BOOK REVIEW [Repost]: Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

This book seems to be popping up in conversation quite a bit lately, so here’s a reblog of my earlier review. If you like reading entertaining books, liked the move and have a gap in your reading schedule then I reckon you should give it a go.

The Learned Turtle

Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4.3 of 5 stars

Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2,and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters. Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

So return to that galaxy far, far away, and prepare yourself for what happens when the Force awakens. . .
 

***** *** *******

This book was a very pleasant surprise indeed. I’ve given it a good rating simply because it is a whole lot of fun, a supremely entertaining novelization of The Force Awakens that enabled me to experience…

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BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn (Star Wars)Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4.3 of 5 stars

In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

***** *** *******

Released to high expectation, Star Wars: Thrawn is the latest addition to the (new) official Star Wars canon. Having been a casual dabbler of Expanded Universe material over the years and knowing the significance of Admiral Thrawn as a character, this book caught my attention early, metaphorically slapping me across the face, strongly suggesting that I read it. How could I possibly resist? After all, it’s written by one of the biggest names in the sci-fi literary world and the main character is one of the most cunning and ruthless in the entire history of the Star Wars universe.

It’s written of course by Timothy Zahn, a fine author who has also penned a good number of other Star Wars novels including the immensely popular Thrawn Trilogy novels which were released in the early ’90s. At one point there was a movie adaptation of that series rumored but it has not materialized as yet. However, Grand Admiral Thrawn has made it to the small screen by becoming a key character in the Star Wars Rebels animated TV series.

The book begins when an Imperial Navy team is attacked by a blue-skinned alien on a remote planet, a member of the mysterious Chiss species who calls himself Mitth’raw’nuruodo. He is allegedly a disgraced military commander exiled to the planet by his own rulers. His name is shortened and he becomes known as Thrawn.

tumblr_lzm58mrib71r3kvzio1_500The story follows Thrawn and young cadet Eli Vanto, who’s brought along first as a translator, then as Thrawn’s aide, as they rise to power within the vast Imperial military machine. Thrawn manages to impress Emperor Palpatine who recognizes his potential and personally helps to expedite Thrawn’s progression through the ranks. Thrawn and Vanto are sent to an Imperial military academy and then into the Navy fleet, where Thrawn quickly demonstrates his brilliance as a tactical commander, hunting down pirates and various organized insurgent groups. Together Thrawn and Vanto are like a Star Wars version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, unraveling mysterious troubles facing the Empire. However, Thrawn shows himself to be weak in the realm of politics where, as a high-ranking military officer, he really needs to be strong and proficient. This is where another of the book’s key players fits in.

Along side the story of Thrawn’s rise to power, there is the parallel story of Arihnda Pryce who is on her own meteoric rise to power from her humble beginnings as small scale mine manager to a planetary Governor based in the magnificent halls of power on the capital world Coruscant. The two stories become nicely intertwined as each character moves up their respective ladders of power and influence, Thrawn on the actual battlefield out in space and Pryce on the political battlefield.

Written in an easy and concise style, each chapter opens with a thought or teaching from the mind of Thrawn himself which shows his reasoning and logic on various matters such as leadership and tactics. Also interspersed though the text in scenes where Thrawn is present are his observations of what is happening in the scene. These are presented in italics inline with the main text and add an interesting first person perspective to the overall third person viewpoint. I thought this added a nice depth to the story telling.

It’s not what I’d call an intense or action-packed novel, but what action scenes there are form necessary parts of the story and are written well. The world-building is modest, to be honest, and it’s clear that some prior knowledge of Star Wars locations and species has been assumed by the author. This will be no issue at all for seasoned Star Wars fans, but those new to the finer points will probably require a little extra information. I actually had my copy of Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species on hand to assist and this was a great help. It’s also quite dialogue heavy, but again this is a required aspect because of the often political and plot-heavy nature of the story. The conversations are well written in contemporary language and easy to follow.

De4e877f7a025945b8cb29e9bee9f5424espite Thrawn being one of the big name Imperial bad guys within the Star Wars universe, I actually found him quite likeable. He enjoys and appreciates art and recognizes it’s value in understanding a culture. He shows himself to have reasonable morals, is a thoughtful and considerate leader, planning his moves carefully rather than using aggression and brute strength at every opportunity. He genuinely believes violence to be counterproductive and a last resort action. His own complex motivations for aligning himself with the Empire are explored as the story progresses. He seems to have some knowledge of a greater threat to the wider galaxy including the mighty Empire (presumably he’s referring to the Yuuzhan Vong) and desires to use his position within the Imperial Navy to help prepare for it. This part of the plot certainly leaves much room for future stories. Bring them on!

Minor parts are played by some other key figures from the Star Wars universe, the most notable ones being Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. They do not form large parts of the plot, yet they are significant in their presence and again point to there being more to this story arc in the future. Also, this book gives a little background to another key story within Star Wars, one that was explored in a recent standalone movie, and again hints at Disney’s new direction with the franchise to possibly align some of the bigger story arcs in a more complete way. I’m all for this, and for a person who was worried about the direction that Star Wars would take under it’s new ownership, I’m generally pleased with how things are shaping up. Because I’m a fan focused more on the literature side of things rather than the movies (which I also enjoy), if they can maintain this standard by using more top authors to produce books of this caliber then I’ll be more than happy.

In summary, I think this is a great addition to the new Star Wars canon which does not seem to diminish the contribution of earlier Expanded Universe material (now re-branded as Star Wars Legends). It should be an accessible novel for both fans and newcomers alike and I think that it’ll do well. I enjoyed reading it very much and thoroughly recommend it.

4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
4/5 for entertainment
= 4.3 out of 5

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BOOK REVIEW [Repost]: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed

I’ve just watched the Rogue One movie which is the most recent Star Wars flick, and thought I’d revisit my review of the novel which I read a little while ago.

It’s always interesting to watch movies based on books that we’ve read (often disappointing in my experience) but this is done in the reverse way, i.e. a book written from and around the movie screenplay. This means that things tie together much more nicely.

Both were satisfying in a pure entertainment sort of way and I’d say will be sure to please most Star Wars fans.

The Learned Turtle

Rogue One - A Star Wars StoryRogue One – A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed
My rating: 3.7 of 5 stars

As the shadows of the Empire loom ever larger across the galaxy, so do deeply troubling rumors. The Rebellion has learned of a sinister Imperial plot to bring entire worlds to their knees. Deep in Empire-dominated space, a machine of unimaginable destructive power is nearing completion. A weapon too terrifying to contemplate . . . and a threat that may be too great to overcome.

If the worlds at the Empire s mercy stand any chance, it lies with an unlikely band of allies: Jyn Erso, a resourceful young woman seeking vengeance; Cassian Andor, a war-weary rebel commander; Bodhi Rook, a defector from the Empire s military; Chirrut Imwe, a blind holy man and his crack-shot companion, Baze Malbus; and K-2SO, a deadly Imperial droid turned against its former masters. In their hands rests the…

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BOOK REVIEW: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed

Rogue One - A Star Wars StoryRogue One – A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed
My rating: 3.7 of 5 stars

As the shadows of the Empire loom ever larger across the galaxy, so do deeply troubling rumors. The Rebellion has learned of a sinister Imperial plot to bring entire worlds to their knees. Deep in Empire-dominated space, a machine of unimaginable destructive power is nearing completion. A weapon too terrifying to contemplate . . . and a threat that may be too great to overcome.

If the worlds at the Empire’s mercy stand any chance, it lies with an unlikely band of allies: Jyn Erso, a resourceful young woman seeking vengeance; Cassian Andor, a war-weary rebel commander; Bodhi Rook, a defector from the Empire’s military; Chirrut Imwe, a blind holy man and his crack-shot companion, Baze Malbus; and K-2SO, a deadly Imperial droid turned against it’s former masters. In their hands rests the new hope that could turn the tide toward a crucial Rebellion victory if only they can capture the plans to the Empire’s new weapon. 


But even as they race toward their dangerous goal, the specter of their ultimate enemy a monstrous world unto itself darkens the skies. Waiting to herald the Empire’s brutal reign with a burst of annihilation worthy of it’s dreaded name: Death Star.


***** *** *******

For the combined reasons of not being able to wait to see the movie and being stuck in bed running a temperature with ‘flu, I read this novelization with interest and enthusiasm over the course of a couple of days. I’d seen the Rogue One movie trailers, of course, and some amazing concept artwork, which meant that I found myself with some comprehensive imagery for my mind’s eye to make use of. This definitely helped me speed through the story with no effort. With no detailed plot points or spoilers from the screen version to influence my thoughts, I was hitting to story with minimal preconception.

To the book itself: I have to be honest and say, the first half of the book was very good and had me hooked from the kick off, but it just seemed to fall a little flat for the third quarter. This was taken up largely with the epic battle where Jyn Erso and her rebel comrades attempt to secure the plans for the Death Star. It just seemed to go on and on without really accomplishing much in terms of the story line. But, if action is your thing, you’re going to love it. Right near the end it came good again and I thought the end chapter (and particularly the Epilogue) was great, a fitting end to this story which is a stand alone but which also has hints of coming events in A New HopeWe catch a glimpse of a few characters that we’ve seen and known before plus see others who are more prominent players like Tarkin and Vader.

Overall it’s fine and I give it an actual 3.7 stars, but it’s not one of the best Star Wars novels that I’ve read. It’s a solid tale that fits nicely beside the main Star Wars story arc and fleshes out the universe with some good characters and other elements. I just felt that the story got bogged down a bit during that big battle phase. I’m still as eager as ever to see the movie, possibly even more so, and am equally as eager to see the what other projects that come out of the new and revitalized Star Wars franchise (which is a matter of some debate in fandom it would seem).

4/5 for concept
3/5 for delivery
4/5 for entertainment
= 3.7 out of 5

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BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4.3 of 5 stars

Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters. Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

So return to that galaxy far, far away, and prepare yourself for what happens when the Force awakens. . .
 

***** *** *******

This book was a very pleasant surprise indeed. I’ve given it a good rating simply because it is a whole lot of fun, a supremely entertaining novelization of The Force Awakens that enabled me to experience a broader view of what is a great addition to the [new] Star Wars canon.

It’s a quick read, flows very well and doesn’t get bogged down in superfluous detail or minutiae of the Star Wars universe. This is partially why I’ve rated it as I have, the author has managed to weave the story into a fun action sci-fi novel. Sure, having in my mind’s eye the characters, locations, ships and weapons, etc. really helped to visualize the story, but what a movie can’t portray so well is the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters. I thought that the book was very good in this respect, and helped to understand the characters’ motivations and feelings. It’s no ground breaking masterpiece that had me gasping with wonder but, taken for what it is intended to be, it’s a cool ride. It’s simply a well composed adaptation to another medium, written to follow the movie screenplay almost scene by scene. There are one or two minor scenes and characters and that I don’t remember from the film, but generally the book follows the movie closely. Overall it has nicely enhanced my grasp of the story, a bit of background to the characters and the various places and things that make up the story backdrop.

Add this one to your “to read” stack for a quick gap filler and I reckon that, like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.

4/5 for concept
4/5 for delivery
5/5 for entertainment
= 4.3 out of 5

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