Monday, June 30, 2008

Crash and Burned...

Life travels at you fast. Too fast for me sometimes.

I've had something of a cough for the past week & and half; due to allergies--sinuses draining always gives me a cough.

Well, despite my best efforts to keep the sinuses from draining my cough has gotten worse and worse, until today I feel it necessary to go to the doctor's office. I fear that I have a sinus infection at least.

Which kinds of bites, as me and the wife had planned on going to see the new Indiana Jones movie last night. Yet, I was too miserable to crawl from my comfortable chair long enough to do it. Plus, I didn't think the other people at the movie would have appreciated my hacking cough throughout Indiana's whip-play.

Which effectively means that there are just that many more movies that I feel the need to view soon. That list includes:

  • Indiana Jones
  • The Happening
  • Wall*E
And of course Hancock when it comes out next week.

I lack time so bad.

Then there's the next Star Wars novel that was released on a few days ago. I have to admit, I'm less than thrilled over the current crop of Star Wars novels. They lack that fantasy aspect which I enjoyed so much. Additionally, I'm... hesitant about the somewhat navel-gazing aspect of the Dark Times stories. I mean, we've been there, done that. We know what happens a few years down the line during the Original Trilogy (i.e. the best part of the franchise). Can't we get something new?

Oh well. Maybe it's the cold talking, but maybe I'll manage to make it through Jedi Twilight within the next week or so.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

100 SF/F Novels Meme

Found a new meme from The World in the Satin Bag.

Here's how it works:

Grab the list from here.

Bold all the titles you have read, italicize the titles you hope to read or have seen the movie for (since many of these have been turned into movies) and try to make a distinction between the two, and just mark ones you've never heard of somehow (preferably with a parenthesis of some sort).

As an aside, I marked items with an asterisk at the beginning for those things I had never heard of.

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. *The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (all ten are now available in an Omnibus)

3. The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card

4. Neuromancer by William Gibson *(want to read)

5. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson (6 Books total) (I've not read the entire series yet)

6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (6 Books total)

7. Dune by Frank Herbert

8. *Elric by Michael Moorcock (available in omnibus editions)

9. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick

10. 1984 by George Orwell

11. Hyperion by Dan Simmons (four books) *(want to read)

12. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester *(want to read)

13. *Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

14. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

15. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick (aka Bladerunner)

16. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

17. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

18. Lightning by Dean Koontz

19. The Uplift Trilogy by David Brin

20. Ringworld by Larry Niven

21. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

22. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber (complete series)

23. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

25. The Stand by Stephen King

26. Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory

27. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

28. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

29. Watership Down by Richard Adams

30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

31. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

32. Helliconia by Brain Aldiss (three books)

33. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (five books)

34. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift

35. Mindkiller by Spider Robinson (novella in book Deathkiller)

36. Blood Music by Greg Bear *(want to read)

37. The Green Mile by Stephen King

38. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

39. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

40. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (seven books)

41. The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

42. Watchers by Dean Koontz

43. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

44. Emphyrio by Jack Vance

45. The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum (first book only)

46. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

47. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

48. Animal Farm by George Orwell

49. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

50. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (complete series)

51. It by Stephen King

52. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

53. Timescape by Gregory Benford

54. Pern by Anne McCaffery (complete series)

55. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

56. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

57. *Fionavar by Guy Gavriel Kay (three books)

58. Earthsea “trilogy” by Ursula K. LeGuin

59. 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke (four books)

60. *Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler (three books)

61. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

62. Conan by Robert E. Howard

63. *Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

64. Midnight at the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker

65. A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthoy

66. The Gap by Stephen R. Donaldson (five books)

67. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

68. *Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

69. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

70. Dark Elf series by R. A. Salvatore

71. West of Eden by Harry Harrison

72. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

73. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

74. Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg *(want to read)

75. Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

76. Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (six books)

77. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

78. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle *(want to read)

79. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

80. Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

81. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

82. Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

83. Lyonesse by Jack Vance (three books)

84. Catspaw by Joan Vinge

85. *Crystal Express by Bruce Stirling

86. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

87. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Phillip Jose Farmer

88. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

89. *Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

90. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

91. The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

92. “The Four Lords of the Diamond” by Jack Chalker

93. Swords by Fred Saberhagen

94. Way Station by Clifford Simak

95. *The Kraken Wakes by John Wydham

96. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

97. The High Crusade by Paul Anderson

98. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

99. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

100. The Postman by David Brin

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday morning wishlist

Well, well, it's another fine Monday morning--which once again finds me huddled in my truck seat crying like a little child as every muscle rebels at the torture which the YMCA lovingly calls "exercise."

Yet this past weekend did hold an interesting set of SF related things. First is that I watched The Middleman series premier finally. That will be something that gets added to my DVR record list.

The second thing was that I was shown, the new Death Star Lego set. This thing is a major undertaking. At nearly 4,000 pieces this particular set will set me back nearly $400.

If I can convince my loving, beautiful, smart, pretty, intelligent, sexy, kind, generous, *grabs thesaurus* angelic, attractive, belle, blithe, bonny, charming, choice, cute, delicate, elegant, elite, exquisite, fair, fine, freely, gorgeous, graceful, handsome, lovely, poetic, pretty, radiant, ravishing, splendid, stunning wife that I desperately need this new Lego set.

I mean, how can one NOT need it? It's 4,000 pieces of Lego AND Star Wars goodness in a fully armed and operational Battle Station format.

Follow these links for additional images:

Anyways, I'm happy about this product, but there is one thing that... confounded me. And that's the mini-figures that come with it. The one that I'm left pondering over is the Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper outfit.

It's just.... odd. And kind of ugly too.

But he looks like a girl. So, I'm thinking, why does it bother me so much?

And that's when I realized why.

The reason is, that it's not Luke.

That's Prince Valium.

The one from Space Balls.

At that point, all was right with my world.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Middleman

I have a new love.

It's irreverent. It's fun. It's chock full of geeky references to classic SF and comic books, and it's on TV.

What is it that is filled with geek knowledge and makes me excited about sitting in front of that particular box for nigh upon an hour at a time?

It's the new ABC Family series: The Middleman.

The Middleman is a series which focuses on the adventures of Wendy Watson as she trains to become the next in a long line of Middleman.

This, is the type of television show which makes me have faith in the medium. It's this type of show which makes me think: hey, we're not going to be given shows like I Love New York or Rock of Love every season.

I'm so happy that I set my DVR to grab this.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Soul Eater Episode 11

Frankly, I've been doing quite a bit of anime watching. What I've not been doing is reviewing it. I know that I stopped at the end of the last season, and it's something of a hassle to get started back up again.

Yet, here I am trying.

Anyways, Soul Eater 11 was the lucky series that I managed to watch this evening. It's the second part of a Tsubaki storyline dealing with her fight with the fey blade.

For those who don't know Soul Eater is a story about a school where weapons for Death (the embodiment, not the act) are trained. These weapons spend most of their time in their human form.

Anyways, I found myself really enjoying this episode. It was filled with, and dealt with the concepts of relationships. Specifically the relationship between Tsubaki and Black Star and Tsubaki and the Fey Blade (who happens to be her older brother).

The fun in this episode is quite frankly how Tsubaki deals with and interacts with each.

And boy, does she have a set of "angry eyes."

Anyways, that sense of relationship extends not only to Black Star and the Fey Blade but also goes on to deal with how Tsubaki and Black Star also interact and relate to the rest of the protagonists and cast.

For a shounen series which I've seen described as a mixture of Bleach and Dragon Ball this series has taken a decidedly shojou turn in its focus on relationships.

Good times, if one asks me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I have arrived!

Somehow, I feel like I've arrived.

For those of you who somehow just don't know (despite Hallmark's and Wal-Marts best efforts) Sunday was Father's Day.

Now, I personally feel no need to get rewarded with gifts or other such things on Father's Day as I am a Father because I want to be--not because I expect some reward. I know that over all it's a thankless job and that my kids will come to think me foolish and out of touch in a decade.

After all, they are way to much like me to NOT do so.

Yet, receiving a tie for the day just has so many... connections (thought I was gonna say 'ties' didn't you?) to the traditional concept of Father's Day. In fact, if you Google for "traditional Father's Day gifts" all the search results talk about ties. I guess this is made especially poignant after my high score in the "30's Husband" poll from my last post.

Like I said, somehow I feel like I have arrived.

Yet, because it is Father's Day there was a number of posts concerning dads. One that attracted my Beloved Wife's eye though was one which referenced both Star Wars and a cartoon (The Simpson's to be precise). The article Homer Simpson or Darth Vader - what kind of dad are you? discusses politics and then has a poll which tries to take a humorous look at fathers. The answers give you a ranking between a British politician (David Cameron) and the Dark Lord of the Sith. Sadly, I can't see that much difference between a politician and Darth Vader, but that may be my own libertine proclivities coming to the fore.

Finally, on June 24 Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight goes on sale. This particular trilogy has been pushed off a number of times, and I for one have high hopes for it. Anyways, the back-cover text has been released and reads thus:

With the dark ascension of the Empire, and the Jedi Knights virtually wiped out, one Jedi who escaped the massacre is slated for a date with destiny–and a confrontation with Darth Vader.

Jax Pavan is one of the few Jedi Knights who miraculously survived the slaughter that followed Palpatine’s ruthless Order 66. Now, deep in Coruscant’s Blackpit Slums, Jax ekes out a living as a private investigator, trying to help people in need while concealing his Jedi identity and staying one step ahead of the killers out for Jedi blood. And they’re not the only ones in search of the elusive Jax. Hard-boiled reporter Den Dhur and his buddy, the highly unorthodox droid I-5YQ, have shocking news to bring Jax–about the father he never knew.

But when Jax learns that his old Jedi Master has been killed, leaving behind the request that Jax finish a mission critical to the resistance, Jax has no choice but to emerge from hiding–and risk detection by Darth Vader–to fulfill his Master’s dying wish.

Don’t miss the continuing adventures in the Coruscant Nights series, coming this Fall!

All I've got to say is that I've read better back cover blurbs. But it is great to see a non-Skywalker take center-stage for a novel series again. Now, if only it wasn't set during the Dark Times, but rather post-Return of the Jedi. Alas.

Friday, June 13, 2008



As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

you know, I just realized that this doesn't really fit into the purview of this blog. In fact it doesn't really fit into the purview of any of my blogs. Though truth-be-told, this one does get the most screen time in regards to my random thoughts.

With that said, I guess I'm going to change the focus of this blog slightly and make it not just SF but just things that interest me. Like the test above. Apparently, I would make a very superior 1930's husband.

How cool is that. I'm an anachronism!

Oh, the joys of modern life.

Anyways, I do have an amusing story to tell, one which involves my eldest son. I had gotten home, and was hurting due to the exercises I've been performing (last Saturday I could barely move--so I guess it was good that that was the weekend my wife an kids went to Atlanta), so I collapsed on the couch, while my beloved finished dinner prep.

Well, with dad on the couch, that's the sign to the kids that it is now time to sit on the exact portion of the couch which dad is occupying. So within a few moments of my butt hitting the cushion, I have 40-ish pounds of 5 year old, and 25-ish pounds of 1 year old bouncing on me.

Muttering evil things about weight equipment and cardio exercises, I grabbed the remote, hoping that something would calm the bounding bundles of excess energy from bruising my poor body any more than it already was.

So, the first stop I go is the Food Network; and as soon as that round logo appears on the screen, my son starts asking "Dad! Are we going to watch Good Eats now?"

Ah, that's my little-geek. He knows and recognizes other geeks like him, and let's be honest, Alton Brown, despite the humor inherent in his show--is the geek of Food Network.

It brings a tear to my eye.

And exasperation to my beloved.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review: Legacy of the Force

Well, we have recently seen the completion of Legacy of the Force (LotF); a 9-part series produced by Del Rey and written by authors Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss and Troy Denning. The setup was that each would write a book in order one after another, culminating into a set of 3 hard back and 6 mass market paperback novels. In order, these books were Betrayal (HC, Allston), Bloodlines (PB, Traviss), Tempest (PB, Denning), Exile (PB, Allston), Sacrifice (HC, Traviss), Inferno (PB, Denning), Fury (PB, Allston), Revelation (PB, Traviss), and Invincible (HC, Denning).

Originally, LotF was supposed to be set during the Sith Era (ref), it was changed during the planning session to be set a decade or so post-New Jedi Order (ref). The erstwhile reasoning behind this time shift was so that the readers would already be concerned about the characters and the readers wouldn't know the "ending" due to the fact that the Sith Era is thousands of years prior to the movies. Of course, the second bit of that reasoning falters in the fact that the Legacy comic series was produced and set somewhere around a hundred years after the NJO.

As an aside, this review will contain SPOILERS. I tried to write a review which would not have them, but was unable to accomplish it while still bringing up all the relevant points I felt needed to be said about the story. So, consider thyself warned.

With the spoiler warning taken care of, let's talk plot. For a nine-book series, the plot here was fairly simple. We take the Prequel Trilogy, drop in Han and Leia's children, and other EU favorites into pivotal roles, shake, stir, and viola, you have a story. No, really, that's the plot: a Sith shows up and starts up a war in order to lure the Jedi Order to its doom, tempting and turning one of its own in its effort to accomplish this fact.

The problem comes in by the fact that the authors didn't seem to know exactly what type of story they were wanting to tell.

The first half of the series focused heavily on the war. Those books all focused heavily on the Corellians and their little rebellion against the GFFA. Yet at the mid-point Hard Cover, things start to shift, and by Revelation the war is missing except as a backdrop to the Jedi action. Sure, you have a space battle or two, but it's all Jacen versus someone else. It's not the Confederation (and yes, they re-used that name) versus the Alliance.

It's somewhat said, in that we have this potential for literally years worth of stories, and in the end, it's merely a vehicle for the Jedi (or in the Karen Traviss novels the Mandalorians) to attack one another with melee weaponry. This was especially disappointing when we were given things such as the great scene early on in Betrayal which featured Wedge Antilles and his escape from an Intelligence Detention Facility. At least the Prequels were honest in their decision to tell a story about Jedi, and to leave the actual war to the EU.

Anyways, because this is a multi-book storyline, we have a huge cast of characters. Most of whom are there for the sole purpose of being canon fodder (yes, I'm looking at poor Nelani Dinn as I write that). Unsurprisingly, since this is Del Rey EU, the primary characters are Force Sensitives, with a major focus on those of Skywalker blood, or Mandos. If LotF has taught us anything, it's that the EU is unconcerned with telling stories about elite pilot squadrons, or even intelligence agents (yes, I'm missing Rogue and Wraith Squadrons). It is clear, to me at least, that everyone who ultimately matters in the Galaxy Far, Far Away must be either a Jedi or a Mandalorian--additionally, they must be a subset of those either with the surname of Skywalker or Fett. While Allston did have folks like Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu and Syal Antilles, they were rare, and unlike Traviss' pet Mandalore did not impact the story outside of their book. Or in the case of Tycho, outside of his chapter in the book he appeared in.

Now, some would say that this is an effort to step away from the Big 3; to allow the next generation of EU characters to shine. Well, if that's true (and they said the same thing about the NJO) then they're failing miserably. At the end of the day, you're left with even LESS next generation characters (again, like the NJO), and those that are left aren't that... Heroic, at least in the traditional Star Wars sense. Likewise, while the Bantam-era EU provided us with youth readers, all of the recent ones have been focused on Prequel characters. Let's be clear here; the adult novels tend to focus on adult protagonists. Majority of the 'next generation' characters were introduced in the young reader books (YJK/JJK). The exception to that rule, are the Horn and the Antilles children--who, if you'll notice, rarely, if ever, get page-time.

Of course, those that matter to the galaxy at large in this story are as follows: Jacen Solo, Ben Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Han Solo, Leia Solo, Jaina Solo, Lumiya, and Boba Fett. For a story that spans over 2,000 pages, that's not a lot of folks. Oh, sure, people like Alema Rar, Jagged Fel, Tahiri Veila, Daala and Zekk show up, but they're ancillary to the tale, not major players. Or course, even with that short list, you must realize that we don't have a hero to follow. There is no strong Heroic character for us to root for. No one that stands up through the entire series and says, "This is what a Hero does."

Since we have no real hero, we'll start looking at folks from the other end of the spectrum, and grab the individual most likely to bore you to death: Jacen Solo, or as he called himself Darth Caedus. Now, I've read a number of "fall to the Dark Side" stories in my life; they exist all over the place: Boromir in The Two Towers, Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga, and you could even see Willy from Death of a Salesman from that POV. That forgoes the most obvious characters in the genre, both Anakin and Luke Skywalker (the Prequels and Dark Empire respectively). Yet, Jacen's decent into the dark failed to grip me. His initial steps to the Dark Side were motivated by a desire to stop a possible future where he would kill Luke Skywalker. I mean, out of all the possible motivations that Jacen Solo could or should have, not wanting to possibly kill Luke is pretty stupid as far as one goes. After all, he should know that the future is always in motion--and as Invincible shows us, a Force user is able to influence the future another Force user sees.

Even beyond the inane fall, Jacen's characterization between one novel and the next fluttered from one extreme of cackling madness to the other of cold-hearted, emotionless psychopathy. With little by way of connective issues. Even to start out with, he's a cold, emotionless robot-style character who I had trouble connecting with. He's ultimate decision to murder a young Jedi not withstanding, Jacen has trouble being a villain even from the beginning. A fact not helped by the jumping characterizations as he delved deeper into the Dark Side of the Force.

The next of these characters we should probably discuss, is our tentative hero, Jaina Solo; or as I personally think of her "bokken of the Jedi". Jaina is an odd choice for hero here; she spends the first half of the story as effectively a bit player, never taking center stage among any of the action. In the third quarter, she does appear on screen more, but it's not until the final two or three books that she's actually an active participant in directing the plot. Personally, I find that highly disconcerting, and poor storytelling. The protagonist should have been fully recognizable from the beginning of the story--how many times does the Hero's Journey need to be discussed before folks catch on.

All that said, despite what a good portion of the folks out there are saying, I don't think Jaina is the hero for LotF. Jaina just isn't in the narrative enough to be the hero. For the person ultimately responsible for stopping the main proto-villain, she's an active force in the story for less than half of the novels. That just doesn't cut it. In fact, there's only a single player who gets nearly as much screen time as Jacen: Ben.

And in my opinion, that's the closest LotF gets to having a real hero in the Star Wars sense. Despite the fact that Jaina is the one that ultimately stops Jacen, despite Jaina's own sense of importance, and approval of her actions by the Council, it's Ben who comes closest to following the necessary steps of the Hero's Journey.

Let's take a look at things here:

  • Departure (or Separation)
    • The Call to Adventure - Ben with Jacen & Nelani in Betrayal
    • Refusal of the Call - Ben not wanting to deal with his dad
    • Supernatural Aid - Jacen helping him hide in the Force
    • The Crossing of the First Threshold - Joining GAG
  • Rebirth
  • Initiation - His assassination task
  • The Road of Trials - Trip to the Sith world
  • Marriage - Finding Mara's dead body
  • Woman as Temptress -Tahiri tempting him
  • Atonement with the Father -Reconciles with Luke
  • Apotheosis - Decides that he wants to bring Jacen to justice by rules of Law
  • The Ultimate Boon -Goes to Corucscant to find evidence against Jacen
  • Return
    • Refusal of the Return - After Omas' death, wants to kill Jacen
    • The Magic Flight - Goes to Corucscant to find evidence against Jacen
    • Rescue from Without - Shekauf helping him
    • The Crossing of the Return Threshold - Luke stops Ben from killing Jacen in anger
    • Master of Two Worlds - Returns to Coruscant for spy mission
    • Freedom to Live - redeems Tahiri

See, sure a good number of the steps are out of "order" here, but ultimately that doesn't matter. What does is that Ben has more or less fulfilled them.

So what's the problem here? Why wasn't Ben pushed? Why the sudden emphasis on Jaina in the last quarter of the story?

As noted at the start of the review, there was a disconnect between the original plans, and the end product. One of the things that shifted slightly during the planning phases was the length of time that was going to originally be covered. LotF was originally supposed to take up about 4-5 years. Long enough that Anak...err Ben would no longer be a minor, and thus could theoretically take over as the Hero of the franchise.

Well, I'm not sure if it was because Ben was such a... storm trooper in the early novels, or the fact that LotF ended up taking less than a year in universe, but Ben just didn't make the cut; he lacks that special something which allowed fans to connect to him, and would allow him to be a great Star Wars Hero. In fact, he was something of a chump. He assassinates a political leader, and later goes on a second assassination mission. He gets sent to a Sith world, hunting a Sith amulet, while being told to not tell his parents what he's doing, and he listens to this. It's his idea to burn Kashyyk, and of course he admires Palpatine's Empire, even going so far as to compare Luke's destruction of the original Death Star to his actions interning innocent Corellians.

So, not only was Ben too young in LotF, but he's also already too dark and tainted to be the swashbuckling hero the franchise needs--in other words he has too much Anakin Skywalker, and not enough Han Solo.

So, my guess is the Powers That Be were left struggling with a way to redeem Ben's character, and send poor Jacen out the door. They needed tounequivocally make Ben a "good guy" and still have someone that's around to smack Jacen down (read: assassinate on the Jedi Council's orders). Cue Jaina, who gets to get over her boy-angst, her pilot-love, and get down and dirty as a Mando.

Though, she never dons the armor, she does spend a great deal of her time on screen gushing in totally unrepentant Mando-love. It's so bad, that if she was posting over on the Literature Boards, she'd be labeled a Fandalorian. A mind-set which she thankfully loses once the next author takes over. So, there is one good thing to Jaina taking such a small role in the first two-thirds of the series: she's only in awe of the Mandos for a single book.

But now that we got the children out of the way, let's take a look at the supposed elders of this group; starting with the Grand Master of the Jedi: Luke Skywalker. What can we say about Luke here. First, I have to go and grab a quote out of my Bloodlines review:

I mean, we have Luke, Mara, Corran and Kyle as Jedi who have quite often been involved in anti-terrorist activities, and are some of the best people in the galaxy at being where they're not wanted. Yet they balk at the idea of leading an anti-terrorism task force? Uhm, did they all forget that before they became high-an-mighty Jedi Masters that they were insurgents and assassins?

And remember, this is the point that Luke and the gang are starting from. You just know that their decisions aren't going to be getting any better as time goes on.

And Luke doesn't let us down either.

Starting from this stance, he then goes and in a fit of angst, murders Lumiya, later on he keeps his son from killing Jacen (even though it would solve SOOO many problems), tricks his family and friends into believing he was killed, and ultimately does this whole thing where he focuses on Jacen, making him see all the possible futures where they end up fighting one another.

Which brings up another point about the Jedi here; by the end of things, these Jedi are once again the nigh omnipotent beings that we were getting during the latter portions of the Bantam run (as I noted in my Revelation review). Forget the de-powered Luke, apparently we want out Jedi to be all-powerful!. Personally, I fully expect us to once more start getting Luke stories where he spends a majority of his time in casts so that he can't access the full range of his Force abilities.

Mara though, I spent most of my time flickering between utter disgust of her character, and rooting for the Mara that I remembered from the Zahn Trilogy finally showing back up. Of course, the Zahn-Mara only appeared during Sacrifice, but hey, at least she showed up, and kicked the Jacen-appeasing Mara to the curb.

The final character I feel the need to glance at here is Tahiri Veila. She's not a main character, even though she has only a few hundred pages less of screen time than Jaina. At the end of the NJO and the start of the Dark Nest Trilogy, Tahiri was a strong character. She was effectively over Anakin's death and had gotten on with her life. Yet when she became an active character in the LotF plot, she was a weak-willed, vile creature, willing to do anything to get a simple glance at Anakin again. This is so out of left field that I was left struggling to figure out just what had happened.

Thankfully, Invincible took a bit of time to try and rectify that situation. Of course they did it by having Tahiri hit on Ben (please remember that they're 28 and 14 respectively), and then having him forget about his man-love for Shevu as he watches Tahiri murder Shevu in a spat of shock (despite the medical droid telling her that it would happen). Really, it makes about that much sense in the narrative as well.

While it's not a character, but rather a Force power, the concept of Flow Walking did get defined; at least somewhat. On page 228 you get this sequence:

Tahiri's confusion turned to distress. "What is it?" she demanded. "Are you telling me it wasn't real? That when we flow-walked back to see Anakin, we were just--"

The flow-walking was real," Caedus interrupted. "We did return to the battle at Baanu Rass, and you did kiss Anakin. But the past didn't change. It can't."

Tahiri's eyes started to burn with denial. "That makes no sense," she said. "If I really kissed him, then we changed the past."

Caedus shook his head. "When you drop a pebble into the river, what happens? There's a splash, and then the splash disappears. The splash is real, but the river doesn't change. It continues on just the same."

"But it does change," Tahiri objected. "Maybe you can't see it, but the pebble is still there, rolling along the bottom."

"And the kiss is still there, too," Caedus said. He reached out and gently tapped Tahiri's temple. "In there. That's where the bottom of the flow is."

"In my mind?"

"In the way that you perceive the past," Caedus said. He was not surprised by the anger and disbelief in Tahiri's voice. When the Aing-Tii monks had explained why he couldn't stop Anakin from dying, he had reacted the same way. "We went back tot he battle on Baanu Rass, and you kissed Anakin. What changed? The past--or your memory of the past?"

But that sequence of chatting between Jacen and Tahiri left me with a big, good old-fashioned, "huh?" Did the author--who happened to be the person who created it in the first place--forget that the first time we saw Force feat this was when Jacen went back into the past to watch Raynar struggle out of the Tachyon Flyer, and then travel INTO THE FUTURE so that he could have a chat with his mother--and as Luke points out, affixing her future in place so that she had to visit that site? How exactly can both concepts be true? Additionally, we don't see any activity of the Dark Nest (specifically Lomi and Welk) itself until AFTER Jacen's little time traveling trip.

Please remember that I dislike the entire concept of Flow Walking, yet despite that the explanation offered in Invincible does not explain all the various discrepancies that have been introduced. And let's be honest here, Jacen did not need Flow-Walking in order to do either of those feats in DN3. If Denning had wanted Jacen to see what had happened to Raynar, and be able to inform Leia of things, existing Force powers would have worked just fine. Telepathy is well known ability for the latter, while this simple Yoda quote would have taken care for the former without the hassle of introducing Time Traveling into the Star Wars universe:

Concentrate...feel the Force flow. Yes. Good. Calm, yes. Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future...the past. Old friends long gone.

Yeah, Force visions don't just show the future, but they show the past.

Now, let's take a moment, and once more go read the Invincible quote again, especially in light of Jacen's flow-walking into the future to set Leia's future into stone. What's odd?

Quite simply, Jacen hasn't tried it. Take a look at this portion of it again:

When the Aing-Tii monks had explained why he couldn't stop Anakin from dying, he had reacted the same way. [emphasis mine]

All we have seen are small shifts in the Flow, but what if Jacen had done something drastic; such as saving Anakin? Could the Aing-Tii monks have been lying to him in order to protect the present or to stop a paradox? Jacen doesn't know, he merely accepted their explanation for this ability and is now passing it on to Tahiri as fact. Tahiri, and presumably the rest of the Strike Team, now remembers Tahiri kissing Anakin--because that's now what she did in the past.

Digression aside, let's move on to the THEME!

I always like hunting for a theme to a story. It's often fun, especially when chatting with Thrawn McEwok over the various themes that we have each found. Yet, the only thing I could think of for this, was a meta-theme which broke the fourth wall. The theme I found was: Lucas Books has ran out of new ideas. This relates back to the fact that the plot was a simple rehash of the Prequels and Anakin Skywalker's fall. A bad, Bollywood-style rehash.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Betrayal, and Tempest and thought Sacrifice was a good read, but the overarching plot was just not that intriguing. It lacked the necessary "umph" required to grab and maintain concentration on a multi-year, multi-book arc of this sort. Let's be honest, if this had been any other franchise than Star Wars, I'd have dropped the book series well before Sacrifice saw print.

Which does kind of frustrate me. I spent around $150 on the three hard covers and six mass-market paperbacks which made up LotF, all so that I could get the same story as appears in my boxed set of the Prequel Trilogy--just with a slightly different cast and ending. If I had really wanted that story, I'd have just sat down in front of the idiot box, and watched it; or better yet, pulled out my copies of the Prequel novelizations and read those.

So, this is what we're left with: poor characterizations, lackluster story lines and the melancholic feeling that nothings going to change. Which is highly odd, considering Sue's response to the question "Co you think a long series with multiple authors was a good idea in retrospect?" over at the Official Site:

I do think it's a good idea. The 19 books in the NJO was a bit too much to coordinate -- it was successful, yes, but very challenging and looking back at that, I wouldn't suggest doing it again. The 9-book series was challenging as well, but working with 3 authors, all of whom were involved in each step of story planning, made everything run tighter and smoother and I believe resulted in a better series with deeper plots and more consistent character development.[emphasis mine]

Frankly, I was left flabbergasted, and wondering if she had read the same books that I had.

Regardless of the Powers that Be reading comprehension, the whole thing left me with two big things which left the proverbial bad taste in my mouth.

The first of these (and the least of them) is how the series was wrapped up. The shortest novel in the entire series was the end cap--and the entire epilogue consists of Han and Leia telling Jaina what was happening in that whole annoying war subplot, that apparently no one cared about, while we were focused on Jacen. Of course the biggest shock in this, is the overt setup for the Legacy comic series which we get at the end of Invincible (what does it say about the plot and the story itself, if the biggest shocks happens in the final dozen pages, after the final battle?):Jag's heading up the Empire, the Corellians are doing something, Niathal is AWOL, and Daala's the new Chief of State (an appointed position now).

That last has turned quite a few heads, but my favorite comment regarding it (and one that sums up my issues quite well) has got to be in Wes' TFN Invincible review:

Admiral Daala, the one-eyed psychopath who attempted to destroy the Jedi Knights, the New Republic, and the Imperial Remnant-- a woman so deranged she would actually have sex with Grand Moff Tarkin-- is now the Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance.

Amusingly enough, my final issue with the whole shebang is also found in Wes' review of Invincible--mainly that whole feeling of "What's the point?" Maybe it's because LotF is such an overt Prequel rehash--and as I wrote that I realized that that could really be the prime factor of my discontent.

In making the decision to retell the Prequels by leading Jacen to the Sith, the Powers That Be seemed to have forgotten that the payoff to the Prequels is not at the end of Return of the Sith, but rather the payoff is the whole of the Original Trilogy. The Prequels were back-story; merely setup for the OT. If we had been given Episode 1 in theaters back in 1977, Star Wars as we know it today would not exist. There would be no Skywalker Sound, no Lucas Films, and no Lucas Films Licensing. Star Wars would have appeared, and then disappeared, off to where ever old episodes of Space:1999 are stored and subsequently forgotten by all but a dedicated handful of fanatics. To put it more bluntly, rather than a franchise that has inspired people for over 30 years, we would have the same fan-base as The Food of the Gods.

This is not a good place for the Expanded Universe to be, especially when the silver and small screens are currently set to navel gazing into that most boring of time periods the Clone Wars. At this point, one can hope that Millenium Falcon is able to introduce a bit of fun and escapism back into the EU.

In the end, there are distinct bits that I liked in this story. Most of the books were actually fun reads when they are taken as atomic units; and if it wasn't for the fact that it's post-RotJ EU, I'd be absolutely in love with Karen Traviss' writing. A couple of fun new characters were introduced, and we got to see some children of favored heroes out in the world (I'm looking at Syal Antilles there as we still have no sign of Jysella Horn).

All that said, the overarching storyline was just lacking. It lacked cohesion. It lacked consistent characterizations. It had too much repetitive actions (one could consider the number of times Han disowns Jacen in books two through nine as a drinking game). And it lacked a honest-to-goodness Star Wars style Hero. While Ben went a decent ways towards redeeming himself, he's still not the next Luke Skywalker.

What that all means is that I have to give LotF as a whole, a 0.9 out of 4.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Why, oh Why?

Continuing my theme of what is wrong with you people, is this image of some.... individual who has dressed himself up as the Dark Lord of the Sith, complete with Hello Kitty accessories.

Now, some, dark, vile portion of my brain is laughing madly, and thinking up odd Hello Kitty and Star Wars crossover fan-fiction.

Another dank, dark portion of my brain is coming up with puns on the Hello Kitty character names.

I'm not certain which portion of my brain I wish to excise first.

Now, that I've shared the Hello Kitty Vader image, the Hello Kitty Vader image will not come out of my PC screen Ring style and kill me in 7 days.

What's wrong with you people....

Well, I know what's wrong with most of the readers of this blog. It's the same thing that's wrong with me: we're geeks.

How do I know this?

It's really quite simple. I know by how the blog is found.

Over the past 3 months, the top 10 search keywords which brought folks here were:

  1. Tahiri Veila
  2. True Tears episode 5
  3. scream noise
  4. True Tears episode 8
  5. I am Legend Bob Marley quote
  6. True Tears episode 4
  7. Kimi Kiss Pure Rouge episode 17
  8. True Tears episode 7
  9. Bob Marley quote I am Legend
  10. True Tears episode 6
Of course the oddest search query was the phrase "extensential tribal music." An odd turn of phrase, made even odder by the fact that I'm the sole return for it. Which also begs the question is "extensential" even a word.

Though, some of the things which popped up just yesterday are also decidedly different. Consider this list:
  • "Anakin's body" tahiri
  • ben tahiri scene invincible
  • episode by episode synopsis of pure 19
  • star wars galactic heroes episode 6
  • all now episod of h2o
Now, I know that I've written things on topics which could have a bearing on every one of those phrases, but still.

Of course, all this digression is just masking the fact that I'm busily ignoring my need to write more, thought-filled discussions for this blog. Sadly, I have a dozen reviews started that are hiding in Google Docs, and a good dozen unwatched anime sitting in my anime folder. While I do absolutely adore my new job, I do wish I had a bit more free time.

Oh well, maybe next week....

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