Tag Archives: dunc reads

Book review: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a fun primer on the franchise

hswctuChris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, out today, is one of those rare nonfiction books not fully authorized by Lucasfilm. An independent biography of the franchise, it covers from George Lucas’ own upbringing and influences to just post-Disney. Curious? Read the first chapter at Mashable (as well as one on the 501st) right now.

It’s also a pretty great read. I got my copy Saturday, finished it yesterday afternoon, and it flew. Taylor talks to fans and pros alike, highlighting both sides of the (increasingly more narrow) divide. Most of the attention thus far is on the moviemaking portion, where the book’s biggest sound bites come from.

Full disclosure: I was interviewed for and appear in the book, and received a review copy from Basic Books.

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Review: Wells’ Razor’s Edge is old-fashioned Star Wars

Empire and RebellionRazor’s Edge is the first book of the Empire and Rebellion series but it is, as promised, very much a standalone story.

I found the book to be a bit of a throwback – in a good way. Like Kenobi, it’s a straightforward, streamlined Star Wars story, though this one wouldn’t have been out of place back in the Bantam era… If you look back at it with a warm fuzzy glow that erases most of the silly parts.

Minor spoilers beyond this point.

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Review: Miller’s Kenobi is a fun Star Wars read

Kenobi by JJMKenobi is John Jackson Miller’s second Star Wars novel and his first featuring a movie character, and quite possibly the best one of the year thus far.

This is a Star Wars novel fitting firmly in the current trend of books that require one to know very little beyond the films themselves. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of novel whose lack we’ve been mourning for quite some time: An character-centric adventure that doesn’t have galaxy-shaking consequences and is none the less exciting or interesting for it.

Minor spoilers beyond this point.

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Review: Denning’s Crucible is just more of the same

Crucible I’m so glad there’s going to be a sequel trilogy, because I can only imagine how much more disappointed I’d be in Crucible if that wasn’t a factor.

It’s not that I was expected a masterpiece, mind you. I freely admit that Denning’s books have never been favorites of mine. But I was hoping for something a little bit different this time. Something at least a little fresher than what we’ve been getting in the ‘modern’ era of the Expanded Universe. Something that lets the Big 3 go off into retirement with one last fun adventure.

Crucible is not that book. It’s just more of same uninspired EU we’ve been getting far too much of in this era – very much a followup to Fate of the Jedi – trying too hard to be profound and failing.

(Yes, there are spoilers beyond this point.)

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Review: Tim Lebbon’s Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void

Dawn of the Jedi: Into the VoidDawn of the Jedi: Into the Void is not really my kind of Star Wars book. It’s very much not my era and while I’ve bought some of the Dawn of the Jedi comics, I haven’t actually read any of them yet. But you know? I tried it, and despite my long tendency to not get more than a chapter or two into most Star Wars books set before Return of the Jedi, I kept reading. And I actually enjoyed it.

The Dawn of the Jedi period – introduced in a a comic from John Ostrander and Jan Duursema – is set about 36,000 years before A New Hope, in the earliest days of the Jedi (here called Je’daii) before the Old Republic. Into the Void is actually my first encounter with it, and while some questions are certainly raised, I think it’s safe to say that one doesn’t to know anything about the comics to enjoy the book.

Some spoilers beneath the cut, but nothing major.

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The quick guide to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels (by someone who hasn’t read them in years)

When we heard the news that Anne McCaffrey had died earlier this week, I found myself unexpectedly effected by it. For several years in my childhood and teens, Pern was one of my chief obsessions. I think that if I had run across Pern fans instead of Star Wars fans when I got online at 17, I might be running a very different kind of SF/F blog.

But instead, I gave up on following the series in 2001, after what I thought were several lackluster books. I can’t in good conscience recommend any of the recent Pern books, as I haven’t read them (and was actually shocked at just how many there are now!) But, for anyone who wants a grounding in the series, here are my recommendations. Continue reading

Dunc reads: A personal history with A Song of Ice and Fire

Today brings the release of A Dance with Dragons, the latest edition to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) series. This is the biggest fantasy novel of the year, and one fans have been waiting six years for – more, if you count that the last book didn’t have several fan-favorite characters.

I’ve been reading the series since the beginning, and it’s one of my favorites. I don’t even mind the waiting. (Well, only a little. As odd as this may sound coming from a Star Wars novel fan, I do generally believe in quality over quantity.)

(This post will contain no spoilers for A Dance With Dragons – I won’t have the book until this evening – and virtually none for the previous books.)

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Dunc reads: Book recommendations and best SF/F of 2010

I’ve been kicking the idea of a general genre book roundup for a while, and when I asked if anyone would be interested on Twitter I got several positive responses. Alas, some of them were folks asking for recommendations – while I was thinking of news roundups. So maybe we’ll try a little of both. (Don’t forget that Erika – who does book reviews for us, among other things – has her own book review blog over at Jawas Read Too.)

One of my favorite people for recommendations is Jo Walton and her posts at Tor.com. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up because she wrote about them. Her latest entries include Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword and C.J. Cherryh’s Serpent’s Reach. Tor is a great blog if you’re looking for genre news and reviews, but Walton’s recs alone make it more than worth following.

But enough about praise for others… I’m sure what you really want to see are my opinions. I kid, but head beneath the cut for my fiction picks for 2010. Continue reading

Dunc reads: Oh-so-very belated mini-reviews for June

June reads

The Pretender’s Crown by C.E. MurphyThe Pretender’s Crown by C.E. Murphy
      For all my issues with the ‘revelation’ of the first book (which, no, I won’t spoil,) I found it integrated fairly quickly here, and ceased to really bother me as a plot point. But on the other hand, as a finale the book felt a bit lacking. The premise, once I got used to it, is rather intriguing…
      I certainly wouldn’t avoid further sequels, but I won’t cry if they never come. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

The Courts of the Sun by Brian D’amatoThe Courts of the Sun by Brian D’amato
      For all this book is pegged as time-travel, the first half is really a mainstream thriller – or at least that’s how it read to me, mainstream thrillers not really being my bag. This is book that has a lot of… Not technobabble, exactly, but a close cousin. (Not being particularly familiar with games of chance, it took me a while to grasp some aspects of ‘the game.’) I was almost relieved when we finally got to Mayan times, except that then our hero ” blunders into dead end after dead end, though he does finally meet his goal. Well, a goal. Sort of.
      The book isn’t bad, it’s just not what I expected… For all the whatever-babble, It seemed less sci-fi than a Dan Brown-style ‘historical’ thriller with a bit of time travel thrown in.
      And make no mistake, this is very clearly the first book in a trilogy or series, and you will be left at a hanging end. Still, once this comes out in paperback you could do worse for airplane reading… Though probably not if you’re heading out for vacation. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

Santa Olivia and Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey      Carey is one of those authors that people either seem to like or absolutely despise: Her two Kushiel trilogies, which form the background for Naamah’s Kiss here, are the kind of books that get a lot of Mary Sue finger-pointing among people who do that sort of thing, and I can’t totally dispute their point. They do get rather ridiculous at points, and the purple prose is pretty hard to miss. Still, some of us happen to have a weakness for that sort of thing.
Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey      Santa Olivia is none of these things. (Well, maybe a little purple.) It’s set in a town that is currently in a buffer zone between the U.S. and Mexico, and cut off entirely from either country, save for a single military base. It actually has quite a bit in common with Red – a genetically engineered hero, a post-apocalyptic setting, romance – except Santa Olivia is good. It’s a departure for Carey, and unlike her previous attempt at getting away from the Kushiel formula, I found it pretty fascinating… Even with boxing, of all things, as a major plot point. If you want to try Carey but find her main series a bit much, check this out. Recommended. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]
      Naamah’s Kiss is more ‘standard’ Carey – set in the world of the Kushiel books but several generations on, it could be read as a standalone, but probably shouldn’t. Still, I found it a fun read, though I’m not sure if it would really appeal to anyone not already familar with the series. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

Fate of the Jedi: Omen by Christie GoldenFate of the Jedi: Omen by Christie Golden
      And here we have the book whose fault it is I didn’t post this batch days ago. Which is not to say that Omen is a bad Star Wars book – it’s not, and if it was this would be a far easier review for me to write. It is, quite frankly, a perfectly servicable middle-of-the-road Star Wars novel.
      There were a few ticks in the prose that I found mildly annoying – too many characters referred to by their full names once too often, some awkward turns of prose – but that’s all nitpicking, and that couldn’t be fixed with some minor editing.
      It has a lot of nice moments – I’m even mildly intrigued by Vestara and the new flavor of Sith introed here, and I’m very rarely interested in OCs. Luke and Ben seem to work pretty well – though I have a hard time seeing any teenager getting along quite that well with their parent, even a Jedi teenager – and even the Han/Leia/Allana parts took us some new places.
      I still find myself feeling a tad uninvolved in this series, though… This one felt very formulaic (yes, I know what I was reading: Moreso than usual) and I’ve about had my fill of seeing D-list Jedi go bonkers. Maybe Denning can kick this up to the next level in Abyss – or maybe I’ll be back here in a month saying that very same about Allston and Backlash. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]