Book Review: Canto Bight

With the release of The Last Jedi, I wanted to have more context in my upcoming viewing. The Last Jedi quickly became one of my top 3 favorite Star Wars movies and one of my favorite movies of all time. As my interest on Star Wars grew, I decided to take a leap into more canon stories, like the ‘Star Wars Rebels’ series and some books. I started reading Canto Bight and could take it off my hands until the very last page.

Some reviewers criticized this book by not giving good stories, but I couldn’t find a flaw in them. The first story maybe draw me less interested due to a different pacing, but the next three were such a joy I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t think this book is necessary to understand more of Canto Bight, but it does give context into how this city works and in this way understanding the economy of the war between the Resistance and the First Order. If you like mystery stories in a ‘film noir’ setting, then Canto Bight is your book.

The first story relates an attempt to kill somebody, taking you to different places. The second story involves the negotiation of an exquisite wine, and many things happen in between. In our third story, there’s an involvement with fathiers, the cute horses Finn and Rose ride on, as somebody is kidnapped. The last story involves the brothers Dodi, Thodi, and Wodi, clearly recognizable from the opening shot of Canto Bight, and their work in the casino. As you can see, they all have a criminal, Bond-like theme I thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the things I enjoyed the most of these stories is that they are only focused on Canto Bight, an unknown place since The Last Jedi. This makes the authors be in a free space to create, still conscious of the Star Wars universe but without the unnecessary mentions of other characters. You will see characters from other stories of the books mentioned in some parts, but it makes sense as they are all part of the same place. Besides that, there is no mention of other known characters of species.

Maybe the plots shown here could be odd to some fans that criticized the Canto Bight scene for being too earthy, similar to Las Vegas and the mafia, but I believe this book reflects how much it can be achieved when you give a whole new playground for authors and the Lucasfilm Storygroup to develop.

This book is recommended if you want to get into some Star Wars books without any knowledge of the rest of canon stories. I find this book to be a good starting point to see if you might like more Star Wars fiction in your life. In my case, I just want to get deeper and deeper into this universe. It could be hard to separate The Last Jedi from the stories in this book, but the more you read Canto Bight without thinking about your opinion on The Last Jedi, the better you’ll enjoy the stories as a whole.

Book Review: Star Wars Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

The third book in the Aftermath trilogy, ‘Empire’s End’ had to tie the loose ends from ‘Life Debt’ while bringing closure to the archs of several characters. All of this occurs during an action filled novel, with the battle of Jakku in the background. The book works because it blends what made the last two books interesting from the start.

Even though the book isn’t as satisfactory of an adventure as “Life Debt” (a Han and Chewie adventure is really hard to beat), it gives something that few canon explores: conflict within the Empire. We see some hints of it during ‘Rogue One’, when Tarkin takes over the Death Star under Krennic’s helm, or ‘The Last Jedi’, with Kylo Ren and General Hux head to head. Rae Sloane, who was a really powerful character in the past two books, ends up crushed by her own Empire. This puts the character in a situation to reconsider her options. Sloane decides to attack Gallius Rax, current head of the Empire, who is responsible for putting Sloane in this complex situation.

The blend of politics and warfare was a surprise I didn’t expect. Even though in book 2 of the trilogy Mon Mothma does her good dose of politic shenanigans, she’s now in the midst of an electoral campaign, putting her also in conflict with her own New Republic. Tolwar Wartol, her political nemesis, becomes a compelling character to keep Mon Mothma in her toes.

The efficiency of the conflict in Jakku is defined by these different elements I mentioned. Besides this, it could be a very forgettable war. What ties Norra Wexley, Temmin, Jas Emari, Sinjir and Jim Barrel is the fact that Leia decides to make an attack on Jakku and the fact that Brenton, Norra’s husband and Temmin’s father, is with Rae Sloane after the attempt to kill Mon Mothma in ‘Life Debt’.

There are some unexpected surprises, like the appearance of the Hutt lineage. This was quite fun to read because you could clearly imagine Nima The Hutt roaming around the desert.

Overall, the book stays consistent even though it was jarring to keep up with all the different characters. There’s a moment when characters are in three different planets, each with their own mission and conflict. Still, the characters had really interesting archs that allowed me to keep on reading. Without the character, it would feel like a meaningless adventure.

The book also attempts to do some flashbacks in order to give Gallius Rax more depth. Even though it explained his intentions as well as his links to the Empire, I believe it barely contributes to the plot except in the near end. The book still keeps the interlude stories within chapters just like the past two books, many of them uninteresting compared to the past two books.

The Aftermath trilogy has its flaws, but what I found in reading is that it is no less flawed than any Star Wars movie or TV show. Chuck Wendig has been able to create a storyline that stands on itself. From the very first book, it doesn’t want to make a bridge between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy. I find this a smart move, as there’s so much more to explore. With the Star Wars Resistance series and Jon Favreau’s upcoming live TV show, this 20 to 30 year period will be expanded in other ways.

If you like a blend of action packed stuff and fun characters, this is your trilogy. It is rough at times, but definitely worth a try if you can be patient enough.

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.