Monday, May 26, 2008

Trippin' Down Memory Lane

Well, I had a busy weekend.

Rather than getting to use my preferred method of dealing with vacation time (which involves me lounging around the house) I left town, and went back to Pensacola. The prime reason for the timing of this trip was the marriage of one of my good friends, and a former Corps Cadet that I at one time taught. If you don't know what a Corps Cadet is, that's all right. Corps Cadets is basically a young adult education program at the Salvation Army.

Anyways, Abyss (as he's known on the net) got himself hitched at one of the historic churches in the Pensacola area.

Which means that I didn't take my two boys. After all, I don't see the intelligence in letting 2 youngsters destroy a 175 year old church. My pocketbook couldn't afford it.

Anyways, the trip was quite nostalgic (and yes, that is a real street in Pensacola). I got to saw a number of folks that I went to church with back in the day, as well as a visit to my old place of employment.

There wasn't a whole lot of SF involved in the weekend, but I did purchase my very own copy of Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I had initially checked this novel out of the library, and subsequently enjoyed it so much that I then purchased its two sequels.

Well, I was re-reading the sequels, when I realized that I had yet to get the first one so I could re-read it as well. So, this trip I had a great reason, as I only took a single novel (Noami Novik's His Majesty's Dragon) and I had that finished by Sunday morning.

In other fun news, an up-coming cover of Teen Titans is definitely not aimed at the teen market. At least not directly--as I personally find it not obscene enough to count as porn, but too pornographic to count as all-age appropriate material.

I mean, there's tongue action going on there. Tongue-action! You rarely see tongue action even on the television screen.

It's not necessarily a bad precedent that this is setting, but it's a bad image for all of us comic-book geeks. We get enough odd and "knowing" looks without this type of covers being at the forefront of what passes off as mainstream comics.

This isn't some little indie comic company, this is DC--one of the two most powerful icons in the industry.

All that aside, there is a great number of really fun things going on these past few days.

The first, for me personally, is that I've found out that there will be a Jackson Comicon this year.
On July 19th and 20th at the Regency Hotel and Convention Center; admission will only be a one dollar. Geeks can't beat that. A con at a decent price; especially with the cost of gas these days.

Other great news, is that Simon Haynes is now allowing anyone to download the first novel in his Hal Spacejock series. Go here and get it, you'll be happy that you did.

And speaking of novels, the web store front has a good number of the Star Wars novels as eBooks (available as PDF, LIT and PDB files). Sadly, they have Digital Rights Management (DRM) on their eBooks; which as everyone knows (or should) DRM merely punishes those users who actually go about and purchase licenses to the "protected" media. Alas, and here I had hoped for at least a worthy ebook store.

Compare this nonsense with Cory Doctorow who offers his novels unfettered with DRM, or even Simon Haynes (linked above) gives you a straight text file of his novel. Now that's caring about your users.

My last bit of news is that I've finally found a media player which allows for screen shot generation during playback. The XUL Player provides this as a standard feature for their software.

So, now that that is EASY again, hopefully I'll be able to start back up with episodic blogging of the anime that I'm watching. Hey, I'm geeky that way.

Now, I just need to find a tool to yank out the subtitles from MKV files, for when I recompile them for replaying on my Zune. Ah, hassles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: Invincible

So, another long, drawn-out, multi-novel Star Wars event has come to a close. With the release of Star Wars Invincible (ISBN: 978-0-345-47746-0) by Troy Denning, the nine-part Legacy of the Force series is officially over. At 299 pages, this is the shortest novel in the LotF imprint, and there are not that many books that are shorter. In fact the only one that springs to mind is the A New Hope novelization which clocks in at about 260 pages in my hardcover format. Why is this so important? Mainly because I just dropped $27 on this book. That's dinner out--and not just for me, but for me, the wife and both of my kids, and if I go to Chick-fil-a I'd get change back.

Just for the record, I am not going to be discussing LotF as a whole, nor am I going to be discussing the successes or failures of this novel as the end-cap to that series. I'm leaving those discussions for my planned review of LotF. This review will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of this novel alone.

So, with that out of the way, let's move to the plot! As in all of Denning's novels, the plot reads like a mixture of a movie and a video game script. There are defined arcs, with the action jumping back and forth at more or less random points as we swing from one portion of the galaxy to another in an effort to keep the plot plodding along. Fundamentally, there's not anything wrong with the plot, it's a typical, action-adventure plot, built with the standard three-act play style of most movies. As I said, there's nothing WRONG with this plot, outside of the fact that it's somewhat forgettable.

Waking myself up from thoughts on the plot, I'll focus on the characters. Since this is a Star Wars novel produced by Del Rey we had a relative close knit cast. Ben and Luke Skywalker, Jacen, Jaina, Han and Leia Solo, and then the rest of the EU. I still fondly remember when characters without the last name of Solo or Skywalker would feature predominately in the storyline. But back on topic; what we get is the Jedi, the Sith, and the odd cameo by Boba Fett, Mirta and Jag. Unsuprisingly, the Boba and Mirta that we see here are not the saintly, unstoppable Mandalorians which we had read about in Revelation. Additionally, the Jaina we read here is not the awe-struck, Mando's are awesome girl-child that was in Revelation, but rather the more war-weary woman that appeared in Betrayal. And of course, the Ben we read is yet again divergent--his man-love for Shevu and Lekauf has been toned down a bit, and he can actually go a whole scene or two without thinking about Lekauf; and amazingly enough, he is able to be a Jedi without the need to second-guess his Force abilities.

Yet, these shifts in characters aside, within the context of this novel, the cast's characterizations stay the same, or the evolve naturally from the events within the novel. Speaking of evolving, we do get to see Tahiri here. While we still don't get into her head in the same fashion as we get into Ben's or Jaina's (who are the POV characters when she's on screen), what we do see is not as overtly outside of the realm of possible end points for her character from the NJO as the Tahiri we have been seeing.

What did disturb me somewhat was the obscene over-powering of the Jedi. It's long been something which the authors have struggled against, and for simplicities sake we'll call it the Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) factor. DBZ, and by extension most other fighting-based anime, have a formula they follow: the character is strong, gets beaten, comes back stronger, only to find out there's another bad guy who's even stronger coming so the whole process can be repeated. Bantam-era EU suffered this badly, culminating in the fact that the authors would go out of their way to injure Luke so that he wouldn't be able to draw upon the full range of his Force powers. At the end of the Bantam-era, Zahn went through the trouble of effectively de-powering Luke, a de-powering which lasted throughout the NJO, and that has effectively been undone by the Dark Nest trilogy and LotF. What's sadder is that it's a fact that has now been applied to the rest of the Jedi. This is bad for story telling purposes because we are left with only two possible choices for compelling stories: a bad guy stronger than Luke and the Council combined, or Luke and the Council getting beat down so they can't use the full range of their powers.

Of course, the pessimist in me fears that we'll just get stories which features the Jedi making consistently stupid decisions, or angsting in indecision.

Switching modes quickly before my pessimism wins out, the continuity of this book (outside of the continuity of characterizations) is nigh upon spotless. I don't remember a single continuity flub--which is a rare thing these days. Additionally, the editing worked well as I only remember a single mistake in the novel (look for a blue lightsaber, where there should be a green one). My one complaint on the physical product would have to be the cover. I'm still trying to figure out just how Jaina is supposed to contort her body into that particular pose. What I do find amazing is the fact that, unlike her brother's appearances (especially on the Betrayal cover), Jaina looks like an older version of the Jaina on most of the NJO covers that she appeared on.

Now, we get to the fun part; the theme.

Much like the previous Denning novel I failed to find one. This was space-opera at its best. It neither took itself seriously, nor implied that we should. Oh, I'm sure someone more post-modern than me could wring some concept on how the title factors into Jacen's beliefs about himself, or the Jedi Council's actions or just something. For me, a good yarn without any deep, hidden meanings is good. Especially after the less-than deeply hidden meanings I read in the previous Star Wars novel.

What disturbed me the most about this book was how all off the left-over, dangling Legacy of the Force threads were tied up. All of those things which the first four and a half books were focused on, and which were more or less ignored in the past three, were brought to a close here. Miserably and rather perfunctorily, but they were closed. Yet, that's a discussion for the LotF review--what's important for this book is that Denning does close the threads. And truthfully, I came into this novel fully expecting them to not be addressed at all.

What does all that mean? Basically-I liked this novel as a stand alone story. Its failings are how it ties into LotF as an overarching storyline, and its reliance on uber-powered Jedi (which leads us to DBZ). The first issue is reflected in the fact that there's not a lot of back-story to set things up. We're dropped more or less into the story at full run, which means that for a reader who hasn't read Revelation, it might be hard to to catch up on what's happening. This hit-the-ground-running thing is coupled with the less than stellar way to resolve all the hanging threads. The second issue is defined above and I don't feel the need to go over it again. The good thing is that those issues can be overcome--and they are.

While the plot isn't the best, it's a fun enough read to take your mind off of the issues I stumbled across. In the end, it's an average book. It's not stellar, and I'd have rather paid the paperback price of $8 rather than the hardback price of $27, but I still enjoyed reading it--which in the end is really all that matters. I'm giving this a score of 2.8 out of 4.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday, Monday Everywhere....

Yes, another weekend has stumbled past, and I'm in full on geek mode. First, I'm hoping to see the Death Note live action movie this Wednesday evening. That looks sooo cool.

Next, one of my bosses at work pointed this little gem of awesomeness my direction. It's a sweet video of the R2-D2 A/V projector. Appropriate drooling needs to be inserted here. A quick peek over at reveals that it's running right a $3000, an awesome price for one of these things, as a standard A/V projector with all the inputs this thing has would be between $2000 and $2500.

But speaking of merchandising and things that I would buy, I need to talk about my collection. I love my Star Wars, and if I could, I would buy every item that every had a Star Wars logo slapped onto its side. I'd go silly over the Star Wars Droid soap dispensers from Japan.

I mean, how cool are those things?

Anyways, the things that I focused the most (at least for myself--I'll buy my kids the Galactic Heroes figures and regular action figures till the cows come home) are the statuettes and Lego sets. While my tendency has been to only purchase Star Wars items, loving happily on my Unleashed series (I'm still sad that they are no longer creating the large version of those figures).

Yet, I found something NEW to love on, and something else which I must struggle against the almost instinctive urge of an otaku to purchase items. What this new thing for me is the simple fact that the Japanese love their statuettes. And that they create statuettes our of all these animes that I adore. The three below are from Macross, Kanon and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Like I said, it's something new for me to fight against the urge to purchase at random. Oh well.

The final thing I did this weekend was that I took my son to see Speed Racer on Saturday afternoon. Despite the bad reviews this thing is getting, both me and my son loved it.

Sure, it's bright, colorful, stylized, and filled with pretty people, but let's remember something here: it's based on an anime. They're bright, colorful, stylized and filled with pretty people.

Of course it was nearly as much fun to watch my son as he watched the movie. He'd jump and bounce as the crowds in the movie jumped and screamed for Speed Racer, and he'd gasp and be appropriate shocked in all the right spots.

Speaking of my son, this morning he pulled out all of his Galactic Heroes and was playing with them. There he was, sitting on the rug in the living room, surrounded by all of the Galactic Heroes figures, and methodically picking through them to pull out all the Stormtroopers.
My wife came in, and asked what he was doing, and he replied, "I'm getting the Stormtroopers."

The long-suffering wife, nodded her head, and pointed at one of the figures. "Well, there's one."

My son looked at the pointed to figure, and then theaterically sighed. "Mommy," he says, his voice pained and filled with the same tones that I use when dealing with someone I feel should know something. "That's a Snowtrooper, not a Stormtrooper."

My wife looked around, and then pointed towards another figure; this time the AT-AT pilot. "Well, what about that one?"

My son looked at it, and shook his head, before saying, "That's not a Stormtrooper either."

By this point, my wife was confused, because she doesn't know the fact that AT-AT pilots are Imperial Army while Stormtroopers are members of the Stormtrooper Corps. Regardless, she was not to be outdone by our precocious five-year old. So, spying two Stormtroopers, in full Stormtrooper armor, she watched as he pushed past them, not once, but twice.

Finally, she pointed them out to our son.

He looked down at them for a moment, and then gave another of those long-suffering sighs as he shook his head slightly. Lifting his eyes towards my wife, he then said, "But Mommy, those are good guys. You can take off their helmets."

At this point, my beloved wife gave up and came into the bedroom where I was hiding during this exchange. She stared at me for a few moments, and then declared, "Well, I hope you're happy now?"

"Happy?" I queried innocently.

"Yes," she replied. "All I wanted was a boy that was into sports and cowboys and things like that. But is that what I get? Nooo! I hope that you get the card, or the special handshake or whatever it is you get for raising yet another SciFi fanatic."

How can one not laugh at that?

So, without further ado, I present to myself, the Baby Vader Award for Raising Another Geek.So, does anyone else have any stories where their significant other gave up any hope of having a socially normal child, and finally accepted the overwhelming fact that you've brought yet another geek into the world?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can SF scare you?

It's not often that a book can scare me. It's not. Consider, I was reading Stephen King in the fourth grade.

I found his books mildly amusing.

Horror movies were a staple growing up. It's just not in me to be scared of the things most folks are. Oh, sure, I can be shocked or startled by sudden onslaught of sound and light, but scared? That's hard for me. I don't get that rush of adrenaline, that understated fear that I've felt in the past when I have been scared.

For the record, the last time I had felt that was when my first son was being born and the doctors discovered that he had had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times.

Tonight, I finished a SF novel that scared me. It left me feeling paranoid and suffering under that intense fight-or-flight syndrome one gets when confronted by things that scare you.

Which book might that be?

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

This is a novel that combines technology with common, daily events, and then shove them out until you reach their ultimate conclusion. The fact that Big Brother is watching you. Using everything from wifi sniffing to Bayesian statistics, Mr. Doctorow spins a story about the DHS and its crackdown on the civil rights, all in the name of security, in the setting of San Fransisco.

What is sad, is that I can so see this happening.

Maybe it's because that I knew all the technology he discussed, and the small bits he created I could see how they are logical extensions of existing tech. Maybe it's because a large part of my job is sorting through datasets, and creating algorithms to help people do tasks. In fact one project I worked in the past on required that I track where every login came from, passing authentication information back and forth transparently to the user.

I must be afraid because I can see it happening today.

The closest I've ever come to this feeling before was after reading the novel Dark Rivers of the Heart (0-553-58289-5). That particular novel teaches much the same story, with a focus on how our Congress has taken a liking to writing laws which they are exempt from. For example the drug search and seizure laws, and of course the various perks they give themselves such as free tax filings (for more, see this fun Time article).

Regardless, read the book. Become scared with me.

And remember these two quotes:

Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
That was from the Declaration of Independence. This one is from Ben Franklin:
He who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yet Another Monday!

Yes, it is that time of the week again. Time for me to pull out all the stops and pretend that I'm not vegging on the couch this evening. Aw, who am I kidding, I have two small children; there's no vegging until after they're both in bed.

That said, I've found my newest vegging thing--as well as a great mashup between LOLCATS and Star Wars. Let me introduce you to ICANHASFORCE.

I've not looked through their entire back library of images, but of the few I have taken a peek at, that has got to be my favorite. I quite literally laughed aloud at it.

Well, with my own amusement out of the way, I also went to see Iron Man since I last made a post (an activity I need to get back on top of--posting that is, not going to see Iron Man). Frankly, I was blown away. It was an awesome movie, long, but utterly and totally awesome.

Also on the movie front, I've promised my eldest that I would take him to see Speed Racer. I can honestly admit to wanting to see this as well, despite the low box office take that it's currently reporting. Additionally, TheAnimeBlog's Rachel seemed to enjoy it, and I've noticed from previous reviews that that's a fairly good indicator of decent geek-love in an entertainment option.

But speaking of anime, I am watching them still. My current list of things to watch are:

  • Macross Frontier
  • Code Geass R2
  • Soul Eater
  • Toshokan Sensou
  • Zettai Karen Children
  • Nabari no Ou
  • Vampire Knight
  • Wagaya no Oinarisama
  • RD Sennou Chousashitsu
Which is a lot of anime. Not that I'm complaining mind you. Anyways, top that watch list with kids and work, and one can hazard a reason why episodic blogging has...suffered this season. That said, I'd still like to do it and I may start again in the next few days. Additionally, if anyone knows of any good, free, media player which natively takes screen captures, then please, send a comment or an email or something my way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Review: Revelation

This review is about book eight of the nine-part Legacy of the Force (LotF) series, entitled Revelation (ISBN: 9780345477576). It was written by Karen Traviss and clocked in at 410 pages. A wonderful length for a novel, especially one that is the penultimate issue of a multi-year, multi-novel story such as LotF. While I enjoyed this novel, there were definitely some things that it contained that gave me pause, and required that I re-read the book multiple times.

During this savage civil war, all efforts to end Jacen Solo's tyranny of the Galactic Alliance have failed. Now, with JAcen approaching the height of his dark powers, no one--not even the Solos and the Skywalkers--knows if anything can stop the Sith Lord before his plan to save the galaxy ends up destroying it.

Jacen Solo's shadow of influence has threatened many, especially those closest to him, Jaina Solo is determined to bring her brother in, but in order to track him down, she must first learn unfamiliar skills from a man she finds ruthless, repellent, and dangerous. Meanwhile, Ben Skywalker, still haunted by suspicions that Jacen killed his mother, Mara, decides he must know the truth, even if it costs him his life. And as Luke Skywalker contemplates once unthinkable strategies to dethrone his nephew, the hour of reckoning for those on both sides draws near. The galaxy becomes a battlefield where all must face their true nature and darkest secrets, and live--or die-- with the consequences.
Besides the first sentence of this blurb, it all amazingly matches up to the story that I actually read. That's an amazing feat especially after the blurb for Fury.

The plot revolves itself into three distinct components: Jaina and the Mandalorians, Police Officer Ben and Dictator-for-life Jacen. For a majority of the novel the three plot lines remain blissfully ignorant of one another, and as a compromise between Bloodlines' tie-all-the-plots-together-at-the-end, and Sacrifice's none-of-the-plots-shall-meet, two of the three combine at the end. Frankly, things like that are something of a large stumbling block for me. Yes, all three plots are resolved, but it just doesn't feel right for everything to not tie up into a single nice little package by the end of the book--but maybe that's just me.

Additionally, while the training plot line is an interesting exercise, I am left wondering why tells her this in so many words) in order to stop this latest in a long line of Sith? Additionally, the ? Being a good Jedi was good enough to redeem Kyp, Luke and Vader, as well as destroy Desaan, the Emperor reborn (twice!), Lomi, Welk, Brakiss and his entire Shadow Academy, stop Raynar and that's just the antagonists that I could remember right off the top of my head. Why is being a good Jedi suddenly not enough to stop Jacen? Sure, Jaina has spent many novels doing the whole emo-angst things over her boy toys, and obscene amounts of time in the flight simulator, but she's supposedly over that and now has the time to dedicate to becoming a stronger Jedi Knight. Why is it so important to stop being a Jedi (and BobaMando's are teaching her an "Ends Justify the Means" approach to doing things. They flat out tell her that she can worry about the state of her soul after she's stopped the bad guy--isn't doing just that what got Jacen where he's at? Yet that's neither here nor there at this point: we'll have to have the entire LotF in our hands before we'll be able to say if that was a good or bad story decision or not.

But with discussion on the plot out of the way, let's talk characters. As is usual for a Traviss novel, we have a number of tight POV characters which allows us to find out an extreme number of details about what the POV character is thinking and feeling, while ignoring the motives of everyone else that pops up in the story. Personally, I prefer a single POV if an author is going to go in so deep, and if so, I'd rather it be in First-Person--but again, that's just me. Back on topic, here we do get a decent number of characters to bounce between. These are Jacen, Boba, Jaina, Ben, Pallaeon and Niathal. Sadly, the voice which she worked so hard to actually get right in Sacrifice suffered slightly here. I felt that there were effectively four POV characters with these being: generic Jedi, Sith, military/political person and Boba Fett.

While most of their individual actions are fairly consistent with previous incarnations, we do get one major change in characterization: Jaina Solo. She acts so in awe of the Mandos and their culture that I even noticed it while reading under the influence of pain medication after dental surgery. In fact this meek, awe-filled Jaina is what caught me so off guard that I felt the need to re-read this novel not just one extra time, but twice. I found it infinitely odd that she acted so... amazed by the Mando tactics, despite the fact that she's a nearly thirty year old Jedi, who had fought the Yuuzhan Vong in one-on-one situations multiple times. Let's make this quite clear: she fought Vong, she created and engineered techniques and devices for the sole purpose of tricking the Vong and fighting them better; yet she is in awe that Bevin can turn off his emotions and swing a shaft of metal at her. I know it's been a bit over a decade since the Vong War for her--but she shouldn't have forgotten everything she learned in the interim; that's just silly.

And speaking of silly, I've got to continue pointing out the utter idiocy of choosing Tahiri as Jacen's replacement for Ben. I know I've harped on this over the past few books, yet she continues to act out of character, and happily doing Jacen's bidding. A far cry from the Tahiri that was found in the second half of the NJO and in the Dark Nest Trilogy. In my opinion, this is not Karen's fault per se, as she didn't "create" the scenario, and what she has written is a logical extrapolation based upon Tahiri's recent character... development from Inferno and Fury. I just don't like where things are going for her, and wish at least one of the POV characters was her so that we could get a decent handle on what the character is thinking.

My digression aside, as is usual for Traviss' novel, the Mandalorians have a large part to play. Unlike her earlier entries, we now have a reason for at least some of their appearance. Yet despite the fact that said reason has been supplied, it's still not a fully-thought out or well defined reason. The Mandos are there for the sole purpose of training Jaina Solo and providing yet another Prequel tie-in with a Jedi killing a family member of Boba Fett. This whole reliance of plots from the Prequels has been one of my major complaints about LotF and this falls happily into that category of needless prequel nods. Additionally, large portions of the Boba Fett storyline just don't need to be there, and once again affect the ways that people view Star Wars. Especially with all the discussions in the past few years about how Star Wars is not a story vehicle that is designed to bring dead people back to life. An oddly ironic statement to make in Boba Fett's storyline, but the fundamental thing here is that we get yet another resurrection in LotF; frankly I've lost count (so much for resurrections causing Star Wars to "jump the shark").

Yet, the undead aside, the characterization in terms of this book are fine. Sure, there were constant drops in characterization, and one or two times when the POV got confusing, but it's not nearly as bad as what was produced in Bloodlines.

Now for the theme. The title, Revelation, ties into the Jedi learning for certain that Jacen has become a Sith Lord. Something that should have been painfully obvious after he decided to burn the Wookiee's home world. Yet reading deeper into the subtext of the novel, I got the feeling that more than that is trying to be revealed here. Frankly, there are certain things that when one reads the text, become startlingly self-evident (at least in view of the text):
  • Mandalorians are the best at everything
  • Jedi are evil Fundamentalists!

How can I claim this? Let's look at things one point at a time.

First up is the Mandalorians. Most of our interactions with the Mandos are through Jaina Solo, our erstwhile Jedi Knight. Our first glimpse at the awesomeness of the Mando is the fact that she's there at all. In the words of the text, Boba Fett has hunted down and killed more Jedi than any one else alive. Aurra Sing aside, once Jaina arrives at Mandalore, she spends the rest of the novel in her 'awe' mode; letting us know just how great and wonderful every action a Mando takes is. A Mando can indiscriminately beat Jaina Solo with a stick, why? Because he's a Mando! A Mando can take a Jedi in a fight, why? Because she's a Mando!

Now, I know that the Mandalorians are Karen Traviss' pet characters (one would have to not read this book to find out that fact), yet at some point, one must step back and say, "hey, that's enough; the Jedi are supposed to be the good guys here." Someone needs to be reminded that the current crop of Jedi spent YEARS fighting against an enemy that didn't exist in the Force, who used melee weapons, and constantly used weapons which stopped lightsabers and blasters. None of this stuff is new to Jedi, yet if this were the first EU novel someone read, you'd never know that certain Jedi have extensive experience with amphistaffs and Vonduun crab armor.

Speaking of Jedi, on the 'evil' side of the "who rocks your world" equation is where we find them. Now, the text is as clear on the fact that the Jedi are not good, as it is clear that the Mandalorians rock. Outside of Jaina's awe, this is subtly handled especially in the Ben-as-cop plot. For the relevant text, we head over to page 42 of the book:
--but at that moment it made him realize that Dad would want Shevu to help, to be a spy in Jacen's inner circle. And Shevu would agree to it, because he couldn't get justice from the GA for the foreseeable future, and he was too decent and honest to turn to the Confederation.
Notice how staying with the GA is the decent and honest thing to do; now think back to what the Jedi did a few novels ago. Namely fled the GA, and are working closely with the Confederation. Yet, it gets better from there. We also get Pellaeon and Boba Fett at different times discussing how bad Jedi are at leading things--and both basically state that the Jedi are a religion that needs to be closed off and done away with. In fact, one Mando-ex-Jedi (I wonder if he'd be considered a Sith) goes so far as to state that the only thing that can save a Force user from basically becoming a blight on civilization (unlike, say... a Mandalorian) is rigid self-control by way of not using the Force at all.

The point is that the Jedi are being consistently compared to bad things. This is done in both a subtle manner (such as the quote above) as well as flat-out dialogue from Boba Fett and others. All of which adds up to a single revelation that the Jedi are not good for the galaxy, and are definitely not as good as the saintly Mandalorians. Additionally, these two forces are in direct competition with one another. You can either be a saintly Mandalorian (i.e. a good guy) or a Force-forsaken Jedi (or Sith, as they're just "fallen" Jedi). Which is the whole point of Jaina's training--she's becoming something else. Something that's not a Jedi. Something good enough to defeat Jacen, because you know, a Jedi just can't cut it.

Continuing on, I'm just going to ignore the continuity errors that are sprinkled throughout this novel--most are minor things, but they're odd. First, and most odd, there are some contradictions even within the text of the story (check on how often Jacen thinks about Jaina, look specifically at pages 154 & 325). Then there is the fact that when the author describes things that happened in Sacrifice those things do not always square up perfectly with the actual narrative--and we're talking major events like the whole climatic battle involving Jacen. Though that could be chalked up to unreliable narrators. That said, it's one thing to forget a factoid from a Marvel Comic that was published in 1981, it's an entirely different thing to forget a prime action scene in the author's own previous novel.

Let's be clear about something here though: I enjoyed this book.

I thought it was a decent read, and would have absolutely no complaints if it were not a Star Wars novel. Unfortunately, since it is a Star Wars novel that means that it must work nicely with everything that has come before it. In my opinion, this is Karen Traviss' main failing with her post-RotJ novels (I've not read the Republic Commando series so I can't comment on them). In the overall scheme of things, such a failing is not that detrimental to a storyline; and we've suffered such abuses of the characters before (Planet of Twilight anyone?). Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and thought it a great story to read. Yet, there's not enough cohesion between this book and earlier Star Wars novels, nor is there enough differences between the various "voices" of the characters to give this a perfect score. So, with those failings in mind, I'm having to give this book a 2.9 out of 4.

Gah... Time flies when you're swamped with work

You know it's bad when your own wife is telling you that you've been neglecting your blog. I know that, but between work, family duties, and trying to grab a few hours of extra sleep, I've been unable to generate a post.

And to be honest, I've been goofing off a little bit as well.

Couple that with the fact that I've upgraded my copy of GIMP which makes it harder to grab screenshots of the various animes I watch. As a side note on that, if ANYONE has an idea about a media player that takes screencaps (JPG or PNG preferably), runs all the usual codecs, that's free and that runs on Windows--please drop me a line. I'm needing that. Currently, I'm using MPlayer, which seems to work...ok, I'd like to tweak a few things such as getting a new font to use in the subtitles, and find a way for them to be on by default.

Regardless, I'm now on the hook to watch Iron Man. When I'll get to, I'm not quite certain, but I just know that I want to see it. It looks awesome. Additionally, I'll be going to see Speed Racer sometime this weekend (or maybe next weekend, depends on a few things) with my son. He's stoked about that particular movie--which makes me happy, it's a good introduction to the wider world of anime.

Speaking of movies though, for those of you who are interested in making them, is holding their annual Star Wars FanFilm contest at the moment. Entries are due soon.

In news that has more bearing on me (because it's about a book) the last entry in Legacy of the Force, Invincible, will be out on the thirteenth of this month. I'm happy, it's another Star Wars book, coupled with the end of the Prequel rehash for the next generation of Star Wars characters. I should be getting that book 3 or so days after its release date.

Tonight (or tomorrow morning) I'll post my review for Star Wars Revelation, both here and over at TheForce.Net.

Beyond that, I'm already worn out, and got things that must be accomplished this morning. Here's to hoping that I can get back on a regular update schedule.

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