Book Review – Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne [No Spoilers]

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We move steadily towards The Force Awakens with a new answer to an old question: how did Luke Skywalker learn how to make that lightsaber jump off the floor of the Wampa’s cave? While there’s a lot more to Heir to the Jedi than that, it’s one of best the questions at the core of a good story that gives us a sort of midterm progress report on Luke between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Heir to the JediHe’s Lieutenant Skywalker when we catch up with him, and the Rebellion is out looking for a place to set up shop. In the meantime, the Rebellion finds itself short on contacts, and short on cash, and short on intel, so Luke gets dispatched on his own to solve all three problems. Thanks to some good plot structure from author Kevin Hearne, the book neither gives Luke too much to do, nor does it read like a three-act play; the solutions to the Rebels’ problems comes through Luke’s ability to relate to new people and new situations.

As the story reads mostly like a manhunt/rescue/fight-and-flight narrative, the locations that Luke visits with his new compatriots aren’t as memorable as Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, or Dagobah, that really doesn’t undercut the story–Luke is a hero between stages of his development, so the sense of malleability with the setting as the plot moves from station to station doesn’t reduce the quality of the plot in any way. More, they provide a range of challenges to Luke at a point at which learning to grow in the Force toward Jedi-hood seems impossible. The book isn’t all about these worries, but Hearne does a great job of weaving Luke’s thinking into and out of that concern.

The supporting cast is interesting, mainly because of the math-reasoning Givin spy around whom the plot revolves. There’s some great science in this piece of science fiction, and Hearne makes use of his imagination and develops an interesting race of beings that serve an important role in explaining how the Rebel Alliance continued to gain support and power after the destruction of the first Death Star.

All in all, I enjoyed Heir to the Jedi as much as I have each of these first three LSG-approved Star Wars novels, and with the focus on the post-Clone Wars era being the chief work of the LSG, it’s good to see them fitting the pieces together so expertly. It’s been quite a long time since Luke Skywalker went on an adventure quite like this, and Kevin Hearne does a great job of bringing the character and situations back to life in true Star Wars fashion.

–  Vandal

Discussion! Mou’s September Backlog

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Like the rest of the Battlin’ Backloggers, I have a lot of pop culture of the geek-variety to keep me occupied until the fall TV season hits full-force in about a month. I’m eager for the returns of Arrow (which I’ll be blogging), Sleepy Hollow, The Big Bang Theory, Castle, and Supernatural, and I’m anticipating the launches of The Flash, Constantine (which I’ll be blogging), Gotham, and Gracepoint (Hey, David Tennant!).

In the meanwhile, here’s what’s on my plate:

Dark Places 1BOOKS
I’m currently reading Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, the first of the canonical Star Wars novels since the Disney absorption, and The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, a good, old-fashioned murder-mystery with a private investigator whose name recalls the best of Rowling’s Harry Potter monikers—Cormoran Strike. (I have literary tsunami brewing in my head that combines the worlds of Strike and Potter; trust me, it would totally work. Just imagine: a murder in the Muggle world with ties to a wizard and Strike must consult with a certain Auror with a lightning-bolt scar—please, Jo, please!) I must confess that I’m also flirting with another Gillian Flynn novel, Dark Places; Gone Girl has more than convinced me that she’s a contender.

SSoSH 1COMICS
Grant Morrison’s Multiversity has begun, and I am currently awaiting the publication of The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World, which features a pulp-retro (retro-pulp?) take on the Justice Society of America, the first-ever comic book super-team. This high-powered gathering will include Doc Fate, Lady Blackhawk (along with her squadron of Blackhawks), the Mighty Atom, the Immortal Man, and Abin Sur the Green Lantern. ‘Sounds like a whole lotta fun to me—and I’m not a huge fan of Morrison’s work. Too, I’ve also got a stack of Nightwing trade paperbacks to read. I’ve not been putting them off, but they’ve sort of held their respective places in the to-read pile as other things have come and gone. There are also a couple of issues of the Geoff Johns/John Romita, Jr. Superman to get to. Johns is tough to beat, and Romita, Jr. knows how to tell a story with sequential art—a master of the craft, he is.

Who 8 PosterTELEVISION
I’m all over the eighth season of Doctor Who right now and dreading the possible loss of Clara Oswald in the Christmas special. As I understand it, I’m in the minority as a Clara fan, but I’ll make no apologies for adoring her and hoping she stays longer. My all-time favorite companion is Donna Noble because (a) Catherine Tate (C’mon, people!) and (b) she challenged the Doctor. Her journey was often sweet and funny, but its conclusion was very sad. Sigh. Now, I’m thinking more Martha Jones would’ve been nice. Oh, well. I could write about the winning qualities of each companion, but there’s little time for that. Outside of my weekly visits with the Doctor, I’m enjoying a primarily TV-free end-of-summer as September winds down.

– Mou

Discussion! Vandal’s September Backlog

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We have less than one month before every night of the week becomes flooded with TV that all looks so great.  What follows is how I’ll be filling the hours before premiere week:

John Jackson Miller, STAR WARS: A NEW DAWN
Disney/Lucasfilm kicks off their mega-reboot of the Star Wars universe begins not with a TV show or a movie, but with a book–the first book ever to be considered ‘canon’ in the ongoing battle between good and evil.  Star Wars: A New Dawn tells the story of the first team-up of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla and contains a nice foreword by Dave Filoni in which he explains the degree to which the creative teams, as well as the Lucasfilm Story Group, has changed their regard for the non-film media.

Destiny Is LiveBungie & Activision, DESTINY
I waited to buy an Xbox One for a game that was going to be worth it, and I’m betting my money and time on the game that has been at the center of the industry’s hype over the past year (sorry, Titanfall).  After playing the Beta in July, I can’t imagine the game won’t be a colossal hit, or a ton of fun.

Geoff Johns, JUSTICE LEAGUE, VOL. 4: THE GRID
As we readers of the trade paperback variety get closer to the day when we will finally read Trinity War in all its apparent glory, this collection from Johns and Reis will bring us right up to the brink of that huge crossover event.  As I maintain that this book has been the best of the New 52 across the board, I’ll be reading this one as soon as it comes out on September 16th.

Wes Ball & James Dashner, THE MAZE RUNNER
After being totally hypnotized by the trailer in August, and as there’s almost nothing else interesting coming to theaters in September, I’ll be stopping in to see how they bring another popular YA book franchise to the big screen

Teaser PosterBruno Heller et al., GOTHAM (FOX)
It’s an interesting take on the World’s Most Popular Thing, and I can’t tell if it’s going to be a big-concept police procedural or some kind of urbano-gothic Smallville.  What they’ve shown looks great, and as a Batman guy outright, I’ll not be hesitating to check in with my superhero’s new TV show (even if I have to admit that the other two guys over on The CW have shows that look more interesting right now).

October is going to be a crazy TV-heavy month for us here at the Backlog (we have some pretty ambitious plans for you readers), and things in the geekosphere are holding steady.  Thanks for a great first month!

– Vandal

NEWS! NEW ‘STAR WARS: REBELS’ SHORT FOR EZRA

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Happy Labor Day, everybody!

To mark the occasion (or to market their product), Disney/Lucasfilm has released the fourth Star Wars: Rebels short, this one featuring Ezra being up to no good:

What really strikes me about these shorts is their production quality: the music is the Star Wars soundtrack, not a sampled version of some of its themes; the animation is fluid, and the characters’ movements natural; it’s funny without being silly.

But what is really striking about this “Not What You Think” short is that the show and its characters are beginning to feel like Star Wars. We’ll have to reserve final judgment on that until we see how the show does, but what we’ve seen from this show looks very promising.

– Vandal

Preview! New Star Wars Rebels Shorts for Sabine, Zeb

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SWR P1

Sabine was here.

Disney/Lucasfilm is starting to ramp up its marketing for its new show, Star Wars Rebels.  While others around here will tell you that The Flash is this fall’s can’t-miss new show, I am here to provide, shall we say, an alternative view.

Posted to the official Star Wars YouTube channel have been several TV spots that are currently airing across broadcast and cable televisions, but more interesting are the three-minutes short films that each center on a single member of the Ghost‘s crew.  A few weeks ago, we blogged the first of these, an Episode IV-spirited look at Chopper the astromech.

Since then, Lucasfilm has sent two more character features our way, with the first focusing on Sabine Wren, a renegade Mandalorian with artistic inclinations toward the civilly-disobedient:

And yesterday, Lucasfilm set us up with a short featuring Zeb, a member of the acrobatic Lasat race whose species is a new addition to the panoply of central characters:

Both shorts give us a glimpse into the nature of these main characters, their looks and personalities, and show off just how terrific this show is going to look and sound when it comes on the air in early October.  We’ll have another preview of the characters when John Jackson Miller’s canonical novel Star Wars: A New Dawn hits store shelves next week, but for now, these short films (and the three we’re still waiting for) should get us through until then.

Star Wars is coming back in a major way this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

–  Vandal

News: Star Wars Rebels Short, ‘The Machine in the Ghost’

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The Star Wars Rebels Facebook page has just released a three-minute short entitled “The Machine in the Ghost.”  You can link to it by clicking below:

It looks and sounds great, gives us a glimpse of a few of the main characters in action, and contains a handful of nods to a certain scene in a certain paradigm-altering movie from 1977.

Vandal

Preview: Disney’s September ‘Star Wars’ Relaunch

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Disney’s 2012 purchase of the Star Wars brand for $4.4 billion came with a predictably varied response.  While some dismissed outright the sale and purchase as a mistake, others concluded that Disney had done a more than adequate job with the Marvel product, and deserved at least the benefit of the doubt with regard to their new acquisition.

More mixed fan reactions came last April, when Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced that all material in the existing books, comics, and games of the “Extended Universe” would be set aside and re-branded as part of a new “Legends” line.  This restructuring of Star Wars media would then make way for a new line of content taking place in a new continuity-controlled narrative universe overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group.  This September and October, we will see the first of this new unified content in two forms.

The first of these releases is the well-publicized Star Wars: Rebels television program, to debut on DisneyXD.  With a wide range of preview material and a robust and well-received showing at San Diego Comic Con in July, it would seem that Rebels will debut with at least as much excitement as the variably good and always disorderly Clone Wars program that saw its sixth season relegated to Netflix distribution.  With an ensemble cast of all-new characters whose story will focus on an early iteration of the Rebel Alliance on and around the planet Lothal, Rebels takes place approximately fifteen years after the Order 66 mandate and arrives in October.

A New Dawn

A NEW DAWN tells the story of the first meeting of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, two of the central characters in STAR WARS: REBELS.

To get set for the new show, Lucasfilm will release its first new in-continuity book on September 2nd.  John Jackson Miller has written an installment that does double duty, a choice on the part of Lucasfilm that I think is a smart one.  Star Wars: A New Dawn will officially introduce the characters of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, two of the principle characters in the Rebels television program.  It will also be the first chronological piece of in-continuity storytelling since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, which has the potential to work as a re-introduction to the Rebel context that prompts the central conflict in 1977’s A New Hope.  It also begins the reboot in a relatively unincorporated region of the Star Wars continuity, so as to let the decision to unify a new, regimented canon enjoy some breathing room as Lucasfilm plans its release schedule, which already includes four novels, three comics series, a television show, a video game, and, of course, the movies.  While these will undoubtedly include visits from familiar characters, Disney appears to be taking a patient approach with this first book, which allows its new-look Star Wars brand a chance to distance itself from the existing material and to generate excitement for this new, welcome direction for the franchise.

Backlog Priority
With Episode VII still over a year away, and with these first new releases dealing with wholly new characters, it probably isn’t necessary to rush into your bookstore at midnight on September 2nd to get set for a TV show that will at that point still be over a month away.  But the fresh look that Disney is giving the Star Wars universe is intriguing, with a clear commitment to a unified continuity that allows the story to function outside of expensive, seldom-released movies.  The fact that they are transparently committed to releasing a product that is at least interested in maintaining a sensible, accessible story (with its relative quality still to be seen) shows that while, in the past, you might have waited to pick up Star Wars extended universe novels in paperback or at the local library, this new approach to a franchise that so many hold sacred might make its sure-to-be-regular releases a matter somewhat more urgent.
Priority Rating: 7.5/10

– Vandal