Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills

The week is here! In a mere two days Star Wars: The Last Jedi will finally be released in theaters across the world. So, to celebrate I’m posting my review of the final “Rogue One” novel; Guardians of Whills.

This novel focuses on the characters of Chirrut and Baze, two characters that I found particularly interesting from the film, Rogue One. As a result, I had really high hopes for this novel. Sadly, of the three Rogue One tie-ins, this novel was my least favorite. But that being said, it’s still a decent read overall- just not as good as Catalyst or Rebel Rising. Of all the “young readers” releases, this book is one of the few actually seems to feel aimed towards a younger audience. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But, I suppose I just expected to see these characters in a bit of a grittier setting and situation.

The novel itself is a quick read. It also does a pretty decent job of providing a little backstory to the world of Jedha as well as providing some interesting info into the Church of the Force. But again, I feel there is so much more content to be explored here that was left untouched. It’s a shame and I really hope that we see some more detail in the future regarding “The Whills” and just what role the Force plays outside of the Jedi and Sith. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some of our answers in a few days.

Story: Interesting. But there is so much untapped potential around these characters that remains largely ignored.

Recommended:  For hardcore fans and young children.

Star Wars: Rebel Rising

December is here! And at the time of this writing, the new Star Wars movie is only two weeks away! My current goal is to get all caught up on “pre-Last Jedi” novels in time for the new film. That leaves me with two books to review between now and then. One of those books is this one, Rebel Rising.

To date, there’s been three main novels that tie-in directly to Rogue One. Catalyst, which I’ve already reviewed on this site, serves as a prequel.  Guardians of the Whills. (A novel I will be discussing next week). And finally, this book, Rebel Rising. This novel tells the backstory of Jyn Erso, the lead character from Rogue One.

I found this book to be much more interesting than I initially anticipated. It follow’s Jyn’s life from the moment she is rescued by Saw Gerrara to the very instant she is joins the Rebel Alliance. The author does a fantastic job of letting us peek into Jyn’s mind and thereby helping us better understand her character. In the film, Jyn’s persona appears very conflicted and complicated. In some ways, her motives felt contradictory. I had always suspected this was simply the result of the rumored last-minute script change and reshoots in Rogue One, and perhaps it is. But even if that’s the case, this book does a marvelous job of reconciling that, and really brings a level of depth to her character that, in my opinion, was badly needed.

Despite being marketed as a young-adult novel, I found this book to feel more like a piece of adult fiction. It’s very well written, and even touches on some very complex themes. So, if you’re concerned about the maturity level of this novel, don’t let that inhibit you. Rebel Rising is a welcome addition to the Star Wars canon.

Story: Masterfully written, informative, and it helps improve upon one of the series newest characters. Very well done.

Recommended:  For all Star Wars fans, but especially those partial to Rogue One.

Star Wars: Thrawn

My review of Timothy Zahn’s return to Star Wars is here! Having long been a fan-favorite from the old Expanded Universe, the character of Thrawn is back! That’s right, the Star Wars Story Group has officially brought Thrawn into the Star Wars canon. The character was reintroduced in the third season of Star Wars Rebels. This book, serves as his new official backstory.

For fans of the old EU, Thrawn is a long time favorite. Thankfully, not much has changed about the character. His introduction in this novel nearly mirrors that of his original origin story “Mist Encounter”. Some tweaks and refinements to that “legend” have been made, however. Personally, I find these changes to be welcome additions. For those who may not know, the character of Thrawn is an alien who’s origins lie outside of the galaxy, in a place called the “Unknown Regions”. The emperor has a great interest in the Unknown Regions and thus, takes an interest in Thrawn. Thrawn is recruited into the Imperial Navy where he becomes one of the Empire’s leading tacticians. This novel covers all aspects of his career, from his training all the way to the moment he is promoted to Grand Admiral. All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book. Personally, I enjoyed it much more that the old Heir to the Empire trilogy or even his previous origin story, Outbound Flight.

The story itself it well written and reads much like a military thriller. Thrawn’s portrayal here matches what fans of the original EU books would come to expect. He’s cool and calculating. Intelligent and always in control. This book also does a great job of humanizing him in some ways. Allowing fans to see past his historical portrayal as a villain In my opinion, this book serves as the perfect introduction to this wonderful character.

It seems that Disney has lots of plan’s for Thrawn. He continues to be a main character in the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels, he also has his own comic book on the horizon, not to mention a second novel in the works that’s due to for a 2018 release.

I can’t wait to see how Disney and Zahn continue to work together to further develop and use this character in the new Star Wars canon. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old fan of Thrawn from the EU or if you were recently introduced to him through Rebels, this book is certainly worth a look.

Story: Excellent reintroduction of a fan-favorite character. Well written, great pacing and plenty of action.

Recommended:  For all Star Wars fans

Star Wars: Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away – Aliens (volume one)

November is here! The release of Star Wars Episode VIII is now only a month away and… I’ve been slacking with my Star Wars reading. So, my goal is to get all caught up by the time the new movie comes out. This includes both novels and comics. This little push begins today with a new book review: Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away – Aliens.

This is another young readers release. It is actually a collection of short stories. Most of the stories compiled in this book were originally available for purchase separately. But eventually they were collected into one volume and published together at a low price. This book contains the following tales:

High Noon on Jakku –  (Featuring Constable Zuvio – a minor character who’s scene was cut from The Force Awakens)

The Face of Evil – (Featuring a Frigosian doctor – a background extra seen in The Force Awakens)

True Love – (Featuring Unkar Plutt – a minor character from The Force Awakens)

All Creatures Great and Small – (Featuring Bobbajo – a background character from The Force Awakens)

A Recipe for Death – (A murder mystery that takes place in Maz Kanata’s castle)

The Crimson Corsair and The Lost Treasure of Count Dooku – (Featuring The Crimson Corsair – a minor character from The Force Awakens)

Unlike most of the “young reader” novels set in the Star Wars universe, which tend to be surprisingly mature, this book is very much aimed at children. While all of the stories contained within the book are interesting to a point, even for adults, they are largely silly and simple. For example, A Recipe for Death is a ridiculous and immature “whodunit” tale. But, even though some of the stories included in this collection are silly, they are short and largely entertaining.

The gems of the collection are High Noon on Jakku and The Crimson Corsair. The later features a VERY interesting tie-in to the Clone Wars that I hope to see explored in later stories. I recommend at least both of these tales to any serious Star Wars fan.

All in all, the stories in this book are a must have for hardcore fans or for children who really like The Force Awakens. More casual readers will likely find the collection to be immature and pointless.

Story: The short stories in the book range from excellent to sub-par. They are short enough to be read individually in one sitting.

Recommended:  For hardcore fans and young children.

Carrie

Before moving on other things, I wanted to take a moment to post another book review. Having finished up Parasite Eve a few days before Halloween, I found myself wanting something else to read that was still in the spirit of the season. This time of year, I usually find myself curling up on the couch with my favorite novel of all time, Dracula. But this time, I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. When one thinks of horror novels, Stephen King is often the first author that comes to mind. I’ve always been a casual fan of King’s work. In my youth, I’ve read a number of King’s books. The Stand, It, Needful Things, The Shining, etc. I’ve also enjoyed his short stories quite a bit. But, there’s a ton of his novels that I’ve never taken the time to read.

So, I found myself browsing his library on Halloween morning looking for something to keep me in the spooky mood of the day. Then, the thought occurred to me to read through Stephen King’s works much like I do with the games I review on this site. So, beginning with this post, I’ll be reading and reviewing all of Stephen King’s works by order of publication. So, for that reason, I loaded up his debut novel “Carrie” on my Kindle Paperwhite and settled in under my blanket. This was not my first reading of the novel. I initially read “Carrie” maybe ten years ago. But to be honest, I only remembered the basic gist of it. Many of the finer details were lost over the years.

The story of “Carrie” is a classic. The novel focuses on the character of Carrie White. A chubby teen girl who is the epitome of social misfits. She’s awkward, riddled with acne, and she’s the daughter of an EXTREMELY religious single mother. The story begins with a scene of extreme bullying at the hands of her schoolmates. It is shortly after this event that Carrie realizes that she has telekinetic powers. As the story proceeds, the continued hazing and abuse by both her schoolmates and mother drive Carrie over the edge, resulting in a murderous rage.

The concept of the novel is quite original and riveting. This was true when the novel was published in 1974 and is still true today. The book itself is masterfully written. In fact, it’s difficult to believe that this was an author’s debut outing. With this in mind, no one can deny King’s claim to the throne as one of America’s modern literary geniuses.

The book itself is told through a mixture of both standard storytelling, mock newspaper clippings, scientific articles, and interviews of those who witnessed the events portrayed in the books. The ultimately conclusion of the story is laid bare early on, but the details leading up to the finale keep the reader glued to the pages. Again, it’s masterfully done.

If you’ve never read a Stephen King book, this is a fine place to start. It’s a relatively short read and it’s very approachable. Despite being his earliest novel, it’s still one of his best. Not to mention, it’s perfect for this time of year.

 

Story: Unique and well written. The perfect introduction to Stephen King.

Recommended:  For mature readers who enjoy chilling tales and paranormal phenomena.

 

Parasite Eve (Novel)

Happy Halloween! Since we’ve already discussed a few creepy games, I thought I’d end October this year with a couple of scary book reviews. I’ve often talked about my plans to include more non-Star Wars book reviews to the site so what better way to start than with a Halloween theme? Plus, this book actually dove-tails into the next game that I’m going to review. I’m talking about Parasite Eve, a very popular Playstation game from 1998. Many gamers will be familiar with the title. But did you know that the game is actually the sequel to a Japanese horror novel? Well, once I learned this I decided to pick up an english language version of the book so I would have the full backstory going into the game.

Up front, I’m going to tell you that this review is going to be very spoiler-filled. There’s not really a way I can find to discuss this book without ruining the story. So, if you’d prefer to read the novel completely blind, this is your warning….

Parasite Eve is a strange book. In a nutshell, the whole concept of the novel is that the mitochondria in our cells are actually intelligent parasites that have been using humanity for a symbiotic relationship while they wait for mankind to become powerful enough to be worthy of a takeover. The book follows a scientist who loses his wife in a car accident. The mitochondria in his body influence him subconsciously to donate her kidneys for research. At the same time, the mitochondria in the body of a young girl who recently received another kidney transplant, influence her to stop taking her medication, causing her new donor kidney to be rejected.  The idea here is that she will ultimately receive the dead wife’s kidney… because you see, the body chemistry of the two women is perfect for breeding a new human/mitochondria hybrid that will take over humanity and rule the world. It’s actually quite a bit more complicated than that, but that’s close enough. Weird, huh?

The premise is actually pretty interesting and for the most part the book is very well done. However, it does tend to get very dry and technical at times. I feel like the author actually has a real background in the field and decided to share his knowledge in the form of a horror novel. In doing so, he tends to over-explain and use a tad too much technical jargon for my taste. In many places, it tends to drag the story down. Then again, being a translated a novel, a good portion of this might have a lot to do with localization. It’s always difficult to translate a novel from one language to another and keep the same flow and momentum as the original author. With that in mind, I find the pacing of the book to be easy to forgive.

Even so, the book has a weird feel to it. It starts off odd, but very believable. The theory of a self-aware mitochondria is certainly fantastic and science fiction, but it’s presented in a way that’s believable. Then, literally in the turn of a page, we drive right off the cliff into complete Japanese weirdness. The story goes from science-based fiction to a total acid trip of monstrous proportions. There are literally giant vaginas made of rebellious mitochondria trying to eat people – completely out of nowhere. It was not at all what I was expecting.  It is the sum of every weird alien anime you’ve ever seen put to paper.

That being said, it was quite an interesting read. I found it to be oddly appropriate for the season, albeit a bit more disgusting that actually frightening.  I’ve certainly never come across anything like it.

All in all, this is not a book that I can recommend for the general public. But perhaps fans of the video game series would be take interest in the novel. The games were tremendously popular, so I’m very curious now to see how the story presented in this book can continue in game form.

Story: Very unique and interesting concept. A bit laggy at times, but considering it is a translated novel, very well done. Certainly a refreshing concept, but ultimately a gross and horrific story. Not for everyone.

Recommended:  For fans of the Parasite Eve series and folks who like Japanese alien manga. But general readers might have a hard time digesting this one.

 

Star Wars: Ahsoka

I know… It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Star Wars novel and I’m actually accumulating quite a backlog. But, as per my October tradition, my family always takes a vacation during Fall Break and that gives me plenty of off-the-grid time to catch up on reading. This time, I managed to read a few different books! So expect some book reviews in the coming days.  While I was away, the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels premiered. With that in mind, I felt like this would be the perfect time to read and review one of my neglected novels: Ahsoka.

For casual fans, the character of Ahsoka may not gin up a lot of excitement. After all, the character debuted in the dismal Star Wars Clone Wars animated movie. (That alone is a death sentence for her in the mind of many fans). In that film, she was introduced as a young Padawan assigned to Anakin Skywalker. The character carried over to the Clone Wars animated series. It was there that the character of Ashsoka matured and really developed into a fan favorite. If you’re not one of the fans that gave the Clone Wars series a chance, it may be hard to imagine just how the annoying little girl from the animated film turned out to be one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars universe, but trust me. It happened.  It was for this reason, that fan’s rejoiced when Ahsoka was eventually unveiled as a key figure in the formation of the early rebellion in the Star Wars Rebels animated series.

In fact, this book actually fills in the gap between those two animated series. The story found in “Ahsoka” tells the tale of Ahsoka Tano after the events of Episode III, leading right into the events of Star Wars Rebels – and it’s masterfully done.

This book is a junior novel. Meaning, it was written for younger readers. For this reason, it won’t appear on the official time in the front cover of your latest adult Star Wars novel. But, the contents of the book are canon and just because it is aimed at younger readers doesn’t mean that it’s a book for children. Both the subject matter and the writing are just as good as any adult science fiction novel you will come across. The main difference being, it’s a short read. It’s about half the size of a standard novel.

Until this book, I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to the character of Ahsoka. I wasn’t a fan at first, but over the course of the Clone Wars television series, she started to grow on me. By the time she appeared in Rebels, I had warmed up to the character considerably. But now, after reading this novel, I find myself feeling much more “fanboyish” about the character. It’s really an excellent read. If you’re curious how Ahsoka got her white light sabers or just how she managed to join the rebellion, this book will provide the answers that you seek.

Not only that, but this novel also serves as a soft introduction for the mysterious Inquisitor characters that have also become a fan favorite since their introduction in Star Wars Rebels. In a nutshell, I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. I truly thought this was going to be one of those reads that I would have to force my way through. But once I cracked it open, I couldn’t put it down. It read through it in under 24 hours. I recommend it.

Story: Surprisingly well done! It covers Ahsoka Tano’s adventures between the Clone Wars and Rebels in a masterful way. This book really does a fine job of detailing the character’s changes between these two crucial eras. The plot is engaging and action driven.

Recommended:  For most Star Wars fanatics. Especially for Clone Wars/Rebels fans.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End

February 2017 saw the release of the final novel in the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy; Empire’s End. This is the series that bridges the gap (somewhat) between Episode VI and Episode VII. Over course of the these three books, we’ve been introduced to new characters as well as been able to peek in on a few of our favorite personas from original trilogy.

In retrospect, I was a bit cold on the original Aftermath. I didn’t care much for many of the new characters introduced, and I didn’t like the way the story seemed to jump all over the place. With the release of “Life Debt”, I began to feel a little more at home in Wendig’s post-ROTJ era, but still had my reservations. Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve actually come to enjoy several of the new characters he’s introduced. To me, Empire’s End is easily the best of the three novels in the series.

Those curious about the secret identity of Supreme Leader Snoke in Episode VII, will still be disappointed. Despite what many readers suspected to be a major tease regarding that character’s origins – nothing about the character is actually revealed. What we DO get in this story is a lot of background info on the planet of Jakku, as well as the Emperor’s plans post-mortum. It seems like Lucasfilm will be unlikely to give us any major revelations outside of the actual films,  but we’re certainly getting plenty of hints and breadcrumbs.  But YES – in this novel, you will finally see the fall of the Imperial Remnant and the reigns of power being handed to the New Republic. This alone, makes this novel worthy of your attention.

I’ve been an open critic of Chuck Wendig’s writing style in the past, and I’m happy to say that he seems to have really toned it down in this novel. This books reads much more like a started fantasy novel in terms of verbiage and standardized punctuation. To me, this one actually feels like it was written by a professional author and not some amateur who’s looking to make his name by being different and daring.

If you’re a serious fan of Star Wars and you love to consume every morsel of new information out there. This book is a need-to-have.

Story: The bulk of this book follows the characters that we’ve come to know from the other Aftermath novels, as well as longtime fan favorites. This story, when combined with the other three books, puts a nice end-cap on the events that occurred in Return of the Jedi, and helps set the stage for what we eventually see in The Force Awakens. However, even thoug ha lot of answers can be found here, fans are still left asking plenty of questions.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

catalyst_a_rogue_one_novel

Rogue One is almost here! The first “sidestory” film in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters Thursday/Friday nationwide. This film will finally tell the official story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans for the Death Star. Now, if you’re a long time Star Wars fan, you probably know that this story has been told several times before in various Expanded Universe stories. But of course, all of that is out the window now. As Yoda once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This is now the official account of events. So… just forget anything you may have heard about “Kyle Katarn”.

Before talking about this book, we first need to briefly discuss a few details about the upcoming film. Nothing spoilerish… but certain details made clear by the official trailers will be discussed below.

The Rogue One film focuses on a character named Jyn Erso, who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help uncover the details of a new weapon that is being developed by the Empire. She was selected because the Rebels have learned that the developer of the weapon is none other than her father, the brilliant scientist, Galen Erso. The trailer indicates a perilous mission will be undertaken by Jyn and a group of rebels to uncover and retrieve the details behind the new Empire’s new battle station. We also know from the trailer that the Death Star project is being overseen by an Imperial officer by the name of Orson Krennic.  But little of his story is revealed in the trailers themselves.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the release of Rogue One. So, to go along with the new film, we naturally have a prequel book: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

All I knew going into this book was that it was going to set up the events leading up the story told in Rogue One, but I had no idea just what that entail. Well, this book starts off by introducing the character of Galen Erso. In fact, the book mainly focuses on this character. It starts during the events of the Clone Wars  and extends several years into the reign of the Empire. In this novel, we learn who Galen is – his philosophies and loyalties. It is immediately clear that Galen is a good man. Not someone we would expect developing weapons for the Empire.

The book also pays a lot of attention to the character of Orson Krennic. It provides background into this character; his rise to power within the ranks of the Empire as well as his friendship to Galen. Fans wondering how someone as good-natured as Galen might end up contributing to a weapon as horrific as the Death Star will be able to see exactly how this scenario is played out. The relationship between Krennic and Galen provides quite a bit of insight here. I’m curious to see how much of this will be seen on the screen.

Having read this book, I certainly feel that I already know quite a bit about some of the characters we are going to see in Rogue One. But, it’s obvious that there’s plenty more going to be introduced in the film that’s not covered here. I suspect that fans who read this book will certainly benefit from the background information, but I do not feel that is required reading for the upcoming movie.

All in all, I found the contents of this novel to provide a lot of interesting detail, but to be overall a bit dry and slow-paced from time to time. Fans clamoring to connect the dots between clues seen in the prequel trilogy and the original film will be pleased.

Story: Detailed and interesting. But as mentioned above, a little slow a times. Keep in mind his novel is intended to provide backstory and set up for events in an upcoming movie. Despite being a prequel, it may very well end up being a better read once you’ve viewed the actual film. We shall see.

Recommended:  For older, legacy fans of Star Wars – or Rogue One specific followers.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Life Debt

aftermath-life-debt

It’s been quite a wait, but finally the second entry in the Aftermath trilogy is here. Well, technically this book came out a few months ago but I’ve only just now finished it. But, it’s still fairly new and with that in mind, I’m here to share my thoughts.

First, let’s discuss the setting of this book. Life Debt takes place after the events of the first Aftermath novel. Many of characters and situations introduced in the first entry are carried over here. This includes some of the new fan-favorites such as Sinjir and Mister Bones. But perhaps more interesting, is the introduction of a new Imperial character by the name of Gallius Rax. I don’t wish to spoil anything… but there’s a lot of fan speculation regarding the identity of this character.

The main focus of the story revolves around Leia’s growing frustration with the current state of the New Republic. Political gridlock has set in. Readers who also are familiar with the novel “Bloodline”, know exactly where this will end up. In the midst of everything going on in the galaxy, Han Solo is missing. Last seen on a quest to free the Wookiee homeworld from the grips of an Imperial remnant, Leia sends the motley crew from Aftermath in search of him.

If you read my review of the original Aftermath novel, you’ll know that although I found the story to be very good overall, it was not without issues. My biggest problem with “Aftermath” was Chuck Wendig’s writing style. It’s punchy, yes. But it feels a bit abrasive – too casual. For me, it seems out of place in the Star Wars universe. Well, I’m glad to say that here in “Life Debt”, his over-the-top style seems to have been toned down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still obviously Chuck Wendig, but the story reads just a bit more like a traditional – more in line with what you’d find in another Star Wars novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Life Debt quite a bit more than I enjoyed Aftermath. I’m now eagerly awaiting the final chapter of the Aftermath series, where I expect some major revelations and tie-ins with Episode VII will become very apparent.

Story: Like with Aftermath, the contents of this book jump from the main overall plot, to flashes of goings-on within the galaxy after the fall of the Empire. Life Debt does a good job of filling in more of the gaps fans are looking for, while seemingly laying the groundwork for some really big revelations.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.