Tag Archives: Book

Most Wanted – Review

SOLO - A Star Wars Story MOST WANTED Cover Ultra Hi ResolutionThis review was originally published on The Star Wars Report. Also don’t miss The 602 Club review!

One of the best things about a new Star Wars film are the books that come out in support of them and Solo: A Star Wars Story is no exception. Last Shot by Daniel José Older was a wonderful companion to the movie, giving depth to both Han and Lando around the time of Solo but also featured them after Return of the Jedi. Fans would be doing themselves a disservice if they neglected the YA novels that have been released as tie-ins to the movies. Lost Stars is considered one of the best of the new canon and Rebel Rising added tremendous depth to Jyn in Rogue One. With that in mind, Most Wanted looks to do the same thing for Solo by giving us the backstory to how Han and Qi’ra become the team we see in the film.

Character Work

The joy of these books is when they help flesh out the characters, giving us insight as to who they are and who they will become. Rae Carson nails the characterization of Han and Qi’ra perfectly. She is able to use the plot of the book to not only get them to where we see them in the film but to explain who they are at the core. It’s fascinating to see what attracts Han and Qi’ra to each other and not so much romantically, but as people. Carson is able to show though her story the reason these two people gravitate towards each other and make such a good team. She’s also able to show the complexity of their relationship and why they’ll continue to care so much about each other, even when taking different paths in the end. The nuances here are what stand out and Carson brings those to life beautifully.

What Will Save You

The biggest strengths in the book is Carson’s ability to sow the seeds of incongruity between Han and Qi’ra’s worldview. For Han life is, “…having one person in all the galaxy to fly with. Someone you can trust to have your back”. His experiences in Most Wanted galvanize this idea for him, whereas for Qi’ra, even though she sees the benefit of this kind of thinking, she cannot fully commit to it. She senses that it’s power and money that will give her the freedom she so desperately deserves, because in the end, everyone will betray you. What’s so good about this, is again, it’s nuanced, it’s not clear cut, especially when it comes to Qi’ra.

The Book

The bar for these books has been set very high with stories like Lost Stars and Rebel Rising and thankfully, Most Wanted lives up! Carson’s world building on Corellia is excellent. She adds to the understanding of the White Worms gang, Qi’ra’s background with The Silos, other crime syndicates on Corellia and the idea of droid freedom from Solo. What makes this book so good is the way it adds to the film and expands the experience through deepening the understanding of the characters and the life they had before the film. Most Wanted is highly recommended and rated 4 and a 1/2 stars out of 5.

Don’t miss The 602 Club Podcast and Cinema Stories Podcast reviews of Solo!

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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

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“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, the tenuous 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 term 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.

Wrongs darker than death or night

David Mack has crafted a political thriller that not only entertains, but like all good Trek, asks tough questions. There are times when something may be unlawful but also the right thing to do. The Andorian reproductive crisis has come to a head and the information that could save them is being withheld on all sides. Pro term president Ishan does not want to reward a people who have seceded from the Federation and on the other side, Andorian political parties are withholding information from scientists in an effort to gain political power. Stuck in the middle are the Andorian people who have, at most, a century left. This leaves Bashir with the toughest choice of his career. Does he obey the law or does he do what is right?

One cannot help but be struck with the realization that important issues are often used by political parties as ways to seize or maintain power. There is often little regard for the people being governed, leaving everyday lives hanging in the balance. Whether it is health care, national debt or any of the myriad of real-world correlations, Mack’s book strikes a chord that reverberates long after the last page is turned.

Conclusion

This may be a short review, but there are so many twists and turns in this book that are better left kept a surprise than revealed here. David Mack had a tough job: Write the middle book in a fivebook series. He knocks it out of the park. With the skill of the best thriller authors, Mack leaves you saying “one more page” until there are no more. A Ceremony of Losses continues story threads from the greater Star Trek lit universe as well as the recent Fall series, wrapping up some hanging threads as well as creating more. This book is not to be missed and is rated 10 out of 10 Andorian fight scenes!

The Crimson Shadow – Review

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.

Paradise Lost

For the Cardassian people, the homeland is precious. Like Tolkien’s ring, it holds a immense power over the people and the bond they feel with it is intense. This love of the fatherland has become twisted into racism and created a superiority complex in Cardassians, leading to occupations and wars. This misplaced love and trust into something temporal or institutional has led to some of the greatest atrocities committed by the Cardassian people. Garak dissects the problem when he says,

“But you understand, don’t you, that the institutions don’t matter? The Obsidian Order, Central Command, the True Way, Starfleet, empires, unions, federations-these are names and names only. They are tools. They count for nothing if the purpose is flawed. That was my mistake for a long time – confusing the purpose with the instrument….The truth is that the institution flourishes only when the people who comprise it flourish. And if the people are sick, the institution will be sick.”

What matters is people, fostering and building a world that promotes the most good for as many people as possible, remembering that we are all what matters. Responsibility for the good of the whole is the duty of each one of us, not just a select few. It is when we forget this that trouble finds us. This is the beautiful truth that Arati Mhevet, one of the main characters in the book, comes to.

Conclusion

This book has so much in it to love. One of the main highlights is the interaction between Garak and Picard. Seeing these two formidable wordsmiths together is a joy. It is a friendship that will hopefully continue in upcoming Star Trek books. So many other pivotal things happen in this book, but I won’t spoil them here. With action, political intrigue and a story that leaves the reader contemplating the implications of what they have read long after the book is over, it is rated 10 out of 10 glasses of Kanar.

 

Revelations and Dust – Review

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“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 tenth 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 of DS9 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 defining thing in life, 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.

Future’s End

The 24th century has been moving to a crescendo since the Typhon Pact series began. Each book has been adding a new piece to the intricate puzzle the writers have been constructing for the last [year] years. Part Cold War, part World War I, The Fall takes pieces from our own history and weaves them into a new and exciting tapestry that will leave this period of Star Trek history forever changed. The main catalyst for the series is set up well in this book (how this happens is a huge spoiler, so it will not be mentioned here) and leaves the reader with just as many questions as answers. There is no doubt that this series will have Trek fans talking for years to come.

Conclusion

With everything that George has to do in this book, it is amazing that he fits it all in. The plot is paced well, leaving the reader apprehensive, knowing that something foreboding is just over the next page. The book not only sets up The Fall but will probably leave readers wanting more DS9. If that is the case, readers should speak with their pocket book and not only buy Revelations and Dust, but the other DS9 relaunch books as well. Rated 9 out of 10 Celestial Temple Experiences.

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?