Book Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Four Stars

“Is this what Chiss do? See a trap, and just walk into it?”

Good science fiction–albeit a space opera–not just good Star Wars fiction. The reader need not have any previous exposure to Star Wars nor Thrawn to enjoy this origins tale in which Zahn skillfully weaves the many threads of existing stories into a fresh, original story.

“There’s no trust in politics. Never has been. Never will be.”

Thrawn is there in all his glory, but he is also limited and occasionally tone deaf, so he’s less superhuman.

“All Eli could see in his face was that maddening confidence of his.”

The two primary threads interweave convincingly. Bad people see themselves as serving a greater good, just a good people are often blind to their own faults. Good Holmes-Watson interchanges. Understanding an opponent through his art is Continue reading

Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Three Stars

Star Wars was and is my job. It can’t fire me and I’ll never be able to quit, and why would I want to? (That’s both a rhetorical and a real question.)”

I really wanted to like Fisher’s unintentional swan song. The style is conversational and intimate–sometimes too intimate. But the lack of real substance and her frequent profanity detract. (Twenty f-bombs, most neither relevant nor necessary.)

“If I’d been in high school instead of doing shows with my mother … I would have lived life as a teenager [instead of] having crushes on gay men.”

Mostly this biography covers Carrie’s childhood through the immediate aftermath of the Star Wars phenomena, with reflections on fans and fandom thrown in as filler. And a strange life she lived. She grew up in the spotlight of Hollywood celebrity, was apparently raped by her stepfather when she was fifteen, and knew only that she never wanted to be in show business.

“Would he … forgive me for … being a nineteen-year-old who, despite using four-letter words with such ease and familiarity, didn’t turn out to be the pro … I seemed to be?”

The titular diary offers insight into her mind as a nineteen-year-old thrust into both a starring role and an adulterous relationship, one of which she knew would go nowhere. Here are samples:

“Heaven’s no place for one who thrives on hell.”

“You took my breath away. And now I want it back.”

“How perfect can he be if he can’t see through me?”

A 2017 Hugo Award “related work” finalist, which category is the World Science Fiction Society’s excuse to give more Hugos. If Hugos are nothing else, they’re promotional tools.

“I was always looking ahead to what I wanted to be versus who I didn’t realize I already was.”

An incredibly strong, talented person.

“Metaphor be with you.”

Movie Review: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards (Five Stars)

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Theatrical Release Poster

(Expanded December 17, 2016)

Movie Review: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards

Five Stars

The Dirty Dozen long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Good job. Good independent story with good tie-ins to Star Wars series. Almost anything I say will be a spoiler. Don’t read any synopses.

Loved the atmospheric quality of scenes set on planetary surfaces.

Caveat: This is a combat movie. The intensity of some scenes would be inappropriate for children, even/especially those who have seen other Star Wars movies and think it’s more of the same.

Inevitably, we compare it with both The Force Awakens and the six Star Wars movies. In summary, it’s different; it’s better. For loyal Star Wars fans it has many hooks to the greater story, especially to The New Hope (Episode Four, the original movie), as it grew from a line in the opening scroll of that movie. It’s also its own movie, with its own, though related music, book ends, and tone. It’s still set in that galaxy struggling between good and evil.

Part of what make this movie and most Star Wars stories connect to viewers is that they feel real. They take the viewer into the epic struggle each of us has with his own life. They are stories of dreams, challenge, self-sacrifice and redemption. They touch something deep inside us. Something not satisfied with the flash and cynicism of most Hollywood offerings. It’s not that these stories are true, but that they resonate with the truth in each of us.

History, Economics and Fiction

Really effective literature takes you so deeply into the story that you don’t know or care that it’s fiction.

Max Gladstone‘s recent blog article, Jedi Econ, Sith History, makes that point in a thought-provoking way.

We, as readers, are partly forced to view the author’s world through the lens he used: sometimes as close as inside the protagonist’s head–knowing no more (and often quite a bit less than that protag). Older novels were written much like histories–James Michner‘s tomes spring to mind. His Hawaii and Alaska started with plate tectonics and Centennial with dinosaurs.

It helps, of course, if we understand and agree with the author’s world view, but sometimes the fun lies in an “unreliable narrator” who intentionally or not lies–perhaps to both himself and to the reader.

For avid readers of a genre, author or period, this immersion becomes problematic when the reader thinks she know more than the author, or feels that subsequent authors have betrayed the history, economics, religion, world force or what-have-you of the fictional world.

Which brings us back to Star Wars. In addition to the issues so ably discussed by Gladstone, the Star Wars galaxy is in danger of fracturing into several parallel universes. The “canon” laid down in the six (or three, depending on who you talk to) morphs into the “extended Star Wars universe” chronicled and dozens of books by a variety of authors. The Clone Wars TV series overwrites some of the extended universe with a different story. And the coming SW episodes VII, VIII and IX promise further muddy the water. (Not to mention Disney Inc.‘s demonstrated tendency to merchandise the daylights out of whatever they produce. Such as: we can count on there being a princess in the new series.)

My opinion? It’s all for the better. “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.”

“May the Force be with you.”

 

The Evil Empire Strikes Back by Michael Ramirez

It’s hard not to see the current situation as a classic.

The Evil Empire Strikes Back by Ramirez

Putin’s plan to “federalize” Ukraine would make each province autonomous, effectively dismembering the country, and making it easier for Russia to shallow. (How we we take a proposal to recognize each of our states separately, and absorbing those which could be bullied or invaded into joining some other country.?) Europe and America may not be able to stop Putin, but we should not agree.