Posts Tagged With: Star Wars

REVIEW – Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

ahsoka-coverFor those of you who don’t know who Ashoka Tano is, a quick introduction. After Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, an animated series debuted on Cartoon Network called “Star Wars – The Clone Wars.” In it, we are introduced to the previously unknown apprentice of Anakin Skywalker (he who would become Darth Vader): a young Togruta named Ahsoka Tano. She was essentially the breakout character of that series after a bit of a rocky start (i.e. once the writers figured out how to write an adolescent in a war without making her too annoying). When the series ended, the explanation of why she wasn’t in Revenge of the Sith was satisfactory, but her ultimate fate was left unknown. She reappeared fifteen years later (in-universe chronology) in the current Disney XD show, “Star Wars – Rebels.”

This novel fills in some of the between the end of The Clone Wars and Ahsoka’s appearance in Rebels. Specifically, it shows how Ahsoka came to the attention of Bail Organa (Princess Leia’s adoptive father) and became the agent known as Fulcrum.

We see how the New Order of the Empire affects the regular, rural people of the galaxy and Star Wars: Ashoka takes time to show us how nasty the Empire is to everyone who isn’t part of their very narrow view of “acceptable.”

Without giving too much of the plot away, I will say the book is tight; it moves quickly and I was never lost or confused. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and, in fact, would rank it near the top of all the Extended Universe novels and thus far, the best of the new EU continuity. While I appreciate what some other authors bring to the EU, I didn’t have to fight against the writing style (which is a completely subjective judgment), and it certainly made reading more pleasurable. My only real criticism is I felt the climax was a bit rushed, particularly Ashoka’s confrontation with her nemesis, an Inquisitor (fans of “Star Wars: Rebels” will be familiar with the type). Still, I suppose it is good to occasionally show the bad guys getting curb-stomped because they underestimate their opponents, and it is a known flaw of the Empire.

For too long, and with few exceptions, EU novels focused on the exploits of the Skywalkers and Solos we came to know and love in the films. With seemingly every event in the galaxy revolving around Luke, Leia, and Han, it made the universe feel very small.

Expanding the cast of characters novels can focus on helps with that tremendously. For all the awesome things about Star Wars, there’s really very few role-models for young women and the franchise sorely needed more. Ashoka Tano is a good one. She’s witty, strong, competent and self-sufficient. She’s not shown to need help to accomplish the most basic tasks and when she does need help, she recognizes it, formulates a plan, gets the help she needs and gets things done. Without a doubt, Ashoka Tano continues the tradition of strong female characters in sci-fi and fantasy and she is a fine addition to the heroes of Star Wars.

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REVIEW – Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath coverWriting this review was difficult. I intended/expected to blow through this book as quickly as I did Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy, but I just couldn’t. Oddly, I had the same trouble getting through the last media tie-in novel I read, Star Wars – A New Dawn, but more on that later…

If you want the short, short version: I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I really wanted to like it. I’ve read the majority of the Star Wars Extended Universe novels now relegated to Legends, and I have no beef with Disney essentially wiping out the EU to start over.

The longer version: Aftermath starts off after the Battle of Endor as seen in Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Some time has passed as the New Republic is established with Mon Mothma at its head (much like in the old continuity). It’s easier to just cut & paste the plot blurb from Amazon than for me to write a whole new one, so, from the Amazon blurb:

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

There are a lot of elements I should like in Aftermath. For years, I wanted more novels focusing on new characters; I felt the adventures of the core trio (Leia, Luke, and Han) were overplayed and tired. My favorite Star Wars novels are the X-Wing series written by Michael Stackpole for that very reason. Quirky, wierd characters like the re-programmed Mr. Bones tend to be among my favorites. The cameos by existing characters like Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar don’t overshadow the actions of the protagonists.

Still, there was something about the novel that didn’t gel for me. It wasn’t the point-of-view. I was well-acquainted with Wendig’s use of present-tense and was used to his writing style since I finished three of his books just prior to starting this one. The new characters didn’t resonate with me, not Norra and Temmin Wexley, Rae Sloan (a character returning from Star Wars – A New Dawn, which I mostly enjoyed), nor turncoat Sinjir or bounty hunter Jas Emari. I didn’t dislike them, per se, I just didn’t get strong feelings for them. Maybe I just really wanted to read more about Wedge’s adventures, and if you go into this novel hoping he’s a main character, you’ll be disappointed.

I get that some people don’t like Wendig’s writing style. One thing I’ve learned from decades of reading and writing is that not everyone’s writing style is compatible with everyone’s reading style. There are well-regarded, immensely popular authors I don’t read because I can’t stand their writing style. I’m not going to say they’re bad writers; their success belies that claim (and yes, bad things can be successful, but art is subjective).

I can’t quite place why this novel didn’t appeal to me. And no, it had nothing to do with the so-called “homosexual agenda” in the book. One character stating his or her preference does not an agenda make, nor I did feel it was “shoved down our throats.” (There was a second couple featured, too, if I remember, but again, it’s not A Thing; it just is.) Frankly, it’s good to see greater representation for all gender and sexual identities in popular media. It’s good for us as a species to accept what is different. It’s how we grow.

Maybe, my Star Wars tie-in fiction burn-out is complete. The Force Awakens was great and I enjoyed it more than any Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, but ever since the New Jedi Order series, I have had a very difficult time enjoying any Star Wars novels.

Still, I won’t say “don’t read this book.” Aftermath is well-written and well-paced. It’s certainly not the worst Star Wars novel I’ve ever read, but it’s not the best, either. Above average, maybe? I did grow on me as I got further along, but overall, it just didn’t resonate with me as a Star Wars fan. If you’re a die-hard fan who is eager to see what await in the new continuity, you’ll probably enjoy Star Wars: Aftermath. If you’re a die-hard “The Old EU is Sacrosanct!”-type, you’re probably not even going to bother. If you don’t care about the EU one way or another, perhaps you’ll find something of value here. Certainly, there are worse ways to return to a galaxy far, far away. This is definitely another case where I wish I could award half-stars, so just add another 1/2-star on mentally.

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REVIEW – Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

A New DawnThey say brevity is the soul of wit, but despite the brief nature of this review, it’s not particular witty. I think I originally wrote it on my Kindle (hence the brevity; virtual keyboards are difficult to write on).

A New Dawn is an action-packed look at the origin of the partnership between Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus (of Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels” fame). While independently working against an Imperial scheme to mine a world in a manner which makes strip mining look environmentally friendly, Hera and Kanan meet and agree to work together to stop the Empire’s plan.

It gives a good look at Kanan’s background, and the source of his self-doubt, particularly his status as a reluctant former Jedi and rebel. It also develops Hera more than the animated series has thus far, shedding light on her motivations and dedication to the budding Rebellion.

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