Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Star Wars Heir to the Empire Review

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
author Timothy Zahn
1991
review by Nathnan Neuharth

9 ABY



I'm very excited to get started on the Thrawn Trilogy! Star Wars was dying off in the late 1980s. This novel brought the franchise back to life. I read the 20th Anniversary Edition. I enjoyed reading the comments in the margins. Very entertaining.  It also includes a short novella at the end called Crisis of Faith by Zahn showing Thrawn's shining military genius.

Zahn has created so many new, interesting, long lasting characters in the novel, opening the door to an entire new view of the galaxy. He succeeds in bringing out the personalities of the characters from the movies and makes them seem like believable people. We meet Imperial Captain Pallaeon. He is in awe of this new Grand Admiral's ways and learning from him. Winter, a servant of Leia, from Alderaan. The Grand Admiral Thrawn an alien Chiss who has returned from the Unknown Regions with blue skin and red glowing eyes. A genius military tactician, he studies the art of alien cultures to understand them. He is always calm, cool, collected, observant, and one step ahead of everyone else. We meet the mad Jedi clone Joruus C'Boath. He was one of six Jedi from something called the Outbound Flight Project. I am tempted to step out of the chronological order again and read the Outbound Flight novel by Timothy Zahn. Borsk Fey'lya is power hungry Bothan politician who wants Admiral Ackbar out of the political and military picture.

The alien Noghri are short, fierce, gray skinned warriors loyal to Darth Vader, being used by Thrawn to hunt the Skywalker twins, Luke and Leia. The Ysalamri are lizards that attach themselves to a tree branch and dampen the Force in a sphere around them. They are indigenous to the planet Myrkr (the base of operations of Talon Karrde).


We also meet Mara Jade, the red haired beauty who once served as the Emperor's Hand but now works for the quick witted, sharp smuggler Talon Karrde. Mara hates Luke Skywalker. Wedge Antilles is the leader of Rogue Squadron. Both become major, pivotal characters in the Expanded Universe.

Leia is pregnant with twins. She has been doing a little Jedi training exercises Luke taught her and has a lightsaber now. Chewbacca takes her to his home planet of Kashyyk to hide and protect her from kidnapping attempts by the Noghri. The Noghri call Leia, Lady Vader, and one of them agrees to let her come and meet them alone on their world.

Luke barely escapes Thrawn and the Star Destroyer Chimaera only to be captured by Talon Karrde and Mara Jade. They all fight to escape Thrawn. A cool point is when we get to see Space Troopers in action. It is a classic. It is well written. It pumped life back into Star Wars. All the major film characters are present and likable: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C3-PO, Wedge Antilles, Mon Motha, and Admiral Ackbar.

Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Star Wars Tattooine Ghost Review

Star Wars: Tattooine Ghost
author Troy Denning
2003
Review by Nathan Neuharth

8.5 ABY


Leia has a Force vision aboard the Millennium Falcon that reminds her of the vision she had five years ago on the planet Bakura of her father Anakin Skywalker bringing warnings of the dark side and asking forgiveness. She is looking at the twin suns of the Tatoo System when it happens. She and Han Solo are newly weds, married just six months. Chewbacca and C3-P0 are aboard the modified freighter as well.

Commander Gilad Pellaeon of the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera is apparently in command of the Empire now and seems to be more formidable than the bickering Imperial warlords and seems to be making the first steps to bring the Empire back to power, but he is still a mystery at this point. This is foreshadowing for the next novel in chronological order with the rise of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

The purpose of the trip to the desert world of dual stars is to obtain a piece of artwork that survived the destruction of Alderaan. It is called Killik Twilight and will be auctioned in Mos Espa. The painting is made of living vegetation and contains a secret cipher for rebel codes that they do not want the Empire to learn of. It is called the Shadowcast Code. (This is the second novel I've read that was published after the Prequel Trilogy was released. I've taken a count and there are 150 now non-canon books or what Disney now calls Legends. I own a 130 so far in this galactic quest. However many book reviews is the number of novels I've read to date.)

Leia and Han flirt enough to annoy Chewbacca. Han has a speeder bike on the Millennium Falcon. At the auction they end up with a holocube recording of Anakin Skywalker as a child having just won the Boonta Eve Classic. The first human to do so. It is owned by his childhood friend, Kitster Banai. The entire novel is a race across Tattooine to retrieve the painting from Kitster. That is the action of the novel, but the meat of the story is Leia learning of her heritage. Seeing Anakin Skywalker through the eyes of others before his fall to the dark side, before he became the evil Darth Vader. She meets the Rodian Wald who was friends with Anakin and she ends up with a data pad holo journal of her grandmother Shmi Skywalker. Luke only puts in a brief appearance in this story. The also stay a night at the Darklighter moisture farm, which used to belong to Owen and Beru Lars. Owen was Shmi's stepson. Cliegg Lars is the man who freed Shmi from the Toydarian junk seller Watto.


During all the survival in the desert heat they end up working with a group of small, witty, mischievous furry aliens called Squibs. It is a coming of age story for Leia Organa Solo. She pays a visit to the former home of Obi-wan Kenobi and to the Tuskan Raider village where Anakin Skywalker killed all the villagers to avenge the torturous death of his mother.

Leia has been afraid of having children because she doesn't want them to follow the path of Anakin Skywalker. Han Solo had agreed to this when they married, but now wants children. The novel ends with the successful retrieval of the artwork and Leia Organa Solo agreeing to have children with Han.

Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Star Wars The Courtship of Princess Leia Book Review

Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia
author Dave Wolverton
1994
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.

Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor Book Review

Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
author Matthew Stove
2008
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.


Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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Star Wars Truce at Bakura Book Review II

Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura
author Kathy Tyers
1994
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.

Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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P.S.
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
1994
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.

Sincerely,
Nathan Neuharth

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