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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: My Star Trek Into Darkness Spoiler Counter-F.A.Q.

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Star Trek Into Darkness has been a very polarizing film, more so than probably any other movie in the franchise. While critics and general audiences tend to enjoy it, fans are split down the middle. I have a close friend that is one such fan, who had a whole list of plot holes and things that kept her from enjoying the movie. I was surprised by this, because while I thought the film certainly had issues, a lot of the things she mentioned were things that didn’t bother me in the slightest and I found to be easily explainable. Then io9 did a spoiler F.A.Q. on Monday where, in a snarky attempt to be funny, he addressed many of the same issues. Well, I thought it would be fun to do a counter-F.A.Q. and give my perspective on them. I’m not saying I’m right and they’re wrong, because honestly a lot of the “issues” being talked about are things that are never fully explained in the movie. I assume for pacing reasons. However, they are things that I found to be fairly easy to explain in a reasonable way. It won’t change the mind of the people who already hate the movie, but I’m not trying to. So, needless to say, spoilers ahead! So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, avoid thine eyes!

Okay, explain to me why we’re doing this in this format again?

Because this is how the guy at io9 did it, and I thought it’d be fun.

You spelled “schizophrenic” wrong.

Just get on with it!

Okay, so at the beginning Kirk and Bones steal a scroll to lead the aliens away from the volcano. Why? Wouldn’t the volcano wipe everyone out if it erupts anyway?

They weren’t leading them away for their safety. They were leading them away so they wouldn’t see the shuttle carrying Spock to the volcano.

That makes sense, but why were they using a shuttle again? Why not just beam the bomb down?

It’s explained in the movie that the volcano was screwing up sensors and the only way they could use a transporter is if they had direct line of sight. The shuttles don’t have transporters so they were lowering Spock into the volcano to set the bomb manually.

Why not just use the ship…and why the hell was it underwater?

Starfleet has certain rules that officers are required to follow. the most important is the Prime Directive. Basically they’re forbidden from interfering with  pre-warp civilizations. Technically, the Enterprise crew was breaking the PD by saving the aliens, but they felt that they were exploiting a loophole in the directive- as long as they weren’t seen and the aliens thought the volcano just naturally stopped erupting (or their gods did it, or whatever) then it’d be fine. If they had used the Enterprise for line of sight transporter use, they’d be seen.
The Enterprise was underwater, as opposed to in orbit, because at night its possible that the ship would be seen. Just because the aliens were a “primitive” culture by our standards doesn’t mean they didn’t study/worship the heavens. The ancient Mayans and Egyptians did, and had a very detailed idea of exactly what was in the sky. A new bright satellite suddenly appearing in the sky, then disappearing hours or days later, would definitely be noticed. That’s assuming they don’t have some form of telescope. First Contact demonstrated that the Enterprise could be pretty clearly seen in orbit with one. Plus, lets be honest, it’s a popcorn movie, and if they’d just been able to stay in orbit and beam the bomb down it’d be pretty boring.

Can the Enterprise even work under water?

I’m not one of those fans with intimate knowledge of ship design, etc. but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. As far as I’m concerned, if the ship can survive the vacuum of space and the pressures of flying at warp speed it could probably handle being under water to the depth that they were. Yes, there are physics issues with how it would work, blah, blah, but it’s a sci-fi movie, not a documentary. If you can handle Borg Queens, telepathic rape scenes, red matter, and any number of other Trek plot devices and holes, then you can handle the Enterprise being underwater just deep enough where the crew can freaking swim there.

Okay, so lets get to the big stuff- Admiral Marcus, his daughter, and Khan.

Yeehaw.

So in this version of history Khan and his crew is found by someone else, not the Enterprise crew, right? Are they still from the 90’s?

Yes, they were discovered by someone else in this version of history. The movie doesn’t ever say (smartly), but I would assume no, they aren’t from the 90’s- that is probably something different in this timeline and the Eugenics Wars happened at a different point in our future.

So what, exactly, is the Admiral’s deal, anyway? Why thaw out Khan and go all militant?

You have to remember that not more than a year or so has gone by since Nero wiped out most of the fleet, killed Vulcan, and almost killed Earth. With one ship. Tensions with the Klingons are getting dangerous and it’s believed that war is only one incident away from breaking out. Marcus  feels that Starfleet needs to have a more militaristic focus if they’re to survive; and while the movie doesn’t specifically state how many others in Starfleet are working for him, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t at least a core group in the leadership that feels as he does. Khan was known as being a tactical genius, had an unparalleled military mind, etc. So Marcus de-thawed him to get him to help design new weapons tech for Starfleet, using the lives of his 72 crew members as incentive to cooperate.

How Could Marcus pull this off without anyone noticing? 

He already has a secret development department, Section 31. He’s also the head of Starfleet, a Starfleet that’s working hard to rebuild their fleet. I don’t think it would be too hard for him to get the “hidden shipyard by Jupiter” stocked with his people and develop the Vengence.   Materials for it could be diverted there when it’s believed that it’s for, say, two ships being built elsewhere. Sensors only work if you’re actively scanning for something, assuming he doesn’t have some sort of tech in the shipyard or something to do with where the shipyard is to block or scramble sensors. Once war is started secrecy wouldn’t be needed. He’d be hailed as a hero with the forethought to save them all with the new tech, at least that’s what he believes.

So what’s Khan’s deal?

Khan wants to escape with his people so they can pick up where they left off before being made into jerkcicles. The cryotubes are kind of hard to hide, so he hid his crew in the proton torpedo prototypes with the intention of smuggling them out, but he was caught. Khan escaped but he believed his crew was killed by Marcus, so in retaliation he attempts to take out all of the remaining high ranking officers in Starfleet. Then he uses Scotties magical transporter formula from the first movie and beams himself to the Klingon homeworld where Starfleet can’t get him.

What’s the deal with Kirk, Marcus, his daughter, and the mission? Aren’t they explorers, not assassins?

That’s the core of the movie and is intended to be a metaphor for the U.S. mindset after 9/11. Kirk is a hot head and wants vengeance for the death of Pike. Marcus sees an opportunity to use Kirk to get what he wants- take out Khan and his crew to get rid of the evidence they were connected to him, and kick off the war with the Klingons so he wouldn’t have to hide his military-focused build up anymore and they could get things cranked out in earnest. Carol Marcus knows about section 31 and knows something is up with the new torpedoes, so she gets herself assigned to the Enterprise to check it out. Scotty resigns in protest to the whole thing because he didn’t sign on to be a soldier, he’s an explorer. Spock is being Spock, disagrees with the mission and killing a man without trial, but ultimately follows orders. Kirk screws up Marcus’ plan by being swayed by Scotty and Spock’s argument and decides to take Khan alive.

Why does Khan save Kirk and Co. from the Klingons?

Sulu already sent the message to Khan that he was to surrender or he’d be bombed from space. Khan suspects that said torpedoes may be the ones that have his crew in them, because that’d be something Marcus would do. His suspicions are confirmed by Kirk when he’s told that there are 72, and he surrenders.

How is Scotty able to get on the Vengeance without being seen? Wouldn’t a secret military deal have better security?

A valid point, but there are a few things to consider: Taking the Vengeance out after the Enterprise was not a planned operation. The Enterprise was supposed to bomb Kronos, have a warp drive failure and be stuck in Klingon space, and then get decimated by the Klingons. When Kirk sent a message to Marcus that he’d captured Khan, Marcus had to quickly get out there and wipe them all out before they could fix their warp core. Scotty joins the flotilla of shuttles going to prep the ship. It’s a massive ship and they’re working with a skeleton crew made up of hired security/merc types, not Starfleet personnel. It’s Scotty. It wouldn’t be hard for him to hack his way in and stay hidden while everyone ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Does it take some suspension of disbelief? Absolutely. But so did Kirk just happening to find the same cave old-Spock was haunting in the first one.

Let’s address the mirror to Wrath of Khan ending and the magic blood.

Here, for me, is the biggest problem with the movie. Not that the blood could heal Kirk. They established from the very beginning that Khan’s blood could do that kind of stuff. It’s a huge convenient plot device, but it was needed for the movie because there’s no way they could get away with killing Kirk and leaving him dead until the next one like they did Spock in WoK. Which is exactly why they shouldn’t have done this storyline in the second movie. The biggest problem with Into Darkness wasn’t the plot, though the plot could have used tightening, obviously, it was the lack of emotional connection and impact that the story had. The ending, with Spock going all pissed off Batman on Khan, just came off as silly because they’ve been friends for what? Two years? Barely? Had they saved this kind of story for the third movie and used this movie to further establish the bond between the crew it would have been much more effective. Wrath of Khan had three seasons of a TV show and another movie to establish those relationships. This had one movie where Kirk and Spock spent 90% of the time at each other’s throats. I understand the appeal of using Khan, and Cumberbatch was freaking awesome in the role, regardless of what else you may have thought about the movie, but it just wasn’t the right time for this story.

Why are fans upset that they lied about Harrison being Khan?

Because in this modern internet world where spoilers leak immediately and movies are completely ruined months before they’re released, fans have developed a false sense of entitlement that they are owed answers about movies in development. The crew lied about Khan, even though everyone knew it was probably Khan, because they didn’t want to completely spoil the movie they’d been working two years on before it was even finished being developed. If fans are pissed about that I think they need a reality check.

So there you go. That’s my take on things with the movie. Again, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind here, I’m just explaining things in the way that I saw them as I watched the movie. STID isn’t a perfect movie, it has issues. Some fans are just not going to be happy with it regardless of what they did. Others do have legit complaints and just can’t turn off their brain or suspend disbelief enough to enjoy it for what it is. The fact of the matter is this isn’t the old Star Trek and it will never be. Yes, it has less of a scientific, intellectual focus, and is more focused on action and being fun. You can either just accept it for what it is and enjoy it, or not. Either way, it doesn’t change or take away the ten other movies and 5 TV series that came before it. You can always go back and revisit them whenever you want.

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 novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1-, 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.  Check back each Sunday for a new chapter in the ongoing serial Moving On!

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Rant Alert- The Amazing Spider-Man

*Mild Spoiler Warning if you haven’t seen the film*

As an adult comic book geek I’ve come to a place where I’ve learned to accept one really tough truth- the movies I loved as a kid/teen sometimes just don’t hold up as well later. Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. I’ll always remember how incredibly cool I thought the Burton Batmobile was. (I had posters of it all over my room.) I’ll remember how much fun I had watching the original Spider-Man movie at the theater…3 times. However, if I’m being honest and objective, those movies just don’t hold up as well now.

The Chris Reeve Superman movies, while groundbreaking at the time, are really kind of cheesy and boring now (Addendum: The Donner Cut of Superman II is still pretty good). Chris Reeve is still a perfect Superman, but if you’re honest with yourself the plots were generally kind of lame, the humor was cheesy, and they could never agree on what Superman could actually do- memory-wiping kiss, eye beams that could rebuild walls, S logo that turns into a large fruit roll-up to trap enemies, to name a few. Burton’s Batman movies are just plain boring and ridiculous now. I can’t sit through the first one without getting bored, and Returns is so bad it’s painful. We won’t discuss the travesty that is the Schumacker movies that came afterwards. Raimi’s Spider-Man movies (not counting 3) are worshiped on many a fan-geek’s alter, but they aren’t the end-all be-all either. Kirsten Dunst was a horrible and boring Mary-Jane. Toby McGuire made a decent “geeky” Peter, but he was always a bit too whiny and his portrayal was severely lacking the cocky-wisecracking that makes the comic book Spidey so much fun. They, too, could be kind of cheesy, as they were made at a pre-Nolan time when comic book movies were still not treated as serious cinema. Raimi’s movies did a good job in helping to fix that mindset, but they were still just not quite on-par with the quality of storytelling we’ve been spoiled with in the last few years. I loved Spidey 1 and 2, but they’re not as fun for me to watch as Iron Man or Avengers. They were just too plodding and were missing the sense of fun that the comics have when Peter is being Spidey. As a Spider-Man fan (especially ASM and Ultimate) I was excited when they talked about rebooting, because the Raimi movies never really nailed it for me.

Now that The Amazing Spider-Man has hit Bluray the discussions about just how good a Spidey flick it is have begun again. I felt that over the summer Spidey got lost among the Avengers hype, and it never really got the recognition it deserved. It certainly had a few issues, a few of which had more to do with cuts that the studio made, but overall I felt that it was a very solid foundation for a Spider-Man series. Andrew Garfield brought a large range of emotion to the part that really sold it for me. He could convey emotion without going into “whiny” territory, and he sold the fun, cocky wisecracking when in the Spidey suit that was really missing in the Raimi series. Yeah, he could be kind of a jerk at first, but that was kind of the point. He’s a kid that’s had it rough, he’s lost people he cares about, and once he lost Uncle Ben he snapped for a while and was lashing out. It was authentic. It made sense. He never quite became the “comic version” of Spidey, either ASM or Ultimate, but there were large traces of it and I could definitely see him growing into that characterization with further movies. He had great chemistry with Emma Stone, who played Gwen. Their relationship felt natural, not forced, and I love that Webb didn’t play into the same tropes as so many other comic movies do. He treated the audience, and the characters, as intelligent people. They don’t drag out Peter telling Gwen who he is. (The audience I watched it with in the theater cheered when he webbed her in and kissed her). When Peter tells her he can’t see her anymore, she doesn’t act like a mindless twit. She realizes right away that it was because her dad made him promise. Best of all was how Aunt May was portrayed. She isn’t a doddering, blind old woman. You know by the end that she’s figured out who Peter is and what he’s been doing without the movie having to telegraph it. The scene after the last fight, when Peter limps in covered in bruises and cuts, and painfully pulls out the carton of eggs while muttering “I had a rough night” was beautifully done. The casting of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as May and Ben was inspired, and while many a fan had a problem with Ben not using the “With great power comes great responsibility” line, I think the way he referred to it when talking with Peter got the same point across in a meaningful way.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a great foundational movie. It sets the stage for what is very likely to be a great Spider-Man movie series that gets us closer to the Spidey we all know and love from the comics. I’m really looking forward to what they do with the next couple of movies. Maybe you felt the same way. Maybe not. Feel free to comment down below and discuss.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.

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Rant Alert- Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Return of the Jedi. I had to watch them any time one came on TV, no matter what else I was doing. When they were released on VHS I watched a Star Wars movie just about every day. It was always on in the background. I had all the action figures, even Boba Fett and the Emperor, which I had to beg my parents to send away for in the mail.  (Yes, I took them out of the box. They are well-used and I regret nothing!) When Tim Zahn started releasing his Thrawn Trilogy I begged my parents to buy me the hardbacks. I was in Jr. High and I devoured each of them in just a few nights. They blew my mind. New Star Wars! From there I collected all the Bantam books. I had to have them the day they were released, even the ones that ended up being pretty crappy. I didn’t care, they were Star Wars. Then they announced they were working on the new movies. The Prequels. Darth Vader before he was Darth Vader! We’ll get to see the final fight between him and Obi-Wan! The Clone Wars! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!! I followed fan sites religiously for tidbits of new information, spoilers, speculation. It was ridiculous.

And like everyone else in the summer of 1999, I was really disappointed in what we got.

That didn’t stop me from seeing it 6 times in the theaters, but still, The Phantom Menace was horrible (with the exception of any scenes of Jedi using their lightsabers and that final, epic duel with Maul). Episode II was better, but still not up to par with any of the originals. Episode III was the closest to making the mark, but it, too, still fell short thanks to clunky dialogue, cheesy/wooden acting, and a focus on stuff that no one but Lucas cared about. (Read the novelization by Matt Stover, though. It was one of the best Star Wars books written and it shows what that movie COULD have been.) The prequels had come and gone, and we were left disillusioned and wanting. The novels, too, had hit a funk, where they tried to do too-long connected storylines using multiple authors. The only saving grace for a fan like me was the comics being released by Dark Horse, which were still high quality and made even the prequel era fun.

The the first, short cartoon series based on the Clone Wars hit, and it was amazing. It was done by the same guy that did Samurai Jack, and while I never really loved the art design, the story itself was really cool. Then they announced the Clone Wars would be a full TV series done using CGI. They released the pilot as a movie and while it had it’s issues I thought it was pretty fun, but the kiddie humor and Anakin’s padawan (He has a what?!) was annoying. Still, for the first time since 1999 I had hope that we would have new Star Wars stuff, other than the comics and select books, that would be fun.

I’m happy to say my hope was well-founded. Dave Filoni and his crew, in the last 5 years, have delivered Star Wars worthy of the name, and it’s only improved with each season. The art direction continues to get better. The storylines went from being laced with kiddie humor to growing more mature, and sometimes dark, just as Bruce Timm did with the Justice League Unlimited series. Here is Star Wars for both kids and adults that satisfies both demographics without sacrificing quality. There are occasional misses during the course of each season, but overall the series is Star Wars that fans have been waiting for. Anakin’s padawan, Asoka, went from being annoying and snarky to a strong female character that female fans could relate to and root for. Anakin’s destiny is often hinted at, and as the series moves forward those foundations for the darkness that eventually overtakes him are laid. (Such as force choking and torturing a prisoner for information to save Asoka).

Originally the Clone Wars was planned for 5 seasons, but it’s become apparent that they intend to run longer than that. I’m hoping that they may actually go through the events of Episode III (and tell it better), but I doubt it. I do hope, however, that once Clone Wars is over they might move on to a new series set either during the rebellion or showcasing events after RoTJ. I know there is a live action series planned that takes place between Ep.III and IV, but who knows when (if ever) that’ll actually get off the ground. Either way, I love having new Star Wars to look forward to and enjoy. If you’ve put off checking out the series either due to the prequels leaving a bad taste in your mouth or because you wrote it off as a “kids show” do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

The Clone Wars airs on the Cartoon Network on Saturday’s at 9:30 A.M. central time and is available in full on iTunes.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.

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