Monday, June 27, 2016

Star Wars: Smuggler's Run by Greg Rucka - Book Report #157


As you might have noticed by what I've been posting lately, I am in a bit of a reading slump. I can't concentrate on things for very long and I am finding it difficult to discover something that can keep my attention.

I am not usually a fan of YA stories, but I have read Rucka's work in the past and know that he is also a novelist.  If anybody can make a story hum and move the plot forward, he can.

This book is part of a publishing push to fill in voids in the space of time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  Strangely, this one takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.  So we will see how this ties in.

Taking everybody's favourite characters, Chewie and Han, and sending them off to the Outer Rim on a rescue mission we are also introduced to a formidable villain.  Commander Alecia Beck is at once a typical baddie with a big scar on the face and an artificial eye but is updated for today by being female.  This actually makes the character more menacing as she is also very smart and calculating.  I liked her very much.

The story moved along very well, giving the reader a glimpse into events right after the first Death Star was destroyed.  Han and Chewie are packing up their bags and cash, ready to settle their debts with Jabba the Hut.  But Princess Leia has a problem that only they can help with.

I liked the story very much; the interplay between Han and Chewie was spot on and the Milennium Falcon was lovingly written as a third character.  It was interesting to get an insight on how the ship was flown and how much knowledge they had about her.

The only thing I felt didn't work, and this is a very minor thing, was how often Han called Chewie "pal." From the movies I got the impression this was a term he would use on strangers not on somebody he knows or trusts.  Somehow, it just wasn't in character.  That said, Rucka got their voices perfectly and it was a treat to get an insight into Cewbacca's thoughts.

It was a good book and stands on it's own perfectly well. If it informed something about The Force Awakens, I missed it completely.

Greg Rucka -

Greg Rucka

Monday, June 20, 2016

Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid (writer) and Terry Dodson (artist) Graphinc Novel

This is a collection of the single issues of Princess Leia #1 through #5.

It takes place between the movies A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back telling the story of how she worked hard to unite the remaining people of Alderaan in the fight against the empire.

I thought the art was bold and clean without being overly cartoony. The book fit right in with the universe George Lucas created.

A ripping yarn, if you will.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Star Wars: Shattered Empire - Graphic Novel by Greg Rucka

With all the attention given to the Star Wars universe with the release of Episode VII it is no surprise the comic publishers are pumping as many titles as can be sold.

Shattered Empire tries more to expand the stories of the aftermath of Return of the Jedi than to fill in the gaps of the main characters from the first trilogy of movies.

We generally follow Lieutenant Shara Bey and how she must deal with the inevitable mopping up of resistance from the Empire and to try to re-unite with her husband and to stand down from war.

I liked the story very much.  It added a touch of reality and complexity that the movies simply could not address, without being six hours long.

Since this story was a mini series, only running four issues, Marvel Comics added the first issue of the new Princess Leia series and the first issue of the classic 1977 adaptation of A New Hope.

This served to up the page count to an acceptable level given the $18.99 cover price and to whet the appetite for more buying of the books.  On it's own the added stories only made the reading disjointed and leaving me a bit puzzled.  I am not sure it worked. 

I may have been more satisfied had there been some extras like sketch art and an interview with the author about the series.  I found the added stories took away from what was otherwise and excellent exploration of the Star Wars universe and the complexities of winding a war down.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Analog Magazine April 2016

Seven Ways of Looking at the Sun-Worshippers of Yul-Katan by Maggie Clark - 020/150/2016 - I really don't know what to make of this opening story.  At first, I felt as if I might be missing something, as if this might be a recent installment in a series of stories.  It was very much in the Space Opera genre in that there were multiple cultures, religions and points of view.  Much like Star Wars there was one overarching governmental power, the Allegiance.

A small scientific crew hears an old distress call from the small moon they are surveying.  They discover it is coming from a pod, containing a sun-worshiping cleric, who is many star systems removed from where he should be.  Trying to solve the mystery of how he got to where he is proves dangerous and complex.

My Star Wars reference was intentional; just like that movie, the reader is given a bit of background and then dropped in the middle of a story.  It's a small story that takes place in a large universe filled with societies, religions, politics and danger.

After chasing the author down to her website I discovered this was her intention from the start, to make the reader feel that the story takes place in a vast and complicated world.  The only only aspect of the story that I struggled with is that I am attracted to science rather than theology.  Although there was a lot in the story that I did like; small exploration ships, a space-based military establishment, large space cruise ships, long-duration stasis pods, large economies and rules of law.  The religious framing of the story made me impatient.

In my case, the story may benefit from being reread.

Maggie Clark -

Soap Opera by Edward M. Lerner - 021/150/2016 - Set in a Manhattan radio station in the 1920's the engineer is asked to help a lovely young actress stop the unwanted advances of a sponsor.  It was a charming story and I loved the nostalgia of the period.  It came complete with a high-tech solution too.

Edward M. Lerner -

Alloprene by Stephen R. Wilk - 022/150/2016 - Hmm.  It's an interesting story about a man who is recounting his experience in a lab experiment which included social interaction with a robot.

I'm not sure I really get this one, other than what is presented. Perhaps it's trying to answer the question of how to best integrate machines into our lives.  I liked it.

Stephen R. Wilk -

Early Warning by Martin L. Shoemaker - 023/150/2016 - A man goes back in time where he feels his life pivoted by making the wrong decision.  He warns himself to change his decision.  I loved how the advice was followed.  Wonderful and unexpected.

Martin L. Shoemaker -

Sleep Factory by Rich Larson - 024/150/2016 - A beautiful, dark and sad story.  Two co-workers are in love and planning for the future.  This was a fully-realized world that grabbed me in seconds, was over in just a few minutes and stayed in my mind for days. The best one so far.

Rich Larson -

Most Valuable Player by Eric Choi - 025/150/2016 - This was another heart-warming, human story.  Being a baseball fan, I enjoyed it very much.  I am not entirely sure it's science fiction but I am happy it has seen print.  It can easily be submitted to other fiction publications.  

Choi has a gentle way of telling this story. Well done.

 Eric Choi -

Diamond Jim and the Dinosaurs by Rosemary Claire Smith - 026/150/2016 - With a title like that I was expecting an irreverent action story, why I got was Jurassic Park coupled with time travel.  For some reason this story simply did not work for me.

Rosemary Claire Smith -

Playthings by Stephen L. Burns - 027/150/2016 - This is my favourite genere: SF Detective fiction.  In a rigid, class-based society we follow Officer Blank as he is assigned to uncover the recent murders of local "regulators" those individuals who offer services from lower classes to upper classes.

The mystery Blank is assigned to solve is intersting in and of itself, but it is the uncovering of the world Officer Blank lives in.  Navigating this strict society was fasinating to me.

I would love to think that this short story will serve as an introduction to a novel.  I woukd love to dig into that.  I envisioned the Los Angeles of the movie Blade Runner for the look and feel in this story.