

9. The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams
Setting the stage for the eventual release of The Old Republic MMO, Fatal Alliance builds up the worlds and character types, and then throws them all into the fray against a new threat. Sean Williams captures the look of this era, and brings together some new enjoyable characters. It’s a heist caper that unfolds into a tale of espionage and war. It takes a little while to set up the players, but the endgame is well worth it. - James

8. Millennium Falcon: A 3D Owner’s Guide by Ryder Windham
The saga’s most iconic ship is revealed! Ryder Williams’ text is sparse but clever, the illustration work by Chris Trevas and Chris Reiff shines, and the layer-by-layer design is icing on the cake. Kids will love it and adults will delight in the technical specs and (in-character!) modification notes. It’s a just plain fun book – certain to entrance even the most jaded fan for at least a little while. – Dunc

7. Fate of the Jedi: Vortex by Troy Denning
With Luke and Ben and their new Sith allies having defeated a more sinister evil, you’d think that Troy Denning would take it easy on the Jedi Order, but Abeloth’s demise in Allies is just the beginning of a series of explosive events. Faster that you can say “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal”, the Sith bring it. Chief of State Daala brings it. The Mandalorians bring it. Tahiri’s prosecutor brings it. So it’s up to a couple of Jedi, and Han and Leia to strike back – and when they bring Lando and droids to help, you know it’s going to get heavy as the Jedi shake things up against their adversaries. - James

6. The Sounds of Star Wars by J. W. Rinzler and Ben Burtt
A book that needs a volume button? Not to worry, this is more than just a gimmick. To fully explore the audio awesomeness of Ben Burtt, The Sounds of Star Wars has a built-in soundboard which plays over 200 (unmixed!) effects from that galaxy far, far away. So you can read about the crazy ways he made these sounds, then listen to the fantastic end results! Plus, Mr. Burtt has enough behind-the-scenes stories to fill ten volumes – and for a quadruple Oscar-winner, he’s remarkably humble. - Stooge Continue reading

Book Review: Star Wars Art: Visions

It’s the time of year when all the Star Wars ‘holiday books’ are released; leaving fans drooling and wondering which one they should put on their list.  One that seems to have gotten lost in the promotional blitz is Star Wars Art: Visions.

Inspired by an idea George Lucas discussed with J. W. Rinzler, this book is a magnificent collection of art that should please everyone’s tastes.

Each artist was commissioned by Lucas to create their vision of Star Wars.  What they come up with is a wondrous variety of art in styles from Renaissance to Pop and spanning many different aspects of the saga.  Each piece is given its own page or pages on high quality paper.  And this works well, as you’ll want to study many of them in detail.

I had reactions from laughter to sadness.  And they’re each one interesting in their own style.  At the end of the book are explanations of the work from many of the artists that add to the fascination of the book.  It’s well worth the investment.

My only negative is that the binding doesn’t seem quite up to the task of holding the high quality paper.  Only time will tell on that.  But this is definitely a worthy coffee table book that you’ll review time and again.

Book Review: The Jedi Path (Vault Edition)

Do you want to make people smile?  Get The Jedi Path (Vault Edition) and tell them to push the button. 

I brought this to my local Star Wars club meeting, yesterday, and people actually squealed with delight when the vault opened.  And when they calmed down enough to do it again and listen to the sound effects?  Delighted claps that made them look like five-year-olds on their birthdays. 

Going beyond the coolness of the vault, the book itself is fantastic!  It’s designed as an orientation manual/text book for younglings at the Jedi Temple that has been passed from master to apprentice in a line descending from Yoda to, belatedly, Luke.  (And, yes, they explain how this happens.)

As with many textbooks, it’s filled with notes scribbled in the margins.  And I think this is my favorite part.  It represents a conversation through the ages.  And Dan Wallace really captures each owner’s voice in these notes.  Of particular amusement, however, are Darth Sidious’ notes after he captured the book in the Order 66 aftermath.

There are also tons of keepsakes inserted by its various owners that are hilarious.  My only complaint would be a coin that keeps falling out of the book and rolling across the room; a particular source of amusement for my dogs.  I suspect that will make it difficult to keep this collectible intact in the future.

As to the book itself?  It’s a brilliant compilation of thirty-three years of Star Wars lore in a spackle job at a level not seen since Michael Stackpole’s I, Jedi untangled the Bantam Era.  Contradictions are explained.  Disparate details from several different authors are melded into a coherent theory.  And it’s all in the style of textbook; along with some stunning illustrations.

I’m no Santa Maul, but I would definitely add this one to your holiday/birthday wish list.

Review: Karen Miller’s Clone Wars Gambit: Siege

Obi-Wan and Anakin are still stuck on Lanteeb, a planet far in the Outer Rim and of seeming little consequence. The Lanteebans pose no apparent strategic value to the Republic or Separatists; it’s an attitude that grossly misjudges the efforts of captured scientist Bant’ena Fhernan. She’s been hired to construct a virus to end all viruses, a massive biological weapon that will sway the war in Dooku’s favor, but getting materials for it isn’t easy. The key ingredient, damotite, lays deep within the sinuous mines of Lanteeb and Separatist overseer Lok Durd rides the locals hard with threats of drastic food and water rationing if his unreasonable quota and timetable aren’t met.

Against all impossibilities, the Lanteeban’s work furiously every day, risking damotite poisoning to please Durd. When Anakin and Obi-Wan crash their vehicle and end up stranded in the mining city responsible for churning out the dangerous material, the two are welcomed only as long as the villagers don’t know they’re Jedi. Naturally, an invading droid army and a failing shield barrier that forces the pair to use the Force for self preservation were probably unavoidable inevitabilities. Continue reading

Review: Christie Golden’s Fate of the Jedi: Allies

Luke and Ben are forced to confront a group of Sith ships floating above Dathomir when all they really want to do is get back to business. Luke not only wants to exonerate himself, but thinks following Jacen’s path to darkness may give him the insight he needs to prevent another Jedi from falling to the Dark Side. But these Sith have some information that Luke might be interested in—information regarding Sith who may be succumbing to the same dementia plaguing young Jedi across worlds.

Could the very fate of the galaxy now depend on an alliance that goes against Ben’s training? Can Sith and Jedi really get along? Or has Luke doomed himself and the life of his son on an idealistic treaty that could turn traitorous at any moment? The good news is, Luke’s betting on treachery. And when betrayal is expected, it seems easier to spot, but only if you know where to look. Continue reading

Review: Karen Miller’s Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth

Karen Miller’s high regard and curiosity concerning Obi-Wan Kenobi is quite charming. In her second Star Wars book, Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth, every character has a lot to shoulder in the war, even (and especially) Obi-Wan.

Ahsoka has more to consider as Anakin’s Padawan than the teachings of the Jedi Order. She cares for his well-being and has learned how to read her Master’s emotions to help herself navigate and deal with his temperament. Anakin struggles with the responsibilities of being the Chosen One. What he feels they should do, what he should do as such a prominent figure, conflicts often with the wider doctrine of the Jedi, not to mention how delicately he juggles his forbidden relationship with Padmé. Obi-Wan still wrestles with his misgivings as a teacher and his emotions over the health of a dear friend. It’s clear, though, that as Bail Organa brings a frightening new element in the war to the Jedi’s attention, this cast of extraordinary beings have rather ordinary problems.

All things considered: Obi-Wan and Anakin, for as much as they remain larger than life figures, symbolic of the Jedi Order and its potential, are still forced to deal with their very human emotions and drama. After a harrowing skirmish on Kothlis, Anakin and Obi-Wan are forced to realize they both need some much needed rest. Obi-Wan is still running a bit ragged from his encounter on Zigoola; Anakin and the entire galaxy agree. The pair are sent to Lanteeb anyway–a planet of no consequence until recent Separatist actions pique the Republic’s curiosity. Their physical wounds may be healed, but Anakin and Obi-Wan learn the hard way: some scars never go away. Continue reading