Tag Archives: Star Wars books

The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear – Review

The_Mighty_Chewbacca_Forest_of_FearThis post originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Disney Press continues it’s streak of excellent tie-in work for Star Wars with The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear. The book is written by Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger, who brings his humor and wit to bear on a story from Chewie’s perspective. When Han finds himself double crossed, it’s up to Chewie, a librarian named Mayv and undercover droid K-2SO to save the day. To spoil it, right up front, the book is a joy to read.

Wookiee Depth

There are not many books that tell a story from Chewbacca’s point of view, so immediately Angleberger’s book stands out. To get past the language barrier, the book is told by a narrator. In some ways, the narrator felt a bit like Ron Howard’s narration in Arrested Development, which fits perfectly. The beauty of the book is the way it capitalizes on Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s presentation of Chewie and runs with it.

Chewie, who’s long been relegated to sidekick status in the films, is given room to shine here. Angleberger brings real depth to the character which is accentuated through his relationship with Mayv. They both get to share their stories with one another (Mayv only partially understands Chewie’s since she’s not well versed in Shyriiwook, luckily the narrator is) which brings them closer, realizing that the Empire has had the same impact on both of their lives. What’s neat about this is how it’s just one more example of the Empire’s tightening grip on the galaxy as it destroys freedom and creates a totalitarian, thought-police state.

On top of all of this, the mission that Chewie, K2 and Mayv are on, is one that ties in nicely with some things we’ve seen in other places. The person holding Han hostage, sends them to a planet to retrieve a book that the Emperor wants. There is a very familiar green mist on this planet, reminiscent to Dathomir Magic, which does leave a strong impression that they may be linked somehow. Plus, having Palpatine looking for more Dark Side relics connects nicely with Marvel‘s first Lando comic and his ship full of Sith artifacts.

Conclusion

Like Guardians of the WhillsThe Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear is a fantastic Star Wars read. From start to finish it’s fun, well written and seriously, it brings out the joy of being a fan. The Mighty Chewbacca is rated 5 out of 5 Wookiee growls!

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The Hutt Gambit – Review

The_Hutt_Gambit_coverMy look back at A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy continues with the second book in the series, The Hutt Gambit. I was pleasantly surprised that this was a better book than the first. The writing was better and I just personally found the story line a more engaging.

The book starts off with Han already having been kicked out of the Imperial Academy. I found this frustrating because I was hoping that Crispin would delve into his time there, it seems like something that gets glossed over too easily. The other annoying thing, and Crispin makes a habit of doing this in the series, is telling important parts of Han’s story in flashback. What I don’t like about it, is that it feels unnecessary, especially when the flashback is the meeting between Han and Chewie and Han’s rescue of him, which is the cause of his dishonorable discharg. The meeting of these two icons deserves more than a flashback. I wish the book had started with Han, in the Academy and then let his meet-cute with Chewie be the focus of the first few chapters.

This book also introduces Boba Fett and Lando into Han’s life. I felt like Crispin does a great job of creating enmity between Han and Fett so that you believe there is true hostility between the characters. Lando on the other hand, just came out of nowhere and his reason for looking for Han just didn’t seem to fit the character, he’s wanting piloting lessons. Couple this with Chewie needing to be taught by Han how to fly, it just makes everyone a little too dependent on the “GREAT HAN SOLO”.

There are a few other minor things that bugged me about the book. One is that Han is a little too good at leadership and willing to fight for a cause here. I would have much rather seen him have to learn these things throughout this entire series than see him pretty much be the guy that could transition into Rebel general at a moments notice. Lastly, the way they fool the Empire (and I won’t give it away here) felt straight out of Star Trek not Star Wars. Lastly, there is a bit of this book in the middle that drags and it definitely has the middle book syndrome because some major plot elements are left dangling for book three.

Where this book excels is in the world building. Crispin creates such a vibrant smuggler community. Her descriptions of Smuggler’s Run and the Kessel Run are excellent. She also gives us a lot of insight into the Hutt cartel. I found myself using The Clone Wars hutts and their looks as stand-ins for her hutt meetings. Crispin is also able to make what Daley did with the Corporate Sector work well in this version of the Star Wars galaxy. It’s not just the Empire that’s a worry or of interest here, there are a lot of neat factions and she brings the seedy underbelly of the galaxy to life.

I feel like The Hutt Gambit is an improvement over the first book, leaving me excited to finish the series. I rate it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

The Paradise Snare – Review

The_Paradise_Snare_coverIn light of Solo: A Star Wars Story I thought it would be fun to go back to the Legends line and read some of the books that deal with the character’s origin and his homeward. Having recently read Brian Daley’s trilogy for Aggressive Negotiations, A.C. Crispin’s trilogy felt like the right place to begin.

What is really fascinating is reading this book post-Solo. There are some things here that feel very familiar. Han’s life on Corellia has a lot of similarities to the movie and I feel like it’s well done here in the book. It does a good job of beginning to show us why Han is so “solo”. I will say him having a wookiee raise him was a bit on the nose. I was also a little disappointed to find out that Solo was not an orphan but related to a well-to-do family on Corellia.

The Paradise Snare is a mixed bag for me. The Han we get in this story seemed a bit too much like the one we know from A New Hope and therefore his arc to becoming the man who will live up to his last name does not seem as pronounced as I’d like it to be. On the other side, seeing the way he gets to the Imperial Academy was great. Far from the Empire being seen as the bad guys, it was neat to see how people think of the Academy and being part of the Empire is a good thing at this point in time. This point of view, in light of the end of Revenge of the Sith, still works well.

The part of the book I like the best is the way it shows us the galaxy outside the Rebellion/Imperial conflict. Seeing the cartels like the Hutts, the spice trade and the seedier parts of Star Wars opens up so many story-telling opportunities. It also uses Daley’s ideas about the Corporate Authority in that, these crime syndicates are another major faction in what is happening between the Prequels and Originals.

The goal of these reviews will not be spoilers or to get into every single detail, but more to give an overview of my impressions looking back on something with all the knowledge of canon. The fun thing for me is I’ve not read these books and it’s enjoyable to see just how much of what is canon now references works such as this. I’d rate the The Paradise Snare 3 1/2 out 5 stars. Worth going back and reading.

Last Shot – Review

91tEyqnYV6L.jpgThis review first appeared on The Star Wars Report.

As Solo: A Star Wars Story approaches, Del Rey books sets the stage with Last Shot, a Han, Chewie and Lando adventure set in the period surrounding the new movie and continuing their stories post-Return of the Jedi. What follows is an adventure as outlandish as you’d expect from scoundrels such as these.

Moving On

One of the hardest things to do as we get older is to move on and grow. Daniel José Older digs into this theme for Han and Lando in his post-Return of the Jedi portion of the book, exploring what it means for them to develop into more mature people.

For Han, he’s finding marriage and fatherhood to be a lot harder than he imagined. Nothing in his life has prepared him for how to perform either of these roles, and he’s certainly not had any good role models to look to. When he’s away from his family, there’s an intense longing to be with Leia and Ben again, yet when he’s at home, he struggles with feeling like everything he does is wrong. Older does a wonderful job of showing how difficult it is to make this kind of transition in life, to find a way through the adjustment period and develop the patience that is required from both you and your partner along the way. This is the strongest part of the book, as we witness Han take this emotional journey and come out the other side stronger for finally confronting his feelings and being willing to at least attempt to share them with Leia.

Lando’s journey is similar to Han’s. He’s finally found someone who causes him to think about settling down, and that has him scared. How does he put aside the scoundrel persona for something more stable? Is it possible to embody a little bit of both? With Lando, his characterization does feel a bit more like the comedic caricature that’s become prominent in things like The Freemaker Adventures or Robot Chicken, but Older uses this to show who Lando was, giving the character an arc.

What Older does so well is use the stories from the past to show who Han and Lando were and the seeds in their lives that have led them to be who they are becoming. It is a good reminder that for us to grow, it is our responsibility to learn from the past, using those experiences to push us forward and not letting fear keep us in our old routines.

The Book

As one would hope from a book staring Lando and Han, the story is fun. There is plenty of great banter and the book offers a unique plot that fits the characters. It’s structured into chapters that alternate between the post-Return of the Jedi story, Lando’s past, which takes place before Solo, Han’s past which is set after Solo, and our villain’s past, which seems to be set sometime before Solo as well. For the most part the book is well written. There are some times when the writing style, especially in the dialogue, feels much toomodern, which may take some readers out of the story. The style can also make it difficult to keep track of the action, but neither of these issues outweighs the positives of such an enjoyable romp through the galaxy with our favorite nerf herders. There is so much more that could be added to this review, but honestly, it’s best left to you to enjoy in the story! This book will leave you energized for Solo and wanting more books like this. Last Shot is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

The Last Jedi Novelization – Review

TheLastJediExpanded(1)This review originally appeared on the Star Wars Report.

Novelizations for films can be two things, they can be straight adaptations of a film or they can bring context to the movie in ways that only a book can. Star Wars has a good history of this with some of it’s novelizations, Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One both being prime examples. Each allowed the reader to go deeper into the characters thoughts, expand scenes or even add new scenes that gave even more connective tissue to the surrounding scenes or material outside the film with comics, short stories or other novels. The release of The Last Jedi‘s novelization has followed in the footsteps of the aforementioned Revenge of the Sith or Rogue One novelizations and expanded on the movie to give readers an even fuller understanding of characters thoughts, motivations and whole new scenes.

The Good

Jason Fry’s Star Wars pedigree is unquestionable and his work on atlas’, visual guides, short stories, novels and much more speaks for itself. Therefore he was an inspired choice to write The Last Jedi‘s expanded novelization. What really works here is the way he’s able to incorporate the ancillary materials, comics, novels, young adult books which are all represented in some way, helping to make everything that came out in the Journey to The Last Jedi feel cohesive. A specific example is the way Rose’s story in Cobalt Squadron is used to play directly into Holdo’s plan and the reason the escape craft will be invisible to the First Order. This is just one instance, but Fry weaves many of these throughout the book and they enhance the experience, especially for those who have read most of these ancillary works.

Other expansions are the added scenes. There are two that really stuck out, one is the funeral for Han at the beginning of the book. It slowed down this part of the story and instead of it being a detriment, it was a blessing. Have that feeling that this was not just seconds after the end of The Force Awakens helped with the flow, that there was time for Rey to travel to Ahch-T0 and that the Resistance would actually be able to evacuate their base.

The second added scene comes at the very end as the Falcon escapes Crait. Leia makes her way to the cockpit and has a hauntingly beautiful moment with Chewie as they break down over the loss of Han, Luke and Ben. It’s powerful and honestly should have been in the film.

The Bad

Some of this added material seemed to make this reviewer’s issues with the film even more complicated. There is a moment with Luke, as he’s on his way to Rey’s hut and when he get’s there he’s going to announce his intention to leave with her, which is amazing! Then, he gets to the hut and of course if one has seen the movie, he blows up the hut and goes right back to refusing to leave. The two scenes just don’t seem to flow together at all.

One plus is that we learn more about what Luke had been up to in the period between the two trilogies. Sadly, the impression we are left with as to why Luke restarted the Jedi Order leaves a lot to be desired. Luke still feels as incongruous with who he is at the end of Return of the Jedi if not more so with the revelations the novel gives us.

mark-hamill-interview-tallC

Conclusion

Fry adds a lot to the story but in the end, he can’t change the foundation of the film so it can only help so much. For those that liked or loved The Last Jedi this is a must read. If you didn’t like the movie, Fry’s ability to weave in so many references from other works makes this worth your time. And, in fact, he blew this review’s mind with a rumination Hux has about the Jedi and their link to the First Order stormtroopers. The novelization is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

From a Certain Point of View – Review

Star_Wars_From_a_Certain_Point_of_View_coverCThis review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

It is an understatement to say that Star Wars has revolutionized the film industry but it’s impact didn’t stop there. It’s something that has ingrained itself into cultures all over the world. As the movie celebrates it’s 40th anniversary, Del Rey books has released a collection of 40 stories by 43 different authors to commemorate the occasion called From a Certain Point of View.

Format

The format of the book is not just a random anthology of stories that all take place around A New Hope, but a systematic and chronological compilation. Each vignette tells the story of A New Hope from the perspective of people in the background of the movie. Side characters, aliens, creatures, and droids all have their parts expounded upon to create a rich tapestry in, through and around the film. Each entry ranges in length and quality. As is to be expected with 40 stories by so many different authors, some will work better than others. Part of this will be individual, as each person will respond to specific stories based on where their fandom is the strongest in the saga.

Stand Outs

As mentioned above, the highlights of this volume are sure to vary but these are the ones that worked best for this reviewer.

The Red One by Rae Carson was an early favorite, telling the story of R5-D4. Rae gives us a look inside how this little droid saves the galaxy through their unselfish act.

Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey is phenomenal. It’s a dream come true to finally see the interaction of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon during the long exile on Tatooine. It highlights just how special Old Ben is and why Star Wars fans deserve a book by Grey about these two during Obi-Wan’s time as a padawan, possibly even their adventures on Mandalore with Satine.

The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson continues to cement her legacy as a Star Wars author. The same devotion and care that went into her Bazine Netal story, The Perfect Weapon is on display here (not to mention her making Phasma one of the most fascinating characters of the sequel trilogy). Garindan ezz Zavor emerges from these few short pages as a fully rounded character and it’s Dawson’s skill that makes this possible.

Eclipse by Madeleine Roux is greatly helped by the recent book Leia, Princess of Alderaan, which gave readers much needed insight into the Organas and Alderaan. This short story tells the final moments for Breha and Bail Organa and it’s difficult not to get a bit teary reading about the last time we’ll see these two.

Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo uses Rogue One to perfection to explain how the ghost of Krennic haunts Tarkin, making his time on the Death Star much less triumphant that he anticipated.

vbTime of Death by Cavan Scott receives the highest marks this reviewer can give. Scott tells of Obi-Wan’s last battle and his transition into the force. It’s recommended that the reader have tissues available while reading this one.

Stories receiving honorable mention are There is Another, Palpatine, Desert Son, Contingency Plan, The Angle, and By Whatever Sun.

Conclusion

From a Certain Point of View is a fantastic way to celebrate 40 years of Star Wars and it leaves readers with the hope that each film in the series would be given this same treatment. This books is rated 4 out of 5 destroyed Death Stars.

This review was completed using a copy of  From a Certain Point of View provided by Del Rey.

Leia, Princess of Alderaan – Review

Leia_-_Princess_of_Alderaan_-_new_coverListen to The 602 Club review here!

Leia is one of the most recognized and revered characters in film, yet we still know very little about her upbringing. From the time she was whisked away by Bail Organa, adopted by he and his wife and then shows up in A New Hope, we know almost nothing (we do know just a bit more now, thanks to an appearance by the rebellious princess in Star Wars Rebels). Now thanks to The Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Claudia Gray, Leia’s transition from princess to rebel is now complete.

The Cost

When Star Wars premiered over 40 years ago, the rebellion was more an ideal in the film. Even throughout the next two movies, the cost to those involved was never fully fleshed out. Leia is one of the characters that suffers most from this. She looses her whole planet and we never see the impact that has on her, at least on screen (it is seen in the Leia comic that came out a couple of years ago).

One of the highlights of Leia is the way Gray is able to explore the risks involved for people like Bail and Breha Organa in helping create a uprising against the Empire. The costs for them will be high if they are found to be peddling “treason” to the masses. Bail and Breha know that they are putting their lives and the life of their daughter on the line. In fact, through most of the book, Bail is insistent that Leia be kept in the dark about their defiant activities, with the slim hope that Leia might be spared by the Empire if they are discovered. Freedom is never free. Bail finally resigns himself to the fact that Leia will never be safe, even if she is not involved. The Empire will make an example of them no matter what, if he and Breha are caught, so they might as well allow Leia to be involved. Star Wars has done an excellent job recently of bringing to life the cost being involved in the Rebellion through Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, Twilight Company and now in Leia.

Another price that we see in A New Hope is the annihilation of Alderaan. That loss has never feel so great till now. Gray does a magnificent job of creating a vibrant society and planet that is the jewel of the Empire, free, open and beautiful. The Organas are not just putting their lives in danger, they are risking their whole planet. If their insurgent activities are uncovered, the Alderaan that is will cease to exist. It’s eventual destruction is more poignant now that Claudia Gray enlivened it in the pages of her book.

Coming Together

Palpatine was a genius at using the selfishness of people to his advantage. His continued use of the Senate was a way of getting his hooks into systems and using their greed against each other. Pork-barrel spending and fear allow him to keep the galaxy divided against itself. Mon Mothma makes this point to Leia in the book when she says,

“More than anything else, I’m honored that you trusted me with this. The Empire’s worked so hard to destroy our faith in one another, throughout the galaxy. Only by daring to reach out will we ever make the allies we need.”

It’s a relevant point, even today. The more we are driven apart into our little tribes and groups the harder it is to benefit the whole. Making those connections, finding common ground and coming together are the only way to make a difference.

Connections

This book is under the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi banner and it uses this to familiarize readers with some things that will be seen in the film. Readers are taken to the new planet Crait, that has been seen in the trailer and also introduced to Amilyn Holdo who will be a Vice Admiral in the Resistance alongside Leia. The story also helps in building the character of Leia, showing why she would be able to recognize the danger the First Order presents to the New Republic and be willing to do whatever it takes to stop it.

Untitled-1

Crait and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo from The Last Jedi.

Conclusion 

Claudia Gray has already written two of the best books in the new canon with Lost Stars and Bloodline. Leia is not quite at that level, but it’s still a good book. The best thing any tie-in fiction can do is to enhance your viewing of the films or show it’s connected to and Leia does just that. In reading this book, you’ll never watch A New Hope in the same way again. Gray’s coming-of-rebellion story for Leia is wonderful and worth the read, especially before The Last Jedi. Leia is rated 4 out of 5 lost stars.