Tag Archives: Star Wars

Why Star Wars is Important

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

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

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

Life, just before puberty.

               Life, just before puberty.

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

I now weigh over 500 pounds.

I now weigh over 500 pounds. Still dead sexy.

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

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

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

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

I’m not alone.

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

Sorry...

                               Sorry…

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

There’s always hope.

My new hope.

My new hope.

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

Speaking of which….

My body is ready.

My body is ready.

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

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

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

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Updated Star Wars: The New Canon Reviews

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

The Novels:

ANewDawn

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

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

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

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Rent

Who Will Like It: Fans of Rebels.

Heir_to_the_Jedi

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Buy

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

Tarkin-Cover

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

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

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

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

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

dark disciple

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

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

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

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

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

Lords_of_the_Sith

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

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

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

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy. Duh.

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

aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost-Stars_DBG1

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

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

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

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

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

Battlefront_Twilight_Company_cover

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion: 

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy

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

TFA

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

What I Liked: 

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion:

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Definite Buy

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

 

Novellas:

The_Weapon_of_a_Jedi

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Who Will Like It: Luke fans & younger readers.

 

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

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion: 

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy!

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

 

star-wars-moving-target

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

What I Liked: 

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

 

before the awakening

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion:

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

Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy it!

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

 

Short Stories (Quick Reviews):

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion: 

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

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

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

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: How Star Wars Conquered The Universe By Chris Taylor

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

The Story of Us

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

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

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

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

Non-Fiction For the Fiction Reader

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

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

Conclusion

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

Buy, Rent, Or Pass:  Buy

Who Will Like It? Star Wars Fans, Film Fans

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

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

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

Heir_to_the_Jedi

 

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

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

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

So, did the novel live up to my expectations?

Yes, it did.

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

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

Conclusion

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

Buy, Rent, Or Pass: Buy

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

Where Can I Get It: Click Here

 

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

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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.

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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.

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…Yeah, it’s kind of confusing.

What it isn’t is a reboot.

Everywhere I look online people keep calling it a reboot.

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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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Rant Alert: Why the Prequels Were Good For Star Wars

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Gooood….I can feel the hate flowing through you! The very mention of the prequel trilogy is enough to make most Star Wars fans begin to froth at the mouth…those that will even acknowledge their existence. I think most of us can agree that Episodes I-III of our beloved Star Wars Saga were not great movies. They were horribly written, horribly cast (with a few exceptions, such as Ewan McGregor), and they featured this guy:

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It would be easy to fill a HUGE rant listing all the things that are bad about these movies, but it’s been done…to death. I mean, you’ve seen the movies (unless you’re under the age of four or have been living with the Amish). You already know. However, I would make the argument that as bad as the movies could be, and as much as they got wrong, they were still, in the long run, good for the franchise and for fans. Allow me to expound:

The Music

I’m starting with an easy one, because I think just about everyone would agree that regardless of how you felt about the movies themselves, the music that John Williams provided was amazing and meshed up perfectly with the original trilogy score. It was “more Star Wars” in the way that fans had been dreaming of since ROTJ, and at this point the more familiar themes within the new music have taken their place alongside the classic themes from the original trilogy in everything from the games to the T.V. shows, and we don’t bat an eye. It was simply John Williams Star Wars, and that is never a bad thing. I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with for Episode 7, because when it comes to Star Wars, Mr. Williams always delivers.

It Opened Up The Universe

Star Wars already had a rather healthy life in the expanded universe before The Phantom Menace came out. The books, comics, and games that took place in the galaxy far, far away post-ROTJ could vary greatly in quality, but there was plenty of it. However, up until the Prequels were a reality, the time periods before A New Hope (with the exception of the period of Knights of the Old Republic) were a no fly zone. As a result, a lot of the EU had to guess about history, and again, quality of the ideas varied greatly. The Prequels lifted the vale on this time frame and allowed the EU to tell some really great stories that helped to better flesh out and define the Star Wars universe we love.

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Dark Horse has always delivered quality Star Wars comics, but their work on Republic (which is sold in trade collections under the Clone Wars banner) was absolutely fantastic. It is a prequel to their equally great series Empire, and if you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend it.

Likewise, the Prequels opened the doors for some of the best Star Wars novels the EU has ever produced. Two of these were written by Matthew Stover. The first is Shatterpoint.

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Shatterpoint follows Master Mace Windu as he journeys back to his home planet in search for a former pupil who may have gone over to the dark side. Mr. Stover manages to tell a thrilling, mature tale set in the Star Wars universe that is unlike any other Star Wars novel before it or since. It could have been set in any other science fiction context and still been a wonderful book, but the fact that it was set in the Star Wars universe makes it a that much more unique and interesting a read. But when I say mature, I mean it. The subject matter may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This isn’t a popcorn novel. This is a gritty, often graphic, gorilla warfare story, and odds are really good events in the story will frustrate and horrify you more than once. You’ve been warned.

Stover’s second novel set in the Prequel time period is actually the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, and I am being completely honest with you when I say that it has become one of my favorite Star Wars novels. I would even go as far as to say it is quite possibly the best Star Wars novel written to date.

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Stover takes the basic story presented in the movie and does it right. For me, this novel is the canon version of how things went down with Anakin’s fall. He writes the story that we all wanted to see on the big screen. Stover shows how the Jedi Council and Palpatine were playing Anakin back and forth. He shows the internal struggle within Anakin, so when the moment of his fall does come it makes all the sense in the world. He makes the Emperor the serious threat that he should be. By far, my favorite scene in the book is the showdown in Palpatine’s office between Palpatine and the three Jedi Masters. It. Is. Perfect. Where it was lame and actually made me laugh out loud in the movie, in this novel it is everything that scene should have been. The unabridged audiobook makes a great story even better, as Johnathan Davis voices the characters beautifully. Every Star Wars fan should, at the very least, read this book.

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Dark Lord is the unofficial sequel to Stover’s novelization, and while it isn’t as good a read, it is still one of the better Star Wars books on the shelf. Luceno picks up weeks after ROTS left off, and we get to watch as Anakin grows into the Vader we all know from the original trilogy. Again, this is a novel that Star Wars fans should check out.

The Clone Wars

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While it started out admittedly a little rocky, the Clone Wars grew into something extremely good. Every season had at least one dud (or overly kiddie) storyline, but the rest tended to range from great to holy-crap-that-was-awesome! This was especially true in the last three seasons. I was very sad to see Clone Wars go, but holy crap did it go out on a high note. I am very excited to see what they do with Rebels, which has a lot of the same creative minds behind it and is set between Episodes III and IV. Speaking of which…

The Force Unleashed

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It wasn’t a perfect game, and the sequel was a rushed mess (but cool gameplay mechanics. A lightsaber that actually works like a lightsaber!), but I loved the story behind The Force Unleashed, and it still stands as one of my favorite Star Wars games (behind the KOTOR, Jedi Knight, and X-Wing/Tie games). I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve played through the game. I own the comic, the novelization, and the audiobook as well (which, admittedly, weren’t as good at telling the story as the game). I’m really hoping that Rebels will feature Starkiller, because it was just a great concept and he is really one of my favorite Star Wars characters. Plus, I have a total  man-crush on Sam Witwer, and I’m secure enough in my masculinity/sexuality to admit that.

As an uber-fan of Star Wars I was really let down by the end product that we got from the Prequels, but I can’t say that I wish they hadn’t happened. They opened up the universe I love and provided some really quality entertainment that I can go back to and enjoy again and again. That’s not to say that I don’t wish the movies themselves had been done better, or that I don’t hope fervently that the movies we get in the future will be of the same, if not better, quality as the original trilogy. I do. But we have to make the best with what we’re given, and in this case, what we’ve been given can be pretty great if you know where to look.

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 Saturday for a new chapter in the ongoing serial Moving On!

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Rant Alert: “A New Star Wars Movie Every Year?!” Why “Fans” Need to Chill Out

Star Wars Episode 7 Movie

A lot of “fans” on entertainment websites annoy me. They annoy me so much that sometimes I wish I could pull a Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back on them. I have never seen such soul-crushing negativity as I have found on comments sections coming from people who supposedly love the franchises they’re freaking out over. The most recent victim is Star Wars, after it was confirmed that Disney plans to release a new Star Wars movie each year. In the comment section for multiple fan sites commentators proceeded to wig out. From some of the posts you’d think Disney was Nazi Germany. They got so ridiculous I did what I swore I would never do and actually posted a comment that amounts to basically what I’m about to say here. It was a flower buried under a landslide of stupid, but a few people actually responded and applauded.

It gave me a little hope for humanity.

First, I believe what is actually going to take place needs to be clarified: There is not going to be a new Star Wars episode every year. The “episodes” are the main entries in the storyline, IE Episode 4 was the original Star Wars: A New Hope. The “main” episode movies will be once every 2-3 years, starting with Episode 7 in 2015, just like most major franchise movies. What Disney is planning to do is release stand alone movies in the “off” years, that will focus on different timelines, characters, and probably even storytelling styles. The Star Wars universe is a freaking huge playground. The last 25 years worth of expanded universe material in all the games, novels, and comics proves that there’s a TON of room to play without peeing in the cheerios of the main story.

Second, what Disney is planning to do with Star Wars is no different than what they’ve been doing with the Marvel Universe since 2008; which a majority of the movie going public, the aforementioned functionally retarded “fan” trolls included, generally like-love. Since the first Iron Man there has been at least one, often more than one, Marvel movie released every year. From a franchise perspective, why should Star Wars be any different? The argument could be made that they have even more room to tell different types of stories/do different types of movies with the Star Wars universe than they can with Marvel.

Third, Disney hasn’t given us any reason to think these movies won’t be quality products….yet. They’ve done a great job with Marvel and Pixar so far. If this means we get a new, quality Star Wars movie every summer, what’s the problem?

Fourth, I think we all need to start living by the wisdom of our geek prophet Wil Wheaton:

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Seriously, it’s one thing to discuss things you like/dislike about this stuff with other fans of the genres. It’s another to be a complete douchnozzle troll just because the internet is anonymous and you can. It’s hard to have fun and share about all the awesome (and sometimes not-so-awesome) stuff that’s coming down the pipe when a small, but very vocal, minority of jerkwads make those conversations horrible to even look at. For instance, the Man of Steel trailer last night was freaking beautiful. I was stoked, as was just about all my friends. I go to these fan sites and amidst the praise is the inevitable negative douchebaggery that just lets some of the air out of the geek tires. I don’t mind people having different opinions or not liking something I thought was amazing. That’s fine. Different strokes and all that. But there’s no reason to be just an offensive @$$hole about it. I get it: people love to troll because they’re pathetic individuals with nothing better to do with their time, but I can’t be the only person sick to death of this crap. Not to mention the negative effect it can and does have on the things we love. You may not think that people with the money/decision making power pays any attention to this crap, but you’d be very wrong. They do, or at the very least they pay people to pay attention to it for them. Basically, you’re part of the reason we can’t have nice things. So, for myself and the rest of my fellow geeky fans I have only this to say: STOP IT!

You never know. The next time your doorbell rings…

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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. Digital copies on sale for a limited time for $0.99.

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