Tag Archives: Star Wars

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.

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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!

#StarWarsLove

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If you lived through the Special Edition and Prequel era then this time period in Star Wars fandom is all too familiar. Beginning with the SE, Lucas did some things with the Original Trilogy that sent some fans into literal hysterics. The arguments over whether “Han shot first” got ugly, but that was nothing compared to what happened after the Prequels. Lucas, the mild mannered creator of the galaxy far, far, away was accused of “raping our childhood”. One “comedian” went as far as to say he wished he could go back in time and kill Lucas with a shovel so he couldn’t create anything past the Original Trilogy. And not to be outdone, a TV show showed Lucas to be a rapist because of the fourth Indiana Jones movie. It was in vogue to do this, it was considered “funny” to say these kinds of things about George Lucas, it was accepted. Sadly, we’ve not learned from history.

For some reason in fandom, it is still acceptable to say these kinds of things about directors, actors and heck, anyone involved in the process and social media has only made the problem 100 times worse. People can now hide behind an avatar and anonymously say anything they want about anyone they want. People in creative positions are constantly treated less than human, getting insults and death threats regularly over….. yup, that’s right…. movies, tv shows, comics and books. This is not acceptable. It never should have been acceptable. These creatives are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity, grace and respect! Let’s remember the Golden Rule folks! Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Remember when your parents told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Maybe we should start practicing that again.

Yoda famously said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate, leads to suffering”. There is so much suffering happening out there because of fandom and it needs to stop. So my challenge is to stop treating creatives like some sort of commodity that owes you something, treat them like real people, BECAUSE THEY ARE! They pour their heart and soul into their work, let’s begin to respect that. Will we like every single thing that comes out of every single fandom? No. But does that give us the right to treat people like less than human? NO! Constructive criticism of art has happened for centuries and it’s fun to debate others about what we think about the latest movie or tv show, but again, we don’t have the right to treat people like less than dirt.

It says in the Bible, “Perfect love casts out all fear”. Even if you are not spiritual, I think we can all see the wisdom in this. My last challenge is to focus on what we love, to build each other up in that and not tear each other down. It’s fashionable to work very hard to be the snarkiest on social media about the latest thing in any fandom. I challenged you, let go of your Hate, as Luke Skywalker would say, embrace the light side because the cynicism of our age is slowly killing us. Let’s celebrate what we love and when we criticize, let’s remember to do it constructively, thoughtfully, respectfully and with grace. And above all, treat people, all people with the respect and dignity that’s due them. I hope you will join me in using the hashtag #StarWarsLove to pass on what we love about Star Wars. Let’s set an example to those that follow, it is not ok to treat people the way George Lucas, Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Kelly Marie Tran, Rian Johnson and so many others across so many fandoms have been treated. Galadrial said in the Fellowship of the Ring film, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”, so let’s change it! Will you join me?

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.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Review

solo-star-wars-story-imax-poster-1108152Don’t miss The 602 Club and Cinema Stories reviews!

When the fateful sale of Lucasfilm happened and Disney snatched up one of the most beloved franchises, they promised us not just more Episodes, but stand alone films as well. Some of the first ideas they had were what became Rogue One but also names like Solo, Fett and Kenobi began to emerge as ideas for films. Now, let me be honest, the idea of a Solo or Fett movie did nothing for me, in fact I was pretty hostile to it. I just couldn’t see the need for them. Then of course there was the behind-the-scenes drama with the directors getting fired, Ron Howard stepping in and the rumors that 70% of the movie was being reshot. Not the best marketing tool. Then, slowly, the trailers began to appear and something inside me began to warm to the idea and beyond all reason, the film began to grow on me. Now that Solo has opened, I’ve seen it, so let’s dive in, shall we.

Everyone Serves Someone 

One of the most interesting aspects of Solo is Qi’ra’s comment that, “Everyone serves someone” and the way the movie plays that out. From the Dickensian existence of orphans on Corellia, to droids in a death match cage, to wealthy gangsters like Dryden, to an entire galaxy under the heal of the Emperor, everyone is serving someone. The question of the film becomes, “Who will you serve then, and why?”.

Inside Han there is this rebellious spirit that longs to be free, free from the rules placed on him by other people, he’s bound to no one but who he’s chosen, Qi’ra. She is his only love, the one thing he values more than his own life. Han has this instinctual, self-sacrificial love for Qi’ra that will lead him on his goal of freeing her when it’s only he that is able to escape the hell of Corellia.

What makes this fascinating is that Han can never truly escape this innate sense of right/wrong and love for the downtrodden. In a universe where everyone seems to just be trying to survive, Han, because of his early experience with sacrificial love not only wants to survive, but also help others do the same. He does so with Chewie, Qi’ra and others he meets along the way. He can’t seem to help himself. What is nice is that this doesn’t make Han a fool, he doesn’t completely trust anyone, yet he does want to believe that everyone can choose the “right” path. In the end, Han chooses to serve no one but those he cares about. He cares about himself, Chewie and there’s a spark of the “good guy” in him that he just can’t get rid of. The beauty of it all is that Han’s rebellion is being a character that loves other people and is not just selfishly out for himself, he hopes for better. Oh he’ll wear the facade of a swaggering smuggler, but deep down, he’ll find his true calling one day and the film sets up this wonderfully.

The Movie

HSLostLegacy_artThe true strength of Solo is the way it uses the Star Wars lore. This movie has lovingly crafted a story that pays homage to the Prequels, The Clone Wars, Rebels, Rogue One and the Original Trilogy to perfection, all while adding to it in fun and unique ways. There are designs that are reminiscent of things seen in The Clone Wars, story points and even musical cues that all connect back, but they also forge their own path. Honestly, this is how you add to the Star Wars universe. There has been such care taken here to understand the time period they are in, what has come before and how they can link to it, but also build upon it in a way that feels fresh and familiar all at the same time. There are so many examples I could give but they would ruin surprises, so one small easter egg, just to prove my point. In Dryden’s office, you will see the skull from the cover of Brian Daley’s third Solo adventure novel, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy! It is details like these and so many others that make this movie something special.

Ron Howard was clearly the person to direct this movie. You can see the Lucasian influence everywhere and much like The Clone Wars series, this film takes what we know of Star Wars and then infuses it with new genres like the western, mob movies and a bit of noir to create it’s own feel but something that is undeniably Star Wars. Howard gets this universe and he’s greatly helped by a scrip from the Kasdans that also knows the whole saga, inside and out.

When the movie was first announced, one of the biggest question marks was Alden Ehrenreich, could he inhabit Han and bring him to life in Harrison Ford’s shadow? I’m here to tell you, he nails it. Alden is perfect as the young Solo. From the beginning of the film I never once questioned him as the character, he filled the pilot’s seat with ease. There was never a question in my mind that Donald Glover would be a great Lando and I was right. I enjoyed Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, she’s a good character and by the end, I’m left wanting to know what happens next. In truth, the cast was brilliant and they each breathe life into these character in a way that’s real, fun and engaging, making me want another Solo film (something I never thought I would hear myself say).

Conclusion

There is so much more I could say about this movie. What I’m left with is just how much fun I had. I left the theater buzzing and wearing the same goofy grin as Solo himself. Do yourself a favor, grab some friends and go see this movie! This movie is everything Star Wars fans never knew, they always wanted! I rate Solo, 4 out 5 trips through the Maw! HanSolo5a7e076419ab9.0

Make sure to check out The 602 Club review of the Star Wars tie-in novel Last Shot which is so worth 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.

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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.