Saturday, November 28, 2015
I just finished this much maligned and generally panned book, while waiting for my reserved copy of "Darth Plagueis" to become available at the library. I read a sample chapter awhile back, and thought I would skip this one entirely, based on the jarring nature of the prose contained therein. But Nate loaned it to me, and I was caught up on everything else Star Wars, had a hole in my reading schedule, and, frankly, needed to see where this tale led.
I have to say it wasn't as bad as I feared. There are many issues I have with the style and execution, and I would still consider this work a candidate for the worst Star Wars novel ever written, but it was an action adventure tale with at least a partial, although sometimes spotty, Star Wars veneer.
First, the good.
A new Star Wars tale. A chance to see some old friends (Ackbar and Wedge), and to meet some new characters. As I mentioned, it was a generally fast-paced tale with some important post-Jedi implications (if you are willing to 'buy' the new Disney-fied canon. The jury is still out, with me.)
Now, the bad.
Those old friends seem cookie cutter and one-dimensional. I guess Ackbar seemed the most like himself. As for the new characters, I don't fully like them. They are, by design, 'complicated' individuals with lots of baggage. Ugh.
Much about the book seems rushed. There were at least a dozen typos inside. Not sure if that's far outside the bounds of normal SW fare, but it seemed excessive. All were, as far as I could tell, correctly spelled but misused words (e.g. saying "hale" to describe frozen precipitation) and not straight up typos. I think it may be related to the general style...
...The choppy writing style and present tense made it difficult to read, at times. I found that the story (and the book, in general) was more agreeable in the rear view mirror. That is to say, once I had read a passage and understood the content, the method of delivery didn't matter as much. My building recollection of the tale in progress was not affected by the jarring sentences and off-putting punctuation...once I had struggled through the first pass. I don't know if that makes any sense. At times, this book read like a word salad, with extra punctuation drizzled on top.
I fear the author did not know much about the ins and outs of writing in a shared universe setting, like Star Wars. There are a few classes of mistakes poor SW authors make, in my opinion. "Aftermath" features examples of all of them:
1. Make your story bigger than the OT or worm your tale into the OT in a ham-fisted way.
("Aftermath" examples: The bounty hunter Jas Emari was about to shoot Leia on Endor? The same Endor that was a top secret Imperial facility? The same Leia that a lowly bounty hunter could not have known would travel incognito to this top secret facility? OR small-time fringer gang scum Surat Nuat "taught the Empire how to freeze someone in carbonite?") These are pitfalls of many EU novels, from basic offenders like when "Shadows of the Empire" needlessly explains the Leia Boushh costume or places Xizor just off-screen during hologram exchanges between the Emperor and Darth Vader, to the dramatically bad, like a better-than-the-Death-Stars-Death-Star called Sun Crusher, featured in the Jedi Academy trilogy or the also-a-Death-Star-weapon owned by Hutts in "Darksaber". It looks like "The Force Awakens" is primed to go down this weird road with a Starkiller Base. Oh, please. No.
2. Poor use of in-universe slang and/or poor knowledge of universe.
Well written in-universe slang is a treat that deepens the shared world. Poorly written attempts are either funny or just plain sad.
("Aftermath" examples: Admiral Ackbar would almost certainly refer not to "...free-thinking people across the galaxy..." but rather to "...free-thinking beings across the galaxy...". It sounds very strange to think of little starhoppers being "...favored by...bookies." (sounds like a problem for 1970's New York City). Dengar the bounty hunter actually mentions "space diapers". Someone else uses the 'catch-phrases' "Darth Obvious" and "Emperor Palpable". Someone else claims they're just playing "...Imperial Advocate." Like 'devil's advocate', I guess, except it was an Imperial who said it. A brand new game, called chatta-ragul, is described in detail: it is EXACTLY like chess. Finally, the geographic oddity that states that the five closest worlds to Raydonia (O-6, Belsmuth Sector) are Mustafar (L-19, Atravis Sector), Geonosis (R-16, Arkanis Sector), Dermos (new to this book), Akiva (new to this book), and Tatooine (R-16, Arkanis Sector).
3. Wrong tone.
This is partially due to the direction of Disney canon as of late. Star Wars is not supposed to be a gritty, realistic war movie, in my opinion. It is also not meant to be unfriendly to young readers. ("Aftermath" examples: the quote "Even if your crooked human nose is dark with excrement." and everything about a psychotic battle droid. Excessive and graphic violence: more head shots, broken bones, internal injuries, leaking blood, blood-spattered corpses, etc. Star Wars isn't about moral ambiguity or realistic anything: including depictions of war, emotional struggle, or physical injuries. You are not supposed to sympathize with the Empire. Don't dwell on the "they're good people, too, just trying to do their jobs" line of reasoning. This is fast and loose Space Opera. The good guys only shoot bad guys who fully deserve it.
I am a bit surprised that this book is the first in a trilogy. I guess I will read them, if Nate lends them to me. We'll see how the "Force Awakens" goes, first.
Admiral Ackbar says in the Prelude: "Our rebellion is over. But the war...the war is just beginning." This is the fundamental flaw in the entire Journey to the Force Awakens idea, to my thinking. It is the hallmark of the new Disney canon and a method, I guess, to enact a new state of eternal conflict (as I have mentioned elsewhere). The good guys not winning, and indeed winning not even being a possibility, is definitely NOT Star Wars.
Now on to a happier book, I suspect: "Darth Plagueis". The heart warming tale of how Palpatine was trained in the dark arts. I doubt I'll see any moral ambiguity about how Dath Sidious is just misunderstood.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
This Wired article discusses the very thing I have come to uneasily suspect: Star Wars is going into overdrive. Meltdown. Super-hypetrain, off the rails. We are going to see a new Star Wars movie ever year until "...people stop buying tickets." We literally may not live long enough to see the last Star Wars movie. Add in all the toys and merchandising and whatnot, and it feels like a truly massive marketing juggernaut is poised for the attack.
Part of me loves the idea. Another part of me cringes.
Not to say that Star Wars hasn't always been about marketing toys, etc. It has, since the very beginning. But this is a different thing entirely, without historical precedent. I guess the closest thing in terms of quantities of movies would be the Bond franchise; perhaps the closest thing in recent times to the cross-platform movie tie-in bonanza is that other very successful Disney property: the Marvel movies.
What does this mean for Star Wars, the story? The canon? The saga? I fear it means a cheapening of the central tale of fall and redemption. For one, the new canon requires a state of perpetual war, against which movie after movie after movie can be set. The First Order and the Resistance. I suspect both are of approximate equal size and strength, ensuring a bitter and contested future: forever.
Another pitfall is the re-use of known tropes and themes. Please don't tell me that Episode VII's movie poster has a third Death Star on it.
In this new Disney era, there will never be a post-RotJ happy ending. The Republic, and a new era of peace, is not coming back.
The Star Wars saga is the tale of Palpatine/Sidious, working in secret to come to power, coupled with Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and eventual redemption.
To my mind, the Empire, which was formed and maintained through the active effort and arm twisting and conniving of a Sith Lord, would crumble within a decade of his absence. He cultivated aggressive top advisers and high ranking military personnel who hated each other and, powered by naked ambition, worked to back-stab each other in a constant jockeying for position and the Emperor's favor. The big bad guy dies...and all that infighting would descend into chaos. The Emperor isn't there to forsee and plan. Vader isn't there to enforce the Emperor's will. Tarkin and the superweapons aren't there to help instill fear. I'd give it about a decade of decay before the last remnants of Imperial controlled space are isolated and dealt with, either militarily or via political agreements. Much like how Zahn et al. version of the Expanded Universe played out.
A Star Wars where, as the book "Aftermath" claims, the fall of the Emperor is "...just the beginning of the war"?
Uhhhhhh....I don't like it.
I hope "The Force Awakens" proves me wrong. I hope it brings back that awesome Star Wars feeling, and that the new story is fresh and exciting, but with ties to the past. We don't have long to wait before the new era dawns.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
I've been waiting for this book since back during the summer; its inclusion of Tierfon Outpost makes it naturally of interest to me. Here's a preview of the contents, and I'll post a more thorough review once I've had some time to read it.
Strongholds of Resistance (P)Review
Presented here is an overview of what one can expect from the new Strongholds of Resistance supplement.
Page 1: Opening crawl
Page 2: Inside title page
Page 3: Table of contents
Page 4: Fiction
Pages 5-7: Overview and summary
Chapter 1 (pages 8-65): Worlds in Revolt
This chapter presents overviews of different worlds, much as was done by Suns of Fortune and Lords of Hutt Space. They include Chandrila, Kinyen, Mon Cala (Dac), Sullust, Ord Gimmel, the Roche Asteroid Field, Thyferra and Yavin IV. There are also shorter blurbs for Barkhesh, Chardaan, Contruum, Hoth, Kolaador, Mygeeto, New Alderaan, Sanctuary, Talay and Vergesso Base.
Chapter 2 (pages 66-95): Hidden Bases
In this chapter one can find an overview of using Rebel bases in adventures, along with descriptions of, and maps for, Echo Base on Hoth, Polis Massa Base, Tierfon Outpost and Defiant Core Base.
Chapter 3 (pages 96-119): Player Options
This chapter presents new species (the Polis Massan, Quarren and Verpine); almost two dozen weapons and explosives; three suits of armor; three weapon attachments; more than a dozen other equipment items; some cybernetics; six new droids; and six new vehicles.
Chapter 4 (pages 120-143): Modular Encounters
The last part of the book is four modular encounters, again in the style of Suns of Fortune and Lords of Nal Hutta.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Just finished this book from 2005, which has been re-branded "Legends" in the new canon. A very entertaining read, this one is like "Kenobi" in that I'm not sure why it wouldn't be fully consistent with the Disney canon.
The story begins just before Order 66 is issued. A small group of Jedi fighting on the Separatist world of Murkhana manage to avoid being killed by the clones they lead. The group eventually gets off world, but not before a run in with the brand new (and not-yet fully solidified) Darth Vader. The Clone Wars ends almost immediately after Order 66, as droid armies are shut down and the conflict comes to an abrupt (and confusing, for observers) conclusion. The Jedi survivors from Murkhana meet up with some other straggler Jedi, journey to Alderaan, then things come to a head on the forested world of Kashyyk, where Darth Vader leads an invasion with dual aims: wipe out the Jedi and secure thousands and thousands of Wookiee slaves for Tarkin's still-secret superweapon project.
Old friends make appearances: Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Obi-wan Kenobi, Chewbacca. By the end of the story, Vader is much more sure of himself, settling more comfortably into the role of Sith Lord.
Next up: I am going to try to track down "Darth Plagieus" to see how all of this Palpatine situation got started in the first place.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Just finished "Lords of the Sith", and I must say it ties with "Lost Stars" as my favorite (thus far) of the new Disney Star Wars canon. It definitely continues in a trend of more brutal and "realistic" war stories, shoved into the Star Wars universe. In my view, that is both a good and bad thing. On the good side, the stories seem to be more serious and visceral. On the bad side, there are lots of mentions of head shots, entry wounds, gore splatter, and various other graphic and extraneous episodes of violence.
I won't give a lot away, plot-wise, but this book takes place almost entirely on Ryloth, and includes Cham Syndulla (Rebels Hera's father, himself a Clone Wars character). The action is very fast paced and exciting, the scope is perfect for an early Empire work (i.e. don't overshadow the Death Star or anything). Just seeing Vader and Palpatine in action, side by side, is worth the price of admission.
As a side note, I recall some chatter regarding a gay character in Aftermath (which I have yet to read). In this book, the female Moff in charge of Ryloth is said to have had a wife who died some time ago in an accident. Another nod to the Disney Star Wars being much more inclusive, overall. I thoroughly approve.
All told, "Lords of the Sith" is a very nice addition to the Star Wars canon.