Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James LucenoTarkin by James Luceno
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on November 4, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly ... and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation ... or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy ... and its enemies’ extinction.

Book Review:

I’ve long been a reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In fact, most of my favorite characters and storylines come from the books, not the movies. But Tarkin is one that caught my interest in the movie, and I’ve been waiting a long time for his story.

But TARKIN just wasn’t the book I hoped it would be.

First I should say that James Luceno’s writing style doesn’t always work for me, and this is one of those books where it really didn’t work. I slogged through this book, constantly distracted by descriptions of every single person encountered, down to their hair color, facial features, and attire. Once you take away all the descriptions and random tangents, there’s not a lot of story left. And the story that is there … well, I can’t imagine Tarkin being outfoxed in the way he was, and by a group that didn’t have a strong motive. I’m also not sure I buy his “training” on Eriadu.

TARKIN contains passages from characters other than Tarkin, including Emperor Palpatine and the ship thieves, but … everyone sounds the same when they open their mouths. I just can’t see Darth Vader speaking like this: “Then there was some purpose to turning a blind eye to illegality, and to fostering dishonesty of a particular sort. But times have changed, and it is incumbent on you to change with them (Chapter 7).”

I was hoping for a book about Tarkin, but though TARKIN contains some flashbacks to his youth, the book is mostly about him and Darth Vader taking a trip around the galaxy to find Tarkin’s ship. There are a few examples of Tarkin’s ruthlessness, which I did like, but otherwise … I didn’t believe in Luceno’s version of him. It just didn’t work for me. Hunting animals and living primally doesn’t turn one into a military strategist — why not show more of Tarkin’s time at the academy? Why not show some important events, instead of telling me about them? That’s another big gripe I have with the author’s writing: he tells almost everything, instead of showing me what’s going on. And I’m not going into the tons of classes of ships I’d never heard of before, and dialogue like the line I quoted from Darth Vader.

Ultimately, TARKIN was a disappointing story about such an iconic character. When I finished the book, I thought, “That’s it? Really?” The main plot was, well, weak, and there were unresolved side plots, including the Emperor feeling dark currents in the Force? The ending of the book felt rushed. Instead of spending so much time detailing everything, maybe more attention should have been giving to developing sub plots and connecting everything together.

I think from now on I’ll stay away from Star Wars books written by Luceno, and possibly the new reboot of the EU, since I haven’t liked what’s come out of it so far.

– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Book Review: Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson MillerKenobi by John Jackson Miller
Series: Star Wars
Published by LucasBooks on August 27, 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Western
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
The greatest hero in the galaxy faces his toughest challenge yet: He must stop being Obi-Wan-and become Crazy Old Ben. For fans of movie-related novels like Darth Plagueis!

In this original novel set between the events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes to the aid of the residents of Tatooine during his exile. But he struggles with his new mission when he realizes that protecting Luke Skywalker-the last hope of the galaxy-means setting aside his compassion and his Jedi warrior training, for the future of the galaxy lies not with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a mystical desert recluse known only by the name of Crazy Old Ben.

In honor of Star Wars Reads Day II on October 5, 2013, I’m finally posting my review of STAR WARS: KENOBI. I almost did a video review for this one, but went for a written one in the end. I would have forgotten about Star Wars Reads Day if Jenna hadn’t Instagrammed photos of Yoda cookies. So yay to her for reminding me!

My Review:
I want to start this review off by saying that I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time, more than half my life (14+ years). The Expanded Universe is my preference over the movies, because I like to read my adventures, but in the past few years, I haven’t really been excited by most Star Wars books. Some of my all-time favorites are the Thrawn trilogy, the Jedi Academy trilogy, and the X-Wing series. I’ve liked some of the recent offerings (the Darth Bane novels, DECEIVED, DARTH PLAGUEIS), but have skipped or not liked others. So, I’ll admit it: I was apprehensive but tentatively excited about KENOBI. I wanted so much for the book to be good…

And it was! WOOT!

The start of KENOBI is slow, but once I got past the setup chapters, I was hooked. John Jackson Miller has a very smooth, easy to read writing style, and I thought he had an excellent grasp on Obi-Wan. I could see traces of Ewan McGregor, fresh from REVENGE OF THE SITH, but more importantly, I saw Obi-Wan start down the path to becoming the strange old hermit Luke knows.

The author also does an amazing job with his original characters. One of the things I like most about reading EU books is to see the Star Wars universe from the point of “normal” people — not the big name heroes. In KENOBI, my favorite parts were from the perspectives of Annileen Calwell, human, and A’Yark, Tusken Raider. Annileen’s story is one a lot of readers can identify with: mundane job (storekeeper) and raising two rambunctious teenagers while occasionally wondering about her own shelved dreams. As for A’Yark, I liked his story because through it, I got to learn a lot about Tusken culture. Amateur xenobiologist in the making here — I love learning about the different alien cultures of the Star Wars universe.

KENOBI is a lot like a western. Well, I can’t say for sure, because I don’t actually read westerns, but it was a good guys versus natives fight, eking out life in a hostile land, that sort of thing. Although I like that KENOBI is a standalone, I think I’d like another book in the same style (same author too, please!), detailing more of the time Ben spends on Tatooine before the events of A NEW HOPE. I know there’s more story there.

The main story behind KENOBI is the increasingly savage attacks of Tusken Raiders, who raid moisture farms and kill settlers. A group of moisture farmers, led by farmer/entrepreneur Orrin Gault, have formed a protection group to fight the Tuskens. Ben, intending to start his life as a hermit, arrives in the middle of this, and as a newcomer, he’s instantly the talk of the small “town.” Watching a Jedi try to fit into small town life is comical, as you know despite Ben’s best efforts to be no one, he can’t help but get into the middle of everything.

If I liked KENOBI so much (and I did), why didn’t I give it a full 5 stars? Two main reasons. One: the book is titled KENOBI, giving the reader the impression it is a book solely about Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s not. Now, I didn’t mind that once I got into the story, because as I said above, I really liked certain characters, such as Annileen and A’Yark. KENOBI is told from the points of view of four characters: Annileen, A’Yark, Orrin, and finally, Ben. All points of view are crucial in showing how all the story threads connect, and in setting the overall atmosphere of the book. But if you’re hoping for a book all about Obi-Wan, you might be in for a disappointment. Oh, I should also say there’s not really any lightsaber action or a lot of usage of the Force.

Two: I thought the ending of the book was a tad rushed. There’s a lot of setup in the beginning, and then a fair amount of back and forth between all the characters, as well as fights between the farmers and the Tuskens. Then the ending’s just squished in there.

If you’re looking for a laid back, relaxing read, or a good entry to the Expanded Universe, KENOBI might be the book for you. I know I’ll want to reread it a year or two, which is always the mark of a good Star Wars EU book for me.

Review on Amazon.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you like “franchise” books like Star Wars or Star Trek?

Socialize with the author:
John Jackson Miller:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

star wars: scoundrelsInfo:
Title: Star Wars: Scoundrels
Author: Timothy Zahn
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: LucasBooks
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Star Wars
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 432
Rating:

Summary:

To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.
But even he can’t do this job solo.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price? (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
Scoundrels is set right after Star Wars: A New Hope. Don’t worry if you’ve never read a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel before — you don’t need to know any background. As someone who has been disappointed by some of the EU developments and experiments (such as the Yuuzhan Vong war and the Red Harvest horror/zombie novel) I was a little worried, but I shouldn’t have been. Timothy Zahn has always been one of my favorite EU authors, and in Scoundrels, he delivers an exciting adventure that I devoured in a matter of hours.

Remember the big reward Han got at the end of “A New Hope?” The one he needed to pay off Jabba? Well, he lost it, and with Jabba still after him, he needs a job with a big payoff. It’s his lucky day when a guy named Eanjer claims he’ll split 163 million credits with Han if Han can help him recover the stolen credits. The only problem? The guy that has Eanjer’s credits is a Black Sun sector chief, and Villachor is serious about his security. Paranoid doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Even though Han’s a smuggler, not a safe cracker or thief, he’s sure he can do the job. Using the huge payoff as a lure, he assembles a team including his faithful sidekick Chewie as well as Lando Calrissian. Also included are Winter and Kell Tainer, faces experienced EU readers will recognize, and some new rogues, such Bink and Tavia, as a pair of identical twin thieves.

The heist is the focus of the novel. As always with Han, nothing is as easy as it sounds, and before he and the team know it, they’re in way over their head. Besides getting into a virtually impregnable safe, they’ve got a Black Sun Vigo in the mix and even some Imperials. I don’t want to spoil anything, because part of the fun is figuring out all the clues. I will say the ending surprised the kriffing Sithspit out of me! I SO did not see it coming, but I’m sure if I reread the book, I’d see clues pointing it out.

Scoundrels isn’t the typical Star Wars novel, full of space battles and lightsaber fights. Because Han, Chewie, and Lando are familiar characters, we don’t learn a whole lot of new information about them. Zahn instead develops the ensemble cast. I particularly enjoyed seeing Winter in a bigger role, and watching Villachor try to figure out the right thing to do — aka how to stay alive.

I tend to prefer the older EU books, such as the Thrawn trilogy, the X-Wing series, and the Jedi Academy trilogy. I’m happy to say that Scoundrels will join those favorites in my Star Wars section, and I look forward to rereading it in the future. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a Star Wars book so much.

Socialize with the author:
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– leeanna

Review: Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

darth vader and sonInfo:
Title: Darth Vader and Son
Author: Jeffrey Brown
Release Date: April 18, 2012
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: Library
Series? No
Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor
Page Count:

Summary:

What if Darth Vader took an active role in raising his son? What if Luke, I am your father was just a stern admonishment from an annoyed dad? In this hilarious and sweet comic reimagining, Darth Vader is a dad like any other except with all the baggage of being the Dark Lord of the Sith. Celebrated artist Jeffrey Brown’s delightful illustrations give classic Star Wars moments a fresh twist, presenting the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. Life lessons include lightsaber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!), and the special bond shared between any father and son. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I have to start off by saying I am a huge Star Wars fan, particularly of the original movies and the Extended Universe. I once impressed a roomful of guys because I knew more about the Imperial Navy than they did.

So it’s probably no surprise that I loved this book. Darth Vader and Son is, dare I say it, cute! I can see it being a go-to book when I’ve had a bad day or need cheered up. Each comic is extremely detailed, and I think young Star Wars fans would have fun recognizing the little things, like Leia dressing a Darth Maul doll in a dress, or a baby Admiral Ackbar going trick or treating.

Obviously, the stars are Darth Vader and Luke. The two share many classic father son moments in true Star Wars fashion. There’s nothing like Take Your Son To Work Day when Dad works on the Death Star. I especially liked when movie dialogue was woven into the comics. Darth Vader pulled out “Luke, I am your father,” to try to get Luke to clean his room.

Non Star Wars fans might not get a lot out of this, but if you like Star Wars, or you know a youngster who does, this would be a great book for them. I’ll be buying my own copy soon.

Rating: 4 owls

Socialize with the author:
Jeffrey Brown:
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Book 169: Star Wars: Boba Fett 4: Hunted

HuntedStar Wars: Boba Fett #4: Hunted, by Elizabeth Hand

“Hunted” is the fourth book in a six book series on the life of young Boba Fett. In “Hunted,” Boba Fett flies to Tatooine to find the crime lord Jabba the Hutt.

Jango Fett, Boba’s father, had left instructions for his son to go to Jabba to learn knowledge. But Boba runs into problem after problem on Tatooine, first losing his father’s Mandalorian helmet to a street gang, to having no credits to buy water – a necessity on the desert planet.

Will a trip to Jabba’s palace teach young Boba the knowledge necessary for a bounty hunter?

As with the other books in this series, I’m not entirely thrilled with the writing. I do understand that they are written for younger readers and I’m over the intended age, but I wish Star Wars had kept up the quality a little better. The passage of time in this series isn’t clear – the first three books seemed to take up only days, but this book is apparently set months after the event of book three, “Maze of Deception.” At least the story in “Hunted” was better than the previous book.

2/5.

Book 168: Star Wars: Boba Fett 3: Maze of Deception

Maze of DeceptionStar Wars: Boba Fett #3: Maze of Deception, by Elizabeth Hand

“Maze of Deception” is the third book in a six book series on the life of young Boba Fett. In this installment, Boba and Aurra Sing journey to Aargau, the banking planet of the galaxy. Similar to Coruscant, Aargau is a layered planet; the lowest levels are the most dangerous, full of the scum of the galaxy.

Aurra Sing, a very dangerous bounty hunter, takes Boba to Aargau to get half of Jango Fett’s fortune. Boba, naturally, isn’t keen on splitting his inheritance with her, and makes a dangerous escape to keep the entire fortune for himself.

But can a young, inexperienced boy really avoid all the pitfalls a planet like Aargau holds?

I found “Maze of Deception” to be an okay book in the Boba Fett series. A week after reading it I’ve already forgotten most of it, so it’s not that memorable. Younger readers will enjoy Boba’s exploits on Aaragu, and his gradual evolution into the great Boba Fett of Star Wars Legend.

2/5.

Book 167: Star Wars: Boba Fett 2: Crossfire

CrossfireStar Wars: Boba Fett #2: Crossfire, by Terry Bisson

“Crossfire” is the second book in a six book series on the life of young Boba Fett. Boba is now the guest, or prisoner, depending on how you look at it, of Count Dooku. When the starting war comes to Raxus Prime, Boba manages to escape the junkyard planet by pretending to be an orphan.

While en route to a Bespin orphanage, Boba makes the first friend of his life. But when he’s torn between his new friend and his father’s teachings – which will he choose?

“Crossfire” was a bit blah to me, and even though it’s a short book, it felt like it dragged on for too long. I think it could have been tightened up a little.

2/5.

Book 166: Star Wars: Boba Fett 1: The Fight to Survive

Fight to SurviveStar Wars: Boba Fett #1: The Fight to Survive, by Terry Bisson

This Boba Fett series is aimed at younger readers, but as Boba Fett is one of my favorite Star Wars characters, I read everything I can find on him. This is book one of a six book series.

“The Fight to Survive” covers the events of the film, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” and expands on Jango’s death, Boba’s upbringing, life on Kamino, and what Boba did after his father died.

The writing is at a 9 to 12 year old level, but I don’t think older fans would mind it that much. I’m 24 and enjoying reading a novelization of Boba’s younger days, as I don’t like comics. There’s some touching scenes, and it’s fun to read about Boba’s transformation from an orphaned ten-year-old to the merciless bounty hunter he is in the future. I can’t wait to see what else Jango’s black book has to say to Boba.

3/5.

Book 128: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 3: Paragon

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 3: ParagonStar Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #3: Paragon, by John Jackson Miller

Finally, there’s some action in this ebook series! Lost Tribe of the Sith is a series to provide back story for the new Fate of the Jedi books. “Paragon” is the third installment.

All Star Wars fans know that if you leave two Sith in a room only one Sith is going to come out. The same is true of the crashed Sith on Kesh – their numbers are slowly dwindling, cut down by mainly by sabotage.

The native population of Kesh are now the servants of the Sith, most happily serving those they consider the descendants of gods. But Keshiri start dying in droves after some Sith visit their towns – what is the cause? Is it a new mysterious illness, or is there some darker force behind the mass deaths?

“Paragon” is a better story than the previous in the series. Seelah, the wife of the Sith ruler is shaping up to be an interesting character; at first I thought she was spoiled and annoying, but my opinion changed as I read. The author reveals her early life in flashbacks; the flashbacks also give some insight into the early Sith Empire. Readers new to the series should start with book one, “Precipice.”

Direct download link for this book, from Star Wars.com.

3/5.

Book 125: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 2: Skyborn

SkybornStar Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Skyborn, by John Jackson Miller

“Skyborn” continues filling in the history of Kesh, an integral location to the new Fate of the Jedi series.

Five thousand years before the battle of Yavin, a ship of Sith crashed on the planet, seemingly falling out of the sky to the native Keshiri. With their Force powers, the Sith quickly fulfilled the local legends of the “Skyborn,” and started taking over the Keshiri people.

This ebook starts out slowly, introducing readers to the Keshiri theology as a young woman is prosecuted for her heretic beliefs. Miller dumps knowledge on the reader, almost as if he’s writing a textbook. “Skyborn” thankfully picks up when the young woman, Adari, encounters with Sith crash survivors.

It’s an interesting look into how the Sith became rulers of the Keshiri, but I’m happy it’s a short story.

2/5.