Listening to the essays that make-up Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths, I feel like Ryan Britt and I would be good friends if we ever met in the real world.
Covering things from why reboots happen and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the sad truth that Luke Skywalker and company don’t place a high value on literacy to the admission that he grew up listening more to Star Trek soundtracks that he did the popular music of the day (boy, did that one resonate with this guy, who can tell you pretty much were most musical cues from the original series featured first but couldn’t tell you much about the popular music of my teenage years), Britt keeps things entertaining, humorous, and compelling throughout.
Pointing out how the Back to the Future is every genre of film in one trilogy and then proceeding to deconstruct the time travel paradoxes within the film, Britt had me nodding in agreement at multiple points and considering some of my favorite genres and some of their most popular entries in a new light. And his final essay finds me wanting to visit Issac Asimov’s I, Robot again to see how it differs from most of the other robots in pop culture since the mechanical creatures don’t want to rise up and exterminate us all.
And while I agree with what Britt says in most of the essays, I differ greatly with him in his analysis of modern Doctor Who (but then again, I differ from a lot of fandom in my assessment and enjoyment of the revived series, especially the esteem to which a certain Doctor is held (ahem..David Tennant…ahem)). But that’s why I say I feel like Britt and I could be friends – because you don’t want to agree with your friends on everything….
The latest entry in the Star Wars universe is subtitled The Force Awakens. But it could also easily have the subtitle Where’s Luke?
The driving force of the film is the search for Luke Skywalker. Between the end of Return of the Jedi and the start of Force Awakens, Luke has gone missing, retreating from the galaxy. Now with the new First Order trying to fill the void left by the Empire, the galaxy needs Luke and the light side of the force more than ever before.
J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens walks a fine line between nostalgia and giving us new elements in a “galaxy far, far away.” If you’ve seen the trailers or heard any of the casting news, you know that certain members of the original trilogy are back and that others cast a giant shadow over events unfolding.
Each of the original cast members slips easily back into their familiar and iconic roles and the script does each of them justice — even though it’s Han Solo and Chewie who get the most screen time of our original crew. It’s an interesting contrast to the 1999’s The Phantom Menace where it felt like we were having familiar characters introduced simply to include them in the narrative rather than the characters serving an actual purpose in the story.
But it’s the new cast that works well also. It’s a rag-tag group of orphans brought together to form a type of family. From the best pilot the new rebellion has in Poe Dameron to stormtrooper gone rogue Finn to salvage collector Rey. In many ways, it feels like the script for Awakens is trying to build its own, new version of Han/Luke/Leia. And, for the most part, it succeeds. Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the new good guys. Scenes when she and new bad guy Kylo Ren square off are among the highlights of the film.
The script finds a nice balance point between homages to the past and tips of the hat to the original trilogy while still standing on its own to set things in motion for the next trilogy of films we’ll get over the next couple of years.
From this point forward, it’s difficult to talk much about the movie without giving away SPOILERS. I’m going to put in a MORE jump here so if you don’t want to know, you won’t accidentally get spoiled. Continue reading
The first couple of chapters of Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith reminded me of my childhood, playing in the yard with my Star Wars action figures. I could create a wide variety of scenarios and battles among the action figures, including making Darth Vader the baddest bad guy in all the universe.
The bookends of this one make Vader (and to a lesser extend Emperor Palpatine) just that. Set in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, this story establishes Vader as a complete and total bad-ass. In the opening chapter, Vader uses his ship to kamikaze another after he’s ejected to board the ship and then takes out an entire crew of 24 with just his lightsaber and the Force. At this point, I was fully hooked, wondering if and how this book couple top that. But I was ready to give it the chance to do so.
Unfortunately, the book peaks early and never quite gets back to that point of pure awesomeness that felt like it was straight out of my childhood back yard. Instead, we get a lot of characters who are part of the growing rebellion that we have little or no connection with in the movies. I understand from looking at other reviews that there is a connect to the animated universe, but I’ve not had the time to delve as deeply into that part of a galaxy far, far away as I’d like.
Vader and the Emperor travel to an outer world that is the source of the rebellion. The rebel leaders plan to try to take our Vader and the Emperor. Things do not go as planned.
It’s not that this isn’t interesting so much as I felt like for a book titled Lords of the Sith, we don’t spend a lot of time with Vader and the Emperor.
I wanted to love this one, but ended up only really liking it. It has some great moments, but overall it’s not my favorite Star Wars tie-in novel since the books rebooted.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
In his introduction to Heir to the Jedi, Kevin Hearne says that the inspiration for his first novel set in “a galaxy far, far away” was a question that many Star Wars fans of a certain age may have pondered when The Empire Strikes Back made its debut — how did Luke Skywalker go from a novice in the Force to being able to pull his lightsaber to him in the ice cave on Hoth?
The movie series doesn’t give us any answers or explanation, but Hearne’s novel does. Narrated by Luke, Heir to the Jedi takes place between A New Hope and Empire and not only gives looks at how Luke developed his Jedi powers before he headed off to Degobah for training but also some of the realities of the day to day running of a rebellion. Hearne lets us spend some time with a few old favorites and introduces a few new characters for this novel that quickly grow on Luke and the reader.
I’m sure that fans who read every single page of the Extended Universe novels will be annoyed to learn that LucasFilm and Disney have rebooted the novels. But as a reader who fell behind on the EU and increasingly felt like the cool kids were having a party that I wasn’t invited to, I’m happy to see the novels get a reboot and start fresh. And if Heir is any indication, these novels are in good hands and headed in an interesting direction as we all count down to later this year when Episode VII arrives on our movie screens.
The combination of one of my favorite genre universes with one of my favorite genre authors is pays off extremely well here. Hearne quickly settles into the Star Wars universe and you can tell he’s having a great time answering a question that has consumed his curiosity over the years. He ties in enough continuity to keep Star Wars fans happy but still keeps the novel accessible and entertaining enough that a casual reader can drop in and enjoy a well done tie-in novel.
This is a solid example of a tie-in novel done right.
And I hope that Star Wars fans who haven’t dipped their toes into the wonderful urban fantasy universe that Hearne has created will like what they read here and pick up one or more the Iron Druid Chronicles.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.