Tag Archives: Novels

Updated Star Wars: The New Canon Reviews

starwarsnewnovels

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):

d45d36f2d9e86eaf9e06253234381516

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.

3-Perfect-Weapon-300x456

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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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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Rant Alert: Star Wars, Marvel Comics, & Reboots

vadernooooo

Okay, so the last six months or so have been pretty traumatic for fan-nerds. First, to pave the way for the upcoming new Star Wars movies, comics, shows, etc. it was decided by Disney’s Star Wars story group that all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe content would be labeled “legends” while everything produced by Disney from now on would be officially canon. Many understood the reasoning and were okay with it. A very vocal group of the fan community, on the other hand, started their own version of a digital rebel alliance and declared war on Disney’s Empire. Then, last week Marvel announced that their upcoming Secret Wars event would lead into Battleworld, where various incarnations of the Marvel characters would duke it out for survival resulting in a “new” main Marvel comics universe.  Speculation has since run rampant and the word “reboot” has been bandied about enthusiastically ever since. The problem is both announcements have lead to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about what, exactly, is happening. Some of this confusion is due to the original announcements not being very clear or detailed about what is going to happen. A lot more is due to people completely losing their shit over what amounts to a reading comprehension failure. The following will attempt to clear some things up:

jjabramsstarwars

Let’s start with Star Wars. Disney bought Lucasfilm and with it came the rights to Star Wars. Disney has since announced that both a new trilogy and a series of stand alone movies have gone into production. They have also released, or are currently developing, several TV shows, a new comics line from Marvel, video games, and novels. The problem is there’s a good 30 years worth of Expanded Universe content already floating out there in the form of novels and comics that have already exhaustively covered the events after Return of the Jedi all the way through a century after the battle of Yavin from A New Hope. That’s one hundred years worth of EU continuity. Some of those novels, and particularly the comics, were extremely well done, well loved by fans, and helped to keep Star Wars alive before, and even more so after the lackluster-downright hatred of, the prequels. The rest was mediocre to downright horrible. In fact, if most fans (and I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I own pretty much all of the EU content available) are honest with themselves, for every great novel there have been a good five not so great ones. This is especially true in the last decade when Star Wars moved away from one shots and trilogies and tried to do long form stories that lasted for years.

So if you’re Disney, what do you do with all of that if you want to move forward with new material?  You start fresh.

stawarslegends

All of the pre-existing Star Wars EU has been re-branded “Legends” and is no longer considered to be canon (even though George Lucas was always very clear that as far as he was concerned, it was never canon). It’s now just considered fun “what if” stories or, as the name implies, tales from the Star Wars universe that may have nuggets of truth to them. The term they chose, “Legends”, is significant, and we’ll discuss why in a moment. So what is officially canon now?

star wars moviesThe Original Movie Saga

epsevenThe New Movies

clonewarsThe Clone Wars TV Series

starwarsrebelsStar Wars Rebels TV Series

61nnfCs+IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marvel’s Star Wars Comics

starwarsnewnovelsAll Star Wars Novels Moving Forward (Starting with A New Dawn)

So why was it significant that they branded the old EU “Legends”? As John Jackson Miller, author of A New Dawn, pointed out “Legends” doesn’t mean it never happened or that elements of those tales might not be true.  Both he and Dave Filoni (Clone Wars, Rebels) have openly stated that the previous EU material is not off limits to any of the creators of future Star Wars content. They’re free to use or adapt any of it into this new continuity. The movies, themselves, have already borrowed elements from the EU. The capital world of Coruscant was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel. The double bladed lightsaber Maul used in The Phantom Menace was first seen in Star Wars comics done by Dark Horse.  Both Clone Wars and Rebels have brought in elements from the EU as well: Holocrons, Darth Bane, Republic Commandos. In James Lucado’s new novel, Tarkin, he references events from his previous two Star Wars novels that were published under the old banner, Dark Lord and Darth Plagueis, thus bringing them both into canon.

So the old EU is not dead, and there’s still a possibility that elements, characters, or even story-lines that fans loved could still be brought into official canon through future content.

secret-wars-header

Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars is supposed to bring the Marvel Universe as we know it to a close. The main Marvel universe (616) collides with the Ultimate universe, and the result of the “Secret Wars” between the two universes will be Battleworld, where incarnations of the characters from major stories throughout Marvel history (Age of Apocalypse, Planet Hulk, Civil War, Pre-OMD Spidey, Ultimate Spidey,. etc.) will exist in different parts of the planet, with everyone duking it out for survival.

SW Map.jpg

…Yeah, it’s kind of confusing.

What it isn’t is a reboot.

Everywhere I look online people keep calling it a reboot.

princessbride

It’s not. A reboot, in comic terms, implies that they’re starting over fresh with a new continuity. That’s just not what is going to happen. The past, for any of the universes that collide, will still have happened. The characters that survive and end up in whatever the new Marvel universe looks like will still remember what happened, will still be the same characters they were before. Their history happened and affected them. It all still matters. This isn’t a New 52. They aren’t wiping anything out, they’re just blowing everything up. What we’ll be left with, from everything they’ve released, is a new Marvel universe made up of versions of characters from the 616, Ultimate, Age of Apocalypse, and whatever all thrown together. For example, the Wolverine of the 616 may be dead, but when this is over we could have the Wolverine from AoA or Old Man Logan alive and kicking. Miles Morales from Ultimate comics Spider-Man may be swinging around with a still-married Peter Parker. We don’t know for sure, but we’ll see.

But it’s not a reboot so please stop saying it.

I hope this clears some things up for those of you who have been wondering just what the hell has been going on.

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Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books That Every Geek Should Read: Updated for 2015!

harrydresden

I often find myself in need of a good book to read, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Sometimes really great books and series fall through the cracks and you never hear about them; so I thought that I’d make a handy little guide for fellow geeks who are jonesing for something well written and entertaining. There are tons out there, and this list is hardly all-inclusive. These are just some of my very favorites from recent years outside of the obvious like Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Wheel of Time, Discworld, or Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. The following are 10 series or stand alone books that I think every geek should read. The order of the list is not meant to be a ranking, as I love every single one of them for different reasons. Click the link in each of the titles to be taken to where you can find out more info and pick them up.

Dresdenrainynight

1. The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher

What’s it about?

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard. It’s true. You can even find him in the yellow pages. This is, by far, my absolute favorite series ever. Whenever a new story comes out it’s like a personal holiday for me, and I don’t stop reading until I’m done. There are 16 books in the series so far, if you include the collection of shorts, Side Jobs. The 17th, Peace Talks, should be out sometime next year. It’s an urban fantasy series that features wizards slinging magic, one of the best takes on vampires I’ve ever seen, and just about every kind of boogidy-boo from any religion or myth you can think of. Harry is a witty, sarcastic badass, and a hell of a lot of fun. The series starts a bit slowly and it takes the first three books to set the foundation of the larger world that the series is built on; but even those first three books are tons of fun, and once you get started you won’t want to stop. As a bonus, the audio books are read by James Marsters (yep, Spike from Buffy/Angel) and he rocks it. Worth checking out.

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 2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

What’s it about?

The Iron Druid Chronicles is another urban fantasy series that follows Atticus, the world’s only remaining Druid. He’s over 2000 years old and he still looks like he’s in his early 20’s and he manages to piss off vampires, witches, and just about every pantheon of gods there are and kick off Ragnarok in the process. Atticus is another fun character to follow, but it’s his dog, Oberon, who through magic can talk to Atticus, that steals the show. There are currently 7 books published with the 8th hopefully next year. Really fun, quick reads, especially if you need something to tie you over until you can get your next Dresden fix. This series has become a favorite of my wife and her friends after I introduced them to it through the marvelous audio versions read brilliantly by Luke Daniels.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

3. Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey

What’s it about?

Stark is a naturally talented magician who is betrayed by his jealous friend and sent to Hell. While in Hell he becomes the top gladiator in the arena and one of the chief lieutenant demon’s personal assassin. After killing his master and escaping Hell, Stark sets out to avenge the death of the love of his life and take vengeance on those who betrayed him… and that’s just the first book. The series is a gritty fantasy noir tale that’s much darker than the previous two on the list, but just as much fun to read. Kadrey gives us a really fun anti-hero in Stark, and paints a really creative take on Heaven, Hell, God, and the universe. There are currently 6 books in the series with the seventh set to come out at the end of July.

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4. The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston

What’s it about?

Sticking with the gritty noir theme we have the Joe Pitt casebooks by Charlie Huston. Joe Pitt is a rogue vampyre (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) who works jobs for the various vampyre clans of New York just to get by. These books are supernatural noir thrillers and are closer to horror than any of the previous series. As dark as they are, they’re still an excellent and fairly original take on the tired vampire genre and well worth a read. Comic fans may recognize Huston by his work for Marvel Comics, most notably Vol. 5 of Moon Knight. The audiobooks, narrated by Scott Brick, are also excellent.

the-lies-of-locke-lamora-US

5. The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch

What’s it about?

The Gentleman Bastards are a gang of elite con artists that pray on the nobility and break the “secret peace” that all of the gangs have with law enforcement of the kingdom of Camorr. The series is High Fantasy for people who are tired of the typical political boredom of the genre. Scott Lynch is a talented writer who injects a ton of humor into his stories, and the books themselves feature characters you love and settings that vary from a fantasy medieval Venice to the high seas. There are currently three books in the series, with more planned. I cannot recommend these enough.

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6. The Myth Adventures Series by Robert Asprin

What’s it about?

The Myth series was my introduction into fantasy as a child and I still love these books. Before Mr. Asprin died a few years ago the series had numbered in the 20’s (he wrote the last few along with another author), but the series itself started in the 1970’s. The books follow magician Skeeve and his friends on their various adventures through the dimensions. It’s a fun fantasy series very similar to Pratchett’s Discworld novels in tone. They’re also quick “popcorn” reads, so perfect if you want an entertaining story that isn’t too long.

Icarus_hunt

7. The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

What’s it about?

Zahn is probably best known for his work in Star Wars. The Icarus Hunt is a stand alone sci-fi thriller that follows down-on-his-luck pilot Jordan McKell and his alien partner as they’re hired by a wealthy billionaire to fly the mysterious ship Icarus and it’s cargo to Earth. Jordan and his crew quickly find themselves in over their heads  when they find out that the most powerful aliens in the galaxy are after them and their ship. Nothing, and no one, is what it seems in this book and it has an ending that truly surprised me with it’s twist. Great, great read.

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8. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

What’s it about?

Dune is probably an obvious no-brainer to a lot of you, but I’m still surprised by just how many people haven’t read the original novels and only know Dune by it’s really weird movie starring Sting. Dune is to sci-fi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s a must read. Period. It was also a largely influential book for me personally, and it’s one of the things that really encouraged me to want to be a writer myself. There are tons of Dune books that have been written by Frank Herbert’s son and Kevin J. Anderson. They range from “decent” to outright horrible. The ones that I feel everyone should read are the original 5 by the master himself.

redshirts9. Redshirts by John Scalzi

What’s it about?

As any Star Trek fan knows, it was a running joke that on the Original Series that if a crew member was wearing a red shirt and was not a part of the main crew when the away team beamed down to the planet, they weren’t coming back. Red shirts were the cannon fodder for all the various monsters, out of control robots, and menacing alien threats that the crew encountered every week. This brilliant novel by John Scalzi doesn’t just put the focus on those poor bastards, but asks the question- what happens when they start to put two and two together and realize what’s going on? I don’t want to spoil any of the fun of the concept by giving too much away. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, or just sci-fi with a comical twist, this book is definitely for you. The audiobook is particularly fun, especially since it’s read by none other than Wil Wheaton.

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10. The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

What’s it about?

The Grimnoir novels are set in an alternate-history 1930’s where magic is real and commonplace and turns everyday people (and a lot of famous figures from history) into superhumans. The Amazon quote calls it a cross of Twilight and The Maltese Falcon, and that makes me want to gut punch the guy who wrote it. It’s nothing like Twilight. No. Thing. A better comparison would be a cross between Heroes (the first season before it sucked) and The Maltese Falcon. The idea behind the Grimnoir novels is one of the most original, fun, and exciting ideas I’ve ever seen. I LOVED these books and the entire concept. It’s one of those things where I both love Correia for writing them, and hate him because he came up with the idea before I could. The series is three novels long (with an additional three short stories, two of which are audiobook-only and can be found on Audible) and the author himself just confirmed on Twitter that a new trilogy set in the 1950’s is in the works. Now is your chance to get caught up on the series. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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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Quick Update: What We’ve Been Up To

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and I apologize for that. Shawn and I have both been busy in our respective wheelhouses. Shawn has been gearing up for the Baltimore Comic Con next weekend, where he’ll be selling the print featured above as well as the first character print for our upcoming comic Failsafe. Since that print is a con exclusive I won’t be able to share it with you just yet. I’ve been working hard on a new novel, and I think I’m far enough along in it that I can share a little about it. I’ve written 4 books at this point. (5 if you count both Chosen books). I’ve learned a lot over the process of writing each of those books, and I’ve very proud of what I’ve accomplished. I think they’re all decent stories, and they’ve allowed me to play in different genres and try out different storytelling approaches. I decided that it was time to try my luck with traditional publishing- which means not only writing a 70,000 word novel but also trying to snag an agent and go through the whole fun rejection process.

I have a mystery novel that I’ve got planned out and have about 1/3rd written. I love the idea and I enjoy the story, but it’s not the kind of book I want to write on a regular basis, so I decided to shelve it for now. My favorite genre is urban fantasy. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is my favorite series of all time. I really love Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter and Grimnoir novels, Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid novels as well. I’ve really wanted to do something in this genre, and You Only Die Twice was my attempt at testing the waters in a sci-fi setting. This new novel is my take on a more “traditional” urban fantasy series. The protagonist is female, which I felt was important because there aren’t a ton of kick-ass female protagonists in the genre. Most of the books that do feature a female protagonist as the main character tend to degenerate into borderline romance novels with an urban fantasy garnish. That’s not something I’m interested in writing. I wanted to write a legitimately kick ass female main character that people, regardless of gender, would love, but particularly that female readers could be inspired by. I have what I think is a pretty cool magical system in place based around the manipulation of the 5 elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, & Spirit, & inspired partially by Avatar: The Last Airbender (the quality cartoon series, not the crappy movie) because they did some really cool, creative things with how those elements (not counting spirit) could be used. I’m also a history buff, and I love it when sci-fi or fantasy stories try to tie history in with their world building and offer alternate explanations for things (Like Stargate, where the Egyptians gods were actually aliens for example), so I try to do that in this series as well. Basically I’m trying to write the kind of book I love to read, and hopefully people will agree with me. My goal is to have the rough draft finished in the next few months with a final draft ready to shop around to agents by the end of the year. I’ll be looking for test readers soon, so if you’re interested shoot me a message and let me know.

Anyway, that’s pretty much where we’re at right now. Once Shawn gets back from the Con and has some much-deserved down time we’ll be starting on getting Failsafe into gear. Our goal is to have the first storyline done in time for the con next year. We’ll have the con print, test sketches, previews, etc. here as we’ve got stuff to share for those who are interested in following the progress.

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Filed under Update

All Kindle Editions $0.99!

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We’ve decided to keep our sale prices as the permanent prices for the Kindle Editions for all our books, so from now on all Kindle e-books will be $0.99. We’re hoping this helps encourage people to pick them up and spread the word. The paperback prices will remain the same simply because of the cost of production- they’re already about as cheap as I can make them. If you’d like to visit our book page where you can find descriptions and samples of all our novels click here or on the picture of the book covers just above.

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Filed under Rant Alert

We Need Your Support!

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The first Counter Monkey Kickstarter didn’t make goal so our own Shawn Skvarna and Jessie Arnold are taking another shot with a more modest goal. Please check out the link and consider showing them a little Kickstarter love. The bundles they’ve included as pledge rewards are pretty cool. Also, just wanted to remind all you fine folks that our Independence Day Sale is still going strong. Kindle editions of all our books are just $0.99, so be sure to take advantage! You can get a full list of the books we have available, descriptions, links to samples, and links to where you can purchase them here. We’d also appreciate it if you’d help spread the word about both events, as we could really use your support. Word of mouth is pretty much everything when it comes to independent publishing, and we really appreciate anything you can do/have done! Happy 4th of July!

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Filed under Rant Alert