Star Wars

Star Wars
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why I Love the Thrawn Trilogy, pt. 1

I'm going to need several of these posts because there is so much to talk about (did I say "talk"? I meant "RAVE!") about with Zahn. From his development of each character to his intricate weaving of a complex and multi-layered plotline, he creates a tapestry in the best tradition of both Star Wars and storytelling.

With that in mind, I'm going to narrow my focus for my first post about the trilogy to supporting characters. Some authors have trouble even keeping their main characters afloat, never mind their supporting cast. Zahn, however, turns each character into a full-bodied, full-historied reading experience. I've also linked each character to their corresponding Wiki.

It's also worth noting right now that I'm not reading Heir to the Empire but listening to the absolutely brilliant unabridged audiobook, read by the incomparable Marc Thompson. I may or may not make reference to his work on each character.

Warning: The Wikis will have spoilers associated with each character's progression through the EU so read cautiously (Ro-Ro, I'm talking to you and I ^_^).

Winter Celchu
Winter - Winter appears as, evidently, one of Leia Organa Solo's lifelong companions. Zahn is careful to emphasize that, "during the war," Winter played a different role their companion to Leia - she was with "supply and procurement," which explains why we don't see anything of her in the movies (clever, Mr. Zahn). Winter's first scene, when we see her checking in on Leia, is so inoccuous that it would be negligable if Zahn didn't make the most of the introduction. During her first scene, Winter is presented not only as a regal figure to rival Leia (hard to imagine) but she's also given a super-power, of sorts ("with great power comes great responsibility" - anyone?): her perfect memory. Not only is it immediately clear how important she is, both to functioning of Leia's family but also to Rebellion heroine Councilor Leia Organa Solo. Later on, Luke and Winter have a conversation about a Jedi Master named Jorus C'Baoth in which we see the toll Winter's perfect memory (her super power) has on her and how much she has to endure on a daily basis as a result. At the same time, she's poised, elegant, and almost an older sister figure to Leia. Even as a kid, I was immediately interested in her and wanted to know more. Sign of a very well-written supporting character.

"Talon Karrde" ^_^
Talon Karrde - I find Karrde even more fascinating than Winter! To be honest, part of it is that Marc Thompson's voicing of him makes him sound like Antonio Banderas (thank you, Ro-Ro, for pointing this out to me). But I've always liked Karrde and been fascinated with him. I think part of it is how he treats his employees - namely, Mara Jade. Our first introduction to Karrde (outside of the smuggler Dravis mentioning him to Han Solo in one of the opening scenes of Heir) is his meeting with Mara to discuss her becoming his second-in-command. Mara is clearly suspicious of the meeting that it "a smoke-screen to mask some more personal request or demand on [Karrde's] part," but Karrde quickly proves that he is genuinely interested in Mara's "ability and results ... and your ability and results have been quite impressive ... there's your talent for starship piloting, your ability to both give and accept orders ... and your ability to adapt to unusal and unexpected situations" (34, 33). Although these observations say a lot about Mara very early-on, they say a lot more about Karrde. He observes in her some pretty specific behaviors, behaviors which seem fairly hard to categorize. Karrde not only categorizes them but puts them to use throughout the novel as he works on putting together a full picture of who Mara was and who she is. Though his fascination with Mara does have the feel of romantic interest, it (fortunately) never plays out that way. It's clear that Karrde's priorities are his business and the well-being of his associates for the preservation of his business. The business itself is also a mask for Karrde's real love, which is something Grand Admiral Thrawn later puts his finger on: Karrde's real business is information. He likes to know and learn about things, a trait obvious early-on in the Thrawn Trilogy that Zahn later puts to good use in other books Karrde is featured in. Karrde is also established as a morally dependable character early-on, in spite of being a smuggler. His reluctance to turn Han and Lando Calrissian over to stormtroopers is initially played off as bad business but ultimately, he tells Mara, "They're our guests. They've sat at our table and eaten our food ... and like it or not, that means they're under our protection" (271). Earlier on, his associate Fynn Torve admits that he's smuggling food to a group of disadvantaged people in Abregado-rae - there doesn't seem to be a strong monetary element to this work and the way Torve paints it, "[The hill people] aren't rebelling ... they're simple people, and all they want is to be left alone to continue living that way ... hence, we smuggle in food .. crazy business" (248). In spite of working on the wrong side of the law, Karrde walks a very consistantly moral path, though rarely a predictable one. In short, he's awesome and I want to go work for him (perhaps he needs expertise on children's literature within his organization?? I could help him smuggle first editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone).

Captain Pellaeon
Captain Pellaeon - Pellaeon largely serves the function of focalizer within the Thrawn Trilogy. Though clearly an experienced and competent officer, he's not written as an especially brilliant or original officer. He wasn't especially important during Palpatine's reign as emperor, though the fact that he was at the Battle of Endor is important to Zahn's plot.

Why, then, bother with him when you've got an absolutely fascinating Grand Admiral (an alien, someone the New Republic was convinced they'd already dealth with, who comes out of nowhere with an almost supernatural ability of knowing everything about his enemies through their artwork) to work with?

Another brilliant Zahnism here - seeing Thrawn through Pellaeon's eyes gives us the chance to get to know Thrawn as Pellaeon. Like our initial introduction to Mara, we only get an observer's look at Thrawn. We're given dramatic physical features, mysterious and impressive behavior during the first scene, and the sense that we'll never fully understand the character. Yet, the same character we don't fully understand or know holds the key to something critical so we strive to know them better. Enter Pellaeon, who, in spite of being Imperial Scum, is actually a very relatable character. He genuinely believes in the good the Empire can do - he's not a power-monger, he's not especially interested in "crushing" anyone (except the "Rebellion," but only because he believes they're outlaws), and while his attitude toward the Noghri proves that he's a total racist (species-ist?), it's less because he's an evil bastard and more because he's close-minded and a bit thoughtless on the subject of non-humans. He's militant, yes, but he also proves he has the capacity to learn, a trait Thrawn obviously recognizes. He takes the time to explain his art and his tactics to Pellaeon, something he's clearly not obligated to do. And Pellaeon, though he doesn't always get it right away, makes an effort to understand and learn. He also puts Thrawn's apparent omniscience into perspective. Like Karrde, Thrawn takes gambles and they aren't always the best gambles (case in point: working with Joruus C'Baoth). Pellaeon recognizes those calculated risks and calls them into question; the fact that he sometimes turns out to be right indicates that he has powers of perception in his own right and that his readings of Thrawn himself are to be trusted.

I'll stop with these three. I'm deliberately leaving Mara out of this round-up because I want to write a post later on exclusively dedicated to her and I need to get further into the trilogy before I'll feel confident doing that. It'll happen, though, count on it! In the meantime, back to my audiobooks as I finish this year's batch of Christmas presents.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Phenomenon that is Timothy Zahn

 I'm right now about a fourth of the way through the 20th anniversary edition of Timothy Zahn's the Heir to the Empire. I've read this edition before, but I forgot tons of it. Probably because I read it so fast the first time. This is a very bad habit of mine, reading books too quickly the first time. It's partially because I have so many books to read, I just want to get to the next one. And partially because a good story compels me to finish it as fast as I possibly can. The first time I read the anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire  was not the first time I had read Heir, however. I read it at least four times as a kid and teenager. So I'm definitely familiar with the story. But before the anniversary edition, which is annotated, I never knew why I liked it so much or why it made so much sense as to why it fit in with the Star Wars galaxy so well. Now, seeing the way Zahn carefully planned every twist and turn, I get why he's considered such a heavy hitter in the Star Wars extended universe. Every situation he plans to fit into something else, whether it be later books or later on in the current book. He admits that some of this is not planned, but that he uses it later on as if it was.

I am so in awe of authors who are able to be clever and twisty with their writing. I've found I'm too upfront as a writer to really be good at crafting mysteries. But Zahn knows his stuff. He knows how to build tension. He knows how to screw with his characters. He's so good at putting them in tough positions, both literately and figuratively. And I'm finding that I'm loving Heir so much more as an adult because I actually understand what he's doing! Instead of just loving the action, I'm enjoying the subtleties Zahn slips in here and there. And now, enough of blogging! Back to reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Heir to the Empire (or the end all and be all of Star Wars canon)

 Drum roll please! We have made it to the most excellent and amazing Timothy Zahn and his "final trilogy." (I, at this point, don't care what Disney pulls out of where, this IS the final trilogy!) I do believe this is THE trilogy that Es and I bonded over when we first met. And the story line that we played when we were in either of our back woods. I think there were some other Star Wars series mixed in at various points, but this was basically it. So it's a big deal for us to be reading this again. Huge deal. The only expectation I have is to love it just as much as I have all the other times I've read it. I will also be reading the anniversary edition for the second time, and I'm so excited to be reading it again. I feel like I lost some details the first time through in my excitement to read it. It was to my great pleasure to learn that Timothy Zahn was the first author approached when LucasFilms decided to go back to publishing books in the late '80s. And how he struggled with his answer to write the books or not, not wanting to disappoint Star Wars fans. Well, Mr. Zahn, I don't think anyone was disappointed, especially because you sling-shotted Star Wars back into fandom again!

Grand Admiral Thrawn
I supposed I should have some other expectations besides just loving the hell out of it again. So, I expect to fully enjoy the lesser characters Zahn creates, like Winter. And I expect to be on the edge of my seat while Leia works to figure out who's interfering with the New Republic. And I adore Mon Mothma. And of course, I full expect to be creeped out by Grand Admiral Thrawn, the best villian in the Star Wars universe as far as I'm concerned. I know, for a fact, this is Es's favorite trilogy in the Star Wars EU. It presents us with Mara Jade, whom Es idolized as a young girl. I did too, but not as deeply.

I wonder if that will change with this reading. I myself am now a strong young woman who has a strong sense of self. Perhaps that means I'll connect more with Mara Jade. We'll see!

Esme's Input

The reality is that I've read this series (and very recently, too) so many times that it's going to be a very different reading experience than with the other books Ro and I have tackled. I do adore Mara Jade still - she's a powerful, independent woman (as I aspire to be), and she's a dancer, as I have become. She makes plenty of mistakes and clearly has some serious PTSD going on post-Emperor (something which I definitely did not pick up on as a kid) but I never for a moment stop loving and having faith in her.

Mara Jade
Zahn's greatest strengths are his ability to spin a truly elaborate story, with all the plot twists and foreshadowing you could ever ever want, and his ability to create characters that have absolute integrity as he characterizes them. Once you get to know General Garm Bel Iblis or Counselor Borsk Fey'leya, whether you love or hate them, Zahn will never give you a moment's pause that their actions and reactions are 100% true to their characters. He likewise establishes integrity with Lucas's existing characters - Luke is probably my favorite of his characterizations because he writes Luke very much as a newly fledged Jedi Knight who is absolultely overwhelmed by the task set him by his mentors: to establish a new order of Jedi all by himself. Powerful in his own right, he is also, as Mara routinely reminds us, a naive and earnest farmboy, something many fans love most about Luke.

I'm incredibly excited to tackle these books with Ro this time - to find flaws and new favorite things and to keep our peepers out for any signs that Disney is following Entertainment Weekly's advice about their first movie project when EW asserts, "The blue-skinned Imperial alien strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn and ... agent-turned-Jedi Master Mara Jade, both of whom first appeared in Timothy Zahn's excellent Thrawn trilogy, would be most welcome."  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Finally! Or "Courtship of Princess Leia" Roundup

This post has been a long time coming - I had intended to do a halfway post because I've had so much to say and so many different thoughts about this book as I read it. Sadly, October and November have passed us by with excuse after excuse piling up (on my end, anyway!). Rose and I are both ready to be done and move on with our fabulous project and with a large and highly engrossing trilogy upcoming, it's passed time. In fact, as I type this, I'm listening for the first time to my Christmas mix on my iTunes.

So! Courtship of Princess Leia ... I found so much of it highly unlikely (often completely ridiculous) that I'm going to ignore what I found to be ridiculous and focus on what actually works in the novel. For me, that's going to be a challenging task but I plan to give it a try. I started with lists, so I'll end with one.

Ro here! I'm so excited to be moving forward again! The break was much needed, for both of us, but Star Wars and Christmas go hand-in-hand for me. And not because of the hideous Christmas special... Anyway, on to Es's list. I've added comments at the end of each entry.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Or why the unlikely works for Wolverton

1) Han Solo kidnapping Princess Leia - Okay, so it makes him looks like a raving lunatic but it also does aim to prove how much Han loves Leia. He does see her running into a marriage that's probably loveless and probably about Leia trying to save the galaxy any way she can. Han might not be an immature jealous asshole but he is a man in love - the moment it becomes clear that he's brought Leia into danger, he tries at every opportunity to get her out of it (like trying to send her away again when he thinks Isolder has a ship and throwing himself at Gethzerion when he thinks it will save Leia).

Ro: Oh, but having a man sweep you away to a lovely paradise planet to prove he's in love with you is SO ROMANTIC! Not really. Es is right, it's down right creepy, and no woman in her right mind would put herself in that situation. HOWEVER, Leia does trust Han, so I guess it's easier for him to abduct her. And I agree with Es, once he realizes the danger to Leia, he does his best to protect her and get our off Dathomir.

2) Luke Skywalker, Omniscient twenty-four year-old - Okay, so admittedly Luke's incredible obnoxious, lecturing Teneniel about her abilities, right and wrong, etc, especially considering she's been trained in Force useage since birth and Luke known about its existence less than ten years. But his arrogance also brings him closer to true understanding of his own limitations. Gethzerion herself knocks him over with a flick of her finger when they first do battle and when Luke thinks he's dying, he's able to visualize the Force for the first time. Earlier than that, Teneniel manages to sneak up on him and abduct him. That's no small feat. Fortunately for readers, Luke spends the entirety of the succeeding Zahn trilogy questioning his readiness to lead a new generation of Jedi, so obviously a vacation on Dathomir did him a world of good!

Ro: I agree with all of the above! Luke is awfully mature for someone who's known about the Force for all of two seconds. I like how Wolverton beats him up a bit, reminds Luke that he's not all powerful and he still has things to learn.
Not-so-tame Rancor

3) Tame Rancors - This, to me, is a very silly idea that actually pans out quite well. It gives a kind of validity to the strength and power of the witches. Their ability to tame rancors and the intercommication of the rancors and witches both illustrates the strength of the witches' Force abilities and adds dimension to the rancors by making them very intelligent beings in their own right, with, to all appearances, quite a complex culture of their own. Wolverton could have left them big, burly plot device monsters and instead he made them interesting and pivotal.

Ro: This is one of my favorite parts of "Courtship"!!!! I love the tame rancors, and how they aren't just animals but sentient beings. It reminds me of my relationship with horses (for those of you reading this who don't know me personally: I am a HUGE horse nut!), and how to me, each horse has a different personality, a different position in the herd, and they will protect each other. This detail, as Es said, was complex and amazing and really added to the book.

4) Magic in a galaxy far far away - It's goofy to use magic in the Star Wars universe, where science and creativity already make the world magical, and yet Wolverton not only makes it work, he uses it to great effect. Magic is often a way of explaining away ideas that aren't fully understood - so Wolverton endows his less developed society on Dathomir "magic" as an explanation for something they don't fully understand. Or maybe it's their interpretation of the Force - when Luke comes in and lectures Teneniel about her "spells," does his explanation render her abilities less potent?

Ro: So, so true! Excellent point! I studied this in a Religious Literature class in college (many moons ago). The first assignment from the prof: describe a sunset without using any colors. A challenging assignment, and one that from that day forward has be appreciating when writers use this sort of device in their stories, the way Wolverton does.

5) Luke's unlikely apprentice - I don't know if I remember any other author discussing the possibility of a Jedi disciple who isn't Force-sensitive, but Isolder's a wonderful example of how serving the Force and its guiding principles doesn't necessarily mean using and wielding it as a weapon. Isolder wields incredible power as a ruler and serving the light side of the Force, he has the ability to enact great good. However uppity I think Luke is in this novel, it's insightful of him to recognize the potential Isolder has to serve the light and do incredible good in his own way. This is a neat idea that rarely, if ever, occurs again in the EU.

Ro: I kind of wish this had gone a little further, honestly. I felt like Wolverton could have made it more of a thing in the story, but alas, there were Dark Witches to attend to.

6) Luke and his redheads - Hey, Luke gets very little action! It figures that he'd be drawn to a feisty redhead. There are even foreshadowy hints from Mother Rell about Luke's "wife and children" - Luke might not get the girl this time but the one he'll eventually get is just around the proverbial corner!

Ro: HAHAHAHAHAHA! And also, agreed!

In conclusion ... well, I thought this was a very silly novel but I actually really enjoyed it this time and appreciate some of the subtler ways in which it did contribute to the EU canon. Thanks, Mr. Wolverton!


Friday, October 12, 2012

The evolution of Star Wars

While reading "The Courtship of Princess Leia," (I'm not even 100 pages in yet, and enjoying the heck out it!), I've started wondering about the evolution of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Not of the books, or the movies (more like devolution with the new movies, I'd say...) but the actual universe itself. If normal science, physics, and laws of our own world apply - which they seem to, roughly - I feel like evolution would work the same way as well. So when Dave Wolverton wrote how a bar/casino in the underparts of Coruscant was built "90 thousand years ago," I started wondering if humans even existed as humans (the way we think of them) on Coruscant 90 thousand years before "Courtship" takes place. I'm sure it was an exaggeration, a way to illustrate how long it took to build the city-world into a city-world. But 90,000 years is a really long time, and I feel like some evolution of humanity and alien life would have taken place not just on this world, but on all the others as well. I'm pretty sure Cro-Magnon Man would not have been building bars, or anything more difficult than some sort of rough dwelling.

This all got me thinking about the timeline of the universe, the evolution of the alien and human worlds, and ultimately, how humans came to this universe. Is it really our own universe hundred of thousands of years from now (my secret, favorite theory)? Is this some far off galaxy - as George Lucas tells us - that humans were taken to and left to thrive? Or, the most likely idea of all, it's just a fictional universe where the main race is human and they don't evolve because that would ruin the story. These are deep and philosophical questions to Star Wars nerds such as myself.

I do think Coruscant was built over a very long period of time, however 90,000 years seems like a bit TOO long. Maybe there's a hard and fast timeline for this sort of thing now, but back in the day Wolverton must have had to make up his own numbers. I wish he would have given it a bit more thought than just plucking 90 thousand out of the air. Maybe have done some research to see where in the evolution chain humans were at on our planet 90,000 years ago and adjusted as needed. Just a quick google search turned up that 90,000 years ago, a homo sapien scientists call Y-chromosomal Adam existed. Basically, the first version of the modern day human. It's incredibly interesting, here is the wikipedia website: I doubt this version of human would have been able to build a bar on some distant world, but that's just me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Courtship of Princess Leia

I'm so torn about this book. I know Rose is super excited about it so I hope it lives up to her dreams. As she pointed out to me, there is a planet-full of bad-ass women so Dave Wolverton gets mad props for that. I'm a list-maker, so I'm going to make a couple to help me cope with my conflicting feelings and memories of this book ...

Things I Am Looking Forward To

1) "I am Dathomir, hear me ROAR!" In other words, I seem to remember this planet being amazing. Not only is it run by women but the planet itself is described in exquisite detail, if I remember correctly. The colors, landscapes, and animals (I remember one having blue hide, never mind the rancors!) stand out vividly in my memory.

2) "Strong am I with the Force" In other words, Wolverton really goes to town building the Jedi from what we'd seen so far as readers by the time the book was published (Luke, vague hints about Obi-wan and Yoda, and the shape the new Jedi order takes) into something that basically became a teaser for the huge body of expanded universe that makes up what we now know in grade detail about the Old Republic's Jedi. There are references to Jedi lore, a flying Jedi academy, and data about the history of the Jedi that extends "a thousand generations" or more before Luke's own training even began. It's great that Wolverton took the time to develop that, when he didn't necessarily need to.

Teneniel Djo
3) "All the single ladies!" In other words, planet full of women who are allowed to be good, evil, and everything in between. I don't remember Wolverton trying to make Teneniel Djo or any of the clan sisters especially good or noble or even especially ladylike. I do remember him giving them spirit and ambiguity and a strong sense of culture. I also remember them getting to be the truly scary of the bad guys - the Nightsisters are really terrifying ...

Things I am NOT Looking Forward To

1) "I am Luke Skywalker and I know it all!" I absolutely loathe the novels in which Luke is written like wise old hermit. He's twenty-five, only been a Jedi a few years ... dude doesn't have a clue! Wolverton has him a bit more on the holier-than-thou side in this, as I remember (although I may be remembering wrong ... we'll see) - I remember lectures to Isolder and Tenenial about morality, etc. It rubs me the wrong way because I'm a fan of Luke as the farmboy-turned-pilot-turned-reluctant-Jedi who is doing his best under very adverse conditions but doesn't really know what the hell he's doing.

2) "I am Han Solo and I drank the crazy juice this morning." My biggest headache with this book was the premise that Han would go crazy and kidnap Leia. Props to Wolverton for using this as a plot device to precipitate an adventure that is pretty cool but it also is absolutely not the Han Solo I know and love. In Return of the Jedi, Han is fully prepared to give Leia up because he thinks it will make her happy - he says of Luke, "When he gets back, I won't get in the way." While I realize that this probably also to do with the fact that he cares about Luke and wants to see both of them happy, it's also just who I think Han is. Desperation to keep Leia should lead him to investigate the Hapans - Prince Isolder, specifically - but not go insane and kidnap Leia. It's just - I don't know, it's beneath him.

3) "I am Leia Organa and I, too, partook of the crazy juice this morning." Leia spends most of this novel being pretty bad-ass herself but in the beginning when she gets all swoony over Isolder ... let's just say I throw up a little inside my mouth. She straightens herself out nicely when she hits Dathomir's atmosphere and suddenly remembers that she's not a simpering pawn of the New Republic. Again, it's a great plot device to get Han and Leia out the door and on their Dathomirian adventures but it's also frustrating to watch her swan around like a twit selling herself to the Hapans for their battle dragons (not sexy talk).

Anyway, welcome to my expectations and apprehensions. We'll see what Wolverton has in store for me.

Rose's Expectations
Let me preface this with a little something about me: I am a hopeless, HOPELESS, romantic. I see a chick flick (and I do watch a lot of them, sans Husband who is always grateful I don't force the gooey cheeze on him...) and sigh my way through it. I read books with romance (and some romance books), and enjoy every last minute of sappy, mindsucking, disgustingly vomitous romantic interactions. So this book, for me at 13 years old, was the ideal. It was Star Wars and romance TOGETHER IN ONE BOOK! With badass warrior women who ruled their planet and had the Force. What could be better?! Nothing, it turned out to my 13 year old self, nothing at all.

And so, my expectations for this book are that I will go into delights of joy while at the same time gagging on the corniness of the entirety of it all. And I also agree with Es that lots and lots and LOTS of crazy juice was ingested by ALL parties before embarking on this particular Star Wars adventure.

And with that, start up the hyperdrive and punch it Chewie!

Rogue Squabbling

It's over. Finally over. For the last two weeks or so, I've been slogging through X-Wing: Rogue Squadron and grousing all the way. I don't think it would have been so bad except the last book we read, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, was also not my favorite. Coming off two Star Wars letdowns, I'm definitely ready for one that I know I'll like. But more of that in our next post...

 This book infuriated me, as I have already posted. Its pacing had more stop and go than a Seattle traffic jam, and the characters, while interesting at points, popped in and out of the woodwork and seemed to change to fit the author's whims. For example, Corran Horn's wing-mate, Ooryl Qrygg, is prominent in the first half of the book, but then disappears after he's injured during one of the space battles Rogue Squadron participates in. What happened to him? I asked myself. He lost a limb, was given a non-functional prosthetic, participated in one pre-op meeting, and then was gone. Stackpole's set up seemed to be leading toward Ooryl becoming Corran's version of Chewbacca, at least that's what I got, but Corran hardly thought about him after Ooryl was pronounced recovered (though without a limb? Was he traumatized? Did he drop out of Rogue Squadron? Or did he fight to stay in? I suppose these questions will be answered in the second book. Maybe.)Ooryl had a lot of set up in the beginning of this book, and then just disappeared without a peep.

Stackpole also set up a love triangle between Corran, Erisi Dlarit, and Mirax Terrik. While I think love triangles can be a good plot device when used the right way, I felt this one was just tossed in to illustrate how "desirable" Corran was supposed to be. Not that Stackpole gave us any indication at all of this at first. And I kept forgetting who both of these characters were because they appeared so infrequently throughout the story. Until the end, when Mirax comes into more prominence. There's a brief (verbal) scuffle between Erisi and Mirax over who "gets" Corran which I found totally disgusting. Almost like the daydream of an author who imagined two women arguing over him. If Stackpole is going to create a threesome that involves two women fighting over a man (which I have never liked, personally, because no woman I have EVER known would actually do this...), he had best do it well. And this set up did not instill confidence in me.

The rest of the book has faded from my memory, with only fits and snatches standing out on my mind.  Most of it was boring interludes followed up by intense space battles followed by more boring interludes. I know this series is beloved by many Star Wars fans, and I can sort of see why, but I just wish it was more well written...

Esme's Input

Well, I was all prepared to defend X-wing: Rogue Squadron but unfortunately, now I can't. I was really prepared to defend it on the grounds that I just didn't think it was that bad - except that, as Rose so astutely pointed out above, it is. The comparison to Seattle traffic (the stop/go) really resonated with me, as did the disappearing/reappearing characters like Ooryl. If you're going to have an ensemble cast, you've got to make every character unique, consistent, and interesting. Perfect example: Bror Jace is set up as a rival to Corran but we only see them actually go head-to-head once. And Jace and Erisi are supposed to be rival Tyfferan bacta mogals (or, at least, their families are) except that we never see them actual behave contentiously. And, come on, if you're going to create a character as potentially awesome as Mirax Terrik, don't give her two pages of screen time and a rivalry with another woman over a man. There aren't enough women in the Star Wars universe to waste them this way!

What it boils down to for me is a total lack of the critical SHOW-DON'T-TELL component of wrting. There are plenty of allusions to rivalries, group dynamic, friendship, and romance but no actual substance to support them. I won't rehash what Rose laid out so effectively above - I'll only say that we're actually in complete agreement.

To that end, I'm changing my mind about a reading choice I made when we first outlined this reading project. I'm not going to continue to read the X-wing series. I have a feeling that my hopes for improvement probably won't lead to anything and I don't want to waste the time when I have so many other reading projects I want to get to.

Ro, any ideas about how I should fill my time while you're reading the Thrawn Trilogy? I'm open to suggestions ....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ysanne Isard, queen of the fabulous hair

As I'm slogging my way through X-Wing Rogue Squadron, there is one shining light for me. One, giant, amazing, fantastic bad guy. Or in this case, lady. I am talking, of course, about Ysanne Isard. The badass woman that got close enough to the Emperor to take over once he died. Or at least, that's how Michael Stackpole wrote it. For about two pages (I exaggerate, it's really more like 10). And I'm finding that she is the most interesting part of the book so far. The other characters are samesame, and the plot starts and stops like rush hour traffic.

But Ysanne, as Stackpole has created her, grabbed my attention right away. She's a woman who's reached power (yes, bad power, but power nonetheless), and commands legions of storm troopers and Imperial agents (through fear, sure, but still). Maybe I'm grasping because I don't want to read two horrid books in a row, and we all know my feelings on the previous EU book. Stackpole has created a character who is engaging and fascinating to me. He wrote that she might have been the Emperor's lover. All I can picture is the shriveled, lizard-esc Palpatine, and envisioning him having relations with a lady-friend just grosses me out. However, Stackpole's descriptions and explanations of Ysanne and Palpatine's relationships and interactions leave a lot to the imagination. Something I wish he hadn't done. Granted, I'm only about halfway through the book, but I'm starting to feel like I want a lot more of Ysanne than Stackpole is going to give me in this one book.

For instance, he describes her as growing up on Courscant, her father was the head of Imperial Intelligence. When he died, she took over. Very basic background, just like all of his other, colorless, bland characters. But she sparkles, in an evil way, and I really just want the rest of the book to be about her. She outshines all of the other characters, and I feel like a novel about growing up and getting involved with Palpatine would be much more interesting. I could read another 200 pages of that.


Emtrey (M-3P0; military protocol and regulations droid)
I am notorious for being slow on the uptake when it comes to reading. I rarely ever guess the plot twist or the hidden villain. I actually really enjoy my obliviousness as a reader because it makes those surprises that much more exciting!

So on the rare occasion when I do actually see something coming, I hope that either I'm wrong or that the author was deliberately leading me on. I hope that's the case right the prediction I'm making now.

Either way, let the record show that Esme predicts, as of page 200 of X-wing: Rogue Squadron, that Emtrey is the Imperial infiltrator of Rogue Squadron; or, at least, that he's a tool being used by Isard or the spy to collect and hand out information about the Rogues.

With that prediction made, I'm heading back in for the final leg of the book!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A slow start-up before the jump to lightspeed

I think I speak for both Rose and I when I say that the beginning of "X-wing: Rogue Squadron" did not fill us with a sense of security and reassurance about the reading experience ahead. In fact, Rose put it best when she texted: "I was looking at summaries of the other [Rogue Squadron] books and they all sound really interesting and exciting. I hope this one gets there because I do not want to read 380 pages of setup!"

I think what had me worried for the first hundred pages or so was that I felt as though I were sitting in a Rogue Squadron Historical Lecture. For pages and pages, Corran whines about Jace Bror and his ego. I can't think of a single time I actually had any proof of his ego being problematic until the post-battle party on Talasea when he tries to bully Gavin Darklighter into being his helper monkey. I actually lost quite a bit of faith in Corran as a result. I don't like being dictated to by the narrative; it makes me contrary. So when Corran kept insisting that Jace Bror was arrogant and egotistical, but without any actual substance to back it up, I thought, "Uh, what's wrong with CORRAN?" Some writers deliberately use a forceful narrative to allow for dramatic irony - showing the true nature of a character through that character's forceful manipulation of the narrative (perfect example: Mrs. Bennett in "Pride and Prejudice"). Michael A. Stackpole doesn't seem to be doing that, though - he seems to expect his reader to take his narrative at face value, which is a shame.

Having said that, I'm now halfway in and feel like I'm at last getting to the good stuff. I'm not sure if it's like Rose said, and Stackpole just needed to get himself set up for the good stuff or whether he'll backslide, but I'm appreciating certain elements of the plot quite a bit. For one thing, I really appreciate Kirten Loor. When he was first trotted out as the bad guy, I thought, "Geez, this guy's pathetic." But the more I read, the more I'm intrigued. Here's a villain who's far from perfect - his arrogance turns him into such a pathetic figure that his prisoner mocks him to his face. He's shipped off to Coruscant, presumably for execution, and instead gets a chance to learn from his mistakes. It's clear he is and what I enjoy as the reader is watching him learn. A villain who can learn is one I want to read more of.

Then there're the moments of truly excellent writing. The description of Ysanne Isard was impressive. The narrative didn't need to force me to see it, although it tried once or twice (come on, really?: "He knew where menace dwelt within her" [122]. Unnecessary coaxing, narrative!). There were little moments, like Loor's description of "Isard's predatory pacing" and the color of her eyes ("one icy blue - as cold as Hoth" and "the other eye ... a molten red" [122]). I was also impressed by Stackpole's description of the space Isard uses: "The only thing the room seemed rich in was wasted space. Then it struck him. On a world that is so crowded ... wasting this amount of space is the height of luxury" (121).

More importantly, there're the moments when Loor begins realizing important things about himself: "What I had seen as my brilliance in ferreting out [Gil Bastra's] errors had been him playing to my sense of superiority, leading me on after him like a nerf eager for slaughter" (125). While the narrative does lay on the revelation a bit thickly, it also commits the character Kirten Loor to a set of superior skills, creating a paradox between characteristics like his almost-perfect memory and the arrogance that blinds him to the ploys of his enemies. To me, at least, he's very compelling for his flaws because they soften his abilities into something more three-dimensional.

I can tell right now that this is one I remember relatively well from childhood that, because the writing isn't so good, might not translate well for me as an adult who has less patience with stylistic issues. On the other hand, I've had several moments that surprised me so hopefully, like Rose says, Stackpole is getting his setup out of the way to make room for a narrative that propels itself forward without a lot of authorial prop-up.

Also, I want to see Mirax Terrik again!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

X-wing: Rogue Squadron (or, Copy Red Leader, Rogue Squadron is prepped for reading)

Our next book on this wild, crazy Star Wars adventure is the first Rogue Squadron book by Michael A. Stackpole. I have been very much  looking forward to reading this book ever since I started it as a young teen and never finished it. I only vaguely remember that my attempt took me about 50 pages into the book. And then another, more interesting book came along (I know, sacrilegious! Blasphemy!) and I dropped it like an Ewok that had caught fire. I never went back to it, but I still have my copy, and I'm really excited to pick it back up again. The only thing I distinctly (maybe it's more hazy...) remember is that the Rogue Squadron had a super cool hangout that was sort of like the Batcave, but for Star Wars. So of course it was cooler than the Batcave to a Star Wars nerd like myself. And also that I had a HUMONGOUS crush Wedge Antillies, so it's kind of amazing I never picked this book up again. Oh well, I'm reading it now and my 14 year-old self can go back to crushing on him!

Esme's Thoughts

Okay, I totally don't remember the Batcave but now I'm even more excited! Like Ro-ro, I don't remember reading this book, or series, all the way through as a kid. I remember a friend of mine was wild about them and thought Mirax was the coolest thing since sliced bread (just as well because no way was she taking Mara Jade away from me!). I also remember really liking Corran Horn and his bizarre CorSec/fighter pilot/super-secret Jedi background.

Plus, you know, Wedge Antillies. If there was ever a more awesome Rebel pilot ... well, there isn't actually, so there you go.

I'm super excited to start reading this one. Let's hop to it!

"Just because there's no 'light side' doesn't mean there's no light"

Actually, I'm quite excited about this post because I think Rose's take on the novel is different from mine. Yes! Discussion!

I'm with Rose on this: Michael Stover's writing style is hard to sink into. I have a hard time with wordiness (using twenty words when five will do) and I don't like having things explained to me in a way that suggests I can't work them out for myself, using hefty and well-placed cues (for lessons on how to brilliantly weave these clues, refer to Timothy Zahn).

However, Stover did selectively win me in chapter 15 and an element of the epilogue.

One of Stover's strengths in this novel is his metaphysical exploration of the Force itself, through Luke's connection to the Melters. His training, up to this point, seems kind of like a abstract cluster of sayings about the Force: The Force surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together (Obi-wan Kenobi) and Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering (Yoda). These are beautiful and profound statements that resonate with Luke. However, they don't actually explain anything concrete. They're perspectives, not processes of practical understanding. What I love in chapter 15 is how Stover takes this fabulous baseline of broad ideas proposed by Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi (and Darth Vader, to an extent) and applies them to actual situations faced by beings with no connection to Jedi. The Melters don't conceptualize the way people do: "There had never been any malice in their attacks at all; they didn't even understand that their captives were dying - they were unclear on the whole concept of organic death" (Stover 291). Suddenly, both Yoda and Obi-wan's abstract statements carry weight and help Luke understand a whole other form of life, a form of life Stover describes as "a corporate entity that was also an array of individuals, nodes of consciousness in a larger network of mind ... [living] in fear of nothing" (Stover 290). The Force that Luke understands from one limited individual perspective suddenly carries massive weight as he understands how an entire race has access to it a completely different way. He can also understand how facets of the Dark Side (fear, anger, hatred, suffering) aren't always deliberate in their inception or application - the Melters are attacking humans "in self-defense ... struggling to survive" (Stover 291). Their "campaign against humans had been, to them, merely pest control" (Stover 292). Though violent and warlike in appearance, and very much Dark Side in nature, nothing about the purpose behind the actions is in any way linked to the deliberate cruelty, violence, or malice that a dark Jedi like Blackhole (a.k.a. Clonal) employs. Hence, Luke's awareness that there aren't "dark" sides and "light" sides - as he says, Yoda and Ben never called the Dark Side "the evil side or the death-and-destruction side" (Stover 294). As Luke realizes, the true darkness rests in never pushing beyond the fear, anger, aggression (the black hole) to what lies beyond it's power to destroy - endless light. To bring that back to the Melters, they behave like the bad guys but in failing to understand them (until chapter 15), Luke and, to a much greater extent, Han and Leia, exacerbate the Dark itself by not understanding its source. In seeking the light side, "[Luke] saw that the Force didn't shine on him. It shown through him. He was the light in the darkness" (Stover 294). 

Stover's other strength is foreshadowing (and I quote): "And then there's Aeona Cantor [Luke says to Geptun]. She's not my love interest ... she's not my type. Too abrasive. And I don't like redheads" (366). Oh, this line (as Ro-ro knows so well) gave me so much happiness. I giggled. I admit it.

Rose's Thoughts

Ro here. Es did in fact hit the Rancor on the head in one way. I did not like this EU book at all. The writing rubbed me wrong, the representation of characters had me bristling, even the plot made me cringe. It definitely had redeeming qualities (thank god), but not enough for me to want to keep the book on my shelf. I did like the idea of holovids and holothrillers about our favorite Star Wars characters. Of course celebrities are going to have books and  movies written and made about them! I think the fundamentals of human psyche don't change across galaxies: we want to know about our favorite heroes. And if that means fudging a story about them, we're more than willing to believe it as truth (otherwise, how would all those ragmags at the grocery store checkout stay in business...?) I'm glad I read this book, and I'm even more happy it's behind me. All I can do is giggle a little at the ridiculousness of it all and move on.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Come to the Wordie Side of the Force...

I am now about mid-way through "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor" by Matthew Stover, and enjoying the heck out of it. Much more than when I started and everything seemed a bit suspicious and weird (mostly because I was coming off of "Truce at Bakura" and getting used to a new writing style is always challenging, but more so when it's the same characters who's personalities are already established...). However, and this for me is a BIG however, Stover's writing style is grating. And by grating, I mean it's a cheese grater that's grating the skin off my body. Because this book is so full of cheese and quippy dialogue, it's dulling my nerve endings.

I say all of this with no offense meant to Mr. Stover. Writing a book is hard work (I know, I do National Novel Writing Month every year and have many unpublished novels to my name), and writing a book with pre-established characters with already set mannerisms is even harder. Many a rookie would think it's easier, but no, it's really difficult. Because then you get major fans like me who read said book and get all bent out of shape because the sarcastic remarks coming out of Han's mouth "just aren't right."

Even worse, to this die-hard (in a huge, huge way) fan, Stover's usage of ridiculous titles for things totally undercuts his ability to write well. Such as a neural implant he's created that controls the person it's embedded into called a "Moon Hat." Or the neural implant that the uber villain wears that's called a "Sunset Crown." For no apparent reason. It would make more sense if the race that created these neural implants gave them these names because of something significant in their society. But the main bad guy created these neural headdresses, and he named them thus because, I assume, they're terms connected to the Dark (not the Dark Side, more like the Dark Side on steroids). Honestly, there really wasn't a reason given for the names. It was more sort of like Stover decided to stick in place-holders while he was writing the original version of Shadows of Mindor and just never went back to change them. It's something I, and many other writers, do when writing a first draft and all the details aren't yet in place. But these names give the story a bit of an unpolished feel to me. I want to know the specific reason behind these names, and many other things in the book. But Stover - in between writing adventures for Han, Leia, Luke, Chewie, and the droids - insists on giving us detailed explanations of the fighter ships, and the guns, and the transport ships, and the TIE fighters, and the missiles, and the grenades. Which is cool, because details are nice that way. But if he pulled out of the Star Wars tech for just a few minutes and applied a little more imagination explanations to some of the terms he created, I would be a much happier fan and reader at this moment.

I will continue the book 1.) because Stover does know how to wrangle a reader into his adventures and 2.) because I'm committed to this project. But maybe, in the future, Mr. Stover if you write more Star Wars novels, take a deep breath, relax, and let a little of the Writing/Wordie Force flow through your mind. I promise, it'll do wonders...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

I think it's safe to say that neither Rose nor I have read this one before, so that's a thrilling follow-up to The Truce at Bakura. I also think I'm safe in saying that neither of us has read a Star Wars novel by Matthew Stover, which will also be interesting since I think he wrote several of the more recent EU novels.

I have to admit that, love Star Wars though I do with all my heart and soul, when I read flap copy that tells me there's a "newly risen warlord named Shadowspawn," it's all I can do not to giggle myself silly. Still, brand new novel and author and no idea at all what to expect ... that's pretty exciting, right?

Rose here... Seriously, that's our villian? Shadowspawn? Oh dear, the writing had best be good then. Ba-dum-CHING. Anyway, I'm with Esme, I have no expectations (well, maybe a few, now that I know the villian is named Shadowspawn... moving on...) so I'm going into this one with very few hopes and dreams. I'm just looking for a good adventure and more of the characters whom I truly love with all my heart.


1) Wedge Antillies will turn out to be my favorite character in this novel because he's badass and a little goofy at the same time. (Rose agrees and confesses her secret crush on Wedge for all the interwebs to hear. Or read. Or whathaveyou.)
2) Shadowspawn will turn out to be one of those warlords who makes grandiose gestures and uses very dramatic language and Luke will inevitably kill him to put me out of my misery. (Double that. "You almost had me monologuing!" -The Incredibles)
3) Leia and Han will banter a lot - possibly there will be more sexy business and Chewie will try to create a romantic interlude, as seen in Truce. (Yes and yes. More floor pillows Chewie!!)
4) I will not be able to guess the plot twists until they actually happen (this is a cheaterpants prediction - I almost never guess the plot twists in anything) (Rose probably will, but she's savvy that way from watching waaay too many crime dramas...)
5) This time, Rose will finish reading first because I'll be too busy laughing my head off at Shadowspawn (Possibly Rose will be right there with you, tears and giggles blurring the pages...)

We'll see what happens ....

No happy endings, just regular ones

I just now have set down my copy of Truce at Bakura, happy and ready for more Star Wars goodness. Next up is Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (to be started as soon as I finish this here post...)

I had no expectations, good or bad, for Truce. I was simply looking forward to getting this project started, and I have to say I was pleasantly rewarded. In agreement with what Es already wrote, I also loved how Tyers picks up the day after the battle at Endor finishes. Word hasn't even gotten around that the Emporer and Vader are dead. In fact, when Leia tries to tell the Imperials this later in the book, they scoff. "Of course he's not dead you simpering idiot... He's all powerful..." (This quote does not actually exist in the book... It's more my rough estimation of what they said.) Tyers kicks right into high gear, not even letting Han, Leia, and Luke rest (or in Leia and Han's case, not rest resting... *winkwink*) She ships them off, bruises and all to Bakura where they have to outwit unknown aliens hellbent on taking over the known universe. Of course our plucky crew dispatches them effectively by the end of the book, acquiring more bruises along the way, creating quite an enjoyable read.

One aspect I really liked is that Tyers picks up right away. Happy endings don't really exist, life continues on, and it continues on in this book for our wonderful Star Wars characters. No more dancing around the bonfire, posing with ghostly images, and smiling like the very traumatic space battle/lightsaber battle/ground battle never happened. Tyers makes Luke, Leia, and Han's aches and pains very real. She doesn't start Truce a week later, when everyone's all healed and feeling ansty for the next adventure. Luke is dog tired. He can barely move. Leia is emotionally scarred from finding out about Vader. And Han just wants to get some action, dangit! No, he's really not that shallow... I greatly appreciated that Tyers didn't let anyone rest. It was off to the next space battle, the next Imperial intrigue right away. That's exactly how life is for us here in the real world. You're not ready to deal with this next issue? Too bad, it's happening and you are just going to have to deal with it.

What I didn't expect, and definitely noticed, was the foreshadowing Tyers builds into her novel of scifi intrigue. Especially regarding children of Jedi. Luke and Gaeriel have quite an intense conversation about the Jedi and Jedi children at on spot, and some of the comments and thoughts presented really got me thinking. Not all of these Jedie kids are going to stay on the Light Side of the Force. How d'ya think the Sith evolved? Because to be human is to have some of the dark in you too. And Tyers does an excellent job of illustrating this in one short paragraph that has me wondering if she was somehow able to foresee that the Solo and Skywalker children could, and some do, turn to the Dark Side in books written far after this one. Or perhaps those authors just read this book, picked up the idea, and ran with it. Either way, I was struck by my still very innocent shock at the idea that any child of a good and loving Jedi mother or father could drift toward the Dark Side. But of course, it would be silly to assume that it doesn't happen. Of course it happens! This is real (Star Wars-esc) life, and I love that Tyers doesn't shy away from the harsh reality that some Jedi will choose the Dark Side. If I'm not mistaken, Luke himself goes to the Dark Side in one of our future books.

I also did pick up on what Es has already discussed, Luke and Leia's relationship shifting from crush interests to brother and sister. Tyers does this without a hitch, and I really enjoyed how she turns it more toward Leia struggling to accept Anakin as her father, than Luke as her brother. It's easy to switch them into the brother and sister roles when Han and Gaeriel are hanging around just waiting (in Han's case) to offer themselves as a distraction and future love interest.

All in all, a fantastic read. I'm already cracking the spine on Shadows of Mindor...

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Mos Eisley Band tunes up it's instruments

This blog post is going to be updated regularly as Es and I find the perfect songs to accompany our Star Wars reading list.

I would like to start said song list with these gems:

Swimming by Florence & the Machine. Because the part of the book I'm in, Gaerial Captison is fighting and sinking in her attraction to Luke Skywalker.

Doomsday Clock by Smashing Pumpkins. I always envisioned Wedge as a bit of a metal head. So of course, he would be cranking this through his X-Wing while battling alien invaders.

Wild Child by Enya. Leia seems pretty conflicted and distracted, so some soothing music (that still reminds her that she's a Princess and badass) is always a good thing.

Back in Black by ACDC. Because Chewie needs a theme song. And I always thought of this song in conjunction with him. Even though he's brown...

Es's Additions

I'm adding a few things here because if I just add to the comments, I can't add a link to the songs ...

Megalomaniac by Incubus. Because the Emperor, and his politicians like Governor Nereus, need their own theme song

I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. Partly because I couldn't resist - kind of a perfect song for Luke, right? Party, too, though, because about the same time I first discovered Heir to the Empire at my bus driver's garage sale and fell madly in love, I also discovered an old cassette tape of Whitney Houston's music, which I also fell in love with. Star Wars and Whitney kinda went hand-in-hand ....

I Must Be Dreaming by Frou Frou. Because Luke needs another theme song for his several love affairs throughout the series ^_^

Bein' Green by Ray Charles. Because a) Ray Charles and b) the whole EU stems from Yoda's legacy, which Luke thinks a lot about, particularly in the early post-ROTJ novels.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Like all life. Nothing really, in the sweep of time. But everything, in the Force."

Well, that took a lot less time than I thought it would! One down, forty or fifty to go ^_^

As I closed The Truce at Bakura on that final line, the first thing I thought was, "Wow! What a great beginning to our monumental reading list!" Fresh from the Battle of Endor, not even a day after the defeat of the Empire and destruction of the second Death Star, the gang are off to save the galaxy again. The intense exhaustion Luke fights throughout the novel, in addition to his total inability to take care of himself, made me smile and think, "And that's what I've been feeling these last two years of grad school!"

Perhaps more interesting to me is the exploration of the relationships between the three main characters - specifically, Luke and Leia. I appreciate that Tyers doesn't take it for granted that Luke went from being desperately in love with Leia to discovering they're twins in a very short period of time. I found myself uncomfortable with the sort of borderline incest that Luke skates throughout the book but also pleased that the subject was addressed. Luke is very young and, unlike Leia, doesn't have a romantic interest at all during the movies on whom to settle his affections. It stands to reason that he would struggle a little bit at first to readjust his boundaries. The scene that really drove this home for me was his long conversation with Leia, which is supposedly about Han, when he says, "So this is what I missed. Growing up without siblings, I mean" (194). And it's interesting, too, that his changing feelings for Leia are blending into his thoughts about becoming a Jedi, spending his life alone, and his desire for family. When Leia speculates that Luke is detaching himself from life, he says, thinking of his powerful reaction to Gaerial, "Sometimes the Force obviously controls me, rather than the other way around. It favors life" (194). Though it's clear he's forming an attraction to someone else, the chat with Leia ends with Luke thinking, "He'd loved her, long ago it seemed, before they learned what she refused to acknowledge [namely, that Darth Vader is their father]" (195). While Leia is hung up who her father is, Luke is still obviously a little hung up on his sister.
Gaerial "Gaeri" Captison

It also isn't lost on me that Tyers gives Luke a love interest, in the form of Gaerial Captison, who is very like Leia herself - a senator, from a powerful family, disillusioned with Imperial rule but also reluctant at first to oppose it (anyone who's listened to the old radio dramas of A New Hope can appreciate Leia's pre-Rebellion struggle). While the romance doesn't last (although I seem to remember Gaerial reappearing in Roger MacBride Allen's Corellian Trilogy), it does serve the purpose of really detaching Luke from Leia. Or, rather, helping him make that transition from love interest to sister, a role he's obviously very comfortable with by Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy.

I do not remember liking this book as much when I was a kid. I'm really glad to have reread it and to have a new appreciation for the post-Return of the Jedi books and where, chronologically, the epic expanded universe begins.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Wookies and romance *wink wink nudge nudge*

I'm now about 80 pages into "The Truce at Bakura" and enjoying the heck out of it! It's immediately exciting, drawing Luke, Han, Leia, and the gang away from Endor just as the battle there is ending. A threat in the form of an unknown alien attack fleet presents itself, and they can't refuse the request for help. What do the aliens want? We'll find out as the book unfolds, but that's not the point of this post. This post is to talk about the romantic part of Star Wars.

 As viewers may recall from "Return of the Jedi" Leia and Han get close and comfy after the battle of Endor. Kathy Tyers takes this and runs with it. Forget that a strange, freaky alien race is threatening a distant Imperial planet. Han and Leia are going to get some private time! At least, in between space battles, diplomatic missions, dodging Force-wielding aliens, and quips from Threepio.Even better, Tyers takes their relationship to whole new levels when she has Chewbacca set up Han's love nest so he can have a little snuggle with the princess.

Wookies, of course, have a completely different idea of what constitutes love nests. He literally makes a nest out of pillows. Han, ever grouchy, gets all grumpy about it, but Leia isn't going to let a thing like pillows on the floor get in her way, royalty or not. And Chewie has no doubt that he's done well, as Leia is a "genteel woman" (direct quote from the book) and will appreciate the set up. Too bad the lovebirds are interrupted by a sudden bout of alien attack droids.

This whole scene had me laughing until I couldn't breath. Han having Chewie put together a romantic encounter! It just doesn't get any better than that. Perhaps Tyers has more hilarious romantic interludes waiting for me later in the book. One can only hope. In the meantime, this was a nice aside from the space romping and X-Wing battles. I'm so ready to read more!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Truce at Bakura

The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers
Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura

Esme's Pre-reading Thoughts
As I look down at my battered library copy of Kathy Tyer's novel, which starts minutes after the end of Return of the Jedi, the first thing I notice are the faces on the cover. I love Han Solo, I do, but I remember checking this book out for the first time, taking one look at Luke Skywalker's boyish face, and thinking, "Wow ... " 
I was twelve, but some things never change.

I have a hard time remembering what this one is about - the cover claims that the "new saga" begins with this novel, but I always think of my own beginnings in expanded universe, which began with Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy. I sort of remember Gaeriel Captison but only because she reappears in Roger MacBride Allen's Corellian Trilogy. Apart from a love of all things Zahn, there's a theme to my favorite Star Wars novels - the ones I remember and have actually reread before. $10 to anyone, apart from Rose, who figures out what that theme is.

Also, I need a Star Wars reading playlist!

In two cities, not so very long ago....

Several weeks ago, I received a letter from a very dear friend of mine. This friend's name is Esme, and she included a proposal in her letter. See, many, many moons ago (perhaps not entirely on Earth, but in our imaginations and far, far off galaxies) we bonded over Star Wars and everything to do with it. We even created our own RPG, complete with Endor-esque woodland adventures and places for ourselves as characters in the Star Wars universe. Now, so many years later, Es proposed that we reread all of the books we loved into tatters back in the day, and maybe give some of the new, expanded universe books a try. I, Rose, am all for it! And we decided to chronicle our journey on this blog. The books are listed at to the side of the main blog, so you can follow along with us. The current (could possibly change in the near future) plan is to read one book a month and to blog before, during, and after.

I, Ro, am personally so, so excited to be rereading some of my favorite books from childhood. I always have vowed to myself that I would read them all again, but just never seem to have the time to do it. I work at an indy bookstore near Seattle, and other books always seemed to jump into my hands before I could make it to my Star Wars shelves. But now, NOW I have the perfect excuse to set down the other books clambering for my attention and focus it on my favorite universe of all time! Star Wars is not only a childhood love, it's helped me get through many challenging health issues. As a girl who was born with a rare spinal birth defect, and later a young woman who went through cancer (and beat it!), I have always found strength in the idea that there is a binding Force in our universe. Maybe it operated differently here than in the Star Wars galaxies, but that didn't matter to me. The Force was always there when I needed it, in the form of my family and friends. Mara and Leia taught me what it meant to be a strong woman. Han, Luke, and Chewie taught me the meaning of integrity and honor. Threepio and Artoo made me laugh. And Master Yoda taught me how to clear my mind and breath deeply when I was scared or angry, and how to let the emotions go. Yes, I think rereading these books now will be a very positive thing in my life. I can't wait to get started on our first book: The Truce at Bakura! This is one of the classic books that I didn't read as a child, so I'm starting off with an unknown bang, and I can't wait to get started! I expect it will be chaotic, since the Empire was just blown to smithereens (in Return of the Jedi). Chaos always makes for a good backdrop in books.

I really couldn't have put any of that better than Rose just did, so I will only add that my own love of Star Wars began when my father insisted on renting "A New Hope" instead of one of the Star Trek movies (I will just add that this decision saved me from ever having to see "The Wrath of Khan"). One look at Darth Vader as he strode onto the deck of the Tantive IV and I was gone, hiding fearfully with my sister behind the couch. Like Luke Skywalker himself, I overcame my fear of the asthmatic Sith Lord and learned to love Star Wars more than I'd ever loved a movie before. When, a few weeks after I'd watched "Return of the Jedi," I found Timothy Zahn's immortal "Heir to the Empire" for 50 cents at the garage sale of my school bus driver ... let's just say it was fate.

The expanded universe created by Zahn, Stackpole, Anderson, MacBride Allen, and many others, taught me about writing - that to be a good storyteller is to involve the reader so deeply that she forgets she's reading until she closes the book. That same universe also taught me about everything from love (oh, how I ship!) to astronomy to complex governmental conspiracies ... anyway, what George Lucas started back in '77, these authors have built upon and developed into the greatest space opera the world has ever seen.

So thanks, Ro-ro, for joining me on this journey. I can't wait to get started!