Sunday, August 28, 2016

Star Wars The Courtship of Princess Leia Book Review

Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia
author Dave Wolverton
Book Review by Nathan Neuharth

Spoiler Alert!!!

This is another novel I was resistant in reading because the title was not aesthetically appealing to me. The title sounded boring. I was very wrong in making that assumption. We are introduced to many new characters and places that place larger roles in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In this novel we are introduced to the planet Dathomir (home to the witches of Dathomir and the Nightsisters). We meet Prince Isolder of the Hapan System and their similar but much more advanced matriarchal culture. Hapan Battle Dragons are war ships that can go toe to toe with Star Destroyers.
Isolder proposes marriage to Princess Leia. She seriously considers it. I don’t like Isolder at first but in the end he proves to be a pretty cool hero who ends up marrying the Dathomir witch Teneniel of the Singing Mountain Clan (Luke offers to train their future child as a Jedi). Han actually kidnaps Leia to prevent her from marrying Isolder and takes her to Dathomir (he won the planet gambling, he gives the deed to the witch Augwynne in the end). We see Isolder mature as a character. This novel is filled with true heroics concerning all the protagonists.

Luke spends time searching for lost Jedi records and finds some at the end of the story. The massive battle between Imperials, our small group of heroes, and the Nightsisters is epic. For the first time I get to experience the threat I've often heard, Chewbacca the Wookie rips someone’s arm off!
I enjoy the brief philosophical discussions of bloodlines and eugenics.

Prince Isolder has become one of my favorite non-movie characters (along with Kyp Durron, Corran Horn, Callista, Fenn Shysa, and the witches of Dathomir). 
Luke shows off his skills and there is no doubt by this point that he is a Jedi Knight, he is a warrior, fighting with both lightsaber and blaster. By this time his Jedi skills are becoming more refined and remarkable. It is clear he is one of the greatest Jedi of all time.

We briefly meet the witch Kirana Ti who will one day join Luke’s Jedi Academy, or Jedi Praexium. I definitely recommend this novel to Star Wars fans.

Nathan Neuharth

Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor Book Review

Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
author Matthew Stove
Book Review by Nathan Neuharth

Spoiler Alert!!!

The introduction, or first scene, in which Luke Skywalker hires Lorz Geptun to investigate the incident at Mindor is intriguing and creates a burning curiosity right off the bat. Lorz is a former CIS during the Clone Wars, a former Republic spy, a bounty hunter, a JS Investigator, and has a Force sensitive talent to feel things from items he touches.

One of my favorite moments in this novel is the appearance Tie Defenders, which are my favorite Imperial Starfighters. These Starfighters are as tough as nails and as cool as cucumbers!
Once again the continuity is spot on. If there are discrepancies they are minor and I haven’t noticed them. This is the first New Republic Era novel I’ve read that was written and published after the release of the prequel movie trilogy. It makes a difference, making for a richer history. An example is the stormtrooper Captain Klick who is an old clone trooper.

There are some gems in this novel such as all of Rogue Squadron, General Lando Calrissian, Fenn Shysa and the Mandalorians. This story is a punch in the face. It is non-stop action and adventure from start to finish. I love this novel! It takes on more science fiction by discussing physics, whereas most Star Wars leans more toward the genre of fantasy than science fiction. Holothrillers are the equivalent of movies and they are used as propaganda in this book, making perfect sense.

All the action and really the story is one long battle taking place on the small planet Mindor at the Inner Rim of the galaxy just off the Hydian Way. The characters personalities come out in fun and believable ways. General Luke Skywalker is in charge of the Rapid Response Task Force, a group assembled for lightning, covert attacks.

The primary antagonist is Black Hole aka Cronal, one of the Emperor’s Hands. He is controlling Force sensitive people with Moon Hats attempting to take over the galaxy and steal the body of first Luke and later Leia to be the ruler of the new Galactic Empire. The Prophets of the Dark Side make a brief appearance. Cronal believes in something called the Dark instead of the Force. It seems the Dark is really just the dark side of the Force with a different philosophical bend. A nihilistic, nothing matters, everything dies type belief.

It’s rad to see Chewbacca whooping Wookie butt aboard the Millennium Falcon, knocking heads together and using a man as a club to hit other men. Another moment that makes me smile is when R2-D2 thinks back to Anakin Skywalker making modifications to him during the Clone Wars.
Fans of Aleister Crowley will smile at Luke Skywalker’s revelation that everyone is a star. The question is asked but never answered, ‘What is on the other side of a black hole?’

Nick Rostu and Aeona Cantor are two roguish characters I hope to see more of. Aeona actually steals the millennium Falcon for a short time. Nick was freed from the Moon Hats by Luke. Aeona and Nick are lovers and adventurers.

Nathan Neuharth

Star Wars Truce at Bakura Book Review II

Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura
author Kathy Tyers
Book Review II by Nathan Neuharth

Spoiler Alert!!!
I’ve decided to take a step back chronologically and start with the first book of the New Republic Era of the Expanded Universe. I had started with this book review project with the Jedi Academy Trilogy simply because I wanted to see Jedi in action and I wanted to experience Luke’s new Jedi. The main reason for stepping back is to witness the events from Return of the Jedi up to the Thrawn Trilogy. I have high hopes for that trilogy. I’ve noticed many Star Wars fans refer to it as the un-filmed trilogy. I know it is the trilogy that launched the 1990s Star Wars novel renaissance, prior to the movie prequel trilogy. But some novels have been written since the movie prequel trilogy filling in some gaps with wonderful tales.

The only novels from the New Republic Era I’m not reading right now are the X-Wing Series. It is on my to do list, especially since I’ve taken up the hobby of collecting and playing the Star Wars X-wing Miniatures Game. I love it!
This novel begins the day after the movie Return of the Jedi ends. A fun place to begin and a perfect place to introduce the New Republic Era. Luke is the opening character, tired, taking his X-wing up to assist Captain Wedge Antilles, a great recurring character from all three of the original trilogy films. Luke has a vision of the Force ghost of Obi-wan Kenobi telling him to go to the planet Bakura.
The planet Bakura is being invaded by a hostile race of reptilian aliens called Ssi-ruuk (They have scent tongues in their nostrils, an interesting trait). The Ssi-ruuk are Force blind people who have enslaved a Force sensitive human named Dev to assist them in a process called entechment, which is a process of ripping the soul out of a life-form and putting that soul into a droid Starfighter. The body of the victim of entechment dies.

The former Rebel Alliance, now the New Republic for a day, receives a distress call from Imperials for military aid to the planet Bakura. The rebels know the Empire will not be responding and decided to answer the call to aid, sending Luke Skywalker leading a small fleet to the rescue. Some of the Imperials are Admiral Ivpikkis, Governor Wilek Nereus, and Ptar Thanas.

This novel is very easy to get quickly caught up in the story, I’m learning not to judge a book by its title. The same ends up being true for the another novel coming up chronologically, The Courtship of Princess Leia, which I’ve already read and will be writing the review of very soon.

At this point in the Star Wars Expanded Universe saga Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo are much more recognizable as far as their personalities go. They are still the characters from the films. As the novels progress the characters grow, change, and become more, as they should. The last novel I reviewed was the Crystal Star which is ten years after this novel. The Crystal Star takes place in the year 14 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin), this novel is 4 ABY. Han and Leia are not married yet. The friendship between Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker is clearly strong as well as Luke’s friendship with all of Rogue Squadron. I haven’t learned yet how Red Squadron becomes Rogue Squadron. Both Red and Gold Squadrons are present in the beginning of this novel.

Leia is struggling to accept the recent revelation that Darth Vader is her biological father. The Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker appears to her asking forgiveness and warning her that anger and fear lead to the dark side.

The truce is double. It is the temporary truce between the Bakuran Imperials and the New Republic and the later truce between a free Bakura and the New Republic. Bakura joins the New Republic in the end.

I was excited by the idea of the Ssi-ruuk slave Dev potentially becoming Luke’s apprentice. This doesn’t happen as Dev dies a heroes death. Luke also has a romantic/emotional fling with the Bakuran Senator Gaeriel Captison.

One moment that sticks out is how Luke deals with being poisoned with parasites. Very creepy, but it shows is developing talent wielding the Force.

Nathan Neuharth
Yes I accidentally reviewed this novel twice. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

And Jack Lovecraft had this to say...

Jack Lovecraft:

“What is an author? A maestro of words. Manipulating a reality made of thought with will power alone. A magician casting spells. Spelling. Influencing with symbols. Imagination. Like the ancient Brahman. How many worlds are inside of you? How many you's inside of you? It is an art or a craft? Does it sway? And limit? Can you think without words? Can you sigh at the end of the night under the moonlight? Are you awake when you dream?”


Star Wars Truce at Bakura Review

Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura
author Kathy Tyers
Book Review by Nathan Neuharth

Spoiler alert.

In this quest I've undertaken exploring the corporately defunct Extended Universe of Star Wars novels I've decided to back track a bit, keeping in mind there are so many books that make up the puzzle of this parallel universe I was not sure where to begin. The desire to read of the Jedi and the distaste of the disregard of the Extended Universe caused me to select only non-cannon books (after reading Aftermath, which was not bad). Hence I began with The Jedi Academy Trilogy set in the New Republic Era, and was not disappointed. I will likely read the cannon books when I finish the galactic apocrypha. I have tried to take a break and read other works, yet the pull of the Force is too strong right now. So I will continue to swim with the flow of the universe.

Getting back to it, working with Jack Lovecraft he suggested I step back chronologically to the first book of the New Republic Era; The Truce at Bakura. With the intent of experiencing the stories leading up to and the trilogy of Thrawn, the unsung trilogy of film, actually published in 1991. The Thrawn books of Timothy Zahn began the boom of the novels and a large culture of Star Wars renaissance. I am still excluding the X-wing series of this era for a later time. Although I am looking forward to that some time because I enjoy the characters of Corran Horn and Wedge Antilles and I'm playing the Star Wars X-wing Miniatures game.

The Truce at Bakura begins the day after the film Return of the Jedi ends with an exhausted Jedi Luke Skywalker taking a starfighter out to assist Wedge Antilles. Luke experiences the Force ghost of Obi-wan Kenobi telling him to go to Bakura. This is an Imperial planet requesting aid unanswered by the Empire to fight an invading alien race called the Ssi-ruuk who are enteching humans and P'wecks which means taking their souls and putting them into robot starfighters, killing the physical body.

I had my doubts about this novel but it was easy to get caught up in the story. A notable difference between this novel and later chronology is the core characters: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 are much more recognizable from the films. Their is a clear change in their personas as the novels progress. Han and Leia are not married with children at this point. We catch brief glimpses of Red, Gold, and Rogue Squadrons of the Rebel Alliance, now the New Republic.

On Bakura we see a young force sensitive slave of the Ssi-ruuk named Dev Sibwarra become Luke's first hope as a student for a new Jedi Order. Dev's mother had been a Jedi Padawan. Leia is coming to terms with the revelation that the Dark Lord of Sith, Darth Vader is her father. Vader's Force ghost appears to Leia warning her that fear and anger lead to the dark side of the Force. He asks her forgiveness. We see Luke figure out how to use the Force to deal with parasites. And Luke's first (second?) crush on a coming of age and into rebellion noble of Bakura named Gaeriel Captison. The Imperials of Bakura have an interesting military leader named Admiral Ivpikkis.

This is the story of two truces. The truce with the Imperial rulers of Bakura and the truce of the rebels of Bakura who take the planet back with the help of the heroes. Bakura joins the New Republic. It is the high adventure of Star Wars.

Nathan Neuharth

Friday, July 15, 2016

Star Wars The Crystal Star Review

Star Wars: The Crystal Star
author Vonda N. McIntyre
Book Review by Nathan Neuharth

This is the next novel chronologically taking place during the New Republic Era of the Lucas Star Wars Extended Universe (I began this fantastic quest with the Jedi Academy Trilogy).  The story opens with the children of Han and Leia kidnapped and Chewbacca wounded from a pressure bomb.  Chewie was guarding them on the planet Munto Codru while Leia was participating in diplomatic proceedings.  This was a cultural tradition of the people of Munto Codru, to kidnap for ransom, but Leia felt someone using the dark side of the Force was guilty of the kidnapping and not necessarily a native of this world.  Leia is a major player in the story as well as Jaina Solo, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker.

Luke, Han, and C-3PO take the Millennium Falcon to a former Imperial space station called Crseih Station which is located near a black hole and a star that is cooling, dying, and crystallizing.  The space station is under heavy radiation assault and is a mobile station as well.  They are going there in search of rumored lost Jedi.

It’s a fast paced enjoyable story.  I like the Ghostling alien species, this is the first I’ve come across them.  On Crseih Station Han Solo comes into contact with an ex-girlfriend named Xaverri from his smuggling days.  Luke acts sick with odd behavior, having trouble feeling the Force.  Meanwhile, Leia, R2-D2, and Chewbacca take her ship the Alderaan in search of her missing children.

On Crseih Station there is a strange golden alien named Waru that heals and sometimes secretly kills people.  It turns out this being if not from the Star Wars galaxy.  The Solo children were kidnapped by Hethrir, a dark Jedi trained by Darth Vader.  His title with the Empire was Procurator of Justice.  He is now a slaver, he kidnaps children and sells them into slavery.  He wants to give Anakin Solo to Waru in exchange for Waru granting Hethrir omnipotence.  He seeks what he calls the Empire Reborn.

A young character named Tigris is the son of Hethrir and Rillao (who was also trained by Vader but rejected the dark side).  Tigris does not know who his parents are and Hethrir is disgusted because Tigris is not force sensitive.

The author succeeds in capturing the spirit of the Star Wars mythology.  The trials and tribulations of the core Star Wars characters are never ending.  They get no rest.  They are destined to belong to the galaxy as guardians and protectors.  In the novels it is common for their individual adventures to bring them together.  Reading these novels is about a love of the characters and mythos.  It is soft science fiction and high level epic fantasy adventure.  Normally fast paced and swashbuckling.  There is quite clearly something archetypal about these mythos that touches something in many people’s unconscious minds.
Nathan Neuharth

Green River Killer Review

The Search for the Green River Killer
authors Carlton Smith & Tomas Guillen
2004 Edition, 1st printing 1991
Book Review by Nathan Neuharth


I purchased this book at a used book store in the true crime section last year when I was exploring what seemed uncanny links between the Manson Family, the Son of Sam, and the Zodiac Killer.  The books I read at that time were the Family, Helter Skelter, Shadow over Santa Susana, the Ultimate Evil, and the Zodiac.  All very scary stuff.  I don’t normally read true crime books and vaguely knew of the Green River Killer so I thought it was worth a shot to see if the unruly coincidences touched this serial killer too.  It’s very comforting to report I found no links.  Gitchie Girl was an exception as far as reading true crime goes simply because it was near my home, a local urban legend.

The book begins with the nude corpse of a young woman being found in the Green River in Washington state August 12, 1982.

The Green River Killer eventually confessed to 48 murders of prostitutes, but admits he lost count.  It is suspected he killed more. 

The writing style of the authors is well written and easy to read.  It is told like a mystery story and very detailed as to the victims, witnesses, persons of interest, police, and police procedures.

I wonder how many serial killers are out there that have never been captured or even suspected.  What brings a person to become a serial killer?  I’m no expert but I would guess extreme spiritual, mental, and emotional dysfunction.  They are broken, weak people, struggling to function in society.  These are my surface thoughts.  Being a serial killer also requires a lack of empathy toward others.  Serial killers are evil by the measure of my ethical system.

Sexual crimes, men preying on women or whomever preying on whoever is a sign of utter, despicable weakness.  Men with no courage, no virtue.  Serial killers disgust me.  The Green River Killer disgusts me.

In this book we get to know the detectives, victims, and suspects more than anyone because the Green River Killer was not captured until 2001.  The reason for this was not because he was a genius, his IQ is 82, meaning he is borderline mental retardation.  The reason he got away with his crimes so long is because of police politics and police investigation mistakes.  The media and public bare some responsibility because it seems people weren’t as concerned about catching the killer because the victims were all prostitutes.
Nathan Neuharth