Why Star Wars is Important

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The following is not yet another article on the impact that Star Wars has had on the film industry, genre fiction, or even fandom. There are already plenty of much more qualified sources on those subjects readily available if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, if you’d like to read/listen to the most comprehensive, well written, and entertaining book I’ve ever read on those subjects, I cannot recommend Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe enough. (Read my review here!) Instead, the following will be a much more personal account of the importance and impact that Star Wars has had in my life, like the lives of so many others like me, over the last three decades.

Star Wars has literally saved my life on more than one occasion.

Before I get into how, let’s begin with a little context. I was born with a fairly rare medical condition. My body doesn’t produce testosterone. While this type of issue isn’t unheard of, it’s usually caught fairly quickly- typically during infancy, but almost always before puberty. My condition wasn’t discovered until I was thirty, long after puberty had had it’s way with me. My testosterone count was so low, and my case, given my age, so rare, that the specialist I was sent to got so excited that he had to go and get his colleague in the next room to show me off like I was a unicorn. They couldn’t do anything to help me with the issues that I went to see them about, but they wanted to do papers on me. They really wanted to do papers on me. They looked like a couple of coyotes that smelled a pork chop. I left as quickly as I could.

Life, just before puberty.

               Life, just before puberty.

Why did it take so long for a doctor to realize there was a problem? A fun side effect of not producing testosterone is that without testosterone you don’t build much muscle. Without muscle, it’s very difficult to burn fat. I’ve been overweight since I was a baby. My parents took me to doctors and even dietitians. It was generally believed that I was just a fat kid that needed to exercise more and eat less. I can remember being put on diets as early as the age of seven. Nothing worked. I kept getting bigger, no matter what I did or how hard I tried. The bigger I got, the more assumptions were made. That is until my current doctor, literally within five minutes of meeting me and after a quick physical examination, asked me if I’d ever been tested for low testosterone. He was shocked when I told him no, and that no one had ever mentioned it before. Thirty years and a number of doctors, dietitians, and specialists, and all it took was a simple blood test. Now, when I say that I have always been overweight I mean I weighed over one hundred pounds by the time I was twelve. I was clocking in close to three hundred by the time I graduated high school. This was me at Easter of this year:

I now weigh over 500 pounds.

I now weigh over 500 pounds. Still dead sexy.

As you can probably imagine, life was hell growing up. I was picked on and bullied just about every day. I hated myself and I felt like no matter what I did nothing helped or would ever change. My first suicide attempt was when I was eleven. I tried to hang myself. That began a long and constant war with depression and suicide, one I fought mostly in silence because I didn’t want to scare my parents like I did that first time, and I didn’t want people to think that I was nuts. Things were bad enough as it was. Even though I’ve since sought professional help, it’s a war that I’m still fighting to this day.

I’m sure by this point you’re saying, “Wow, that’s really sad and depressing, but what the hell does this have to do with Star Wars?”

Well, Star Wars is one huge reason why I’m still here.

Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I saw in a theater. I had just turned two years old. I watched my dad’s VHS copies (and later laser disc. REPRESENT!)  as I played with my Star Wars figures just about every day, driving my mom insane, until I was thirteen. I was nine years old when Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released. I read it cover to cover (along with my dad’s copies of the original novelizations and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) and then I begged for the next two when they were released. This began a collection of books, comics, and media that continues to this day. If it was Star Wars,  I had to have it. It wasn’t just because I was a huge nerd and a super fan (and I was/am). Those movies, books, audio dramas, and video games saved me. They gave me a safe place where I could retreat when I started to feel the darkness surrounding me.  Whenever I felt like I couldn’t cope. Whenever I felt like my life wasn’t worth living. Whenever I felt like the dark side was winning, I’d put in a movie, or I’d pick up a book, or I’d turn on a video game. That beautiful John Williams theme would kick in (even if it was just in my head) and then I wasn’t me anymore. At that point, I was in that galaxy far, far away with characters that I loved. By the time I was done things certainly weren’t perfect, but they were better. They were manageable. The darkness wasn’t so all-encompassing anymore.

I’m not alone.

Stop any cosplayer at a convention. Ask any 501st Legion member. More often than not they’ll tell you a similar story: they were the outcasts, the nerds, they didn’t feel like they fit in until they found other Star Wars nerds. Star Wars was their refuge. Star Wars was their happy place. Star Wars gave them…a new hope.

Sorry...

                               Sorry…

Star Wars is universal. It’s transcended political borders, languages, and generations and spoken to millions of fans around the world over the course of the last four decades. It’s given us all a galaxy far, far away filled with wonder, and adventure, and a hope that good will always triumph over evil. It tells us that even the worst of us can be redeemed with love; that even the humblest of beginnings and a life that you can’t wait to escape could lead to an opportunity to do something amazing that will change the lives of countless others for the better.  It tells us that no matter how dark or desperate things are, there’s always a hope for things to change, to get better.

There’s always hope.

My new hope.

My new hope.

Things have changed a lot for me in the last few years. I got married to a beautiful woman who has a now-5 year old son. Family was something that I always desperately wanted but never thought would happen. Now I’m a husband and a father with a kid that I can share Star Wars with in the same way that mine shared it with me.

Speaking of which….

My body is ready.

My body is ready.

Words cannot describe how excited I was when I read the announcement that there would be new movies and a new canon that’s starting fresh. I’ve ravenously consumed every new book, comic, and TV show. (Reviews are here.)  I watch Collider Jedi Council every week. I spend all day checking news websites for new scraps of information. I managed to get tickets not only for opening night, but for the night after as well before everything crashed. I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it a half a dozen times (at least) in theaters. The promise of new movies in this franchise that I love has really helped during the more stressful times in the last few years. It’s something positive to look forward to sharing with my new family. Once again, it’s Star Wars helping me through the dark times, only this time it’s along with an understanding wife and an adorably goofy son.

I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, even with everything I’ve gone through. I’ve had a great family and friends. I have a loving wife and son. And I’ve got a galaxy far, far away that’s always there when I need to make the jump to hyperspace and escape for a little while. For me, it’s not just been a fun movie franchise. For me, Star Wars is important.  For me, Star Wars has been a life saver.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Updated Star Wars: The New Canon Reviews

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For those of you who may be new to the Star Wars expanded universe scene, here is a VERY simplistic run down of what’s going on: When Disney purchased Lucasfilm they formed a Story Group. The job of this Story Group was to manage the story of Star Wars and make sure that everything- from the movies to the T.V. shows, books, comics, & games- all told a cohesive story. One of the first decisions that this Story Group made was to make all previous expanded universe stuff (the books, comics, games, etc. from the last 20+ years) “Legends” and start over with a fresh slate. Everything released under the Star Wars banner from that point on would be considered “canon”- the official history of Star Wars and it’s characters. That means that anything you read in the books or comics, see in the TV shows or movies, or play in the games, really “happened” in that galaxy far, far away that we all love. The following is my review of each of the books & comics that have been released in this new canon. The following reviews will be short, to the point, and won’t contain any spoilers.

The Novels:

ANewDawn

A New Dawn was the first of the new canon to be released and it serves as a prequel to the TV show Rebels (which if you haven’t been watching, you should). It introduces us to Kanan Jarrus, former Jedi padawan turned scoundrel, and Hera Syndulla, ace pilot and freedom fighter.

What I Liked:
The book does an excellent job of giving readers insight into who Kanan and Hera are and what makes them tick. It is an excellent primer for Rebels and is something that any fan of that series will enjoy for that reason alone. The book also introduces readers to Rae Sloan, a female Imperial Commander who goes on to play a major role in Aftermath.

What I Didn’t Like:
Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing that the book has going for it. It’s well written, but the plot is  rather uninteresting and the pacing is on the slow side. Readers looking for swashbuckling Jedi action, shootouts, and starfighter dogfights will be disappointed. In fact, a year after reading the book I’m having a hard time even remembering the major plot points and I had to look up the publisher’s summery to refresh my memory. That’s a bad sign.

Conclusion:
A New Dawn wasn’t a bad book, and fans of the Rebels series will enjoy learning more about Kanan & Herra, but the plot is forgettable and the pacing is on the slow side.  It’s worth a read for fans, but there are better Star Wars offerings to tackle first.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Rent

Who Will Like It: Fans of Rebels.

Heir_to_the_Jedi

Ever since I, Jedi by Micheal Stackpole I’ve longed for someone else to write a book in first person; so when this new slate of canonical books was announced and I saw that not only were we going to get a book written in first person from Luke’s point of view, but that it was being written by one of my favorite authors, Kevin Hearne, I was beyond excited. My wife and I are both HUGE Iron Druid fans, so for me this was like a match made in heaven. I’ve had both the e-book and the audiobook preordered for over a month and I had both downloaded to my phone as soon as they became available. I devoured the entire thing over the course of a day.

I’m not going to go into details about the story because I always hate it when reviews do that. If you’re reading this to see if the book is worth buying before you read it you don’t want some yahoo ruining the experience with an outline of the whole story; and if you’ve already read the book and you’re just here to see what I thought then you’re not going to want a rehash of a story you already know. So here’s all you need to know about the book for the purposes of the review: the book is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and it’s told from Luke’s point of view. Admiral Ackbar and Leia send Luke off on a mission along side a new potential love interest. Hijinks ensue.

What I Liked
It was exactly what I expected Kevin Hearne to deliver- a fun, entertaining, quick read. This is not a thick, 400+ page novel with an intricate plot and a massive cast; and that’s not a bad thing. The story Hearne weaves here is a more contained, personal story for Luke. He’s not saving the galaxy. There’s no huge threat. It’s Luke completing a series of connected missions for the Alliance while he tries to figure out more about the Force and how he’s supposed to learn to be a Jedi without a teacher. Hearne’s light, often humorous, style fits Luke perfectly at this stage of his life, and is a great lead in to Jason Arron and John Cassaday’s Star Wars ongoing comic from Marvel (which if you’re not reading, you should be).  It’s a smaller, more intimate story, but it isn’t just a fun throw-away tale. Through the course of the novel it helps to answer the question that most fans had when they watched Luke call his lightsaber to his hand while he was hanging upside down in the wampa cave during The Empire Strikes Back – when did he learn to do that? Hearne helps to fill in some of those gaps between the movies with important development for Luke’s character. It was also a really great idea to tell this story from a first person perspective, as it helps the reader to really connect with Luke as a person as opposed to him just being some overly powerful hero archetype as he’s been so often portrayed in the past.The new character that Hearne introduces, Nakari Kelen, could have easily been a one dimensional stereotype but over the course of the novel Hearne fleshes out a fun, kick-ass female character that has great chemistry with Luke.

What I Didn’t Like
The pacing was a little too quick and uneven in some places. Events early in the novel are often easily completed and then glossed over to get to the next set-piece. I’m glad that Hearne didn’t drag out unnecessary transitions, but I wouldn’t have minded if he took a little more time fleshing things out. Also, there was one instance where a “reward” for Luke’s help is a little too convenient for the plot, as it becomes needed just a few pages later. Originally this book was set to be part of a trilogy of Legends books, but when the change over happened it was decided that this story could fit in the new canon. I don’t know how much of the book got changed because of that transition, but I wonder if some of the pacing issues might be a result.

Conclusion

Heir to the Jedi was an enjoyable read for me and I’m hoping that Kevin Hearne will come back to that galaxy far, far away again some time with a story that might not be as hindered due to circumstances. Reviews have been pretty mixed on this one, so your mileage may vary. The best advice I can give is manage expectations and go into it understanding that this isn’t Luke the Jedi Knight facing some galaxy-level threat. It’s a smaller story of a post-ANH Luke that would be at home as a few issue run in the comics.

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Anyone Who’s Seen the Star Wars Movies/ Star Wars Fans/ Any Fan of The Iron Druid Chronicles

Tarkin-Cover

Tarkin is exactly what you’d expect from the title- a novel about Grand Moff Tarkin and how he came into power.

What I Liked:
James Luceno is a very talented writer and it was interesting to see the history of this influential character and how he came to be the man we see in A New Hope. Luceno writes Tarkin as a fully realized, three dimensional human being where he could have easily been a one note villain stereotype. The highlight of the novel is seeing Tarkin and his interactions with Vader.

What I Didn’t Like:

I have to admit that Tarkin is my least favorite of the new canon novels so far, but that is purely due to personal preference. As I said, Luceno is an excellent writer, I just had very little interest in the subject matter. I honestly didn’t need a book about Tarkin. I never cared about where he came from or how he came into power. I was perfectly content with him being used as a secondary character, with his history being given to us in snippets through the stories he shows up in, such as his role in Rebels and in Lost Stars. I found the main plot of Tarkin hunting down Rebels that stole his ship to be pretty boring, and it took me several weeks to get through the whole novel because I just didn’t have much motivation to read it.

Conclusion:
While I didn’t care for the novel, I know many other Star Wars fans that LOVED this novel and couldn’t put it down. The novel is well written and my experience with it was purely due to my own personal preferences.

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Rent/Buy depending on personal preference.

Who Will Like It:  Fans of the Empire. People interested in learning about Tarkin.

dark disciple

Dark Disciple is a novel adaptation of a series of unused scripts from The Clone Wars TV series. It follows rebel Jedi Quinlan Vos (best known from the Dark Horse comics) and former Sith Apprentice, now bounty hunter, Asajj Ventress as they’re sent on a mission to assassinate Count Dooku.

What I Liked:
The Clone Wars DNA is obvious to anyone who is a fan of the show. Golden does a great job personifying Ventress and Vos, and the evolution of their relationship. It’s also a great look at how the Jedi aren’t infallible and the impact that the war has had on both the Order and individual Jedi. It’s a solid, fun story and my third favorite novel of the new canon.

What I Didn’t Like:
The story would have been even more effective if the Dark Horse comics had been officially brought into canon, fleshing out Quinlan’s history and previous struggles with the dark side. That’s a minor quibble, given that the novel does a good job of establishing who Vos is on it’s own.

Conclusion:
This is, by far, one of the best novels in the new canon. It’s fun, well paced, and tells a great story. While you don’t have to have seen The Clone Wars to enjoy this novel, fans of that series will get even more more out of it.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Fans of the Clone Wars, Fans of Jedi/Sith tales, casual Star Wars fans looking for a fun story.

Lords_of_the_Sith

Take Vader at the height of his power and the Emperor showing off just how badass he really is, and then strand them both in a hostile environment where a group of rebels are hunting them. Interested? Damn right you are!

What I Liked:
This is Vader as we always wanted to see him. This is the Vader we see in the season two premier of Rebels. This is Vader being the boogyman, the urban legend, that rebels whisper about like they’re telling campfire tales. Then there’s the Emperor finally cutting loose and showing us all why Yoda was unable to beat him. This is the Emperor from the Clone Wars season five finale as he took on Maul and Savage at the same time and whooped their monkey asses. These are the Sith Lords we always wanted to see. The Rebel side is well represented too. What could have easily been just stereotypes and canon fodder like they were in Tarkin, here we get Cham Syndulla (Hera’s father) leading the Free Ryloth Movement on their biggest mission ever: to take out the Emperor and Vader. Their plan is interesting. The characters are well written and three dimensional. The novel is not only one of the very best of the new canon, but would rank up as one of the very best of the Legends as well.

What I didn’t Like:
I have to say, there really isn’t anything I didn’t like. This book was great from beginning to end and anything I’d say here would be complete nit-picking.

Conclusion:
This is Vader and the Emperor being complete badasses. In fact, that should be the blurb on the cover: Sith Badassery. There is no reason to not read this book.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy. Duh.

Who Will Like It: Star Wars Fans, Sith fans, Vader worshipers, Fans of badassery.

aftermath

Aftermath has been incredibly divisive among the Star Wars fandom. It’s the first novel to take place post-ROTJ and the anticipation for this novel has been through the roof ever since it was announced. Unfortunately, that anticipation and hype has worked against it, and a combination of pre-conceived expectations and an eclectic writing style has left many fans disappointed. Is it really as bad as Amazon would have you believe?

What I Liked:
Wendig did a great job of giving readers a good feel for what the galaxy is like in a post-Empire setting. Occasionally Wendig places interludes set on various planets across the galaxy to give a snapshot of what things are like. While some fans weren’t thrilled with the interludes and how they broke up the main story, they actually ended up being my favorite parts of the novel. They were filled with the most interesting, and often teasing, tidbits and stories. In particular, the moment with Han and Chewie was a lot of fun. Wendig did a great job nailing the characterizations and it left me wishing that the novel was following that story instead of the main one that we were given.  Speaking of the main story, my favorite aspects were those that followed now Admiral Sloan, first introduced in A New Dawn, Sinjir Rath Velus, a former Imperial Loyalty Officer (and possibly a character from The Force Awakens?), and Mr. Bones, the homicidal battle droid reprogrammed to be a deadly bodyguard. They were all great characters with the best parts of the story surrounding them. The book itself starts slow, and all the seemingly disparate stories, along with the interludes, can be a bit confusing, but by about the half way point everything begins to gel together and the pacing of the book picks up quite a bit. From there on the book is a fairly fun read.
Update: Author Chuck Wendig confirmed on Twitter that the character of Temmin Wexely grows up to be Resistance pilot “Snap” Wexely played by Greg Grunberg in The Force Awakens.

What I Didn’t Like:
Wendig has a writing style that takes a little getting used to. Personally, it didn’t bother me, but I know a lot of other fans that just didn’t care for it. It’s very much a matter of personal taste.  As for the story itself, I, like many other fans, was disappointed that not only was the story not being headlined by the “big three,” but even Wedge ended up being pretty much a glorified cameo. The story itself wasn’t bad, and Wendig is a good writer, it just didn’t meet the expectations fans had for a novel that was touted as the first novel on the path to The Force Awakens and our first look at a post-ROTJ galaxy. Personally, I would have preferred a larger-scoped novel, or even a collection of smaller stories- longer versions of the interludes. I’ve heard that Wendig only had a short amount of time to do the novel, and I would assume that exactly what Wendig could do was hindered by the need for secrecy around the story aspects for the new movie and the “big three.” I like to call it “Agents of Shield Syndrome,” given the first season of Shield suffered in a similar fashion until Winter Soldier came out and they were able to move into the meat of their content. With all of those things being taken into consideration, Wendig didn’t do a bad job, and I look forward to seeing what he does with the following two novels post-TFA release, where he may not be as hindered.

Conclusion:
My advice to any fan is this: manage expectations. Judge the novel on it’s own merits, not against what you think it should be. If you can let go of what you wanted and instead take the novel for what it is, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Buy if you’re a hardcore fan. Rent if you’re a casual fan or just want to skim over it for the highlights. While this novel won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, there is enough great moments and very interesting tidbits of information/teases that make this something that all hardcore fans should check out.

Who Will Like It: Hardcore fans, fans of Chuck Wendig’s other novels.

Lost-Stars_DBG1

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about Lost Stars my initial reaction was: pass!  A YA novel touted as a Star Wars Romeo and Juliet? No, thank you. Then Kristian Harloff raved about how great it was and I decided to give it a shot. I have never been so glad to have been so wrong. Lost Stars is my favorite of the new canon novels and it is a book that everyone can enjoy.

What I Liked:
Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree are real people…at least Claudia Gray writes them as though they are. I know that’s the goal of any author, but Claudia Gray does it so well that I found myself drawn into their story and not wanting to put the book down. The story of Lost Stars begins roughly a decade before ANH and runs through ROTJ, ending with the Battle of Jakku (the battle where that Star Destroyer crash in the trailer happens). Miss Gray does a masterful job of weaving  Thane and Ciena’s tales with those of the movies, and involving them in such a way that is believable as opposed to turning it into an eye-rolling Star Wars Forrest Gump. In the end, you’ll see the familiar stories of the Original Trilogy in a new light and have a deeper appreciation for them. Lost Stars is a spiritual successor to the “Legends” X-Wing series by Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston, following the two ace pilots as they join the Imperial Starfleet Academy and rise through the ranks, until eventually one becomes disillusioned with the Empire and joins the Rebellion. Thane in particular reminds me of Corran Horn (my favorite EU character), but not in a way where it feels like a rip-off. He’s just a really great character, as is Ciena, and I found myself at the end of the novel hoping fervently that we’ll get at least a sequel, if not an entire series, following these two. As for the romance aspect- don’t let the “YA” fool you. This isn’t Star Wars Twilight. The evolution of their relationship is natural and well written. At no point does it feel heavy handed or like you’re reading one of your mother’s romance novels.

What I Didn’t Like:
The novel ended with an obvious set up for a sequel, and now I have to wait for it!

Conclusion:
Ignore the fact that this novel is technically YA and has been promoted as a romance- this is Star Wars at it’s best and can be read and enjoyed by any fan.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

Who Will Like It: Star Wars fans new and old, fans of the X-Wing series of novels by Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston.

Battlefront_Twilight_Company_cover

Battlefront: Twilight Company is obviously meant to be a tie-in to the new video game of the same name, but what Alexander Freed has actually done is given fans a war story told from the point of view of the grunts on the ground set in that galaxy far, far away that we all love. Most of the novel takes place around the time of The Empire Strikes Back and centers around Twilight Company, the Sixty First Mobile Infantry that’s sent in to do the difficult missions others can’t in the heart of enemy territory.

What I Liked:

It’d be easy to write this one off as a money grab, given it’s a tie in to a video game and those tend to be about as good as video game movies are. i was pleasantly surprised with this one, because it’s actually one of the best written novels we’ve gotten so far in the new canon. Freed manages to deliver a legit war story that reads as serious and brutal as such things should be, while at the same time managing to still feel like Star Wars. The characters are great. The story is solid. This one is a win all around.

What I Didn’t Like:

The serious and heavy nature of the content made this one a slow read for me. That’s not a knock on the quality of the storytelling at all. It’s just a heavy book with a heavy subject matter right around the crazy timing of the holidays, so this wasn’t one I could just fly through in a day or two. That’s more of a personal problem as opposed to a criticism of the book itself.

Conclusion: 

Battlefront: Twilight Company is a solid read and gives fans a perspective that we’ve not really gotten from a Star Wars novel before. The gritty subject matter and heavy tone might not be everyone’s cup of tea, however.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It:  Fans looking for a more serious war story, fans looking forward to Rogue One, fans of war movies like Black Hawk Down.

TFA

Alan Dean Foster, the author that ghost wrote the original Star Wars novelization and the first ever expanded universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, returns to Star Wars over thirty years later to pen the novelization for the new blockbuster movie. (He even begins the novel with a quote from the Journal of the Whills. *Fanboy squee!*) Given the fact that The Force Awakens has become the largest grossing domestic movie of all time and has broken just about every box office record there is, chances are you’ve probably seen the movie by now. If you haven’t, why the hell not? So, if you already know the story should you bother to read the novel? Yes, yes you should.

What I Liked: 

Alan Dean Foster is a well respected and accomplished author, and as such he’s managed to take the script from the film and weave a wonderful novel from it that gives fans a look inside the characters heads, revealing a more in depth look at motivations and feelings that are just impossible to do on screen. It also gives fans additional information and scenes that they just didn’t have time to put in the movie. The novel fills in a lot of the gaps that many fans felt were missing from the movie, such as a better understanding of the 30 years post-Return of the Jedi political climate. Who is the New Republic? What happened to the Empire and how did they become the First Order? Why is Leia running a resistance? Who was that old guy at the beginning and why did he have a piece of the map? What happened to Poe on Jakku? All of these questions, often glossed over in the movie for the sake of pacing, are answered in much greater detail here. We get a much better look at Han and Leia’s relationship, what went wrong, and why Han ran. We gain a deeper understanding of the internal struggle Kylo Ren is experiencing throughout the story.  We also get a few more clues as to who Rey is and why she can do the things she can do. Basically, if you loved the movie but found yourself not quite getting as much information as you wanted, this is the book (or audiobook) for you.

What I Didn’t Like:

Novelizations, canonically speaking, are tricky things. The novel is often written based on a script, and generally there are things in that script that either don’t make it into the movie at all, or may end up looking or sounding different in the final product. Thankfully this novelization doesn’t contain anything that contradicts what we see on screen. Some dialogue is different, in that the conversations may contain more lines, but the meaning and intent of the dialogue remains the same. Pablo Hidalgo, the grand high poo-bah of Star Wars canon from the Story Group, has officially said that any additional information or scenes in the novel are official canon, but the actual dialogue of the movies supersedes any differences in the book. Basically, what you saw on screen is what happened, but if you run across new scenes in the book that didn’t make it into the movie, those things “happened” too. Like I said, it can be a little confusing. Luckily, there’s not a whole lot that fans need to worry about here.

Conclusion:

Foster delivers a well written novelization that any fan of the movie should check out, if only for the additional background information that may help to clarify the political context of the movie.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Definite Buy

Who Will Like It: Fans of the movie who want to know more, or who just want to relive the movie again as they wait for the BluRay release.

 

Novellas:

The_Weapon_of_a_Jedi

Jason Fry writes one of four novellas released as part of the “Journey to the Force Awakens” set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, with bookends set during The Force Awakens. C3PO tells a tale of Luke Skywalker finding a lost Jedi temple and learning more about the Force after his fighter is damaged and he is forced to land for repairs.

What I Liked:

This is a fun little story featuring Luke as he struggles to learn about the Force and the Jedi without a master. It serves to fill in some blanks between the movies and it’s entertaining for what it is.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story is pretty basic. There’s nothing here that fans just *have* to know.

Conclusion:

Weapon of a Jedi was an entertaining, if not short, read. The story isn’t anything major or need to know, but it does serve to fill in some gaps of what went on in Luke’s life between the movies and his struggle to live up to the legacy of being the last Jedi without a master.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy or Rent.  It’s nothing that fans just *have* to own, but for me it was worth the money.

Who Will Like It: Luke fans & younger readers.

 

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: SMUGGLER'S RUN: A HAN SOLO ADVENTURE.By Greg Rucka.Illustrated by Phil Noto.Disney LucasFilm Press.On sale: September, 4, 2015.Price: $12.99 US/$13.99 CAN.ISBN: 978-1-4847-2495-8/eBook: 978-1-4847-2499-6.Ages: 10 – 14.Available: Wherever books and eBooks are sold.Short Description: In this story, set between Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Chewie must fly the Millennium Falcon on a top-secret mission for the Rebellion, while evading ruthless bounty hunters and a relentless imperial agent..Long Description: It is a period of civil war. The heroic freedom fighters of the REBEL ALLIANCE have won their most important victory thus far with the destruction of the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR. But the Rebellion has no time to savor its victory. The evil Galactic Empire has recognized the threat the rebels pose, and is now searching the galaxy for any and all information that will lead to the final destruction of the freedom fighters. For the MILLENNIUM FALCON’s crew, who saved the life of Luke Skywalker during the Battle of Yavin, their involvement with the rebels is at an end. Now HAN SOLO and CHEWBACCA hope to take their reward and settle some old debts…

Novella written by comic writer Greg Rucka that tells a tale of Han and Chewie getting roped into rescuing a rebel spy.

What I Liked:

Greg Rucka “gets” Star Wars. From beginning to end this fun little story felt like watching a Star Wars movie. Rucka’s “voice” for Han was perfect.

What I Didn’t Like:

This is a novella and not a full novel. I wanted more!

Conclusion: 

This was a really fun Han & Chewie story and a must read for fans.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

Who Will Like It: Any Star Wars fan. Perfect for younger readers.

 

star-wars-moving-target

General Leia Organa tells a tale of the hard choices and sacrifices that leaders must make in a time of war.

What I Liked: 

The general idea behind the story was interesting, as was the look at Leia and her headspace during the time of the Force Awakens.

What I Didn’t Like:

This was my least favorite of the four novellas. Pacing-wise it was a bit slow and the most interesting thing about it was the book ends of General Leia.

Conclusion:

The book ends were really interesting while the core story was just okay.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Rent. It’s worth the (quick) read as a fan, but it’s not something that you’ll likely re-read or needs to be owned unless you’re just a completionist (like me).

Who Will Like It: Fans of Leia that want more stories from her point of view.

 

before the awakening

A collection of three short stories by Greg Rucka that follows Poe, Rey, and Finn in the months, days, and hours before the events of The Force Awakens.

What I Liked:

Like I said above, Greg Rucka just “gets” Star Wars. Each short story gives fans a glimpse into the lives and history of our three new heroes.  The backstory and characterization on display here leads perfectly into The Force Awakens.

What I Didn’t Like:

Again, the fact that this wasn’t a full novel. I really love how Rucka writes Star Wars and this was, by far, my favorite of these little novellas.

Conclusion:

Greg Rucka introduces us to the three new protagonists for the new trilogy in a way that sets the stage perfectly for The Force Awakens, and gives fans fun tidbits of information that may answer some questions about our new heroes. How did Finn know how to use a lightsaber, and was there more to his defection than just what we saw in the movie? How did Rey learn to fly? How did Poe join the Resistance?

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy it!

Who Will Like It: Any Star Wars Fan. Anyone wanting to know more backstory for our new heroes. Perfect for younger readers.

 

Short Stories (Quick Reviews):

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Tales From the Galaxy Far, Far, Away: Aliens  is 4 short stories written by Landry Q. Walker, each with a different genre theme, and each focusing on a background character seen in The Force Awakens.  You have a western, a tall tale, a pirate tale, and a “horror” story.

What I Liked:

They were cheap, relatively fun reads. It was fun to get a different genre with each story, but all set in the Star Wars galaxy.

What I Didn’t Like:

The stories were kind of hit or miss, quality-wise. While I enjoyed all four, the western and the “horror” stories were definitely the most entertaining.

Conclusion: 

4 short stories. Four different genres. A fun way to kill an hour or two.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: For the price, you might as well buy.

Who Will Like It: Star Wars fans with an hour or two to kill.

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That weird looking lady that sold out Han, Finn, and Rey at Maz Kanata’s Castle gets her own short story.

What I Liked:

It was generally well written, and the McGuffin she acquires might be something central to the new movie? Maybe? We never find out for sure.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story itself was just “meh”. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it.

Conclusion:

If you have half an hour or so to kill and have nothing else to read, here you go.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Rent, if you can.

Who Will Like It: Bored fans looking for something to do.

 

Comics:

maul

Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir continues the story of Maul from The Clone Wars TV show, adapted from unused scripts when the series was cancelled.

What I Liked:

We find out what happened to Maul after the cliffhanger at the end of season 5. The story feels like episodes of The Clone Wars and they were entertaining to read.

What I Didn’t Like:

The ending was open ended, so we never get any closure for the character and his story. That’s a good thing if it means we’ll find out what happened to him later down the line. It’s a bad thing in that it feels incomplete, because it was obviously a story arc setting up another story arc for later in the series.

Conclusion:

This is the last Star Wars comic to come from Dark Horse before the license moved to Marvel, and it is currently the only Dark Horse title to remain “canon”. It was a very entertaining read, and any fan of the Clone Wars TV series should check it out.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Fans of the Clone Wars TV series.

star wars

Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Jason Aaron brings us further adventures from our favorite original trilogy characters and fills in the gaps between the movies.

What I Like:

While there’ve been one or two stumbles along the way, for the most part Jason Aaron has delivered a really entertaining title that further fleshes out our favorite characters and fills in the gaps between when we see them at the end of the first movie and the beginning of Empire. My favorite aspect of the series so far has been following Luke as he struggles to learn more about the Force, the Jedi, and just what he’s supposed to be doing with his life without a master to train him. The series does a great job of telling some really great adventures that adds to the mythology of the series as a whole without contradicting or taking away from what we’ve seen in the movies. The art has been really great overall and ranks up there with the best of Dark Horses previous high bar. I also like that this series gels great with the Darth Vader comics, even culminating in a crossover recently that was just fun as hell.

What I Don’t Like:

Not a lot to say here. There’s some cheesy moments every once in a while, and some story points that are obvious gimmicks, predictable, and don’t quite work, but those are few.

Conclusion:

Star Wars has been an excellently written and drawn comic that has been a must buy for me from day one.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

Who Will Like It: Any Star Wars fan looking to break into the world of comics.

 

vader

This series goes hand in hand with Star Wars, and they even cross over from time to time. We follow Darth Vader in the wake of his failure to protect the Death Star. He’s obsessed with finding the young pilot who was so strong in the Force, all the while dodging the machinations of the Emperor and the potential replacements he’s pitted against his apprentice to test him.

What I Like:

For the most part this series has been every bit as excellent and entertaining as Star Wars. The crossovers between the two titles feel organic, not forced, and are very complimentary. Some of the new characters we’re introduced to appear to be rather goofy at first, but quickly become insanely fun to read. The art has been solid throughout the series thus far.

What I Don’t Like:

There have been times that the story-line hasn’t been as interesting as others, and you find yourself wishing they’d move along and get back to something fun.  It’s only happened for a few issues here and there.

Conclusion:

Darth Vader is an excellent title in it’s own right, but it works really well as a companion to Star Wars. While there have been a few story bumps along the way, overall the title is very entertaining.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Vader fans, fans of the Empire, fans already reading Star Wars.

kanan

Written by one of the original creators of Rebels, Greg Weisman, Kanan: The Last Padawan delves into the backstory of the fan favorite character and tells the tale of how he went from Jedi padawan to rogue.

What I Like:

This is just great. The art, the writing, everything is just quality through and through. The story Weisman weaves is interesting in it’s own right, and it really helps to add additional characterization to the Rogue Jedi that we’ve come to know and love on the show. It also helps to add just that much more weight when you watch the show and see Kanan struggle with his past and his feelings, particularly with things that have happened in the most recent episodes.

What I Don’t Like:

I don’t like that this title is a limited run, because it’s one of my favorites.

Conclusion:

Any fan of the Rebels TV show should pick this title up. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

Who Will Like It: Fans of Rebels.

lando

I really wasn’t sure about this limited run story when it was first announced. It follows pre-Cloud City Lando and Lobot as they form their own Oceans Eleven-style crew to steal a luxury ship that’ll make them all rich. Wat they don’t know is that the ship they’ve stolen is the Emperor’s personal transport. Hijinks ensue.

What I Liked:

This ended up to be a really entertaining read. Lando is incredibly well written and you hear Billy Dee in your head as you read the dialogue. The story itself is limited to 5 issues, so it’s not a huge investment of time or money, and you definitely get a return on your investment. The art is gorgeously done and is a departure from the styles used in the other series.

What I Didn’t Like:

I would have preferred a longer story, with time to go into more detail about certain aspects pertaining to Sith lore introduced here.

Conclusion:

A fun, entertaining story following everyone’s favorite scoundrel. A must buy for any fan.

Buy, Rent, Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Fans of Lando & fans of heist stories.

leia

I’m a huge fan of writer Mark Waid, so I was really interested to see what he’d do with a Leia comic. Unfortunately, this was not his greatest work. Set just after ANH, Leia sets out to find a new world for the few surviving Alderaanians in the wake of her planet’s destruction.

What I Like:

The art is pretty…

What I Don’t Like:

Just about everything else. Waid is a great writer, but this story just didn’t interest me. At all. I honestly didn’t make it past the first few issues.

Conclusion:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Pass. There’s better Star Wars limited runs to spend your money on, like Lando.

Who Will Like It: Leia fans who just HAVE to have more. I guess.

 

chewie

Why this got grenlit, I have no idea. Hey, lets make a comic focused on a character that doesn’t speak! Let’s get the guy that writes Deadpool (horribly) to write it! *Rolls Eyes*

What I Liked:

Not a thing. This is incredibly boring.

What I Didn’t Like:

That this thing got made in the first place.

Conclusion:

*waves hand* This is not the comic you’re looking for.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Pass

Who Will Like It: Masochists?

shattered empire

Jiggity jig! More of Greg Rucka writing Star Wars! Set immediately after Return of the Jedi, we get our first look at a post OT Star Wars universe. Each issue follows Poe Dameron’s parents as they help Han, Leia, and Luke on various missions in the wake of the destruction of the second Death Star.

What I Liked:

Greg Rucka, ladies and gentleman! He needs to write more Star Wars. Comics, novels, I don’t care. Each issue is a different mission with one of the original trilogy heroes post-ROTJ, and it mostly follows  Poe Dameron’s mom, an ace A-Wing pilot ready to retire from service and settle down with her family. Each issue is entertaining and gives fans a great, if not brief, look at what happened to our heroes after the ewok celebration.  The art is beautifully done, and each tale is entertaining to read.

What I Didn’t Like:

The plot for Luke’s adventure could have been better. It was still fun as hell to read, but the McGuffin was kind of weak.

Conclusion:

Fans clamoring to know more about the post-ROTJ universe that were disappointed by Aftermath, this is the comic you’re looking for! This is a perfect starting point for fans who are looking to dip their toe into the comics world without a lot of commitment.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Any Star Wars fan.

vader down

Vader Down is a crossover event between Star Wars and Vader that starts with it’s own self-titled #1, where Vader, in persuit of Luke Skywalker, is shot down and crashes on a planet full of Rebels. But who’s the hunter and who’s really the hunted?

What I Liked:

This story is the culmination of several story-lines across Star Wars and Vader coming to a head. Here we see a post-ANH Vader being a complete badass just like he is in Rebels and Lords of the Sith. This series is nothing but fun from start to finish and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

What I Didn’t Like:

Being a crossover between two other titles may make it more difficult for fans who aren’t following both already. This may be something that fans who aren’t following the comics regularly may want to pick up as a trade later down the line.

Conclusion:

A great crossover event that sets both Star Wars and Vader up for their next respective stories. This is Vader at his most badass.

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy, but fans who aren’t already following Star Wars and Vader may want to wait for the trade.

Who Will Like It: Vader fans. Fans of the current comics.

 

 

 

 

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the urban fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Rant Alert: Marriage Equality & Christianity

marriage equality

I’ve sat and watched with increasing frustration the last few weeks as people on social media have debated the topic of marriage equality back and forth. It’s frustrating for a number of reasons. The level of vehemence on both sides. The ignorance. The intolerance. Often, the sheer stupidity of the statements, again, often from both sides. More than anything, what has both frustrated and angered me is the responses I’ve seen from self-proclaimed Christians, especially from people that I know and love. I’ve debated back and forth whether I really wanted to get into the fray by writing something about it. I didn’t want to get into heated debates with people. I’ve made some comments on social media in various places, but mostly I’ve restrained myself from really diving in. Tonight, after another one of these topics came up in a Facebook post, I decided I couldn’t hold back any longer. I’m not going to debate whether homosexuality is a sin or not. I’m not going to open that can of worms. I am going to debate why marriage equality should happen (or continue to happen), and why Christians should stop getting so up in arms about it. The main point is this:

It May Share the Same Name, But It Isn’t The Same Thing

The biggest argument I’ve seen against marriage equality is that it smacks in the face of God’s definition of marriage. It’s sinful, an abomination, and will be the downfall of society, America, and apple pie. Here’s why you’re wrong.

1.It’s not the same thing as the marriage you’re talking about.
It just isn’t. The Judeo-Christian definition of marriage is the joining of man and woman in a holy covenant between themselves and God. They are spiritually and physically joined together in a union that is meant to last until death. It has a HUGE spiritual significance. It is a huge deal, just like all covenants with God.

Other cultures and religions have varying interpretations and emphasis. For some you’re joined to Gaia, for others it’s a union blessed by Thor and Odin, or the moon and the stars, or whatever. Marriage has a different meaning for every different culture and religion. They all share a common ground, the joining of two people’s lives, but the significance and what that union means can vary and is entirely dependent on the couple and their beliefs. This is not the kind of marriage that you need a government to condone. This is the type of marriage that has gone on for centuries across most cultures in the world since societies began.

The kind of marriage that people are losing their freaking minds about is the other kind of marriage- a legal contract between two consenting adults that joins their lives in a legally recognized way and bestows upon them special privileges and selectively-apportioned state benefits according to that government’s laws.

It’s a legal.

Contract.

As far as the government is concerned it has nothing to do with love, God, Allah, Gaia, Thor, the entire Greek pantheon, or my chicken sandwich. Any other significance, beyond the legal, placed upon it from there is ENTIRELY dependent upon the beliefs of the couple. Arguing over this topic to the point of violence is as dumb as arguing over whether “sinners” should be allowed to sign the Apple Terms of Service Agreement.

Christianity doesn’t own the concept of marriage. We don’t have a trademark on the term. Marriage of one kind or another has been happening in societies long before God made His covenant with Abraham or before Moses wrote the Ten Commandments. It is an ideal that has been practiced by cultures that had never even heard of Yahweh,  Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit. Hell, Native Americans were practicing a form of it before the rest of the known world invaded and gave them the gift of smallpox and introduced them to the concept of eviction.

Now, if said homosexual couple wants to have a religious wedding, then that is another topic for debate; but it has nothing to do with the marriage license or the legal side of things, which is all the Supreme Court decided. Either way, there are two different versions of marriage at play here. One is legal, the other holy. Stop confusing the two and getting up in arms about it.

2. It is Incredibly Hypocritical 

The “baker” question has been floating around quite a bit on Facebook lately. Should Christian bakers bake cakes for gay weddings? Would Jesus? (I’m not touching on whether they should legally be forced to, just the idea of willingly doing it or not.) I said this in a Facebook topic earlier today and I’ll share it here, and note that this is me with my “Minister” hat on now:
I’m wondering, for all of you hypothetical bakers, if you’d refuse to bake a cake for a couple who had a sexual relationship before the wedding, or if they’d committed adultery, or been previously married but divorced for a reason other than adultery? If the answer is yes, how, exactly, would you plan on staying in business?

When did homosexuality suddenly become this line in the sand and thus worse than all other “sinful lifestyles”? Why is a homosexual wedding any different than a couple who had lived and had sex together out of wedlock before the wedding, or what if they’re wiccan, or agnostic, or atheists? They’re all considered “sinful lifestyles”, yet you don’t see these bastions of Christianity denying cakes to everyone else. Is it only okay as long as the baker is ignorant of the lifestyle in question? Should we start having sin questionnaires just to be sure? Should we have to call their pastors and confirm that they’re card carrying Christians? Do we not see how hypocritical this line of thinking becomes?

Further food for thought, for the ones so aghast at the thought of “Jesus the baker” baking a cake for these sinful people- he WAS a carpenter. Do you think he refused to make furniture for “sinners”, knowing that they may use said furniture to celebrate acts of gluttony or even for use during a wedding of other hedonistic sinners? Did he tell the Samaritan at the well that they must not drink from the same water as the Jews because they were a “sinner,” as the Pharisees and Sadducees did? (Note: Yes, I’ve heard the wooden idol argument. No, it isn’t the same. That is a symbol of idolatry used in a religious ceremony. A cake is not.)

It’s out of love and compassion that He wanted His followers to be known by, not the same self-righteous judgmentalness that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law displayed. I’m seeing so many people hurl insults towards homosexual individuals as though these people are somehow worse than the rest of us. You don’t have to agree with the lifestyle, but you should keep in mind that we are ALL sinners and we’re all equally filthy in the eyes of God without His forgiveness. So I say this in love:

Grow up, get over it, and stop being such a hypocrite.

We don’t live in a Christian theocracy. You can’t expect a secular society that is a melting pot of all different kinds of religions and ideologies to conform to your way of thinking or sense of morality. Nor should you to expect to be treated better, or given legal benefits and privileges  solely based on what’s going on between the legs or by skin color.  You think homosexuality is a sin? Don’t do it. You don’t agree with homosexual marriage? Don’t do it. You do you, and stop worrying about everyone else- particularly in areas that don’t affect you personally one single bit.

Added from a comment I made below, which I think sums things up well: What it really boils down to is those against gay marriage are really saying that homosexual couples don’t deserve to have the same legal government/insurance/financial benefits and protections as other couples, and I have yet to see one solid reason as to why without people injecting their personal religion or beliefs into it.

 

Note: I decided to open the comments section because this is a topic that’s important to discuss. That said, I have to approve every comment before it’ll show up, so keep it civil. If you disagree that’s fine, but I refuse to let this degenerate into anything ugly.

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A Damaged Mind

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It’s scary how the damaged mind works, the little tricks that it plays. It’s often not the big, dramatic events that trigger a bout of suicidal depression but instead the small stuff that you would normally shrug off. The little flakes that build and build until they become an avalanche of self loathing and doubt that washes away everything else until you’re buried up to your neck in it. As I sit now, alone in my car, in an empty section of a park parking lot where I can feel the breeze on my face and listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the leaves of the trees rustle with the wind,  I have to ignore that nagging thought in the back of my mind at how nice a scene it would make for my last moments. It’s peaceful, and there’s a longing to let that peacefulness wash over me as I let go of the hurts and frustrations of this world and release myself from this prison of flesh and pain that I feel shackled to, that I hate with a fiery passion that burns in my chest even now as I tap out these words on a tiny smartphone keyboard. I have to fight the longing I feel to hold the knife dangling from the keychain in my ignition, to feel the cool touch of the steel and the leather grip in my hand; to ignore the impulse to let the sharp bite of its blade let the water of my life free of its confines and allow myself to drift off to an unending sleep. It’s scary how tempting that all is. It’s scary how a damaged mind works.

I think of my wife, whom I love dearly, and what my death might do to her. Inner voices lap against my mind like waves; one that tells me that she’d be better off without me once she’s free of the burden that I’m sure to become, then another that whispers of love and the many happy moments that we’ve shared.  I think of my son, not of my blood but certainly in my heart, and how much I love him and how badly I want to see him grow to become a better man than I. I think of my parents, my sister, my grandparents, other members of family and friends and the impact, both negative and positive, that my passing might have. There’s a war going on within me. It’s a battle of conflicting thoughts and feelings vying for dominance. It’s these thoughts, and the expression of them through this medium right now, that stays my hand and helps to pluck my damaged mind from the dark waters that I’ve been wading in.

For those of you who don’t know, who have been lucky enough to have never experienced how dark and lonely and hopeless a damaged mind can feel, read these words, absorb them, and count yourself blessed. Try to remember that those that you love may sufferer from a damaged mind as well; they may need your love, understanding, and support. They may need you to be the life preserver that keeps them from being swallowed up by the dark abyss of depression and despair. They may need you to be that small light they see when everything else is black.

Because it’s frightening what a damaged mind can do.

 

Author’s Note (Please Read):
First of all I want to assure those that know me that yes, I’m fine. I’m still here. Everything is okay.

I did write this post in the middle of a bout of suicidal depression while I was sitting alone in my car with thoughts of ending it all swirling through my head (hence the rather melodramatic nature) . At the time I wanted to try to express exactly how I was feeling. In writing it out, the words helped me to get past that final hurdle and come back to myself.

I want everyone to know that I have an appointment this week to talk with someone about my depression and to explore treatment options. I’m not ashamed to admit that publicly because I know that it isn’t an admittance of weakness, regardless of the stigma that tends to still be attached to depression and all other forms of mental illness. The brain is an organ just like the heart or lungs, and sometimes it gets sick. Sometimes something goes wrong and you need to seek treatment to correct the problem, just as you would for any other medical issue. You wouldn’t feel ashamed for seeing a doctor to treat the flu, so why should you feel ashamed about seeing a doctor to treat depression?
I decided to publish this piece in the hopes that it might help someone. Maybe you suffer from depression as well and you’ve found yourself feeling this way. I want to encourage you to seek treatment. I know it can be difficult. I know it can be embarrassing. But please, for yourself and for your loved ones, seek help. As I just said, there’s really nothing to be ashamed of.
Maybe you don’t suffer from depression yourself, but you know someone that does. I hope that maybe by getting this very brief glimpse it might help you to better understand how it feels to be in their shoes. I know that words really can’t do it justice. They’re just too inadequate to express all the complexities of emotions and thoughts that swirl around and encompass a bout of suicidal depression like this, but I hope that it might help in some small way.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a bout of suicidal depression and is in danger of taking his/her life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Advice About Marriage For Unmarried People

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Next Wednesday my wife and I will be celebrating our first anniversary as a married couple; and as I’ve reflected on the past year as a married man I’ve come to realize just how much I’ve learned and grown as an individual in this relatively short amount of time. It also made me realize just how ignorant I was beforehand. As I write this, my little sister is planning her own wedding in December, which I will be officiating. My future brother-in-law proposed on Christmas day, and they’ve already booked the location for the ceremony, the reception, the bartender, the D.J., and have gone shopping for the dress. When I hear how much money this will all end up costing them, not to mention how much they’ve already spent, it just makes me glad that my wife and I chose to elope.  That’s the thing about marriage- so much emphasis is put on the day, that more often than not you don’t really think about what comes after (beyond the honeymoon).  Well, dear reader, allow me to share a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve gleaned about marriage over the past year. I’m far from an expert, but these are just a few things that I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t Wait for Perfection.
    Movies, television, and music have done a really great job of painting a picture of what they think love and marriage should look like. Unfortunately that picture is, like the models in magazines, a doctored up fabrication. Love and marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale. There are only two perfect things in this world- God and The Empire Strikes Back, so if you’re holding out for that perfect love as described in a  Marvin Gaye song you’ll end up a lonely, bitter old man/woman whose gone nose deaf to the stench of your hundred cats.
  2. Wait for the Perfect Person for You.
    No, this isn’t a contradiction. We’ve been so indoctrinated by media by what we think love should be that sometimes it can cause us to miss that perfect person for us. My wife is not “perfect”.  She doesn’t look like a supermodel. She doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight or fart rainbows. She has her faults just like everyone else. That said, she’s perfect for me. To me, she’s the most beautiful person on the planet.  She puts up with my crap with saintly compassion and patience and loves me for who I am, faults and all. She’s my best friend. Do we love all of the same things? No. We certainly share common interests, but she has things that she enjoys that I don’t care for and vice-versa. We compliment each other. Trust me, you don’t want to marry a carbon copy of yourself. You want to find someone that brings balance to your life, and that means that there has to be some differences. Those differences help you to stretch your boundaries and grow as a person. So do yourself a favor and check your expectations at the door. Had I measured my wife up against the expectations of those love songs, television shows, and romantic comedies I might have missed out on the best thing that ever happened to me.
  3. Marriage Doesn’t Solve Problems, It Compounds Them.
    For some reason people think that once you get married all of those problems that you faced as a single person will magically disappear. They don’t. There’s a reason that the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” only shows up in fairytales. When you get married not only do you still have a lot of the same problems that you did when you were single, you now have all of your partner’s problems to face as well. That’s not even counting all the new ones that you’ll acquire as couple (and trust me, problems don’t wait for the honeymoon to be over). The bright side is you no longer have to face that stuff alone. When you’re with the right person, you’ll find that you’ve always got someone to help share the load, and that can make a world of difference.
  4.  In the Hierarchy of Family, Your Spouse Comes First. Always.
    If you’re very lucky you’ll have in-laws that are awesome people that welcome you to the family with open arms and a hug. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Maybe your parents don’t like the person you’ve chosen for whatever reason. That can be a really difficult and awkward situation (especially during the holidays); but ultimately that’s not your problem, it’s theirs. Your spouse should always come first. They are your partner in life and they outrank everyone else- even mom and dad. Yes, that includes the kids as well. This may not be a popular opinion, but hear me out. Your children will (eventually) grow up, leave the house, and hopefully start a life and family of their own. Your spouse (ideally) is going to be there for the rest of your life. As I’ve already said, you’re partners, and that means you always support your spouse (especially in front of the kids). If you disagree, you do so in private. Of course, this is predicated by the assumption that you and your spouse are both doing what’s right by the children. If abuse is involved, in any form, all bets are off. You have to protect your kids (and yourself).
  5. Don’t Fight Angry
    Conflict is inevitable. It happens no matter how well you get along or how lovey-dovey and starry-eyed in love you are. It. Will. Happen. Any time you live with another person things are going to end up annoying you. You’re going to eventually disagree. You’re going to eventually do something stupid to piss each other off. You can’t always prevent it from happening, but you can control how you react when it happens.  In my experience, the absolute best thing you can do whenever it happens, if at all possible, is to take a time out.  Go for a walk. Take a drive. Run an errand. Even just go lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. Do whatever you need to do to get some distance from the situation,  cool off and really look at why you’re upset. In the heat of the moment it’s very easy to turn something that is relatively not a big deal into something huge where things might be said that you’ll regret. If you take the time to cool off and really look at why you’re angry, I’ve found that you’ll often be surprised at what you’ll find. My wife and I rarely fight at all, but a majority of the time when she’s done something to upset me my reaction has been more about me- either my hang ups, or because I was frustrated by other things and what she did just added tipped the scale- than it had to do with what actually happened. By taking a little time to calm down and then talk to her in a more rational manner, we’ve managed to avoid a lot of grief.
  6. Give More Than You Take
    That old saying that “it’s better to give than to receive,” I’ve found, is very true in a marriage. I enjoy taking care of my wife. I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that I’ve made her happy. I try to go out of my way to do things that I know might make her life easier, and she reciprocates. It’s not about doing something knowing that you’ll get something in return. It has everything to do with showing how much you love them as opposed to just saying the words. When everyone is trying to be loving and thoughtful, everyone is happy, feels loved and appreciated.
  7. “Me” Time is Okay
    Having time to yourself, or with friends, is important. While my wife is my best friend and I love spending time with her, I also need time to myself (away from the house and the kid) every once in a while. She enjoys having “girl’s night” out with her friends a couple times a month.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other. What it does mean is that we’re individual people who occasionally have different interests and don’t want to always be joined at the hip.  Remember, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and nothing will expedite getting on each others nerves more than to spending every waking moment with each other 24/7.   We all need a little space sometimes.

    What about you? If you’re married, what would you add to the list? Feel free to comment below.

    J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Book Review: How Star Wars Conquered The Universe By Chris Taylor

book-review-how-star-wars-conquered-the-universe-b52b7025c3769f6b

The Story of Us

Star Wars is more than just a series of movies. Star Wars is more than just a multimedia phenomenon that has lasted for almost four decades. For millions around the world coming from all walks of life, class, religion, or political affiliation, Star Wars is personal. Those people all have a Star Wars story. We all have some way that Star Wars has touched our lives in a profound, lasting way.

For me, Star Wars was a part of my life from the beginning. My parents married young and I was born just weeks after my father was legally old enough to buy beer. He was a sci-fi nerd growing up- even going as far as to record episodes of Star Trek on cassette tapes so he could listen to them later as make-shift radio dramas.  My parent’s first date was seeing Star Wars at a local theater. My dad has all the Star Wars bubble gum cards, the artwork by Ralph McQuarrie, the novelizations of the movies, and the spin off, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, written by Alan Dean Foster. My father is also a hard working man. Growing up he worked the night shift for Kroger Bakery as a supervisor, so during the day he would sleep and I’d maybe see him for an hour before it was time for him to go to work and for me to go to bed. Quality time spent with my father was a special thing. One of those things we would do together was his sharing the movies and books that he loved as a child with me. The foremost of those was Star Wars. Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I ever saw in a theater. I wore out copies of the movies when they were released on VHS. My father even bought them on laserdisc- a format that would hold up better under my repeat viewings. For years I had one of the movies playing in the background when I got home from school. I would listen to the soundtracks, the audio books, and the radio dramas at night to lull me to sleep. (I still do, which my saint of a wife allows with a knowing smile.)

But Star Wars was more than just something special that I shared with my father. For me, it was and is a foundational touchstone in my life. I have a medical condition that prevents my body from producing testosterone, among other things. It’s a condition that went undetected until I was thirty. The side-effects of this condition meant that growing up I was always heavy. I weighed well over one hundred pounds by the time I was in my pre-teens. I was picked on mercilessly in school. I was a depressed, often suicidal, outcast that hated myself and never felt like I belonged. Star Wars was one of the few things that gave me an escape- a creative, positive outlet. Whenever I felt the deep blackness of depression threatening to drown me I could lose myself in that galaxy far, far away, be it through the movies, novels, or comics, and when I came back I didn’t feel so bad anymore. As a child I could imagine myself living in that universe, wielding a lightsaber and fighting the forces of evil; and as an adult I could imagine myself getting the chance to one day become a writer that might be able to contribute to something that I love so dearly in a way that would last forever. Star Wars gave me hope and joy during times in my life when those things were a very rare commodity.

What does all of this have to do with How Star Wars Conquered The Universe? Everything, because author Chris Taylor not only provides us with an impressively comprehensive look at the making of the Star Wars movies and the impact that they’ve had on the entertainment industry, pop culture, and society as a whole, but it also tells the story of us- the fans. The millions of people that Star Wars has impacted in a very personal way.

Non-Fiction For the Fiction Reader

I am not a non-fiction reader. In fact, How Star Wars Conquered The Universe is the first non-fiction novel I’ve read since my early college days more than a decade ago. I am a voracious reader, but I tend to read the kinds of things I like to write- sci-fi, fantasy, superhero comics. I first heard about How Star Wars Conquered the Universe during the Schmoes Know Movie Show when they had author Chris Taylor as a guest. The Schmoes are all huge Star Wars fans and they had nothing but praise for the book, and I was enamored by the stories that Mr. Taylor told during the course of the show. Being a huge Star Wars nerd myself, I’ve watched all the behind the scenes documentaries and read all the various interviews and such about the movies, so I figured I knew pretty much everything that Mr. Taylor might have to say- but I was wrong. Big time. Through the course of the show Mr. Taylor told several great stories from the book that I’d never heard before. I had such a great time watching the show and listening to Mr. Taylor that I had both the book and the audiobook downloaded to my phone that day. Again, I’m not a non-fiction reader, so I was preparing myself for a long slog. While I really enjoyed Mr. Taylor’s anecdotes on the show, I was worried that the book itself would be dry facts that I’d have to constantly break up by switching to other books. Again, I was very wrong.

Mr. Taylor has a very engaging voice throughout the entire book. What could have very easily become a dry fact dump was in reality a very entertaining and interesting tale of not only the making of the movies and the behind the scenes drama that was a result, but also the history of “The Creator” George Lucas himself, the background of the various influences on the movies, the impact the movies had on everything, the expanded universe (now “Legends”) that came after, and the fandom surrounding it all. Mr. Taylor breaks up the historical story of the saga with fun, and often touching personal stories about about fan groups like the famous costuming/charity group the 501st Legion and the R2 Builders Club- the fan club who have been tasked with providing the Artoo units being used in the forthcoming Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens.  I cannot express enough how much fun I had both reading the book and listening the the audio (which is wonderfully performed by Nick Podehl).  I learned a lot and have gained a whole new level of respect not only for George Lucas and those that worked on the movies, but also for the movies themselves and the massive impact that they’ve had.

Conclusion

Chris Taylor lovingly tells the story of Star Wars in this well written, well researched look at the history of the franchise and it’s fans. This is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of Star Wars, or even just fans of films and the film making process.

Buy, Rent, Or Pass:  Buy

Who Will Like It? Star Wars Fans, Film Fans

Where Can I Get it? Purchase the book here. Purchase the audiobook here.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Book Review- Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi By Kevin Hearne

Heir_to_the_Jedi

 

Anyone who knows me or who has visited this site very often knows that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I ever saw in a theater; and I still have a modest collection of the original Star Wars action figures, including Boba Fett and the Emperor that you had to send off for through the mail. My torrid love affair with the expanded Star Wars universe began like it did for most fans my age- with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. Books that continued the Star Wars story?! No way! I had to have it. I was in the seventh grade at the time and I still remember the thrill of reading that novel, and the agony of having to wait for the next one. From that point on if it was Star Wars, I bought and read it. That era of books was decidedly hit or miss, quality wise. You had some truly great books, like those written by Zahn, or the X-Wing series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston; some pretty “meh” ones, like the Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson; and then some god awful ones like the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy by Michael P. Kube-McDowell and The Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre. But of all the Bantam Era novels, my favorite by far was I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole. Not only did it star my favorite EU character, Corran Horn, but it was written in first person! For the first time we got to see what it felt like to be trained as a jedi and use the force from a character’s point of view!

Ever since that novel I’ve longed for someone else to write a book in first person; so when this new slate of canonical books was announced and I saw that not only were we going to get a book written in first person from Luke’s point of view, but that it was being written by one of my favorite authors, Kevin Hearne, I was beyond excited. My wife and I are both HUGE Iron Druid fans, so for me this was like a match made in heaven. I’ve had both the e-book and the audiobook preordered for over a month and I had both downloaded to my phone as soon as they became available. I devoured the entire thing over the course of a day.

I’m not going to go into details about the story because I always hate it when reviews do that. If you’re reading this to see if the book is worth buying before you read it you don’t want some yahoo ruining the experience with an outline of the whole story; and if you’ve already read the book and you’re just here to see what I thought then you’re not going to want a rehash of a story you already know. So here’s all you need to know about the book for the purposes of the review: the book is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and it’s told from Luke’s point of view. Admiral Ackbar and Leia send Luke off on a mission along side a new potential love interest. Hijinks ensue.

So, did the novel live up to my expectations?

Yes, it did.

What I Liked
It was exactly what I expected Kevin Hearne to deliver- a fun, entertaining, quick read. This is not a thick, 400+ page novel with an intricate plot and a massive cast; and that’s not a bad thing. The story Hearne weaves here is a more contained, personal story for Luke. He’s not saving the galaxy. There’s no huge threat. It’s Luke completing a series of connected missions for the Alliance while he tries to figure out more about the Force and how he’s supposed to learn to be a Jedi without a teacher. Hearne’s light, often humorous, style fits Luke perfectly at this stage of his life, and is a great lead in to Jason Arron and John Cassaday’s Star Wars ongoing comic from Marvel (which if you’re not reading, you should be).  It’s a smaller, more intimate story, but it isn’t just a fun throw-away tale. Through the course of the novel it helps to answer the question that most fans had when they watched Luke call his lightsaber to his hand while he was hanging upside down in the wampa cave during The Empire Strikes Back – when did he learn to do that? Hearne helps to fill in some of those gaps between the movies with important development for Luke’s character. It was also a really great idea to tell this story from a first person perspective, as it helps the reader to really connect with Luke as a person as opposed to him just being some overly powerful hero archetype as he’s been so often portrayed in the past.The new character that Hearne introduces, Nakari Kelen, could have easily been a one dimensional stereotype but over the course of the novel Hearne fleshes out a fun, kick-ass female character that has great chemistry with Luke.

What I Didn’t Like
The pacing was a little too quick in some places. Events early in the novel are often easily completed and then glossed over to get to the next set-piece. I’m glad that Hearne didn’t drag out unnecessary transitions, but I wouldn’t have minded if he took a little more time fleshing things out. Also, there was one instance where a “reward” for Luke’s help is a little too convenient for the plot, as it becomes needed just a few pages later. That said, these are very minor gripes to an otherwise well written story.

Conclusion

Heir to the Jedi was an enjoyable, satisfying read and I’m hoping that Kevin Hearne will come back to that galaxy far, far away again some time.

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Buy

Who Will Like It: Anyone Who’s Seen the Star Wars Movies/ Star Wars Fans/ Any Fan of The Iron Druid Chronicles

Where Can I Get It: Click Here

 

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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