I'd never really been a Star Wars fan. Obviously, as a child, I went to see the three original movies with my dad. I mean, everybody went to first thr...moreI'd never really been a Star Wars fan. Obviously, as a child, I went to see the three original movies with my dad. I mean, everybody went to first three movies. But unlike other people, they didn't really stay with me into my adult life. I didn't bother to see the second three movies. I'd never read any of the novels nor did I have any real desire to. Instead, I'd always rather enjoyed the quote from Harrison Ford: "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!" So when I saw this book on NetGalley it seemed an unlikely choice. That was until I saw the name James S.A. Corey emblazoned across the cover and I was immediately hooked. While it wasn't the first NetGalley title I was offered, it was damn well going to be the first one I read.
James S.A. Corey is the pen-name of double-act Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham – you may have previously read of him in the 'franckly' excellent Expanse series – and I was eager to find out how they'd handle a novel in such a huge existing franchise. Set about a year after the events of the first film, the rebels are trying to find a new planet to act as a base of operations while they repair their fleet and lick their wounds. Luke is sent to scout some of the planets, which is a good thing as it keeps him pretty much out of the whole novel except for some other-end-of-the-radio conversations and a group hug at the end of the book. This is a very good thing, Luke is easily my least favourite Star Wars character. Leia is heading off to a conference – it seems weird to think that rebel forces go to conferences, wouldn't the Empire get to hear about that kind of thing? And Han and Chewbacca are asked to head into Empire controlled space to rescue a rebel spy, Scarlet Hark. This is where the meat of the novel is. The friendship and rapport between Han and Chewie, the sarcastic dialogue is wittily handled. And much as the brash Han ended up getting bossed around by Leia, he now finds himself in the same situation with Scarlet – she fancies him too though, he's sure of that...
It's a fairly traditional science fiction adventure story, told in the Star Wars universe. The characters all seem very true to the originals. Although you could argue that Leia is a lot more likeable in this than she ever was in the films – I don't think anybody could really rescue Luke's character though. It's deftly told, excellently paced, with lots of twists and turns, double-crosses and triple-crosses. Lots of references to the wider history with mentions of key events, planets, Jabba and a very funny reference to always remembering to tip your barman after any 'incident'. Even as a non-Star Wars fan I recognised and enjoyed the ones I found. I assume there were others that I missed.
There's really not much to like about the novel. It's flaws are more the restrictions placed upon it than anything that Corey fails to do. Any novel set in such an already widely written history (past and future) is limited in what it can do, where it can go, or what it can introduce. Characters can't diverge too far from the expected behaviours, but more frustratingly, nothing can happen that might change that long sticky-taped together history. From the moment the novel starts to really kick in, you already know that it's going to have be, somehow, nullified by the end of the novel. You can't introduce a new technology or society into a universe when none of the later novels have referenced it. Which is a shame, because Corey's idea was a pretty cool one. In fact, it may just have converted me: I've already added a few older Star Wars novels to my to-read list...(less)
An early Christmas gift from my sister – although she assured me it was, at least in part, meant as a joke – this is a Doctor Who style adaptation of...moreAn early Christmas gift from my sister – although she assured me it was, at least in part, meant as a joke – this is a Doctor Who style adaptation of the Where's Wally style book that we must have all seen at least once. In this one we are presented with thirteen double-page spreads representing various adventures of the Doctor: from Ancient Egypt through Victorian London and on to the End of the World; even alien worlds like Metebelis III. Each spread challenges you to find – somewhere – hidden in amongst hundreds of little drawn people: a Doctor, a Tardis and an Amy and a Rory.
I'm pretty sure that any book published by BBC Children's Books isn't really aimed at the 40+ market, but that didn't stop me working my way through all thirteen drawings and finding the Doctor and his assistants. This turned out to be a pretty simple task, although the St. John's Monastery did prove something of a challenge with all those Gangers everywhere to confuse you.
Luckily, that's not all there is to it. Once you get to the end you're presented with another – even greater – challenge. Thirteen lists of twelve additional items to find; one for each of the thirteen drawings. Obviously these are aimed at the more advanced 40+ Whovian hunter, and they took me a fair bit longer than the first run through. Some items are easier to find than others. Two items on each list are at least pictured so you know what you're looking for, but the rest might require a bit of research – I had no recollection of what the Isolus even was, let alone what one looked like – and picking out Miss Hartigan's and Jackson Lake's unique outfits in the morass of little people was proving next to impossible. Luckily my other sister had, coincidentally, bought me a Doctor Who encyclopaedia which came in very handy.(less)