Oh boy, Star Wars goodness. Can I start by saying what a pleasure it is to actually look Honor Among Thieves forward to new Star Wa...moreFantasy Review Barn
Oh boy, Star Wars goodness. Can I start by saying what a pleasure it is to actually look Honor Among Thieves forward to new Star Wars books again? Martha Wells really got me excited again, and of course having James S. A. Corey (writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) attached to the follow up upped the excitement even more. No more seeing a new release and reading it only so I can keep up with the damn story, now I see a new release and say ‘oh boy oh boy.’ Just like it used to be.
Like Wells’ novel this is a quick hit, one mission, sprint focusing on a tighter cast and a few simple objectives. Early on we see the rebels looking for a new base of operations (with a running joke of anywhere but Hoth). Han, a bit bored with sharking the other pilots and still unsure if he is a rebel or mercenary in this battle, jumps at the chance to retrieve a rebel spy from Empire occupied system. Simple plan; get in, pick up the attractive spy, get out. But of course that isn’t what happens. Jabba’s bounty has kept Han in high demand, the spy has one last critical mission, and the Empire has another nasty new weapon in the works.
Delicate balance going on here, keeping the spirit of Star Wars and the EU novels while trying to avoid its previous traps. Start with the Empire’s new weapon. Old fans know that the Expanded Universe eventually fell into a ‘super weapon of the week’ rut; each trying to out Death Star the Death Star. Yet Corey manages to build a smarter weapon; it could still change the course of the war but doesn’t rely on smashing up increasingly larger targets.
Now take Han. Han is a rogue, a ladies man, and a smart ass. Always has been. While he is tied to Leia in most of the EU (for obvious reasons) there are always hints of a womanizing past. Always hints of a man sure of himself and who gets his way. So let me tell you, so awesome to see him meet his match. Leia is as she should be, just as component and in control as Han; they take turns in the movies holding the high ground in the little battle of wills and it is no different here (though some authors forgot to treat Leia right, no one gets a more inconsistent treatment in the EU). But new character Scarlet Hark (yes, I kept reading that as Hawk too, what are you going to do?) is my new character crush. She constantly has Han on his toes. She outwits him, turns his ‘manly’ comments around on their head (like when he called her ‘sister’ dismissively, oh my god, her reaction is the funniest part of the book), and saves his butt more than he saves hers. She keeps him from doing spectacular stupid things. And poor Han, confident in his ways, thinks he has the beginning of a love triangle going on and never really gets how badly he is being played by both sides. It was a thing of beauty.
The book is also one of the first to show just how the rebellion functioned, some actually thought has gone into this- maybe for the first time by an author in the EU. Though it doesn’t make the core of the story it is nice to see some thought go into questions like who is funding this rebellion, how strong are the alliances holding it together, how the fleet can avoid the Empire for so long, and just who makes up the rebellions members. We see fragile alliances, people like Han bought in short term (sometimes staying and sometimes not), and other various members of every corner of society.
The book has the same problems any Star Wars book has. Being firmly set between the movies it is not a question of if the rebel alliance will succeed in the book; only how and which of the new characters will live through it. The BIG THREE characters (Luke, Leia, and Han) are all there doing vital work for the mission, a bit more forgivable since in this stage of the story they are working from the same base. It also has some problems that are less common but should be expected; there are so many books out there the EU is starting to see some inconsistencies. The one that glared at me was a mention of a Noghri that Han saw. This was a species that five years after Return of the Jedi was completely unknown to EVERYONE, a grand secret of the Emperor. Yet here is one not just showing up but being recognized years earlier. Maybe this is nitpicky, especially considering that the whole EU is going to be blown up anyway, but there has got to be one internal editor that has read what comes before, right?
Though technically part of the series Martha Wells started, and with back references to the EU that comes later, this is a book that needs only knowledge of the movies to follow. If you’re a fan of Han Solo, or Princess Leia, or just space adventures in general, get on it. You see who wrote it, you know it’s going to be good.
The basic background. It is Star Wars, Leia is the protagonist, with Han and Luke taking role of support characters. Set after A Ne...moreFantasy Review Barn
The basic background. It is Star Wars, Leia is the protagonist, with Han and Luke taking role of support characters. Set after A New Hope the rebels are trying to set up their new base on Hoth. A supply deal is derailed by pirates. From there, Star Wars stuff, only from Leia’s perspective. Run, get captured, meet some Imperials, find the mole. You know, Star Wars stuff?
Well look at that. A few months back I wrote a small post about the horrendous state of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I had a great many complaints. I was tired of seeing every book dealing with a new threat to the entire galaxy, bigger and scarier than the last! I was tired of every book involving every single character; it was unrealistic and made the galaxy seem very, very small. And as a person who wants to know how every story ends I was damn tired of reading horrible books because they held important info for the book I actually want to read.
And even though Razor’s Edge was already in development when I wrote that little post (it was probably already at the printers), I am going to pretend that the publisher read my post and rushed to it Martha Wells. Because this book is everything I want in a new Star Wars book; in fact I think I may be in love.
Let’s go through it shall we?
1. Smaller scale conflict – Holy mother of god, it turns out a good Star Wars book can involve nothing at all that is capable of destroying a planet, take over the galaxy, or even destroy it. In fact if Leia fails in her mission it won’t even spell the end of the rebellion, just a major setback. It is more believable and just as exciting. It didn’t require an ever escalating sense of danger. The threat never got so insane as to go over to silly. I have always judged Star Wars books on whether or not they would work as a book without the setting behind them. Razor’s Edge would be an interesting James Bond (Jane Bond?) in space adventure. It passes this test with flying colors.
2. Smaller cast- Sure the book has the big three (Han, Luke, Leia for those non SW geeks). But they are all working toward the same goal from the start, rather than brought together by an increasing number of unbelievable coincidences. And there was none of the “bring in Lando, and Wedge, and Ackbar, and..and..and..” that plagues so many EU books.
3. Prerequisite reading – NONE! Oh, you could read the horrible novelization of A New Hope if you want but let’s be honest, if you have not watched Star Wars you’re not picking up EU books. Chances are you can recite the movie by heart. So you are not going to have any problem with this book. Ironically the real reason I read this book was so I was ready for the Star Wars novel coming out by Daniel Abraham. Now I feel Abraham and his partner have go their work cut out for them to match this one in quality.
So the book’s setup is everything I hoped for, but I forgot to talk about the book itself. Sorry, got a little excited.
Wells is obviously a talented writer, though in the past I have personally had a hard time getting into her books for various reasons. No issues this time, she had a quick pace that books like this require and did all the little things right. Leia and Han had some great give and take. The background cast had a bit more depth than a typical SW book. Some minor prodding at tropes made me smile without going out of its way to be subversive. (I particularly liked the doubting of an origin story, how could names of obscure systems stay true for thousands of years)?
So who would like this book? I put it in the must read for fans of the EU. It should appeal to fans of light sci-fi as it focus much more on the adventure and much less on the mystical jedi stuff (this is pre Luke meeting Yoda, the most we see is some feelings of intuition). And maybe even anyone else looking for a quick read, there is a reason Wells is so respected; just because it is Star Wars doesn’t diminish that.
The best Star Wars book I have read in years (I know that is not saying much, but still. It was a good book).
Review Copy received through NetGalley. Then later won through Firstreads.(less)
Forgive the self-indulgent review. I will give my honest opinion for this newest Star Wars book, but I also want to chime in my tho...moreFantasy Review Barn
Forgive the self-indulgent review. I will give my honest opinion for this newest Star Wars book, but I also want to chime in my thoughts on the Expanded Universe in general. Specifically, with the possibility of a reset coming after the Disney buyout what I hope to see in the next go around.
First for a review of the book at hand. I will not even begin to bother with a recap at this point, there is no point. This book would be completely impossible to read without knowing the full and total backstory of all the Star Wars books before it, and even managed to throw some curve balls at me, a man who has been reading these books for over fifteen years.
It was alright. ‘Meh’ may sum it up better. Certainly an improvement over the horrible books I slogged through from Fate of the Jedi. What I appreciated the most in this book was the smaller scale of the conflict. While eventually it became apparent the fate of the galaxy could be at stake, most of the book dealt with a smaller conflict in an out of the way area of the galaxy. This allowed the book to focus on a smaller cast, spend more time with the characters, and lent a bit of believability to the scale of the threat that has been lost in the Star Wars universe for a while. So that was nice, and something I want to get into after the actual review.
What wasn’t so nice was the stupidity of some of the plot lines. My biggest gripe is a common one. If an author puts a genius/mastermind type character in the book they better be able to back it up. I am not as a reader going to buy their skills if I don’t see it on page. Thus the two main villains of the book lost all credibility for me. Their amazing mental capacities were mundane; they were outsmarted at almost every turn despite us being told otherwise by the narration. They were completely dependent on Vestra, the only compelling character from the Fate of the Jedi series. Their insane method of interrogation involved a card game with a known expert on the game. They backstab almost everyone they deal with yet still find people willing to deal.
Smaller gripes. Han battling a force user and somehow getting a shot into his knee. A space station that stretches time yet the author only using that detail when convenient, otherwise characters outside and in seem to be moving at the same pace. The inconstancy with Mando’s strength here vs earlier books(specifically their lack of it). The final nail for me was an incredibly dumb ending. Some type of timeless alternate universe where death requires specific circumstances otherwise people come back to life. Or something. Then because it is a timeless area one person has to tell another their entire history together because of unexplained amnesia (but has time to do because time is timeless here). They leave the area by wishing their way out, or clicking their shoes, or something equally outlandish, it didn’t make much sense.
3 Stars. Doesn’t really deserve it, but it was better than the Fate of the Jedi series throughout, so that is something.
Copy for review received through Netgalley.
Now, as promised, a quick word on the state of the EU and what could be a complete reset.
My credentials? Just a longtime fan who has been reading these books for over 15 years. Truth be told I have not really enjoyed the new books since about half way through NJO, I just keep reading to keep up with the story. Staring with Fate of the Jedi I have been more and more lost due to knowing nothing about the Clone Wars era EU. What got me thinking about this was how hopeful I was for this new book. I saw what I would like to see if a reset happens in the blurb. Specifically smaller scale conflicts rather than the constant escalation that has taken the EU beyond the point of silly. A larger universe where every major threat wasn’t dealt with by the same five people. Of course I didn’t get this from the book, but damn I was hopeful.
So I will lay out what I hope for, and then leave it at that. I want the SW EU to take the Warhammer approach. It is time to leave behind the overreaching arcs, the characters we all know, and instead let every author do their own thing.
-Smaller conflicts/Bigger Universe- The stakes can be just as high, but the later books have tried to focus on everything at once and ending being highly shallow. Let’s do more books like the X-wing series. A small cast of unknowns doing to amazing things, but only within their own roles. It doesn’t always have to be about the fate of the entire galaxy, I would be just as intrigued it was about the fate of one planet, or one unit, or one family (Yes it has been done in a couple books, but few and far between). Larger conflicts have just lead to constant escalation to the point of pure silly. Of course the worse example is the Sun Crusher as a one up to the Death Star. But just as bad is the series of events leading to Abaloth, who is what exactly, pure dark side energy?
-Drop the timeline/characters- The timeline was problematic early on as trilogies were squeezed between other books, and suddenly those later in the sequence had scenes that made no sense. So drop it. It isn’t important if you’re dealing with single systems or groups of people. I have heard people say the best storyline in the EU is from the video game Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, was it hurt by not being in a known timeline? I think not. And it certainly wasn’t hurt by not having a recognizable character. The fact is focusing on Luke/Leah/Han has gone on for far too long. They have their hands in everything and it is not believable. It also makes the universe feel tiny, as no matter what happens you know the whole gang will soon be there.
Worse, with every author dealing with the same characters and timelines the better authors are forced to live with stupid decisions from lesser ones (KJA turning Mara Jade into nothing more than a prize Lando is hoping to win, with Zahn basically retconing the story line by making it all an act later on).
Besides making more compelling stories I see to major advantages to my suggestions. The first is a new reader can truly start anywhere. When reading NJO I often had to look up backstories from the silly Jedi Academy books that it was assumed I knew. In the last installment I had to look up the Mortis Monolith. And of course Aboleth requires a bit of back story for FotJ to click right. The second is I can skip books that get universally bad reviews. Read Zahn and Stackpole, skip KJA and Hambaly, and not lose any of the stories by doing so. Feels good!
Of course none of this will happen. The EU made a lot of money doing it the way they did, and I fully expect that once the new movies come out we will see a new set of books following the continued adventures of about six people as they save everyone from everything.
Oh, and I have said it before and not stuck with it, but I am so done with these extended story arcs. My Star Wars reading will be limited to X-Wing books and a few old favorites when I need a familiar face. (less)
How does one review a book that follows two distinct trilogies? A fan who has already read through ‘Eisenhorn’ and...moreFirst posted at Fantasy Review Barn
How does one review a book that follows two distinct trilogies? A fan who has already read through ‘Eisenhorn’ and ‘Ravenor’ with no doubt be going after ‘Pariah,’ and no one else is going to bother.
So, if you have not read ‘Eisenhorn,’ check it out and see if it is for you. It is the best written tie-in fiction I have found (for whatever that is worth), and I wrote a real rough review for it in February. It was followed by the ‘Ravenor’ trilogy, which was almost as good. ‘Pariah’ is the first book of the concluding trilogy. Anyone still interested? Read on.
Sorry fellow fans, I was disappointed. I can’t complain too much, Abnett still weaves a nice story, and I read this book in two sittings. Beta (Alizabeth Bequin) is an interesting character. She is smart and resourceful, and has been trained to be a perfect inquisition operative. Something is off; this can’t be the Bequin from ‘Eisenhorn’ could it? Her story doesn’t mesh, but it all will eventually be explained. The book moves at a quick pace, and has some interesting diversions. My favorite (and I have the feeling I won’t be the only one) comes from two living dolls with attitude. Nothing new, corny as hell, but it actually works OK within the story.
My biggest problem with the book is it feels like 300 pages of fan service. Look! There is Gideon Ravenor! What ho! It’s Patience! OMG, a Glaw sighting! And it is not just people from the first two Abnett trilogies. There were references I had to look up, greater Warhammer Lore is required (and I don’t have it).
The book is also misnamed. Labeled Ravenor vs Eisenhorn, it should be called “set up for an eventual series called Ravenor vs Eisenhorn.” You see the plot doesn’t go anywhere. I read it so fast I didn’t notice this while reading. But when collecting my thoughts for the review I started realizing just how much of a mess most the plot was. While Beta is smart and resourceful, most of the time it doesn’t matter; she is obviously a pawn being coveted by several different powers, and is out of her league the whole book. Every move she makes results in her being captured by one set of powers, and being ‘rescued’ by a different set. This goes right on until the cliff hanger ending. Not once is she in control.
This book may look better when the series is completed, and I am sure true WH4K fans will be salivating over it (that is what fan service is for). The overall story may turn out great. But for the casual fan like myself, it is a mess, and feels like I read half a book with absolutely no resolution in the plot. A 300 page limit was hit, so book over, read the second part next year.
A reader who picks this up should know what they are getting. Grimdark, lots of bad things happen to good people, action on every page. Those people w...moreA reader who picks this up should know what they are getting. Grimdark, lots of bad things happen to good people, action on every page. Those people will not be dissapointed.
A nice structure, basically a chapter is a short adventure story, loosely held together by the writings of Felix. Due to this the pacing is brisk and a reader should never get bored, until said reader realizes they are reading essentially the same story each time.
Character development? A small attempt to grow the two characters, but really one is a berserk dwarf and the other is a just brave enough warrior. Women? Mostly one per chapter, with the first two shown now dead, and one driven to evil by an almost rape.
Some neat story lines, along with some wry humor(temporary amnesia is cliche, but played well enough here).
Best guess? If a reader is tempted to pick this up, they know what they want and will enjoy it. But it is not the book to convert people to the Warhammer Universe.
Not really bad, but it is obviously a short story collection that had a plot tied into it, with only some sucess. Having started with some of the late...moreNot really bad, but it is obviously a short story collection that had a plot tied into it, with only some sucess. Having started with some of the later books Abnett wrote, I can see the incredible amount he improved as he went from these early books. Still, fairly entertaining, with one or two shining moments that by themselves would have been great short stories, bogged down by a couple run of the mill pieces. (less)
This is my first run of the Warhammer Universe, something I didn't think I was interested in. But Abnett was fairly consistently...moreFantasy Review Barn.
This is my first run of the Warhammer Universe, something I didn't think I was interested in. But Abnett was fairly consistently named as a good writer of fun sci-fi, so I gave this a go. I am happy I did.
Luckily you need no knowledge of the WH4K world to start, what little background that is needed is dropped in ways that didn't piss me off. All three books contained(and the two short stories) were a first person narrative of Eisenhorn, a inquisitor who searchers for influences of Chaos though the galaxy.
Let me assure you that the praise I will be giving this series is in respect to other tie in novels(looking at you Star Wars), I know full well that this is not going to appeal to literature snobs.
First of all, the world works. With the exception of a ill placed lightsabre energy sword, most of the tech in the world didn't seem out of line. Also, unlike the SW universe, we see planets and travel between them that makes sense. No pure ice worlds here, nor planets with twenty alien species speaking one language. While dark, there is evidence that in most places, life is going on as it always have. Also, no instant travel. Sometimes things happen while the team is traveling.
Second, Abnett keeps up the pace. He knows he is writing a fast paced action novel, and doesn't disappoint. At no point did I get bored.
Third, however, Abnett is not a silly writer, and despite the pace it is a smart set of novels. No Dues ex machina type endings, not a lot of coincidences that drive me nuts. And Eisenhorn is at some points almost unstoppable, but at other points makes serious mistakes that cost him. When ever he verges on Gary Stu, you realize he is human and his actions matter. In the end, they matter ALOT.
Lastly, let me say the second short story included is the reason I often feel sorry for tie-in writers(though I know they choose the world they write in). Even when they write something borderline amazing, it will be diminished by the fact that you have to know the world, and the knowledge that "hey, its a tie-in, how good can it be." The second short story was a great piece of fiction, a creepy little psuedo-horror idea that I really enjoyed.
Well, there it is, possibly my longest review ever on Goodreads, and it is for something that almost no one else I know would ever read. (less)