Over at BigShinyRobot.com, I’ve got reviews of this week’s new books for younger readers from Disney Lucasfilm Press. All three are great reads, taking the original trilogy films and telling them from new perspectives.
→ A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken is told in three parts, each from a different point of view as the three heroes recognize the simple labels they’ve got, and grow past them. Lots of great Leia stuff in the first third (including extra scenes), and Wedge makes a good appearance in the Luke section at the end.
→ The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz put the reader square into the action by putting them in the role of Luke Skywalker. Great getting into Luke’s thoughts and emotions, plus lots of Jedi lessons at the end of each chapter to help readers become more mindful.
→ Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger amps up the fun and excitement of Episode VI. More explosions, more sound effects, more Ewoks, and more funny footnotes! Plus witness the tragedies of Moff Jerjerrod and Romba!
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath is the first canon Star Wars novel to take place after Return of the Jedi since the old EU was declared Legends more than a year ago. I’ve only formally reviewed the lackluster Heir to the Jedi since then, but it’s no secret that the canon novels so far haven’t been to my tastes. My focus has never really been on books set during the film eras, and before Aftermath all the offerings were just that.
But I am pleased (and, yes, a little surprised) to report that I found Aftermath to be rather good. You’ll hear a lot about Wendig’s unusual style of prose – and I had some hesitation there as well – but I found that once I got into the rhythm of the book it was no trouble at all. In fact, this is the first canon novel I didn’t have to force myself through at all – it read speedily and offers a satisfying story with interesting characters.
But they are, for the most part, new characters. Wedge Antilles plays an important part, but you can’t call him a lead by any means. Rebel pilot Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus, bounty hunter Jax Emari and Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane (who originated in A New Dawn) carry most of the plot’s weight.
Only minor spoilers, if that, beyond the cut.
Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi brings a lot of firsts, as far as Star Wars novels go. It’s the first of the new canon novels to feature one of the big three characters; the first Star Wars first-person novel* to feature an actual movie character, and the first canon novel to be set after A New Hope. It’s also the first of the new novels I actually had any interest in reading.
Now, I don’t expect a Star Wars novel to rock the very galaxy, particularly when set in a movie-limited era like this one is. I wasn’t expecting a game-changing book by any means. And generally, I don’t mind a quieter story, as long as it’s an engaging one that keeps me wanting to read.
Unfortunately, Heir to the Jedi delivers an unremarkable tale that fails to make much of an impression. From the first-person conceit to the title that seems deliberately reminiscent of Heir to the Empire, it seemed to me like the book was writing several checks that it completely failed to cash.
There is a major spoiler under the cut, but it’s black-barred so you can avoid it. Continue reading
Yowie and I got our hands on a copy of Imperial Handbook: A Commander’s Guide and we share the awesomeness of opening up the deluxe version, with its electronic protective case and accessories. The look and feel of this book is top-notch, with annotations by the various Rebels written in the margins, and some luxurious artwork. The Imperial Handbook, like its predecessors, The Jedi Path, Book of Sith, and The Bounty Hunter Code, is full of great detail on the organization of the Empire’s military. With sections about the army, navy, and stormtrooper corps as well as chapters on Imperial doctrine, there’s plenty of stuff for a fan of the Empire to learn, and some good comments from various Rebels about the Empire (including some snark from Han Solo). Fans of the Empire should enjoy this one, even if it is considered Legends.
Imperial Handbook is written with great detail and some awesome illustrations and schematics. There’s some propaganda style artwork as well as detailed drawings of Imperial war machines. If you’ve ever wondered what the rank badges are in the Imperial Navy, about the different training academies for stormtroopers, what General Madine recalled from his days as an Imperial, or how the Emperor inspired his command staff, this book is for you!
An advance copy of this book was provided by Becker & Mayer! for review.
Chris 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.
On sale today, A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller is the first novel that is part of the Lucasfilm Story Group approved timeline. Set in the dark times between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and several years before the upcoming Rebels cartoon, it’s a tale of how two of the show’s main characters, Hera and Kanan, first encounter each other and eventually decide to team up. As someone excited by Rebels, I enjoyed the novel and found it interesting to see the characters before they united for a common cause.
Miller brings his skills in combining likable characters with clashing viewpoints, in a story setting that he has mastered before in Kenobi and Knight Errant: a Jedi alone in hostile territory. Only this time, the Jedi’s not interested in being a Jedi, or even be on the hero’s path at all – while someone else is sorting out what type of people are and aren’t needed for a rebellion to the Empire’s rule. And as with Knight Errant and Lost Tribe of the Sith series, where various Sith philosophies were being forged and tested against each other, the villain, Count Vidian, has his own philosophy being pushed to the extreme, and we witness it in practice.
Minor spoilers beyond this point.
Like Razor’s Edge, the previous book in the Empire and Rebellion series, James S. A. Corey’s Honor Among Thieves harkens back to a simpler time in the Expanded Universe.
Like it says on the tin, the book is Han-centric, and keeps a fairly close character focus – It serves the story, and this one feels even more back-to-basics than Razor’s Edge. Yes, it’s short, but
this isn’t a story that requires a tome – though Corey is more than capable of such, if you’re familiar with their Expanse books. It’s a quick, fun read, and despite a bit of potential galaxy-shaping consequences, there is not a lick of the Force.
Minor spoilers beyond this point.
Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber is out today, and fans of the Dark Side should rejoice. Lockdown delivers a can’t-put-this-down tale of scum and villainy.
Set before The Phantom Menace, Lockdown has Darth Maul sent undercover to infiltrate a space station prison to find an elusive arms dealer operating out of inescapable penitentiary. Maul quickly becomes a contender in the warden’s profitable prison fight circuit, but there’s more to finding someone who doesn’t want to be found in a prison than just cracking heads all the way to the top. Plus, more than just prisoners and guards lurk in the dark confines of this station. And throw in Jabba the Hutt, dangerous cultists, and Darth Sidious scheming under his own master’s nose.
Darth Maul has gone through a renaissance in the past few years – he has gone from being the weapon of rage back in 1999 in The Phantom Menace and the related EU (Michael Reaves’ Shadow Hunter & Ron Marz’ comic), to his resurrection on The Clone Wars (along with Tom Taylor’s Darth Maul: Death Sentence and James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis) as some one able to scheme his way into power as he seeks vengeance on both Obi-wan Kenobi and his old master, while taking on his brother Savage as his own apprentice. And now this year, we get more of Darth Maul, with Lockdown and the upcoming Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic. Maul: Lockdown adds to this modern character and builds some of Maul’s roots as a plotter as this mission tests his abilities to not only survive but achieve his objective before time runs out.
Minor spoilers beyond this point.
It’s that most wonderful time of the year, when all the Star Wars gift books are out. So which ones are worth putting on your gift list?
Star Wars: Frames was originally released as a limited edition, glorious, really expensive monstrosity of awesomeness that few of us could justify putting into our collecting budget. (Yeah. I SO wanted that one. Wasn’t going to happen.) This version is in the way more reasonable price range and still contains all the frames that George Lucas personally selected from the Prequel and Original trilogies.
It comes in two volumes nestled in a plastic case. Original Trilogy in one volume. Prequel Trilogy in another. There are two frames per page, instead of the one frame per page of the original. The binding is sewn, which will hopefully help hold these hefty suckers together as you drool over the book. (Note: This sucker weighs in at 20.9 pounds! Please use proper lifting technique when maneuvering these books. An appointment with your chiropractor should probably also be on standby.)
Looking at the movies in frames is really interesting. The frames he chose are not always the choice you’d expect. Some are even blurry with action. (“Faster! More intense!”) So you aren’t just looking at images that have already been released as publicity stills; which makes this an interesting new perspective.
So yes. This is one to add to your wish list. Enjoy!
It’s that most wonderful time of the year when all the Star Wars gift books come out. So which ones are worth putting on your gift list for the year?
National Geographic Angry Birds Star Wars: The Science Behind the Saga has a fairly self-explanatory title. This book, targeted at the teenage reading level, gives you cute little stories about the adorable Angry Birds Star Wars characters, but also delves into the science associated with it. Astronomy. Physics. Science history. There’s a little bit for everyone in there. And since it’s National Geographic, you know they’ll have it right.
This is probably a fun book even if you haven’t gotten yourself aggravated by Angry Birds Star Wars, yet. (Why am I so bad at that game?) Many of the facts concern the science behind Star Wars, as well. And the graphics are bright and colorful.
Both the hardcover and paperback versions are reasonably priced. So if you’re trying to find something on the lower end for folks to get you, this would be a good one to add to your wish list.