The Force Awakens (novel review)

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"Ah good, new acquisitions…" #StarWars

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Hey everybody,
So last month, episode VII was released to worldwide acclaim, and at the time of this writing, it’s the third highest-grossing film of all time. I’ve already looked at the film on release day, and you can read that blog here. So, what about the novelization?

Well, it’s pretty much the film – at least, the film as I remember it. It’s been over a month since I saw the movie, so I may have misremembered or outright forgotten some bits, but in a film series where the novelizations often go above-and-beyond to create a worthwhile story in and of themselves, this one is basically the screenplay in prose. That’s not a bad thing, obviously, but it certainly impacts on the necessity of having the novel – at least, from my standpoint. Now, I didn’t follow any of the spoilers for TFA, and in fact it’s a bit weird because I don’t feel the same kind of attachment to it as I have to previous installments, so I don’t know if there were chunks of deleted scenes that could have been incorporated. I’ll buy the DVD and be able to see if all of this is still correct with a second watching, but overall I thought it was a bit of a shame.

I won’t recount the story here, because I’ve done so in the film blog. So let’s take a look at this bad boy. First of all, I’m not an Alan Dean Foster fan. I find his prose too dense – too “hard science fiction-y” for me. I also found this particular book to be often quite dispassionate – particularly in the climactic scene with Han Solo and Kylo Ren. I’ve had the feeling that he was brought in to write this purely for more fan-nostalgia-service. Because ultimately, so much of episode VII is about this.

As I said, the book is basically a straight-novelization of the screenplay. A lot of what I discussed in the film blog applies here, therefore, including all of those maddening details about the lack of history and substance. The one significant scene that was added, that I remember, is that showing Poe Dameron survive the TIE-fighter crash and escape Jakku. Which is kinda crucial to the later storyline, of course!

Star Wars fans are often drawn to the minutiae of a story, and in this respect, I’m no exception. Throughout my reading of the novel, I found myself wanting to know more about the minor characters, and see more of the more extraneous stuff. The New Republic is just as frustratingly absent here as it is in the film, though Foster does manage to create more of an impact for the destruction of the Hosnian system by showing us Leia sending her ambassador Korr Sella to the Republic. Even so, it’s maddening to have such little information on the lay of the galactic land for most of this story! I’d been hoping that the novel would expound upon the film, but sadly not. The Visual Dictionary apparently has a lot more details fleshed out, so I’ll be checking that out soon. However, I hope the next book in this Aftermath trilogy – Life Debt – begins to tell an actual story for bridging the gap, because rather than supporting the tale, the lack of history here is actively hurting the storyline, in my opinion.

There we have it, anyway!

Exciting times!

Hey everybody!
Exciting times are indeed around the corner! There’s usually a good amount of stuff around the festive season that I look forward to from the gaming world, and while this year seems to be a bit quieter than usual, nevertheless something huge dropped on Friday that I can’t wait to see:

Elder Sign Omens of Ice

Elder Sign is one of my favourites, and a new expansion is always to be welcomed! Staying with the “Streets of Arkham” game mode, we have a deck that features Alaskan locations as something out of left field, yet something that I really cannot wait to see! There is a heavy weight towards Antarctica in Lovecraftian mythos circles, it’s really interesting to see a snow/ice theme set somewhere else. Separating the game into stages, and an emphasis on seasonal adventure both seem like they should be a totally new way to experience the game. Not out until early next year, it’s nevertheless something to keep an eye on!

We’re also seeing the start of two new cycles for LCGs: the Endor cycle for Star Wars, and the Planetfall cycle for Warhammer 40k Conquest. They both seem to have been a long time coming, but will no doubt prove to be nice additions to the game.

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Finished this bad boy today, what a book! #HorusHeresy

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Speaking of 40k, I finished reading the second Horus Heresy novel yesterday, False Gods. Written by Graham McNeill, it’s somewhat more straightforward than Horus Rising, but still an enjoyable read. I was particularly impressed by the way the story unfolded – despite knowing how the whole Heresy thing ends, I found myself actually shocked by the way the events happened, so that by the end of the book I had to remind myself that I was waiting for this to happen!

It’s the sort of book that occurs mid-way through a trilogy, where everything gets shot to hell. While Horus was actually a nice guy in the first book, he has since come under the sway of Chaplain Erebus of the Word Bearers, and a definite change has been wrought in him. Unfortunately, it’s a change that begins to transform the entire Legion, and while a certain inevitability is seen in the characters such as Abaddon and Lucius, you do begin to genuinely feel bad for the “good” guys Loken and Torgaddon. Horus Aximand emerges as a bit more grey, and you don’t know exactly which way he will go at this point. But for most of the book, I found myself thinking, “no, why would you do that?!” with a kind of impotent frustration. There were some weird bits, such as the whole spirit-journey type thing that Horus goes on, but overall, it was a good book.

I’m currently on a bit of a hiatus though, as I’m preparing myself for next week’s movie release…

Having found myself somewhat ambivalent about the new film for a very long time now, I booked my ticket last week as I still intend to see the film, simply because it’s Star Wars. But I’ve noticed that, as we enter into the “less than a week to go” period, I am getting a little caught up in the whole thing.

As long-time readers will no doubt know, I am a huge Star Wars fan, but the acquisition by Disney has left me a little cold, as the Star Wars I grew up with was removed from history in favour of their direction, which has been a little lacklustre for me, to say the least. As time has worn on, I’ve been feeling a bit meh about the whole thing, thinking that the new stuff isn’t that great, but is replacing much better stuff in my opinion. However, more importantly, I feel that the sense of importance around the Star Wars movies is diminishing as we’re being promised more. There has always been something quite magical about the fact that, for a long time, there were only ever three movies, and then there were only ever six movies. As more stuff comes out, we begin to reach a saturation point that takes away from that magic. Very soon, we’ll be talking in terms of “another new Star Wars movie” rather than it being any kind of event. So The Force Awakens will mark the last time we’ll be able to feel this kind of magic, because from here on out, they’re going to become so much more prevalent, it’s a little bit sad.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

I’ve just come across the excellent Geekritique’s blog on the new planets of Episode VII, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already, because the new worlds are often as exciting as the new characters who populate them. I won’t lie, in no small part has reading this helped to bring on that excitement!

My ticket is booked for 4.15 on Thursday afternoon, so I’ll no doubt have something posted here Thursday evening for you all to enjoy, anyway!

Shattered Empire

So I’ve been meaning to get round to this for a long while now – issue four was delivered last month, after all! I was also hoping to do a small video review, as is my want with new Star Wars stuff lately, but I’ve been feeling under the weather of late, so I’m sticking to the written word instead. Now that this exciting preamble is out of the way…

Shattered Empire takes place both during and in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor, which is perhaps obvious given the cover of issue one. There are actually three distinct episodes in the miniseries, which follow the adventures of Lieutenant Shara Bey, a pilot from Green Squadron during the battle. First off, an Imperial garrison on the other side of Endor is destroyed; then, Shara flies Princess Leia to a diplomatic mission to Naboo that goes kinda wrong, and finally she flies Luke to an Imperial Research Facility to recover some Jedi artifacts.

here be spoilers!

Overall, I liked the story, but I felt it was a bit rushed in parts, possibly due to trying to cover too much. The Luke story in particular felt a bit tacked-on, really. In fact, the Luke story didn’t do the comic any favours overall, as it came across as being more in the realm of fan-fiction. Follow Shara Bey as she works alongside Han, Leia and Luke! Yeah, right. But putting that to the side, it wasn’t all that bad.

The Endor storyline continues with Han and his ground assault team (though no Judder Page, which is a bit sad). The team includes Shara’s husband, Kes Dameron. Folks who have been following the spoilers for Episode VII will know who their son is, then. So we’re treated to a bit of the backstory there. I won’t deny, even though I’m still currently less-than-enthused for the new film, it was kinda nice to have that sort of recognition.

The Naboo storyline was really interesting, but ultimately far too rushed for my liking. In fact, the end was such a fizzle that I feel it really damages the book. Leia is attempting diplomatic negotiations with the Queen of Naboo, Soruna, to support the Alliance in re-establishing the Senate. Just as Naboo throws their support behind it, the Empire attacks – by altering the weather. They have an Imperial Star Destroyer at their disposal, and they’re tasked with destroying the planet by the dead Emperor, so they drop satellites to mess with the weather, rather than just delivering an orbital bombardment. It’s Legends now, of course, but there’s a great scene in one of the New Jedi Order books – I think it’s Rebel Stand – where Wedge discusses these things, and the point is made that a Star Destroyer is capable of levelling a planet with ease. After all, it’s kind-of in the name… But anyway, Leia, Soruna and Shara head up to stop the Imperials (of course – three antique fighters against the Imperial war machine…) and Lando shows up to chase the Empire off while Soruna destroys the satellites.

The story had such a great set-up, but really ended with me in amused disbelief. Bantam were always criticised for having stories where the Empire shows up with a terrible new weapon but the Rebels always win in the end, often with ease, and here we have Marvel doing the exact same thing! The fact that this is tying into the new film seems to be leading a lot of folks to overlook at the actual story in and of itself, instead concentrating on ferreting out the hints of things to come. Hm.

I do like Naboo, though, and I really liked the fact that Leia could sense Darth Maul’s presence in the Theed hangar. That was cool. There’s also the start of what looks like the Imperial counter-propaganda against the Rebel victory at Endor with the launch of Operation: Cinder. The Emperor has tasked some select few to continue the war, quash the rebellion, and also destroy any links to his own history, it seems. Hence the attack on Naboo. That was interesting, and something I hope we see explored in more detail – like, say, the second Aftermath novel?

The Luke story was a bit weird. Shara pilots the shuttle for Luke (because he’s such a bad pilot apparently?) to an ISB facility to recover two trees that used to grow in the Jedi Temple. They recover them, and he gives her one. The comic ends with Shara and Kes planting the tree as they retire on their new home, Yavin IV. So…yeah… Force trees? Hm. I was kinda hoping for something else, but that’s just me.

Overall, it was a good comic, with a lot of interesting ideas and stuff. The fact that some of them seemed a bit weird seems to be par for the course with Marvel at the moment (I’m hoping to catch up with their ongoing series at some point here, as well). But hopefully some of these ideas won’t disappear, as there are some potentially interesting stories to be spun out!

Star Wars Shattered Empire

What do you think? Have you read the comic? Looking forward to the movie? Let me know in the comments!

The Force Awakens – trailer 2

So I’m just gonna leave this here…

Just in case you’d forgotten, here’s the first trailer from way back in November…

While a large part of me is still disappointed they couldn’t be more original than sticking with the Empire, which essentially makes the struggle of the original trilogy kinda pointless, I’m still pretty excited for a new movie. And who knows, maybe we’re in for some kind of hilarious twist where the Empire and the former Rebels are actually as-one in the face of this Sith-relic-hunting chap (if that is indeed the storyline).

The Force Awakens

The news out of Anaheim is that this is our new Big Three, which goes a long way to explain why John Boyega is a stormtrooper with a fondness for removing his helmet, and could potentially support the idea of there being some sort of truce/cross-working between the good guys and the formerly evil guys. Or else, he starts out a stormtrooper and deserts. Or is some kinda covert-ops guy.

Basically, I have no clue. But it’ll be interesting to see.

I still think they’ve set the bar by removing so much EU awesome. Over to you, Disney…

Happy New Year!

Morning everyone, and a very happy new year to you all! I hope last night was pleasant and enjoyable for you all, and you’re now feeling refreshed and ready to take on 2015 with gusto! I’m not one for making resolutions, as I tend to forget them and then carry on much as I always have, but if you’ve got yours all listed, best of luck!

I’m not intending to do some sort of look-ahead type of blog here, but there is one thing that I’d like to look towards this year, and that’s Episode VII of Star Wars.

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

I’ve already mentioned the new film back last summer, when I briefly summarised my thoughts on the film. That was, of course, before the trailer came out in November.

Hm. I don’t know. Obviously, it’s a teaser, so yeah, there’s not all that much to go on, but I’ve gotta say, I’m not squee’ing like anything about this. I suppose it’s all because of the Empire seemingly still being there. Return of the Jedi saw the defeat of the Emperor and Vader, and the destruction of the second Death Star, and that’s now the last official event in the lore. 30 years later, it seems the struggle of the rebellion was for nothing, because the Empire is still there, seemingly in conflict with the owner of a ship that is assumed to be the Millennium Falcon (I guess the historian in me is taking nothing at face value here). For all the criticisms of the Expanded Universe for having story after story of Empire vs New Republic in the post-RotJ years, by 36ABY, the universe had actually moved beyond that (the peace accord was signed in 19ABY).

I really have no opinion on the already-infamous lightsaber. There are stories flittering about the internet that its wielder, purportedly a chap called Kylo Ren, is a frustrated Sith wannabe, and may be trawling the galaxy searching for relics, such as the half-melted helmet of Darth Vader. Part of me really likes this, but another part of me is rolling my eyes so much, I feel dizzy. I suppose we’ll have to see how it all works out.

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

I do like wintry worlds, however!

The news persists that the story will involve Luke as a patriarch or sorts, head of the new Order of the Jedi and such, which appears to have been the plan all along…

A bit freaky, that. But interesting all the same.

As to the story involving Han and Leia’s kids – who says they got together and had a family after Return of the Jedi? Just because, for the vast majority of Star Wars history, that was the case, doesn’t mean anything following Disney’s frolics with the hatchet. Yes, I guess I’m still bitter about that. But seriously, established lore ends with the Ewoks’ celebration, so the idea of these two having kids is just fan-fiction.

Anyway. While I’m late to the party with this, I thought I’d still start off the year with some musings on the upcoming film. I’m still not feeling a need to follow the spoilers like there’s no tomorrow, so this might not be a thing, but I’m sure once the full trailer is released (with Avengers 2?), I’ll have some more rambling musings to bore you all with!

Until then, have a fabulous day!

Star Wars Episode VII

Hey everybody!
Seems like it’s been a long time since I talked about Star Wars here. Today, however, I’m going to briefly talk about possibly the biggest news since the mid-90s Prequels announcement, the new sequel trilogy.

There is actually a reason why I haven’t raised this subject since I started this blog three months ago. I’m basically not that excited by it. Yes, that’s right! I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I am not particularly looking forward to seeing this next batch of films. Of course, I’ll be going to see them, possibly even more than once, but I am not fired up with the same enthusiasm that I have been for other projects in the past.

I can’t deny, of course, that part of the reason is due to the decision to eliminate the established Expanded Universe stuff, which I still feel does a great disservice to the talented men and women who kept this franchise alive when it had otherwise died in the mid-80s. However, there is also the fact that I dislike the need to bring back the Big Three – I feel a sequel trilogy would have been a lot better had it just let go of those shackles. Of course, that’s not to say I dislike the Big Three – Luke Skywalker has always been, and will always be, my favourite character in this universe – but I feel that, had the creators struck out in an entirely new direction, it could have been just the breath of fresh air needed following the past couple of decades of storytelling. Remember how fresh Knights of the Old Republic felt? And Legacy? Even the Prequels, to an extent.

There seems to be a disturbing trend in Star Wars, that constant need to emulate rather than innovate. We see stories that harken back to the original trilogy, with tropes and whole arcs trotted out time after time, whereas we could be seeing completely new stuff that could blow our minds in the same way the original film blew minds.

But anyway.

This morning, I came across an article on io9 that showed Mark Hamill resplendent in full beard at the premiere for Guardians of the Galaxy:

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Remarks such as “very Obi-Wan-ish” have of course been made, which leads me more to despair than anything else. The saga already has an Obi-Wan character: his name’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Why do we need to turn Luke into Obi-Wan? Why doesn’t Luke have any imagination to spend his retirement like Hugh Heffner, maybe? Or anything other than a desert hermit?!?! Jeez.

However, there is one glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and I must admit that this glimmer is what has both piqued my interest as well as prompted this blog. The rumour mill has of course been working overtime since Disney bought the franchise and announced new films, but something that appears to be holding the most ground at the minute is the idea that the film centres around the search for Luke Skywalker. The idea that, firstly, there is something wrong in the galaxy that requires Luke for resolution, not to mention that Luke is somehow missing, is really very intriguing to me.

It also means, of course, that one of my main gripes about discarding the EU might not be necessary. Episode VII is apparently set roughly 30 years after Return of the Jedi, so 34 years after A New Hope. [SPOILER ALERT] Luke’s wife Mara dies 40 years after A New Hope, but depending on whether they’re going to shift things around in the timeline, it could well be that Luke has retired from public life following this incident? [END SPOILER] I haven’t yet read Crucible, so I don’t know how the now-Legends EU has left the Big Three, but I think that’ll be on my list shortly.

Anyhow. I’m not particularly following the rumours for the new film with any degree of seriousness, so it’s debatable whether there will be more to add here, but you never know – as we get closer to December ’15, I might just see the fanboy within emerge, and might get way over-excited about the whole thing!

We shall see, I guess…