Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Amanda & the Star Wars Summer -Episode V

Amanda & the Star Wars Summer

Because what better way to celebrate Star Wars day than a new chapter in my Star Wars adventure?
Absolutely nothing! 

Except maybe being in the Star Wars universe and getting to fly an X-wing. Now that would be something!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
3/5 stars

This is the novelization of the movie and we're going to cut right down to the chase: I didn't love this book. I do like that they got Alan Dean Foster to write it, since he wrote the first Star Wars novel ever -Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and no, I haven't read it- but I didn't like the writing style, so it was hard for me to get through.

The Highlights:

There are a couple of very intriguing conversations between Kylo Ren and Snoke. For example, Snoke tells Kylo Ren at one point that the Galactic Empire fell because Darth Vader had one moment of emotional weakness -of sentiment; there are other conversations where they speak of Rey as 'the girl', always in italics, so you know something's going on there. And when Rey calls the lightsaber to her just before the epic duel, Kylo Ren mutters, “It is you.”

So yeah. Significance.

It is worth noting, too, that Rey's vision when she finds Luke's lightsaber is a little bit different in the book. She sees things we didn't see in the movie, but she also doesn't hear Obi Wan's voice. *shrug*

I think a big reason I didn't love this book is because it did not contain what I felt was missing from the movie, which was more interaction between Rey and Han. Really, really wanted to see that here, like deleted scenes that made it to the book, but there weren't any, and my heart had been set on that.
The other big thing. I really hated Han's death scene. It carried a completely different feel than the scene in the movie. In the movie, we have Han reaching out to Ben, even as he dying. He touches his son's face and gives him this look like he forgives Ben for everything. Maybe I'm misinterpreting the scene, but I always felt that in that moment after Kylo Ren stabbing him that Han came to peace with it. Han has to know that anger and pain and hatred are paths to the Dark Side; so in his last moment, he still reaches out to Ben. That one gesture tells his son that he loves him and he forgives him.

That is not at all what we see in the book. It's a very dark moment for Han and there is no indication of this and an even bigger piece of my heart died and just no. No no no no no no. Okay, so despite the fact that I didn't find what I wanted in this book, the writing style did drive me nuts, and there was no greater familiarity with the characters one hopes to glean from a novelization, so The Force Awakens does get 3/5 stars. It has a couple of extra scenes, but it didn't offer up much more than the movie itself whereas, I don't know, I feel like novelizations should delve even deeper into the story than the movie. Maybe I'm nuts.

Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka
4/5 stars

Want a good Star Wars book? Give this one a try. It tells the prequel stories of Finn, Rey, and Poe. I actually really, really loved it. I'm not always a fan of prequels, but these focused on moments in the characters' lives that were truly important or major. My favorite story in here is Finn's. It was very interesting to see him in the life of a Stormtrooper. Bonus? More Phasma.

Rey's story is also good; it also answers the question of how someone who has never flown a spaceship can fly so well! Maybe not everyone will like the answer, but it works for me. I'm cool with it.

And of course Poe's story. Poe is awesome, but we also get to see more of General Leai. So each of these stories has a bonus in it! Plus, they're all interesting stories, they're not just 'normal life' stories, they're specific and important moments from the lives' of the character prior to Force Awakens.

I love this series of books they've been doing alongside the new chapter in the Star Wars saga. I've reviewed in one of my last videos more from this series and they've all been really good books. They are classified as Juvenile Fiction, but don't let it stop you from reading it.

I've also just learned that there is an anthology in this series called Aliens Vol 1, so I'll be looking for that.

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
4/5 stars

This book has a convoluted origin, because it was initially intended for the Classic Cannon, the last of a trilogy of stand alones, but it hadn't been published before they dismissed the Classic Cannon as the Legends, so they switched it over and made some changes, and it's now considered part of the New Canon. The title of this book was actually changed as an homage to Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, widely considered the beginning of the EU. It's convoluted, yeah. Anyway.

I really enjoyed this. It takes place between IV and V so Luke is still pre-Jedi and trying to learn new things; he's more rash and naive and impulsive and he's still pretty much the farm boy of Tattooine. I feel like Kevin Hearne had a really interesting and kind of clever way in showing us how Luke can explore a different avenue of the Force and how he figures out what it means to him and for his life. Let's face it; we had plenty of stories dealing with this topic in the original EU. Now we're starting ALL OVER again? But Hearne puts his best foot forward on this and manages to keep the story interesting, even if the character development Luke goes through is technically 'old hat'.

The big thing I liked actually involves the love interest we find here. I recently read Truce at Bakura, which is interesting because the Alliance and the Empire have to join forces against an alien threat and they're still enemies and at each other's throats, but the one thing I didn't like was the love interest. She paled in comparison to Mara Jade and I had just finished The Last Command. So compared to Mara, I found the love interest in Bakura boring. I didn't like that the story spent so much time on this potential relationship that I already knew wouldn't go any where. So far, most of the books I've read have Luke with a love interest, so he's becoming a bit like James Bond to me. :P

Back to Heir. There is a love interest, but it's handled really, really well. With how everything turns out, the love interest actually has an affect on the greater Star Wars story and Luke's personal development. There's a purpose for this romance; it's beneficial to the further story, whereas the romance in Bakura felt more like a Bond fling. Kevin Hearne did a brilliant job making it work; he also created a much more interesting character, so even though I was griping about yet another love interest in the first few chapters, she was so clever and funny that she won me over pretty quick. She worked for the greater development of Luke Skywalker. It satisfied me. It was fantastic!

I was browsing through the library catalog one day and came across something amazing. Cue up that Star Wars music in your head.

This is a graphic novel of one of the original drafts of Star Wars that George Lucas ever wrote. This is a completely different story than what we have now. It's a completely different universe, world, and characters. It was so interesting and I loved every minute!

So much is recognizable, because so much of it was eventually used in the original trilogy. And then other things. Like Darth Vader wasn't originally intended to be a Sith Lord. He was just a dude, a general. And then. And then! One of my favorite characters was the Sith Lord whose actually in this story, and I'm quite miffed because it ends off at a cliff-hanger, especially for this character. This is based off a first draft of a story that never technically officially existed so I”m nerve going to find out what happens to this version of this character who doesn’t actually exist in the Star Wars universe!

I'm a little miffed.

But the big thing about this story is that the more I read it, the more so many confusing questions about the prequel movies started to find answers. One of the major differences in this story and the original trilogy is that Luke Skywalker is old -an Obi Wan-like General of an army on a world -and Annakin Starkiller is the padawan he gains in the first couple chapters. The personality between Starkiller and the eventual Annakin Skywalker is almost identical!

The BIG THING is that Leia is essentially Padme! She resembles very little of the Leai we know and love -obviously, since Luke and Leia are not twins.

Just in reading this I could suddenly understand how the prequel movies could turn out the way they did. So much of what's in here was eventually recycled to the prequels! I think Lucas took it as an opportunity to use so much of this that didn't make it into the original that it blinded him from realizing they weren't great stories. He was excited!

You can obviously tell there's a lot that would eventually be recycled into the prequel movies, and I think that's why the prequel movies never quite meshed up with the original trilogy and they were never quite up to par either.

An I'm not saying this as an excuse that should have or could have been -I just think I understand now how we could have gone from the Original Star Wars to the prequels.

It's just a very interesting look at almost was and then how it actually evolved into what eventually came about. If you're a Star Wars nerd and you want to know more about the inner workings of the Universe and the minds of the people who made it, you'll want to check it out.

I do only give this one 3/5 stars, because as interesting and fascinating as it was, the story wasn't quite coherent. It jumped around a bit and I got lost a few times. There was a lot going on. Still, totally compelling.

The Star Wars. Check it out.

And speaking of the prequel movies! I have found a really interesting series of YouTube videos. The first one is called What If Episode I Were Actually Good? by Belated Media. It is a very interesting idea because basically this guy goes through and tells a different version of The Phantom Menace, the premise being that if he had been an executive at Fox when George Lucas said 'Hey, what about this idea?' he would have said 'Hey, we think this is awesome buuuuuuut what about this?' or 'this doesn't quite make sense' or 'this would make a much better story!'

So it's very interesting. He has a video for I, II and III. I don't agree 100% with the stories he comes up with, but he has some very interesting ideas, my favorite being that the prequel trilogy should have been focused on Obi Wan as the main character. That would have been so complimentary, going from the prequel movies as Obi Wan's story, into the original trilogy which is Luke's story instigated by Obi Wan, and between the two, the overarching story of Annakin Skywalker!

So anyway, that video series is called What If Episode I Was Good? and it's by the channel Belated Media. The first video does contain a lot of swearing, but he did publish a censored version which is what I watch and you can find that link on the original video. Here are the subsequent links for Episodes II and III.

Speaking of a fantastic YouTube series for Star Wars! There is one I've found that's absolute gold. The YouTube channel is called Jamie Stangroom and he is doing a show called These Are the Actors You're Looking For. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and what he's decided to do is find the actors behind some of the iconic minor characters of the Star Wars universe to talk to them about what they're doing now, their experience working on the movies and how it's affected their lives. He also has each one of them do an audition to see whether they could score a role in the new movies.

They are absolutely fascinating and he is very entertaining so I highly recommend them, because he is a SW nerd and he really owns the SW nerd so it makes it very fun to watch for, well, fellow SW nerds.
He has interviewed the actors who played Greedo, Boba Fett, Jar Jar Binks -which was very interesting. They are all great and fantastic stories and they're hilarious and I would love to see this show continue on forever.

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn
5/5 stars

I finished it ages ago but I haven't done another video since then. The final book in the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn was absolutely magnificent. I loved it. As of now, with the very few EU books I've read, this series is my favorite by far. It's fantastic; Zahn tells the story in such an entertaining way. I love Mara Jade as a character, I also love Talon Karde, so those are two high, high points right there. Zahn also handles the original cast so well and I loved seeing this continuation of the original trilogy and the more I delve into the Classic Canon the more miffed I am it's been dismissed and no longer considered real.

Why? Why would you do that?!

Anyway, Thrawn trilogy, Timothy Zahn, fantastic, all the way through. Just another one to get 5/5 stars. Thank you, Timothy Zahn, for writing such a wonderful and complex SW trilogy.

May the Force be with you!

How are YOU celebrating Star Wars Day?

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