Tag Archives: Star Wars Beyond the Films

Star Wars: High Noon on Jakku – 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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High Noon on Jakku by Landry Q. Walker (ebook, 2015)

In April 2016, a new anthology – something Star Wars fans have long been hoping for – will be released. The book, Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens will include six stories, four of which were recently released as separate ebooks, months before seeing physical print. Unlike in previous anthologies, all of the stories in this new tome will be written by a single author, Landry Q. Walker. Each story will feature alien characters from The Force Awakens. This review focuses on one of the four stories released in December 2015.

High Noon on Jakku

Taking place at Niima Outpost on the planet Jakku, High Noon on Jakku focuses on Constable Zuvio, the Kyuzo (i.e. Embo’s species) law enforcement officer seen in The Force Awakens. The tale begins with Zuvio facing his “trusted” droid, CZ-1G5, in a sort of “high noon” style pistol duel. The action then flashes back to shortly before the incident, wherein an apparent heist of digital funds from a computer aboard a banking vessel begins a hunt for the perpetrators. The tale proceeds until we “catch up” to the “duel” and see the situation resolved.

While it is nice to get some new background on Zuvio and his deputies, Streehn and Drego, the story adds little to them beyond simply giving us a story featuring them for the first time. Broadly speaking, the story plays out exactly as one would expect, right down to the “twist” of who the thief turns out to be. It is so straightforward and true-to-form that it feels like a written equivalent of a paint-by-numbers piece.

That said, as if compensating for the run-of-the-mill nature of the story, Walker’s decision to begin near the end of the story and then flash backward changes the nature of the tale from being entirely about the rather obvious heist case and instead puts the focus on why Zuvio would be facing off with CG-1G5 at all. Again, the answer is relatively obvious, but that shift in timing helps create more of a driving question for the story than the identity of the story’s criminal (which is so painfully obvious that the culprit might as well be named similarly to The Clone Wars Jedi Master Ima-Gun-Di).

This isn’t a bad story, but it does not offer much.

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Story?

Given that we will be meeting Zuvio later this week in The Force Awakens, one could argue that anything that introduces new characters from the film counts as part of that “journey,” but unless there is somehow a story connection (beyond characters and location) between this heist and The Force Awakens, the “journey to” label’s validity here is tenuous at best.

The Verdict

High Noon on Jakku isn’t a bad story, nor is it particularly good. It is a straightforward, run-of-the-mill tale that serves to introduce us to Zuvio and his companions and little else. You will not regret reading it, but you will not gain much from the experience either.

Recommended for: Those interested in learning about Zuvio outside of The Force Awakens.

Not recommended for: Those looking for something particularly new, innovative, or unpredictable.

A retail purchase ebook (on Nook) was used for this review.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

Well, so much for Zuvio being a featured character in The Force Awakens. The question of “Where is Zuvio?” could rival the pre-release “Where is Luke?” question.

What. Is, up, with: Chuck!? (Part 1 of 2) – SWBTF #189

The aftermath of Star Wars: Aftermath. The hype, the grammar, the character lifestyle choices, and the fans that loved or hated it all, all this and so much more! 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! Beyond the Films lies your Fandom!


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 the many reactions to Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, and their Spoiler-Free look at the book! 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!

Aftermath

This episode your hosts discuss: Continue reading

Star Wars: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation (Art Therapy) – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will 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.)


arttherapy

Star Wars: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation (hardback, 2015)

In November 2015, Disney Editions released Star Wars: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation, a hardback Art Therapy coloring book for all ages, though geared in its complexity a bit more toward adults.

I do not profess to be an expert on Art Therapy. (Johnathan is the psychologist of our little Rebels Roundtable troupe, and he has not spent much time with the concept either.) The concept has existed for about 70 years and is based around the idea that creative expression, including something as “basic” as coloring, can have a psychologically therapeutic affect for a variety of conditions, from diagnosed psychological conditions to something as simple as stress. (My own wife used coloring as a means of stress relief when battling cancer a few years ago. I have seen the value of such practice first-hand.)

This book strives to provide that kind of creative outlet via Art Therapy through a series of one hundred Star Wars images that are presented in black and white line art so that the reader (or patient) can color those images through the Art Therapy process.

Many readers, though, will simply view this as an adult coloring book, which is, in essence, what it is, though its purpose goes deeper due to its therapeutic value.

In keeping with its stress-reducing, therapeutic theme, the artwork tends toward character portraits (often surrounded by floral designs), full-page patterns, and mandalas that often feel fit for tattoo art. The art is calm, yet because of its style, one could argue that the art in the book, especially after being colored, could be suitable for framing. It is not action-packed but feels mature and respectful (even when the art in question might involve Jar Jar Binks).

The biggest drawback of the book is its format. It is presented in hardback form (unlike a similar book coming in February 2016 that will be paperback) with heavy cardboard covers and spine, fit for pages to be torn out and colored with the cover itself as a hard coloring surface. The downside is that while that makes it feel more substantial than a simple “coloring book,” it also makes the book surprisingly easy to damage. Edges and the spine are very easily “dinged,” leaving raw spots of cardboard, and the way the front and back covers attach to the spine make it very easy for the covers to start tearing off of the book. The product is an inspired idea with a flawed physical execution. (Then again, if you intend to remove the pages, then you won’t be worried about the condition of the cover anyway.)

The Verdict

Star Wars: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation is not a product that everyone will find interesting, but one could argue that anyone could find the actual use of the book for its intended purpose (coloring as Art Therapy) helpful and soothing. Those looking for something “different” or seeking actual Art Therapy through a psychologist will get the most mileage out of this product.

Recommended for: Those looking for an adult coloring book or a book to use with actual Art Therapy, those with artistic desire but few artistic skills, or those seeking art suitable for framing or tattoo inspiration.

Not recommended for: Those looking for a product to keep pristine in a collection, or those looking for a book with, uhm, words.

Disney Lucasfilm Press provided a copy for review.

Star Wars: Lost Stars – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will 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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Lost Stars by Claudia Gray (hardback, 2015)

On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars).  All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray is an oddity among these stories and, frankly, among Star Wars stories in general. It is marketed as a young adult novel yet deals with subjects in a more adult way than some of Star Wars “adult” novels in recent decades and addresses subjects such as sex (yes, that taboo S-word in Star Wars so often) in a fashion that befits a mature (but not gratuitous) presentation.

The book was touted as a sort of Romeo and Juliet in the Star Wars saga, but, speaking as someone who is a big “fan” of Shakespeare (particularly of Hamlet and Julius Caesar), I have always found Romeo and Juliet lacking. We know so little about the characters and what draws them together in Shakespeare’s classic play that, to me, their love story has always come off as impulsive teens who dive in too deep, too fast, and end up acting on extreme emotions without taking a breath to think, thereby causing their own deaths. That is not a particularly popular view, I would admit, but it caused me at first to shy away from Lost Stars, making it the last of the Force Friday novels I read, specifically because I was afraid of something as “blame it on the stars and throw away logic” as Romeo and Juliet or as trite and immature as Twilight. (See, I just angered another segment of the readership, didn’t I?)

I was wrong about Lost Stars. This novel has more depth and detail to its characters than several Romeo and Juliets and rarely made me draw comparisons to the wishy-washy, blind romances of modern works like Twilight. It is a solid read with a realistic romance.

In short, Lost Stars is, in my opinion, the best novel in the Story Group’s new Star Wars canon, hands down. Those familiar with my various podcasts and such over the years should recognize that I do not make such a declaration lightly.

The story centers on Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, the novel’s “star-crossed lovers.” Unlike Romeo and Juliet, who meet in their teens, fall madly in love in a matter of minutes (or seconds, depending on one’s reading of a partiuclar scene), then are dead together in a matter of weeks (or days, again depending on one’s reading of certain lines), Lost Stars‘ Thane and Ciena share most of their lifetimes connected in some form or another, though not always as they would prefer.

The tale begins in 11 BBY on Jelucan, where the Empire has just taken full control. Thane comes from a well-off family in the more “urban” class on the planet, while Ciena hails from a more “rural,” poorer (and more spiritual) class. The two are drawn together by their love of flying and a chance encounter during an Imperial ceremony with Grand Moff Tarkin. Their shared dream of becoming pilots for the Empire, which they initially believe is a positive force in the galaxy, carries them through into an Imperial Academy and further Imperial service. These formative years make them both best friends and, as they slowly realize, something more.

Once in Imperial service, we see the two start to diverge in their views on the Empire, their experiences with Imperial might, etc. Eventually, we see one of the characters drawn into the Rebel Alliance, while the other remains honor-bound to the Empire. This sets the stage for a tense final 2/3 of the novel, wherein we can see the Rebellion and Empire through both Rebel and Imperial eyes, enhanced by the connection the reader has formed to these two characters, neither of whom are “good” or “bad,” per se, just the most important thing of all in such a story: human.

Along the way, we see Thane and Ciena’s relationship to the events of A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, then onward into their involvement in the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY that creates the backdrop for a setting in The Force Awakens by explaining at least one crashed Star Destroyer on the surface.

Like any good relationship drama, there are times when you want to scream at the characters or shake some sense into them, but every step of the way, their decisions feel grounded and real in a vein that makes them valid, even when they are making mistakes. When things finally come to a head near the finale of the book, this became only the third Star Wars novel in decades to bring tears to my eyes. (The first was a classic death in Iron Fist, and the second was the end of Dark Disciple.)

I would also note in passing here that the novel is one of the longest in the Star Wars library, at approximately 550 pages, yet well worth the time.

This is a powerful story of lovers on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War that surprasses the storytelling in not just its fellow Story Group Canon novels but the vast majority of the Legends Continuity novels that preceded this new continuity as well. It receives my highest possible recommendation.

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?

Honestly, as good as Lost Stars is, I cannot really say that it fits the “journey to The Force Awakens” label. Unless we see Ciena or Thane in The Force Awakens, it feels as though the only thing the novel really does for the film is to explain how one of the crashed Star Destroyers ended up on the surface of Jakku and provide some details of that battle (29 years prior to TFA).

(Yes, I said “one of the crashed Star Destroyers.” If the Jakku “Graveyard of Giants” map for Battlefront is to be considered authentic, there appear to have been at least two Star Destroyers and one Corellian Corvette that crashed in the same general area on Jakku, if not more.)

A Chronological Note

As I noted above, the story starts in 11 ABY. It runs through shortly after the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY. Most of the novel follows the characters in their teens and onward, rather than their childhood, which is explored to a lesser extent in the early chapters of the novel.

The Verdict

Lost Stars is an absolute must-read for Star Wars fans. It should not be written off as a “young adult” or “teen” book, nor do frequent comparisons to other love stories tend to do it justice, as those comparisons create impressions that rarely match the emotional impact of Lost Stars. If we do not ever see these characters or Claudia Gray in Star Wars again, it will be quite a shame.

Recommended for: Those looking for a strong story with strong characters with whom emotional ties can be formed, and those looking for alternate perspectives on Original Trilogy events.

Not recommended for: Those who think Star Wars should be free of relationship stories or who are bothered by seeing new characters frequently crossing paths with the films.

I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

One other connection to TFA does appear in the book, as the Resistance base planet in the film, D’Qar, is scouted by Thayne and his team as a potential Rebel base. Otherwise, seeing the film has given no new context to the story.

Star Wars: Moving Target – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will 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.)


movingtarget

Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry (hardback, 2015)

On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars).  All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry, billed as “A Princess Leia Adventure,” features Leia Organa on a mission for the Rebel Alliance with the aid of Nien Nunb (in his Mellcrawler), communications expert Kidi Aleri, tech specialist Antrot, and commando Major Lokmarcha. The Rebel Alliance has just discovered the information about the second Death Star that will set the Battle of Endor in motion, but in order for the Rebels to gather their forces at Sullust in preparation for that fateful battle in Return of the Jedi, they need the Empire to be distrated. That is Leia’s mission. As a “moving target” that is too good for the Empire to ignore, she can draw attention away from the fleet at Sullust.

Along the way, Leia faces doubts about whether her decoy mission puts too many people in danger, as the Empire (personified in this case by Captain Khione, another strong Impeiral female in the Story Group’s new canon, of the Star Destroyer Shieldmaiden) nears their own goal of capturing Leia.

Of the three character books from Force Friday, I found Moving Target to be the most engaging (and perhaps the second strongest overall, second only to Lost Stars). The team members are fleshed out to an extent that side characters are not in the other two books in this quasi-series, and there are momemts in the story when the reader will feel heavy emotional impact in terms of the fates of certain team members and Leia’s overall mindset in this era. This is a Leia that is driven but moral, struggling with the costs of victory.

Moreover, Nien Numb’s participation is another step (along with the Princess Leia mini-series and Battlefront: Twilight Company) in making Lando Calrissian’s ROTJ co-pilot into a much more significant character in this new Canon than in the Legends Continuity.

It is a worthwhile read that ties directly into Return of the Jedi.

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?

Some will argue that a story set in this era is far too early to count as part of any kind of “journey to The Force Awakens.”

For the most part, I would agree, if we are only considering the main story. The book does include a “framing” prologue and epilogue that feature a The Force Awakens era “General” Leia being sought out to write her memoirs. Those segments also feature a bit of discussion between Leia and Caluan Ematt (introduced briefly here in both the main story and epilogue, while focused on primarily in Smuggler’s Run) about Poe Dameron and the mission he is on during the opening of The Force Awakens. Thus, the connection to the film is there, albeit with less of a direct connection (as far as we can currently tell) between the main story and the film than was the case with The Weapon of a Jedi.

A Chronological Note

Unlike the other two character books from Force Friday (The Weapon of a Jedi and Smuggler’s Run), Moving Target, as previously mentioned, takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, rather than between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, alongside parts of Lost Stars and Battlefront: Twilight Company, it is currently the only story in the Story Group’s new canon to be set between ESB and ROTJ.

The Verdict

Moving Target is the best of the three character books from Force Friday and adds a significant story bridge leading into Return of the Jedi. The extent to which it will have any impact on The Force Awakens remiains somewhat unclear, but its impact on ROTJ should make this a book any Star Wars Canon reader should check out.

Recommended for: Those interested about the lead-up to Return of the Jedi, or those looking for a Leia-centric adventure.

Not recommended for: Those looking for significant page time for Original Trilogy characters other than Leia (and Nien Numb, to be fair), or those hunting a story that is set in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens concept seems to imply.

I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.

As an additional disclaimer, I have previously worked with Jason Fry on elements of Star Wars: The Essential Atlas and consider him a friend, though not a close one. That affiliation had no impact on the content of this review.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

I would suggest that Leia’s TFA era segment in the prologue and epilogue are almost certainly set during TFA, rather than shortly before the film.