Book Review: Star Wars Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

Even though the Aftermath trilogy wasn’t well received by fans, I wanted to give it a chance and see what all the fuss was about. Taking into account that, yes, the trilogy has some flaws (as with any Star Wars movie), I loved Life Debt. Filled with action packed chapters, characters that are way far from the main storyline, and pacing that gives the sense of urgency, it grabbed me by the hand to show me a different style of Star Wars novel. Book 2 of the trilogy, Life Debt, takes everything a step further, adding more layers to the narrative, bringing beloved characters in a way that makes sense, starting in a smart way were the last book left us.

Chuck Wendig has a love for Star Wars that it breathes in the pages. I find that the interludes he includes between some characters are his most personal writings, thinking about how the galaxy perceives the bigger narrative shown in the movies and the book itself. Now, Wendig brings Han, Chewie, and Leia in his story without shoehorning; the characters belong to this story as the original Aftermath crew has gained some recognition among the New Republic due to the task achieved by Norra, Jas, Sinjir and Temmin.

The story starts with Leia asking a personal request to Norra: to find Han Solo. Leia’s husband has been gone with Chewie, trying to liberate the Wookie planet of Kashyyk. The plot moves forward with Jas Emari, Temmin, Mister Bones, Sinjir and Wedge Antilles as they attempt a secret plan to find Han. In the middle of this situation, they eventually find Han and end up in the smuggler’s plan to save the Wookie planet.

The Aftermath crew has a bad feeling about this plan as problems arise due to the Kashyyk liberation plan, affecting the Imperial plans of Rae Sloane and Mon Mothma´s relationship with Leia. With Gallius Max as an enemy for Sloane, a great dynamic of power develops, reminiscent of the confrontation between Kylo Ren and General Hux in The Last Jedi. This tension pays off later in the book, with a satisfying resolution that leads straight to the next book.

I was reading this book while reading Last Shot and it became a great complimentary read for the upcoming Solo movie. The book handles Han Solo characterization very well while bringing more internal conflicts within him. These conflicts resurface later in Last Shot. Another great thing about this trilogy is the fact that there isn’t much of a time jump in between books, making it more immediately to start reading one book after the next.

As a person that was curious about the Aftermath trilogy, this is definitely a fun read that is unjustly maligned by many fans. Wendig achieves the daunting task of explaining how the Empire slowly turns into the First Order, presenting new characters, and taking into account what happens within Episodes 6 and 7. The author juggles all of these elements while not making the story itself conscious of all this juggling. With the release of ‘Solo’, this book is a great Han and Chewie story you can get into without even reading the first book of the trilogy. You could be lost in some places with the characters, but the book will fill you in with the needed information.

Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Set in between Episodes 6 and 7 of the Star Wars saga, Aftermath by Chuck Wendig was one of the first books to give us a glimpse into how the Empire started to shape up after the death of the Emperor.

In an attempt to save Wedge Antilles, known Rebel pilot, from the hand of whats left of the Empire, we meet Norra Wexley, a known pilot from Rebel Alliance. In Norra’s pursuit, her son Temmin gets involved in the mission by accident, as well as bounty hunter Jas Emari and ex Imperial officer Sinjir Rath Velus. Wedge Antilles is in the hands of Rae Sloane, a high rank Imperial officer, while the Empire tries to tie some loose ends from planets that don’t have the news of the Battle of Endor.

The novel revolves around action sequences filled with chases, investigations and space flight. It could be a bit jarring for those looking for a character driven story, but the glimpses that shine on the intentions of each character keeps you involved. This flaw turned into a major criticism during its initial reception, but it misses the fact that this is part of a trilogy. There are many characters involved, as it happens with many Star Wars novels. Chuck Wendig is smart at giving you the details of each characters, making you care about them.

The novel has many chapters in between called Interlude, that act as short stories that describe different situations around the galaxy. The balance between narrowing down with a set of character for the main plot and diversifying in these interludes is welcomed by me. Sometimes there are so many characters in Star Wars that we don’t have the time to care about all of them. These chapter give a broader view, explaining how different planets react to the fall of the Empire and how that affects them as a whole.

Some well-known characters of the galaxy are mentioned in a way that makes sense. Wedge Antilles taken as hostage jumps to mind, making it instantly interesting to any fan. Admiral Ackbar is involved in the story, but it stays as an ancillary character, making the story believable, blending well-known characters and brand new ones.

What this book doesn’t give fans is information about the new characters from the sequel trilogy, something that affected the initial response. It is more about the state of the galaxy after the fall of the Empire seen in Return Of The Jedi. I wanted to learn more about these new characters, especially Jas Emari and Sinjir. I hope these characters are more developed in the next books of the trilogy. (Update: they do!)

If you like an action packed story that gets you hyped enough to have all those vibes for experiencing a dog fight in space, then this book is a great addition. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it won’t give you the whole depth of the characters. If your’e interested about more characters besides Han, Luke and Leia, then this book will give you new, interesting characters that might give you a pause from the main storyline.

Book Review: Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older

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In the Star Wars books, tentpole novels have been very careful at not showing too much about the main characters. Most of these characters end up as secondary characters; some others end up in short mission-driven stories. But with this new novel about Han and Lando, we get a good blend of both worlds. We see our favorite scoundrels and smugglers doing what they do best, dealing also with personal struggles, filling some gaps between what happened to each one of them between Episodes 6 and 7.

Last Shot by Daniel José Older is an action-packed, character driven novel were Han and Lando must fight against Fyzen Gor, an old med student that has planned the destruction of organics with an army of droid assassins. From the very beginning, the storyline is well established. We see Han taking care of a young Ben Solo, dealing with the nooks and crannies of being married to a politician, wondering about his place in the world, trying to be a good father and husband. Lando asks for his help, explaining a recent encounter with a droid that tried to kill him.

The novel, similar to the interludes of the Aftermath series, jumps back and forth in time, detailing some events that happened to Han or Lando decades ago, filling some gaps that allow the current storyline to have further meaning. Fyzen Gor has an impressive development as a villain, with clear intentions and reasons that backup his actions, dealing with the scoundrels in some opportunities during the past. What I enjoyed the most from Fyzen Gor is that he is believable and doesn’t have any Imperial entanglements. Every once in a while it is good to see other types of villains, with a three dimensional background compared to the many generals, cadets, and Sith that lack depth, being made from the same mold.

Daniel José Older masterfully writes the dialogue to Han and Lando, making it as believable as ever. If you don’t believe me, please try to listen to the audiobook and enjoy how the lines blend itself to some great Harrison and Billy Dee impersonations. The novel has some very interesting descriptions, especially considering the language used, for Lando’s clothing and his private encounters with Kaasha, his Twi’lek lover.

You will be surprised with some encounters like Sinjir’s husband (from the Aftermath series), a techie Ewok(yes, you just read that), Lando’s droid L3, some meesa meesa chatter with a Gungan, Mon Mothma and more. Dealing with several characters could be a hassle for the reader and writer alike, but this author blends each one to deliver the needed actions and intentions in the right plot points. No characters fell flat or two-dimensional right away, which happens when writers juggle different characters at once. Each characters contribute with the story, offering a unique style and pacing to the novel.

Other details that shine throughout the novel are the passages were Han is dealing with his family, his personal life, trying to balance them out. These deep, internal conversations allow us to understand better why he eventually leaves Leia after Ben turned to the dark side. This wasn’t José Older’s job, but he makes a damn good work in this aspect.

This could be, next to From A Certain Point Of View, one of my favorite Star Wars books so far. It is a great introduction for someone looking for a starting point because you don’t need as much information from other books, focusing mostly on Han and Lando. Daniel José Older has got me hyped for the Solo movie; he needs to work on some more Lando novels too. For anybody looking to get his Han Solo fix while waiting for the movie, this is an excellent book, filled with details that will make you enjoy more the movies but isn’t mandatory reading to understand it.

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Book Review: Smuggler’s Run

Now that the Solo film is coming near, I decided to take a leap at some of the books published about Han and Chewie. Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka was released under the Journey of The Force Awakens series. It is a short story about the two buddies between Episode IV and V.

Han is convinced by Leia to search for a rebel that has a lot of intelligence information regarding the weapons and bases of the Alliance. The trip takes them to uncharted territories of the Outer Rim to find the planet Cyrken. Captain Beck, of the Empire, notices the Falcon heading near the planet were Ematt, the hidden rebel, is supposed to be.

The story moves forward filled with every single detail of this Hand and Chewie adventure. We meet Delia, a friend of both smugglers, and helps them during their search for the rebel. They are later attacked by bounty hunters as they try to fulfill this near suicide plan.

The book has a fun story that gives some backstory to Hand and Chewie, but it isn’t necessary reading. If you enjoy a good story of Han, Chewie and the Falcon, then this is for you. Sometimes the story moves on slower than expected during the detailed descriptions of some action sequences, but I learned to appreciate it as the story moves forward. In the epilogue, you understand why the story is being told at such detail.

I’m interested to read more about Han and Chewie, but overall this is a good place to start if you want a straightforward story that gives no further information from the movies. If you’re a fast reader, it takes around to hours to finish the story. An action packed story, without many details about the characters, but a compelling villain that has the same vibe as some Imperial officers from Star Wars Rebels.

Book Review: From A Certain Point Of View (Star Wars)

After watching The Last Jedi, I became more involved with the Star Wars universe as a whole. While there were many canon books released, there was no sure path to start. This year it started with the safest bet, which is From A Certain Point Of View.

Most of the Star Wars books talk about spaces of time in between movies or other timelines occurring during major events of the saga. In the case of From A Certain Point Of View, it tells the story of what happened in A New Hope from the eyes of different characters, many of them in the background. From the very beginning, this seems the kind of thought experiment I enjoy in fiction, so it made it all the more compelling.

The story of A New Hope is told with shorter stories from different people across the galaxy, from the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. There is a nice balance between the two groups, which makes it all the more interesting.

Gary Whitta kicks off the book with ‘Raymus’, where we understand the fear that Darth Vader could inflict on the Rebels. From there it all start mixing different stories, some even off screen, like is the case for ‘The Sith Of Datawork’, which gives sense to why the escape pod from C3PO and R2D2 was never bombed on their way to Tatooine.

From Aunt Beru to Qui Gon Jinn, each character starts shaping up the story of Episode 4 in a whole new way. Most of my favorite stories were the ones that happened off-screen of the movie, where we understand a moment that was mentioned in other parts of the saga (like the case of Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice) or whole moment that are just fun to think about ( like Tom Albgleberger’s Whills). Each perspective shapes up the story in such a way that you’ll never be able to watch the movie in the same way. You’ll have much more context and involvement with several characters present in the film.

For the fans of the Mos Eisley Cantina, there’s plenty of points of view up to the Greedo-Han Solo encounter. There are many witnesses to that event, so each character reflects on the situation. One of the most interesting stories is being written from the musician’s point of view, where it also gives more background to why their music is so delightful.

As the stories started to surround the attack of the Death Star, there’s a couple of stories that explain how many pilots saw Luke’s feat. Maybe one of the best stories of the book comes at the very end, where Lando Calrissian gets a surprise when he is informed that his beloved Millenium Falcon was a big piece of the puzzle to defeat the power of the Death Star.

For a person who has no involvement with the Canon books or the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this book gave me enough surprises and great feelings that made me feel comfortable reading these books. The fact that each story is written by a different author gives you some rest, as maybe a writer’s style isn’t your taste and you will be able to hop on to the next story.

This book is great for anyone who loves Star Wars. It is also a great beginning to dip your toes into the Star Wars book. From A Certain Point Of View, as I mentioned earlier, gives you new context for A New Hope. With all these points of view in your head, watching the classic movie will be a whole different experience. And for a Star Wars fan, it is the right kind of experience you want from the beloved universe.

Book Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi Novelization

 

Ever since The Last Jedi popped into my eyes, I’ve been fascinated by everything Star Wars. Well on my way to watch Star Wars Rebels Season 3, several canon books being read and many audiobooks about the films, it has been a fascination of mine ever since. It didn’t make sense to me to read the novelization of a movie up until this year. I thought I should give it a try, and when Jason Fry mentioned of Han’s funeral being part of the novel, it got me hooked.

One of the main points of reading a novelization is that the internal struggles from several characters are better fleshed out. Simple, but important details are thrown in descriptions of the characters. This is the case for Jason Fry’s novelization of Rain Johnson’s script. It isn’t only a marketable repository of deleted scenes; it is a bible that makes you figure out many details that just have a few seconds of screen time.

This is a spoiler-filled review,so better prepare if you are expecting to read the book.

The very first lines of the book, suggesting that Luke has a wife, grabs your attention instantly. Not only is it a game changer, but it is also an important piece of information that sheds light on Luke’s current struggles. When the tables are turned, suggesting towards the end of the prologue that it had all been a dream, suggests even more from Luke. He’s dreaming of a normal, simple life on Tatooine. No Jedis, no Vader, no Leia. Just a farmer and his wife Camie. The dream shows that, even though he is seduced by this simple life, it wouldn’t have any meaning for him. His call for adventure is too strong for him to live that life.

Slowly we move on to the current struggle of the Resistance. Leia trying to make sense of the evacuation, mourning his beloved Han Solo. His funeral shows the difficulty of being General Leia Organa, stripped out of any normal life. This is a current theme in the book that maybe doesn’t show as strong in the film. Leia, Luke, Rey and Kylo struggle between a life they want and the life they are living.

In the first battle between the Resistance bombers and the First Order, the plot points are being described one by one, but the real tidbits that give a whole new heart to these scenes are the small conversations between Paige Tico and Rose. The sisters melt down your hearts even more by knowing their fate. Even though there is a book dedicated to some parts of the Tico’s backstory (titled Cobalt Squadron), Jason Fry gives us enough dialogue to care about these sisters.

As we move forward, we see Rey’s conflict by trying to explain to Luke how much she needs him. Even though there isn’t too much detail, the conversations between Kylo and Rey do have some interesting details. It is mentioned several times how Kylo can see Rey’s emotions, while Rey can tap into Kylo’s abilities with the Force.

There’s an interesting touch with Luke’s emotions when it is explained how he slowly connects with the Force and feels Leia’s presence, making a gentle throwback to The Empire Strikes Back.

In the novel, it is shown Luke’s third lesson, a deleted scene that has become my favorite of all. Its funny, but it states the point. The twist is enough to give Rey the sense that she needs to get rid of everything about the Jedi ways. If you still haven’t watched the scene on YouTube, please wait until you read it.

But where the character intentions really shine is in every moment when General Hux is being mentioned. We learn about his dad, who was an officer for the Empire, that defines his path. It is shown how much he wants to get rid of Kylo Ren and show the true power of his fleet. These details are great to see what Episode 9 could have in store. In The Last Jedi, the tension between Kylo and Hux is noticeable, but the novelization gives us actual reasons to care about the conflict.

And for those who think Holdo’s suicide plan was unnecessary and overkill, we learn that Poe was trying to jump into hyperspace, making this more of a collaborative plan. We learn about Holdo’s conflict on what to do, showing it wasn’t part of her plan to commit suicide to defend the Resistance. This debated plot point has more layers to it in the book, something that left many viewers dumbfounded in the movie.

As I expected, there wasn’t much of Snoke’s backstory and I’m glad about it. Still, it shows more about the Supreme Leader’s intentions and thoughts that make it more menacing and three-dimensional. There are many details about his relationship with Hux and Kylo, as well as his past and how he became the Supreme Leader of the First Order.

Overall, I highly suggest reading the novelization if you enjoyed The Last Jedi. It shows the struggle each character has with more detail and it informs the movie in an interesting way. What I’ve found is that these novelization and books give a new perspective to the movies, making it much more engaging if you want new takes on Star Wars. Jason Fry surpassed my expectations and showed me how a novelization could be as engaging and interesting as the movie that got me more involved with this galaxy from far, far away.