Tag Archives: Star Wars Beyond the Films

TFA Feedback (Part 1 of 2) – SWBTF #198

Rise of the films- death of relevancy…, is the ‘New EU’ doomed already? Or is it, really, all sunshine and Death Stars? You ask, we Ponder. All on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR Podcast of Legends! YOUR ticket to that Galaxy far, far away! Your Fandom lies Beyond the Films.


This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Champion of the Multiverse; Mark Hurliman, and your Count of Continuities; Nathan P. Butler sit down to discuss your Feedback, as well as your reactions to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So strap in and tighten your crash webbing Fandom, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!FB_IMG_1453243435772

This episode your hosts discuss:

Star Wars: Bloodline – 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.)


bloodline

Bloodline by Claudia Gray (hardcover, 2016)

Back on Force Friday, Claudia Gray entered the scene as an established author and new Star Wars writer with her young adult novel Lost Stars, which I have previously stated on many occasions is (at least so far) the best novel in the Story Group’s new Star Wars canon. (You can see my review of Lost Stars here.)

Upon learning that Gray was writing an adult novel for Del Rey that would focus on Leia, I had high hopes, given how much I enjoyed Lost Stars, but the track record of Leia-centric works in recent years is far from stellar. The last attempt at a novel with Leia at its heart was Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge, one of the most generic, throwaway Star Wars stories of the last decade. Moreover, the last time Leia was the focus of her own comic series, Mark Waid’s Princess Leia for Marvel, the result was an inconsistent characterization that provided a Leia whom readers could barely recognize. She was even prone to teenage outbursts with lines like (and I’m quoting here), “If things would stop going wrong for two seconds…” (Yes, that should be read in a whiny, spoiled brat voice for full effect.) Fans of Star Wars Beyond the Films will likely remember my mantra from our review episodes: “That’s not Leia!”

Has Claudia Gray captured Leia’s essence better than Mark Waid or Martha Wells? (And is there something just cursed about someone with the initials M.W. writing a Leia story?)

Bloodline

One of the most common complaints about The Force Awakens is that the film does not provide enough context or explanation for certain key story elements, such as the nature of the Resistance in relation to the New Republic, the origins of the First Order, etc. Some of these “missing” elements are quite obviously being held back for future films (e.g. Rey’s familiy background), but with the new “all things being equal” approach to canon, readers have been hoping for new novels that might fill in some of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens in a period much closer to the latter than the initial (disappointing) novel in that gap, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath.

Bloodline was designed to fill that role. The story focuses on Leia six years prior to TFA, during her tenure as a New Republic Senator. The tale that unfolds serves to illustrate the hidden conspiracy that would give rise to the villains of TFA, the frustrations and political twists that lead to the formation of the Resistance, and a rather interesting political schism within the New Republic in the years prior to the recent film.

This is Leia at her best. She is witty, intelligent, driven to action, and dignified in the face of a political situation that almost makes Donald Trump’s campaign seem tame. (I said “almost.”  Let’s not go crazy here.) That Gray captures Leia so well is even more important to making this a quality story when one takes into account that Han Solo is only in the story sporadically and the Jedi duo of Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo are frequently referenced but never actually seen. Leia has to carry this tale with mostly new characters at her side.

Those new characters (and the until-now-undeveloped Korr Sella, seen dying on Hosnian Prime in TFA) are a pretty strong batch, though their depth varies. We meet a brash young pilot in Joph Seastriker, a somewhat haunted former racing pilot in Greer Sonnel (recently featured in the Star Wars Insider short story Scorched), a seemingly shallow politician in Carise Sindian, and a rather interesting new political foil in Ransolm Casterfo.

Ransolm often nearly steals the scene whenever he appears, only failing to do so by being placed alongside a strongly-written Leia. His political views are complex and nuanced enough to make readers reluctant to like him at first, but he grows on you throughout the novel as he is further fleshed out and his views become clearer. He is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting new characters introduced in the Star Wars novels or comics since the “reboot.”

Bloodline is at times an action tale, but at its heart, it is a political thriller with serious ramifications for Leia and the galaxy. I am a political junkie myself, so seeing the New Republic torn between the Centrists and the Populists, the fracturing of governmental structures, and the political machinations on Hosnian Prime and beyond is just what I had hoped to see when it finally came time to explain how the Resistance formed from the New Republic and the First Order coalesced as its new foe.

That said, one aspect of the book will likely take many readers a moment to process, so I will raise a warning ahead of time. Many of the events in the Big Three’s lives that we know must take place before TFA have not happened yet in this novel. That can be quite a shock, given that most fans have assumed that the events that scattered them and set the stage for TFA must have happened long before (perhaps even at the same time Rey was left behind on Jakku). To have so much have happened in just the six years between this story and The Force Awakens is unexpected and might cause frustration for some readers. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how that six year gap is filled by future stories in the coming months and years. Bloodline‘s context is already a bit of a curve ball.

The Verdict

Bloodline is an excellent Star Wars political thriller with strong new characters and Leia finally done right. Those looking for answers to many of the burning backstory questions in The Force Awakens will find many (but not all) of those answers here.

I highly recommend this to fellow Star Wars readers as one of the few true must-reads of the Story Group’s “canon.” Claudia Gray has managed to do it again.

Recommended for: Those looking for political intrigue, Leia done right, and answers to some of the burning backstory questions from The Force Awakens.

Not recommended for: Those looking for significant amounts of Han, Luke, or most other established film characters other than Leia, or those for whom the idea of certain major events taking place in just six years prior to The Force Awakens will be migraine-inducing. Those who cannot stand politics will still find enough to enjoy but may wish to wait for paperback.

A review copy was received from Del Rey and used for this review. The reviewer also purchased a signed retail copy through Barnes and Noble.

TFA Retrospective Part 2 – SWBTF #197

The Force Awakens. The films so powerful it spawned a new Star Wars Universe. But did it need to? And what were your hosts initial thoughts on Bloodlines? All on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR Podcast of Legends! YOUR ticket to that Galaxy far, far away! Your Fandom lies Beyond the Films.


This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Champion of the Multiverse; Mark Hurliman, and your Count of Continuities; Nathan P. Butler sit down to discuss their reactions to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So strap in and tighten your crash webbing Fandom, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!FB_IMG_1453243435772

This episode your hosts discuss:

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.)


wildspacethesnare

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

The Snare is 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.)


wildspace1

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.