Category Archives: Beyond the Films

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Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space: The Snare – A Beyond the Films Review

With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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Adventures in Wild Space: The Snare by Cavan Scott (softcover, 2016)

The Snare is the book #1 in Adventures in Wild Space, but before I begin discussing the book, it should be noted that there is a “prelude” book, The Escape, that is essential reading before checking out The Snare. It was released for World Book Day in the UK and Ireland in March 2016. I previously reviewed The Escape here.

It should also be noted that The EscapeThe Snare, and all the rest of Adventures in Wild Space are a series exclusive to the UK and Ireland. The series does not currently have a US counterpart. (In other words, if you want this one, you will need to hit up some UK sellers like Book Depository or Amazon UK, or try your luck on Ebay.)

Adventures in Wild Space

Adventures in Wild Space (by Cavan Scott and Tom Huddleston, each writing separate books) follows Lina Graf (age 10), Milo Graf (age 9), their droid CR-8R (Crater), and their Kowakian Monkey-Lizard (Morq) as they face off with the Empire (in the person of Captain Korda, an officer with a metal jaw akin to Darth Malak in Legends or Jaws in the James Bond franchise). Their goal is to save their parents, a pair of explorers who have been taken captive by Korda. The Empire, it seems, wants their exploration data about Wild Space as it expands.  It is under that premise that a half-length junior novel (The Escape) and two full-length junior novels (The Snare and The Nest) have been released with two more full-length volumes coming soon (The Dark and The Steal).

The Snare

The end of The Escape left Lina, Milo, Crater, and Morq on their way to the planet Thune aboard their parents’ ship, the Whisper Bird, in hopes of meeting with the Sullustan who arranged exploration contracts for the Grafs, Dil Pexton (a possible reference to Bill Paxton).

I mentioned in my review of The Escape that the kids work well enough as characters of their ages (9 – 10) for a young audience. I did, however, worry that Lina might be suffering from a “Wesley Crusher” syndrome, in that she appears to be extremely tech savvy and able to come up with miraculous saves that seem unlikely for a child of ten. It is in this book that this issue comes to the fore repeatedly.

The story’s first chapters, for example, find the Whisper Bird about to crash due to power generator issues, which force Lina to investigate, go EVA along the hull, and fix the problem with an improvised solution once back inside the ship. I am reminded of Spaceballs when Princess Vespa takes out numerous enemies.

Lone Starr: Not bad.

Barf: Not bad . . . for a girl.

Dot Matrix: Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo!

Yes, Lina, that wasn’t bad. Not bad for a child.

Oh hell, it was pretty good for Chewbacca.

That said, the story otherwise plays out pretty much as one would expect, as the Empire continues to seek important exploration data that the children’s mother transmitted to Crater prior to their capture, which Crater has been conveniently still decrypting since the middle of The Escape.

The story is predictable for adult readers, though younger readers might not yet be immunized to the book’s “twists” by years of reading similar stories. Still, the idea behind the series has potential, and having a new ongoing series for younger readers after the end of (the much more complex) Servants of the Empire is, I believe, a good thing for the saga’s new canon.

The Verdict

Adventures in Wild Space has potential, and while it does not reach the level of plot complexity of Servants of the Empire, it evokes enough of the Young (well, okay, more like JuniorJedi Knights and Galaxy of Fear series to make it something that adult readers who read those junior series might want to check out. If nothing else, the series will be intriguing to American readers by virtue of being overseas exclusives, much like The Bounty HunterJedi Dawn, the last few Decide Your Destiny books, and many of the comics never reprinted from the UK’s The Clone Wars magazine.

The Snare itself works better than its half-length predecessor, The Escape, but there is little here to surprise most readers. That said, there are a few moments which seem to raise the stakes for the children, and the book sets up the next book in the series nicely, just as The Escape did for this volume, making these relatively quick reads feel like they could one day be enough of a comibned whole to perhaps merit a closer look from more skeptical older readers.

Recommended for: Those looking for a new, original Star Wars series, aimed at younger audiences.

Not recommended for: Those looking for particularly complex storytelling.

The copy used for this review was a retail purchase.

Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape – A Beyond the Films Review

With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape by Cavan Scott (softcover, 2016)

Since 1995, World Book Day has been an event celebrated in western countries to promote literacy (along with reading in general, copyright, and publishing). In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the local version of World Book Day is held in early March. Children across the UK and Ireland receive World Book Day Book Tokens, which they can exchange for (you guessed it!) books geared toward younger readers.

For the 2016 World Book Day, Egmont published an exclusive new Star Wars story that is both a World Book Day exclusive and by extension an exclusive release in the UK and Ireland that does not have a U.S. counterpart. (In other words, if you want this one, you will need to hit up some UK sellers like Book Depository or Amazon UK, or try your luck on Ebay.)

Rather than being a standalone work, the tale in question, Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape by Cavan Scott, is actually the first book (billed as a “prelude”) in a brand new series by Scott and fellow author Tom Huddleston. The series proper is also currently exclusive to the UK and Ireland.

Adventures in Wild Space

The Adventures in Wild Space series follows Lina Graf (age 10), Milo Graf (age 9), their droid CR-8R (Crater), and their Kowakian Monkey-Lizard (Morq) as they face off with the Empire (in the person of Captain Korda, an officer with a metal jaw akin to Darth Malak in Legends or Jaws in the James Bond franchise). Their goal is to save their parents, who have been taken captive by Korda.  It is under that premise that two full-length junior novels have been released (The Snare and The Nest) with two more coming soon (The Dark and The Steal).

The Escape

As a prelude to The Snare, which is billed as book #1 in Adventures in Wilid SpaceThe Escape provides a half-length story (at a little under 100 pages) that shows the original capture of the Grafs by Korda and how the adventures of Lina, Milo, Crater, and Morq truly begin.

Now, if that sounds like I’ve just spoiled the book, well . . . they spoil it themselves by basically saying the same thing on the back of the book. This is a book to read to see how and why things happen, rather than what happens.

In general, Lina and Milo are decent enough characters for their age and the age of the intended readers. They carry echoes of Jaina and Jacen Solo in that Lina is quite technically savvy, while Milo is all about nature and animals. Their age, actions, and lack of Force abilities give the book (and series) a feel that somewhat resembles Galaxy of Fear, though the target age group results in a book (and series) that lacks the plot complexity of something like Servants of the Empire. Moreover, there are times when Lina’s technical savvy makes her the Star Wars equivalent of Wesley Crusher, accomplishing feats that few readers would realistically believe a ten-year-old could pull off. (Thankfully, that aspect of Lina is downlplayed in this installment.)

The story works well enough as an introduction. I am, in fact, rather surprised at how essential this book is to the rest of the series. Jumping in with “book #1,” The Snare, will leave the reader rather perplexed on multiple plot points. It might have made more sense for The Snare to be a bit longer, with the content of The Escape as a first third of that book.

 

The Verdict

 

Adventures in Wild Space has potential, and while it does not reach the level of plot complexity of Servants of the Empire, it evokes enough of the Young (well, okay, more like JuniorJedi Knights and Galaxy of Fear series to make it something that adult readers who read those junior series might want to check out. If nothing else, the series will be intriguing to American readers by virtue of being overseas exclusives, much like The Bounty HunterJedi Dawn, the last few Decide Your Destiny books, and many of the comics never reprinted from the UK’s The Clone Wars magazine.

If you intend to read Adventures in Wild Space, you need to read The Escape. It is a crucial piece of the story. If you are looking for it, though, be sure to search UK sites to have much better luck than a search of American sites will net. (I have seen these go for a hefty price tag on Ebay, despite being readily available through UK sites that offer cheap or free international shipping. Think globally, folks.)

Recommended for: Those looking for a new, original Star Wars series, aimed at younger audiences, along with those who might have picked up the main series without already checking out this prelude.

Not recommended for: Those looking for particularly complex storytelling.

The copy used for this review was a retail purchase.

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel – A Beyond the Films Review

With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel by Alessandro Ferrari (hardcover, 2016)

Star Wars film adaptations are a dime a dozen, and over the decades, these attempts to recreate the Star Wars films in other media have been of highly variable quality. Some have been brilliant, such as Matthew Stover’s novelization of Revenge of the Sith, while others have made us wonder whether the writer had actually seen the films (or done so while on drugs), such as a certain recent The Empire Strikes Back adaptation.

When word came that a trilogy of Brazilian comic acaptations of the Original Trilogy was set to be translated into English and released as a single hardcover volume in the United States, I was not at all excited. Did we really need yet another adaptation of the films?

It turns out that in some respects, the answer is actually . . . yes.

Bare Bones But Beautiful

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel is a “pure” adaptation of A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. It follows the films almost exactly with dialogue mostly intact (barring editing needs for space). Those with an eye toward detail will also notice that these adaptations actually use the newer cuts of the films, such as Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker Force ghost.

The story is carried by artwork that feels a little bit cartoony (which makes sense, given a younger target audience) and reminiscent (at least to my eye) of manga. The color work in particular really stands out, bringing a flourish to the artwork that the actual Star Wars manga adaptations (reprinted by Dark Horse beginning nearly two decades ago) never managed with their black and white format.

The only real downside to the work is that, as noted, it is an almost exact adaptation of the films, which means a lack of extra (or deleted) scenes or new information to provide what I’ve referred to as the “Stover Effect.” What you see in the films is what you get here.

The Verdict

There is little that I can really say about Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel. It is a stylized but beautiful adaptation that breaks no new ground. It gets the films right, which is a step above many of the earlier adaptations like those from Marvel around the films’ theatrical releases, but it does not add anything substantial to the experience.

If you are looking for a solid, accurate adaptation of the Original Trilogy, this is definitely one to pick up. If you are looking for something new or original amid the pages of film adaptations, this is one you can skip, though you will be missing out one some nice artwork in doing so.

Recommended for: Those looking for a mostly accurate comic adaptation of the Original Trilogy.

Not recommended for: Those looking for new tidbits in such a comic adaptation.

A copy of this book was received from Disney Press for review purposes.

Star Wars: Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens – A Beyond the Films Review

With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens by Landry Q. Walker (hardcover, 2016)

Back in December 2015, four ebooks were released, featuring four out of six stories to be presented in April 2016 as a new anthology, Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens. Now that April has arrived, so has the hardcover edition of these stories, which includes two new tales exclusive to the print version.

I have previously reviewed the four stories released as ebooks. You can find those reivews here:

This review will focus on the two print-exclusive tales in the anthology, along with a final look at the anthology itself.

A Recipe for Death

The first new story in the hardback print edition of Landry Q. Walker’s Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens anthology is A Recipe for Death. It follows Maz Kanata’s head chef, Strono “Cookie” Tuggs (seen briefly in The Force Awakens) as he investigates the murder of the castle’s sous chef, Robbs Ely. The investigation is held in a “reality television” fashion through a broadcasted cooking competition, wherein the chefs vying for Robbs’ old job are expected to let their guilt slip.

Like The Face of Evil, this is a tale with some darker aspects to it. While it starts off a bit slow, it picks up once the cooking competition starts, and as odd as that may sound, it is a novel enough idea for a Star Wars story that it works well enough here.

True Love

Perhaps the weakest tale of the anthology, True Love puts its focus on junk boss Unkar Plutt. When two of his underlings try to steal some of his hidden riches, they use an artificial intelligence to simulate a female of Unkar’s species to interact with him through what amounts to a dating website.

The tale serves to make Unkar even more of a jerk than in The Force Awakens, but it relies on both the “emotions” of an artificial intelligence and the stupidity of his underlings to play out.

The New Anthology, Taken as a Whole

Fans have wanted a new Star Wars anthology for many years, building on the success of several prior works, particularly the Tales of… anthologies that built upon film characters in the Original Trilogy.

Those works (Tales from the Mos Eisley CantinaTales of the Bounty Huntersand Tales from Jabba’s Palace) featured stories that usually crossed through the events of their respective live action films, and the short stories, written by many different authors, tended to often intersect with each other. They created tapestries that gave more depth to what we saw at Chalmun’s Cantina, in the latter half of The Empire Strikes Back, and at Jabba’s Palace.

Walker’s new anthology (and make no mistake, every story is by the same writer this time) does not make any attempt to have any of its stories cross directly into the events of The Force Awakens, nor do they really interconnect with each other, though such a feat should have been much easier with only a single author. Each story is essentially a standalone outing for characters seen in the background of the film (except Unkar, who is a more prominent character), set an indeterminate time before the film, with no real impact on the film or its context.

The result is an anthology with some interesting, off-beat stories that go from goofy to horror/thriller territory but never seem to actualy matter. Interestingly, one major complaint from the ebook releases of four of the six stories has been addressed, as the final print version does not bear the label of The Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was again mostly inappropriate for the content of the short stories herein. (To me, that actually makes the anthology a bit of an easier sell: you will not find yourself spending the entire time reading wondering why it was labeled as part of the journey to a film it has little to do with.)

Having now looked at each story in turn, along with the book concept in general, it appears it is time for . . .

The Verdict

Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens is not the anthology that fans were hoping for. Its connections to The Force Awakens are minimal, and its stories stand apart even from each other in an unspecified time frame in the years (or even decades) prior to the film from which its characters hail.

That said, if we can look beyond expectations and just take the book for what it is, this is a volume that contains some rather unusual (sometimes downright bizarre) stories that are, for the most part, worth checking out if seeking off-beat Star Wars content. In particular, I would highly recommend The Face of Evil, which is perhaps the closest thing to a true Star Wars horror story since Red Harvest.

At a cover price of $12.99, this will be a tough one for some fans to justify picking up, but if nothing else, it would be worthwhile to consider the individual stories to pick out one or two to check out as $1.99 ebooks. You will not walk away with much in terms of new insights into The Force Awakens and its background characters, and you can surely skip this one without ever noticing that you have missed anything. It is entertaining, though, in its own strange fashion. Your mileage will definitely vary.

Recommended for: Those looking for strange, off-beat Star Wars stories.

Not recommended for: Those looking for something that truly ties directly into The Force Awakens or evokes the same sense of connectivity of the early Bantam Spectra Star Wars anthologies.

The copy of this book used for review was a retail purchase, alongside paid purchases of the four ebooks in December 2015.

J.J. said what?! – SWR #219

This week, Mark has Nathan P. Butler on to sit in the co-pilot seat as they discuss J.J. Abram’s Tribeca Talks interview, Debunking Episode 8 Rumors, Royal set visits, Star Wars: Bloodlines, and more!

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