Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama- by Brian Daley

Star Wars: The Original Radio DramaStar Wars: The Original Radio Drama by Brian Daley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brian Daley added a lot to the Star Wars Universe but the radio dramas in general, and this one specifically, might be his greatest contribution. Adapting anything for radio drama can be difficult, but he manages to avoid having characters describe their every move in an inane way like other audio dramas do and still keeps the narrating to a minimum. Additionally, the voice work is impressive. I usually don't like audio dramas because the vocal actors are sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another, but here they are clear, well spoken, and well acted; not to mention the Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels reprising their roles as Luke and C-3PO. Not only does the audio drama retell a familiar tale in a new way by taking the visuals away and immersing you in sound, but it also adds details and background that we haven't seen before. In fact, the first two of thirteen stories give us background on Leia and Luke that were not in the movie and take place before the start of the main story. Whether you have seen the movie or not, read the book or not, this retelling has enough new details to make it enjoyable for any fan.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope- by George Lucas [Alan Dean Foster]

Star Wars: A New HopeStar Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being as big of a Star Wars fan as I am I had never read the original movie adaptation. For a little background I saw the movies out of order in 6th grade because at the time TBS did Christmas Day marathons of the original trilogy. I ended up seeing Return of the Jedi [RotJ] first. Coincidentally, I also ended up with a copy of the novel version of that book about the same time because we did a book swap in elementary where you donated a book and then were allowed to pick out a book. Somehow I ended up getting to pick out a book late in the day when most of the books had been picked already and I ended up with RotJ and it sat on my shelf gathering dust for quite a while. Eventually after watching the movies and starting to get into reading the novels I read RotJ first, probably early in 8th grade. Later that year I managed to borrow a copy of The Empire Strikes Back from a friend and read it through. Throughout 8th grade I began to learn a lot of Star Wars trivia and that same friend had a book of trivia questions and through that book I learned about some of the minor differences between the movies and the novels. There were also only two technical questions that I missed which is what led to me memorizing Luke's stormtrooper number [TK-421] and the serial code to the trash compactor on the Death Star [3263827]. Still I could not get my hands on a copy of the novelization of A New Hope . About this same time I started listening to Star Wars audiobooks because my library had audio, but not print copies, of many of the books. I also had an odd habit of not reading some of the books that I owned, while devouring others- more on this another time. It wasn't until I graduated college that I managed to find a copy of A New Hope in a used bookstore (there was a collection of all three novels into one book that my local bookstore sold, but I was never interested in owning it, because I preferred the individual books). By the time that I owned a copy of the book, though, I had become addicted to audiobooks and also had very little time to read, so it also gathered dust on my bookshelf.

Now, finally, I have come across an audio copy of the original novelization. Those original novels were short, but I suspect that the audiobook version is abridged, even though it didn't say so specifically in the transcript of the title or credits. Either way, it was a very good read. There is plenty of background material that was added to the novel. Furthermore, Alan Dean Foster's writing is beautiful. His choice of adjectives and adverbs really added depth to the novel, helping it to stand on its own. It is a shame that I took so long to read this one because I think, especially after listening to the other two for the first time [despite having read them previously, this is the best novel adaptation from the original trilogy, and despite its shortness, possibly all of the movies. Additionally, it is great that now, finally, Alan Dean Foster has gotten the recognition that he deserves for ghostwriting the novel for George Lucas.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: Death Troopers- by Joe Schreiber

Star Wars: Death TroopersStar Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I preemptively complained about this book when I reviewed its prequel. When I read the prequel I was just beginning my listen through all of the books in the Expanded Universe in In-Universe chronological order, some books were going to be new to me, and many were familiar to me because I had read them before. I had listened to this book originally, shortly after it came out and was disappointed with it then. Having been through Joe Schreiber's other additions to the Star Wars Universe I was not excited to re-read this one.
So maybe because I had such low expectations, I was not as disgusted by this book the second time through it. There is a descent amount of mystery, tragedy, and suspense in this novel that make-up for its ties to the horror genre. I suppose nearly anything can be tied into horror genre [somewhat like Rule 34 of the Internet], but just because it can be made to fit doesn't mean it should. In fact, I recall my cousin (who works at an independent bookstore) asking me about the new Star Wars novel he shelved that looked like a horror/slasher novel and asking me if I had given it a chance yet, and being appalled by its very existence. There are enough disturbing bits of to this novel that I don't really enjoy it, however, there was a really nice surprise cameo appearance of (view spoiler) for a descent amount of time and right around the climax of the novel. It was enjoyable to see (view spoiler). The book was not as bad as I remembered and I was surprised by the amount of detail that I had forgotten, but I still stand by it not really fitting into the Star Wars Universe, nor was it really worthwhile, and by my assertion that I am not sure who was begging for a prequel to the book- which was even more disturbing to read.

PS- Coincidentally, just this morning someone on Goodreads liked my review of this books prequel.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II- by Sean Williams

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed IIStar Wars: The Force Unleashed II by Sean Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Normally I review series together, but I chose to do these separate because the books differ significantly in quality. The first book followed the video game so closely that it felt formulaic and robotic and was very stifled by the repetitive environments.
This book on the other hand was helped by a video game that was more linear and streamlined in its flow. The book does nothing to settle the mystery of whether the main character, Starkiller, is a clone or the original man brought back to life. Also, like any video game that gives you a good-evil choice to take you down different paths, this book has to pick and follow only one of those paths for the official cannon. This inevitability will upset some hardcore purists.
One thing that I did not complain about in my prior review, and will mention here because it is applicable to both, there seems to be an obsession in the Expanded Universe, post-Episode III of showing a weakened and battle-damaged Darth Vader. I suppose this is a desire to show the such-and-such a new character is bad-ass, or to somehow strike a balance where evil doesn't just dominate. However, I feel that this is a mistake. For example, The Empire Strikes Back does a good job of showing that hope remains despite evil prevailing and too often I think we are afraid to have a book or movie or whatever form of media that shows the good guys losing sometime. Furthermore, in the Star Wars Universe, there is such love of the character of Darth Vader that it seems a shame to show him beat so often just in the name of having the main characters survive or to allow good to prevail despite obvious and overwhelming odds.
Anyway, I've not touched on the specifics of the book too much here, but I will say that it is a much better adaptation of the video game that holds its own as a stand-alone novel because it allows gamy things to remain in the game, rather than trying to force a fit.

haha "Force a fit", I wasn't trying to be punny, but it worked.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed- by Sean Williams

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Audio CD)Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having just read another video game tie-in, it was kind of obnoxious that the timeline moved me into these novels next. What is more, although that game was fun the storyline of the game was weak. (view spoiler).
Having said all of that, I don't blame the book or Sean Williams for having poor source material to draw from and given what he had to work with the novel wasn't all that bad. It was also nice to finally get a resolution to what happened to Shaak Ti after George Lucas dropped both of his ideas for killing her in Episode III. If you are at all into video games, I recommend that game over the novel because they tell the same story, which ins't as true of the sequel.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: Star Wars: Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire- by William C. Dietz

Soldier for the Empire (Star Wars: Dark Forces, #1)Soldier for the Empire by William C. Dietz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the rare cases where I have not only listened to the audiobook, but have also read the print book as well. The print book has impressive illustrations that do a good job of giving tribute to the graphic novel style while still accompanying a more traditional text.
The audio adaptation is just that, it is an adaptation in the style of radio dramas without the narrator. Therefore there are a lot of times where characters are describing their actions which is kind of silly. From what I can tell the graphic novel adaptions seem to be some of the earliest "audiobooks" in the Star Wars Universe and I am grateful that as novel began to be adapted that the early decisions were for abridgment rather than radio drama style adaptations.
Being the first of three graphic novel tie-ins to a video game this book did a pretty good job of setting the scene and establishing Kyle Katarn's background and motivation.

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