If you think The Phantom Menace is the pinnacle of the ‘Star Wars’ universe, frI wrote this review for Nerd Underground, where it originally appeared.
If you think The Phantom Menace is the pinnacle of the ‘Star Wars’ universe, friends, then I have a great audiobook for you. If, like thinking people, you feel differently, please do yourself a favor and do not read this terrible, terrible book.
About a year ago, Disney/Lucasfilm wiped the slate clean and declared only the six Star Wars films, Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: Clone Wars to be canon, and everything else in the expanded universe was branded “Star Wars Legends.” This enabled Lucasfilm to get a fresh start with the new movies, and cleared a lot of clutter from the canon. Like an Ewok Jedi. Or a clinically depressed mountain. There was some bad juju in the EU, and it was good to clear it all out and start fresh.
Unfortunately, starting fresh led us to Chuck Wendig’s nearly unreadable/unlistenable novel Star Wars: Aftermath (officially titled Aftermath: Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens which tells you that even the goddamn title is poorly written. It has more colons than a gastrointestinal ward.). Set in the months following the events of Return of the Jedi, Aftermath is intended to begin building a bridge to The Force Awakens. If I had not already seen so many great things about the film, this novel would make me very nervous indeed.
Aftermath feels as though it was written by someone who needs to demonstrate that they have seen all Star Wars films at least twice, and can list things off from those films. In fact, at one point, I thought Wendig was trying to write only dialogue which had appeared in the movies: there were so many instances of “you rebel scum” and “almost there…almost there,” I began to wonder if he was given a menu of dialogue from which to choose and only items on that list could appear in the novel. Beyond that, if I heard “thermal detonator” one more time I was going to blow. In one particularly ridiculous stretch, a pilot deciding where to go from a list of nearby systems lists Naboo, Tattooine, Meera, and Coruscant, as if they were all neatly tucked into one little area. In addition, several contemporary 21st-century Millennial contrivances play their way into the dialogue, such as “Awwwkwaaard.” Gross.
The basic plot is this: Wedge Antilles is out hunting for Imperial supply lines. He sees some Star Destroyers, and bam, he’s captured.
Meanwhile, Timmen, the most annoying teenager this side of the Leave Brittney Alone kid, doesn’t need anybody, especially his mother. He’s super independent and has a junk/tech shop on the planet Akiva. Also, he has one of those super-annoying prequel B-1 battle droids. You know, the ones who keep saying “Roger Roger?” Only this one has been modified to be some kind of ridiculous robot-ninja, wearing a set of bones, and named, you guessed it: Bones (B-1. B-ONE. Bone. Oh, aren’t you so delightfully clever, Wendig?!). Also, because the originals were just not annoying enough, Bones’ voice processor seems to be broken, as does its little robot mind. It singes to itself, and makes terrible electronic sounds in what is supposed to be comic relief, probably for people who think Larry the Cable Guy is also hilarious.
But independent Timmen, who is voiced as though he’s Shaggy from Scooby Doo auditioning for an XTREME Mountain Dew commercial, is surprised by the return home of his mother Norra Wexley. Turns out that she’s been a rebel fighter who was there with Lando as the second Death Star blew, and is war weary and wants to be a mommy again. But Timmen doesn’t need his mommy anymore. Oh, such conflict.
Of course, just as these two were about to settle down into a life of simmering resentment, the war comes to them. The remnants of the Empire are not in good shape, and individuals within are competing to consolidate their power. On the one hand, we have Admiral Rae Sloane, who believes the Empire is necessary but has been too dictatorial and cruel in its machinations over its subjects. On the other, we have Moff (self-promoted to Grand Moff) Pandion, who wants to seize control of military assets and wield even more tyranny over the subjected systems and the rebellion (now the New Republic under the leadership of Mon Mothma). There is a former adviser to Palpatine who, while not a Sith, clearly has a cult-like admiration for them, and who advocates opening the Empire to the Dark Side. None of them get along, and Sloane hosts a summit on Akiva to try and get some consensus from the remaining Imperial leadership on what’s next following Palpatine’s death.
Of course, we have a bounty hunter turn up on Akiva who was there to kill Pandion but sees a gold mine in the assembled Imperials. There’s a turncoat Imperial Loyalty officer who is basically Threepio in imperial grays. These two saw each other just outside the bunker on Endor, apparently. Because the universe is just that small. The group forms a rag-tag band (a phrase which must appear in the novel about thirty times) determined to blast the Empire off of Akiva and save Timmen and Norra’s relationship at the same time.
It’s really, really bad. But it’s not all terrible. We do learn a few new things (MINOR SPOILERS BELOW):
1. Luke, although not explicitly named, makes an appearance outside a burning Imperial academy. He advises a young lad from a distant planet with nobody or nothing to return to not to make the same moves he himself made, but ultimately sends him along to a New Republic academy. Perhaps we are witnessing the first stirrings of a new Jedi order?
2. Han and Chewie are still apt to abandon the New Republic when circumstances dictate. There’s going to be a fight to free the Wookiees, apparently enslaved by the empire on the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk, and Han and the smugglers are going to be leading it because the New Republic is slow to make decisions.
3. There are already cracks showing in the New Republic between the political and military leadership.
4. Jakku is like Tattooine’s armpit. It’s really, really isolated.
5. Boba Fett is really, truly dead.
6. We probably get our first glimpse of Supreme Leader Snoke, who is orchestrating a culling of the Imperial ranks from the position of a Fleet Admiral, although he is not specifically named.
7. There is a cult of ownership around Darth Vader artifacts. Devotees are trying to buy up anything Vader-themed.
Finally, the novel makes a real stab at diversity, and gets it both right and wrong. First, this band is led by Norra, who is female and that’s something important to have in the canon – not just muckymucks like Leia and Mon Mothma, but women who are leading the charge on the ground. Secondly, the novel has several gay characters, which is great – but which is pretty clumsily handled for the most part. At its best, a gay couple is introduced as just part of their normal interactions, without a grand declaration – as if it was no big deal, and something generally ok and accepted across the galaxy. At its worst, two characters who simply could not be less compatible have a discussion in which the female character says, basically, “Ok, you’re man enough. When this is done, you can totally do me,” to which the dude has to reply “Um. Thanks but no thanks, bae. I like dudes.” It’s a scene that makes no sense in the short continuity, the long continuity, and which was shoe-horned in solely to make a big screaming “look at me I’m gay” sign, at the expense of the integrity of the story, the characters, and the way women are portrayed in the novel.
The rest, though, reads like a young adult novel written by a young adult. You might hang it on the fridge if your kid wrote it, but you probably wouldn’t send it to the Star Wars fans in your family for fear the kid would be ostracized by Thanksgiving.
Specifically regarding the audiobook:
While it’s not clear if this is the fault of the director or the voice actor, this book falls into the same trap The Phantom Menace did: chracters using sterotypical Earth accents. We have Russians, and Brits, and a burly Scottish bartender. There is nothing that doesn’t feel like play-acting and it lacks imagination. The very worst of it, though, is that we encounter a former Imperial sympathizer turned rebel sympathizer who, I kid you not, uses a Jimmy Stewart impersonation. I actually purchased this audiobook on Force Friday, and it took me two months to finish because it was so bad....more
If you want a book that will simply make you smile throughout, this is it. Gaiman writes with a grace and ease that belies what surely must be a heckIf you want a book that will simply make you smile throughout, this is it. Gaiman writes with a grace and ease that belies what surely must be a heck of a lot of research underneath.
Herein lies so, so much humor underneath a faintly sad and sweet story. I defy you to find one of us bookish folk who cannot relate to Fat Charlie Nancy. We've all felt on the outside looking in, we've all seen easy charm in others and wondered why it wasn't ours.
In Anansi Boys, we may just see our way to our own God Voice, and sand-dance our way into the good life....more
The research was impeccable, the stories compelling. There was no discernibleSo here's the thing with this book:
I wish somebody else had written it.
The research was impeccable, the stories compelling. There was no discernible bias. I'm a bit of a politics junkie, and followed the campaign in considerable depth as it happened, and there was plenty I didn't already know crammed into this book.
But the writing? It's about as pompous, full-of-itself, ridiculously verbose tripe out there.
I'm a man with a fairly expansive vocabulary. I make my living in words. And I had to read this book with a dictionary at hand.
If you take that language is there for communication, this book fails its very basic task: make oneself easily understood. Why say "there was a great distance between the two" when you can say "there was a chasmal distance between the two." Chasmal? Really? Throughout the book, these words are all over the place, and for no good reason. Here's an apt quote from the NYT Review of Books, who say what I'm getting at with more aplomb than I can:
"O.K., but how about “acuminate”? Or “appetent”? Or “pyretic”? Or “hoggery” and “noisomeness,” or “coriaceous” or “vomitous” or “freneticism”?"
Also throughout, the authors double (and triple, quadruple, and quintuple) down on their title, cramming the phrase "double-down" in to every conceivable (and a few inconceivable) nook and cranny they can find. They force alliteration where it needn't be: using these devices can be effective literary tools, but usually only if they are fluid, lurking beneath awareness to bring out depth and texture in the writing. Here, the authors appear to be so enamored of being capital-W Writers, they linguistically masturbate themselves all over the pages.
Friends, if you've not read Tara's poetry, you are missing out.
Her imagery is vivid - reminiscent of Mary Oliver, but with a completely unique voice.Friends, if you've not read Tara's poetry, you are missing out.
Her imagery is vivid - reminiscent of Mary Oliver, but with a completely unique voice. Her words go deeper than the page, evoking the spiritual essence of the magnificent and the mundane of everyday life.
When you read her work, you will find something settling at your center: this is hot cocoa, a warm fire, and the impending arrival of someone much missed for that secret part of yourself which makes you you....more
The first book in the Divergent series was innovative and unique enough to mask its shortcomings. Unfortunately, by book 3, the shortcomings mask theThe first book in the Divergent series was innovative and unique enough to mask its shortcomings. Unfortunately, by book 3, the shortcomings mask the innovation.
At the end of the day, these books are a teen romance. The difficulty with this is that, nearly universally in real life and in fiction, teen romance is both annoying to watch, fleeting, and messy because of juvenile things - not because of large political/societal upheaval.
This is not a failing just of Ms. Roth's - in fact, it seems near universal in this burgeoning teen genre - but the love story is simply unbelievable. Two people who are completely incompatible for any number of reasons, including their youth, but also including everything else about them, meet and fall in love almost instantly and permanently. It leaves nothing left to drive the story, and if the story is at heart a romance, then there is little left to propel the action.
What made Divergent so good was that it was not at core a romance, it was a vision of a post-apocalyptic society that differed in fundamental ways from the trillions of other post-apocalyptic books flooding the market these days. The story was good enough to cover the inherent yawn-factor of the relationship between Tris and Four, to cover the first-person present writing, etc.
By the time Allegiant rolls around, Tris and Four have lost their solo identities - so much so that in the first-person present writing, in which perspectives switch between the characters - it is nearly impossible to differentiate between the characters. Throughout the book, I found myself having to go back to chapter heads to figure out which character was narrating. There was no unique voice to distinguish one from the other.
In fact, by the time the climactic final act of the book occurs, it had lost all of its impact - no one character seemed any different than any other character.
This is not to say the book did not have its positive points. The background story of what was happening in the world-at-large was compelling if a bit cliche. The family dynamics playing out between Tris and her brother were probably the most authentic part of the book. It's just that once the book became a romance, the story arc lost its arc. Too bad....more
Gosh, I loved this book. Perhaps more than any other writer, reading Gaiman is an immersive experience - the rest of the world flows by unnoticed untiGosh, I loved this book. Perhaps more than any other writer, reading Gaiman is an immersive experience - the rest of the world flows by unnoticed until you finally rest the book in your lap, only to discover that it's gone dark outside, you're very hungry, and holy moly but do you ever have to pee.
While this isn't Gaiman's absolute best book, it's damn good and has some remarkable writing and imagination in it. There's a scene in which the lead characters are following bits of reality to get to a place outside of reality that is simply breathtaking in its brilliance....more
So I read this book because Swan Song was a real favorite of mine as a teenager back in the 80s. TO be fair, I haven't read it since then, so I don'tSo I read this book because Swan Song was a real favorite of mine as a teenager back in the 80s. TO be fair, I haven't read it since then, so I don't really know how it holds up twenty-five years later, but I sure dug it then.
I was crushed at how bad this was.
It reads like Christian fiction. And come on, even hardcore born-agains have to admit that most Christian fiction is just really, really bad. It's simplistic, and it feels like its coming from a place the rest of the world has passed by while it remained stubbornly and obstinately in a world which never really existed outside of small, church-related communities.
This is the story of The Five, a band made up of a guy who's kind of like Alice Cooper, a girl who's kind of like an Indigo Girl crossed with Taylor Swift, a guy who's kind of like Meat Loaf cum Liberace cum white Billy Preston, a girl who's kind of like Meg White mixed in with a bit of Grumpy Dwarf, and some bass player. Because that band would totally make sense. Except they all love Stephen Stills, and talk about Stephen Stills more than even the fanniest of the Stephen Stills fan blogs (of which I was able to locate exactly none, even though I think he's pretty swell myself).
This whole book feels like a born-again hippie trying to reconcile his dated version of cool with the cool of today and show that they are the exact same thing, except the hippie might know some of the words people use today, but has no idea of the context in which they are used.
A stage manager fist-bumps the Alice cooper-esque lead singer and says thigns are "heezy." Also, the band has a manager who wears penny loafers, and this is regularly commented on.
OH. And there's kind of an angel, and kind of a demon-assasin. And they are angry. Because politics. And because Jesus (maybe?). And then even the rough and tumble athiesgnostics of the band find out that maybe there is some rock god in the sky, filling their vulnerable hearts with terrible music. And really, REALLY bad lyrics.
On a more serious note, there is an attempted rape scene in this book which is both fairly graphic and fairly infuriating. The gist of the scene, and what follows, is that "If I don't really fight back, and I mean fight hard against my rapist, who has done much to take away my physical abilities to fight back, well, I'm just giving the demons what they want. So, if I don't fight back and go on like nothing happened, it's like I'm helping the demons." I very nearly gave up on the book then. I wish I had.
Subterranean Press usually does much better than this. They have stuff by Joe Lansdale and Neil Gaiman. Maybe they are just capitalizing on McCammon's name? Because the writing just isn't there anymore. ...more
Ok, seriously. This book just isn't fair to other writers.
Edge of Dark Water is the one that got away. The girl in college who smelled like honeyed clOk, seriously. This book just isn't fair to other writers.
Edge of Dark Water is the one that got away. The girl in college who smelled like honeyed cloves just out of the shower, and just as good just before the shower. The girl to whom every other girl that follows will be compared, and come up lacking.
Joe Landsdale will steal your damn heart with this book, and ruin it for other writers for a while.
Oh sure, you'll try and read another book, but just as you begin to gently caress its tender pages, or swipe its quivering screen, you'll remember the way Edge of Dark Water made you tremble *just so,* and whatever you're reading will seem dim by comparison. Sure, you may keep reading out of a sense of duty or obligation, but all the while you'll be thinking about what the last book you read made you feel....more
I'll be honest - given the author's statement at the end of the book (which I read early), and the fervent nature ofI was so surprised to enjoy this.
I'll be honest - given the author's statement at the end of the book (which I read early), and the fervent nature of the fan base, I was terrified that this was going to blitz away into the unreadable land of born-again christian fiction.
It never did, and boy was I glad.
It's an adventure, pure and simple. Smart, interesting, and mostly well-conceived (a problem of many YA identified books, and not just this one, is that love is instant and eternal, and taken on faith. It just isn't, and it creates unrealisitc expctations in our kids, but whatevs. Got off track there).
The story and the conceptualization are really compelling. The characters are a tiny bit cookie-cutter, but still keep you wanting more. ...more
Somehow i nthe crazy end of 2012, this one snuck past me. It was like a belated Christmas present when I discovered it last week,Gosh, this was good.
Somehow i nthe crazy end of 2012, this one snuck past me. It was like a belated Christmas present when I discovered it last week, and Santa was so good to me!
Following on the heels of Wool's first shift, this picks up in the middle years of the Silo series - and things have gone wrong. In fact, they appear to have gone wrong several times. Silos are going off-line, and familiar faces are back to figure out why and make the hard, difficult impossible choices of how to save humanity in a world when its already been destroyed.
Generations are played against one another, and in the end - as Howey has so masterfully done throughout the series - good is not white, bad is not black, and everything lives in a dim, underground shade of gray.
"Let's write a novel about blue," his mind says, and out pours a novel featuring a sweetly perverse TouI really love the way Chris Moore's mind works.
"Let's write a novel about blue," his mind says, and out pours a novel featuring a sweetly perverse Toulouse Lautrec and companions, creating and destoying art in the pursuit of love, lust, inspiration, and color.
There were a few truly laugh-out-loud moments, where I was afraid I was going to be kicked off of the train, and truly unique and interesting characters - many of whom made me go out and research impressionst and art nouveau painters, syphillis, and the origins of pigmentation and painting.
Lacking maybe the surprising depth of Moore's Lamb, it will still leave you fully enteretained and better for the reading of it....more