Tag Archives: Book

George Lucas: A Life – Review

tumblr_o61hphwviy1us2txqo1_1280George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones.

George Lucas is one of the most enigmatic and fascinating people in Hollywood, although he’d probably resent that statement as his whole life has been about not being part of they Hollywood system. In this new, non-authorized biography, Brian Jay Jones traces Lucas’ quintessentially American story from humble beginnings to titan of the film industry.

The book is split in to 3 parts, Hope, Empire and Return, each on taking on a different part of George’s life and doing their best to synthesize a very full existence in a mere 550 pages (really only 470 as the last 80 pages are notations).

Hope is actually the the best section of the book, chronicling Lucas’ family and his early life as a greaser who found school boring and working for someone else even more so. This is the most formative section of the book, much of who Lucas became would be a direct result of things that happened during this period. The issues with his father (which would play in in his two biggest franchises), his desire to be completely free to do things his way and a car accident that would illuminate the truth of life’s fragility cementing his character. The reason for most everything else Lucas would do in his life could be traced back to his beginnings in Modesto, California.

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Empire tells of Lucas’ fortunes after American Graffiti as he struggle to bring his idea of The Star Wars to screen. Next to his youth, this is the the most integral to who Lucas would become. His experiences with THX-1138 and American Graffiti would set him on course to chart a future away from the influence of the studio and Hollywood system. Everything he did was a move to allow him to make movies without compromising his artistic creativity as well as building a place where others in the industry would be able to do the same. This same drive would also cost him dearly, as he neglected his wife in favor of making his movies and the neglect would cost him his marriage.

Return recounts the journey from the Original Trilogy to the Prequels and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. It’s the weakest section of the book, feeling too condensed and too reliant on the most superficial understanding of the Prequels as well as the work that truly went into them. It sadly glosses over the importance of The Clone Wars series as well, making it feel more like a footnote than the project that helped Lucas fall in love with Star Wars all over again. Also left out is the fight with Marin County which lead Lucas to giving up his dream of making the Star Wars sequel trilogy himself and the resignation of selling the company to Disney.

The one true strength in this section is the way it highlights the correlation between Lucas, his divorce and the story of the Prequel Trilogy, especially, Anakin and his choices. After reading this book one can see how much of himself he actually poured into the story. Anakin and Lucas both have the same fall on their way to Empire-building.

lucasWith the strength of the first two sections the book is recommendable, yet it’s not without it’s faults. Frustratingly the last section does devolve into most every criticism of Lucas in the Special Edition to Disney sale that everyone has surely read online. Honestly this can be attributed to the non-authorized nature of the book and the lack of interviews, which would have helped the last section of the book specifically. Peter Jackson is quoted in the book saying about Lucas, “I can’t help feeling that George Lucas has never been fully appreciated by the industry for his remarkable innovations…He’s the Thomas Edison of the modern film industry.” In some ways the book leaves one feeling this way as well. Lucas’ accomplishments in film, his tireless struggle for innovation and consistently putting his hard-earned money where his mouth is, should be given more due. Hopefully this is just the beginning of books to come out about Lucas and here’s to hoping the next is even more in depth, but Jones’ book is a good place to start and is rated 4 out of 5 Death Stars.

 

A Ceremony of Losses – Review

star-trek-the-fall-a-ceremony-of-lossesThe full review can be seen at Trek.fm

“The Path of Light can only be found by those who brave the Road of Storms and weather its ceremony of losses.”

The Federation stands at a crossroads. In the wake of President Bacco’s assassination, thetenuous peace between the Typhon Pact and the Federation is on the edge of a knife. With new sanctions against the people of Andor (who succeeded from the Federation three years ago) being implemented by hawkish pro-tem President Ishan, political machinations have never been higher. The future of Andor, whose people are a hundred years from dying out are pawns in an intergalactic chess match. It falls to Thirishar ch’Thane and Julian Bashir to risk everything to save Andor and maybe even the Federation from itself.

The Crimson Shadow – Review

This is a portion of my book review for Trek.fm. The full review can be found there.

When a book transcends genre, it reminds you that great books are just that: great books. The Crimson Shadow does this fantastically. The best in science fiction, as well as Star Trek, has always been about us, our struggles and problems allegorized in a palpable medium. McCormack’s continuation of “The Fall” is brilliant. With part of the story concurrent with David George’s book and the second half dealing with the aftermath of Federation President Bacco’s assasination, McCormack creates suspense on every page as the the Khitomer Accord alliance between the Federation and Cardassia hangs by a stembolt.

Second Chances

After ten years of negotiation, Cardassia is poised to break out of the past as the withdraw of Federation troops is about become a reality with the deal that Bacco and Garak have reached. Yet, trouble is brewing on Cardassia Prime as old factions push an even older agenda: Cardassia first. Cardassia grapples with the pains of doing the same things over and over again and expecting a better result, only to have the past repeat itself. This leaves the Cardassian people with a choice of saving their souls by learning from the past or annihilation through civil war or outside force. In the same way as Germany post WWI and WWII had a choice, so do the people of Cardassia. McCormack draws on past and recent history to bring us face to face with the challenges we still face today. Personally, nationally and globally, the issues are the same. Are we are own worst enemy, doomed to repeat mistakes or will we learn and change, forging a better future? This is the test that Garak and all of Cardassia faces.

The rest of the review is at Trek.fm

Revelations and Dust – Review

Revelation_and_Dust_solicitation_coverThis is a portion of my book review for Trek.fm. The full review can be found there.

“The Fall” is the epic new 24th century miniseries that closes out 2013 for Star Trek Books. David R. George III had a daunting task with this first entry: 1), create the new DS9; 2) set up the series to follow; 3) continue the ongoing DS9 saga that started in “Avatar” over 12 years ago; and lastly, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Emissary.” The book performs all of these tasks exceptionally well and leaves readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation.

 PAST TENSE

The mythic nature of DS9’s storytelling has helped it transcend the time period which it was created and still speak freshly into succeeding generations’ lives. There is hardly a better example of this than DS9’s premiere episode “Emissary.” George uses the scenes where Sisko encounters The Prophets and teaches them about corporeal nature as a well as linear time in conjunction with where he left Kira at the end of “Plagues of Night.” Kira finds herself face-to-face with Sisko, yet it is him from the past. The Prophets allow Kira to see his first interaction with them. Kira experiences Sisko’s pain as he is forced to relive the memories of losing Jennifer.

It is in the retelling of these scenes and Kira’s newfound perspective on her friend that the power ofDS9 shines through. The lessons that Sisko learns from The Prophets is just as important today as it was when it first aired. Everyone can get stuck in the past, lost in the memories of things done wrong or lost because of tragedy. It can become one’s identity and a defining moment, ruining the future because one is stuck in the past. George does a service to all fans by reminding us of this powerful truth, all while subtly moving Kira’s story along. Find the rest at Trek.fm

Devil’s Bargain – Review

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This is a portion of my review at Trek.fm

Tony Daniel’s first Star Trek book, “Devil’s Bargain,” takes place three and a half years into the first five year mission. It feels just like an episode from an unseen season four with humor and fun, all while touching on some very important issues.

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PREJUDICE

When the Enterprise arrives on Vesbius in response to a distress call, the human colony they find is not quite what they expect. The crew learns that in order to survive on Vesbius, the humans there have altered themselves genetically — and the planet itself — to survive. This has left them with a deep connection to the planet and a dependency on Vesbius’ biosphere to survive.

Genetic engineering is nothing new to the Star Trek universe. The Denobulans are accomplished in genetic engineering and have had mostly positive results in their society for using it. It has been another matter for humans. Genetic engineering of the late 20th century led to the creation of super-men like Khan and his army of super-soldiers. As Spock pointed out in Space Seed, “Superior ability breeds superior ambition,” and that is exactly one of the issues that has surfaced on Vesbius. The Vesbians’ genetic change has made some of them wary of aliens, and in some cases, completely prejudiced against anyone not Vesbian.

It seems that the Julian Bashir or Hannah Fabers of genetic engineering are the anomaly, whereas Khan and his augments are the norm. A faction of the Vesbian population is a part of an extremist group known as the Exos. They, like so many mad men before them, believe that they should be the rulers of the galaxy. They believe that humans have become subservient to aliens like Vulcans, have stopped striving for greatness and instead accepted mediocrity. This leaves the Exos believing in not only their superiority but in their belief in a centralized government ruled by the strong. The attitude brings to mind people like Hitler and Khan who believed in a master race — and their own inherent greatness — which drove them to command and conquer.

This book asks difficult questions by showing us that while genetic engineering can have appalling consequences, it can also be used for incredible things as well. Not all Vesbians are hell-bent on galactic domination; In fact, most of them just want to live in peace on their planet. McCoy asks a key question a third of the way through the book as he talks to Kirk and Spock: “…When you open Pandora’s box, who knows what will come out?” This is a question that our world must contemplate as more scientific and medical breakthroughs continue advancing at a rapid rate. How do we deal with the temptations that come as a result of tampering with our genetic makeup and what sort of outcomes will we experience if and when we do?