Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Homefront

HomefrontHomefront by Scott James Magner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating premise, emotional ride, and kind of a twist ending potentially setting up a sequel, Homefront is quite a ride.

We start off the book being introduced to a cast of unusual characters from the Colonies on some kind of mission they don't expect to succeed. These characters appear to have a caste system, and are each of a variety of post-human. Shortly, we're introduced to regular humans as well and their space defense force. From there, the body count rises, and new relationships and families are formed.

I can't really describe more without giving too much away, even though I may have already. Even the blurb from the book itself is intentionally vague.

Homefront brings space battles, ship-board combat, ground combat, plenty of character building and world building, relationships developing and ending, emotions flying all over the place, and plenty of character deaths.

Good stuff!



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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Star Wars: Tarkin

Tarkin (Star Wars)Tarkin by James Luceno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tarkin is the second novel in the new Star Wars unified canon. The novel tells a story featuring Wilhuff Tarkin, shortly before he's promoted from Moff to Grand Moff. It also tells a coming-of-age story for a younger Tarkin back on his home planet, depicting the events that shapes him into the man we know from the film and the cartoons.

There were two casts of characters set during the main story: Tarkin, Vader, and the Imperials; and a group of rebels that steal Tarkin's personal ship and set about attacking Imperial installations. I would have liked to have spent more time getting to know the rebels, and maybe see them turn up in previous or later stories (we might, I don't know). Vader's characterization... interests me. More on the that after I tell what I thought of the book. One little tidbit I found interesting that Luceno tells us in the narrative: Tarkin suspects and all but knows outright that Darth Vader used to be Anakin Skywalker.

I was excited to read Tarkin. The promotional material said Luceno was giving Tarkin the "Plagueis" treatment - the book he wrote about Palpatine's rise to power. I found Plagueis a fascinating read. Tarkin kept me entertained. It was enjoyable, but for the new canon books, New Dawn was better. I found myself wishing to spend more time with the rebels on Tarkin's ship, and with the Emperor on Coruscant (I wish he'd get rid of Mas Ameeda though, that overgrown horned smurf is just a Bib Fortuna wannna-be).

If you're a fan of the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope), Tarkin gives some insight and backstory into one of the main villains. If you're a Star Wars fan in-general, you will pick up Tarkin and happily devour it. It's a good Star Wars book and, so far, the first two novels in the new Star Wars canon are much better than the much of the later Legends novels.


Now, back to Darth Vader's portrayal within the pages of Tarkin. I think Vader must be a difficult persona to put into prose in-general, not just in this book; he's had several different portrayals on-screen that all must agree. There was the Vader in the original Star Wars that was practically screaming at his troopers to tear Leia's ship apart to find the plans, and almost demurred to Tarkin (which is a topic that kind of comes up in this book); there's the Vader from Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi which was quiet, foreboding, and almost terrifying, and an old man that seemed barely able to fight; then there was Anakin from the prequels, a whiny, bratty, Jedi with an overpowerful sense of entitlement and attachment; and finally there was Anakin from the Clone Wars cartoon, a hero, sometimes quiet sometimes bratty, powerful in the Force with an underlying tension, emotional and caring; and finally Darth Vader from Episode III, which was just Anakin from the previous movie turned completely to the Dark Side. How can an author successfully write a character that combines that combines all those differing characterizations. What we see on screen is just a few minutes out of a day, a few days out of a lifetime, for that character. From little Annie's "Yippee!" to Old Vader rasping "tell your sister you were right," we've seen the highlights of Vader's life, with many missing segments.

I can't put my finger on it, but Vader's portrayal felt slightly off. I'm not sure what I expected though. Maybe it's because we don't know him yet in this time period. We don't know how he's handled adapting to his new life, his new master, his new job description, his lack of friends and family. We haven't yet had a book about his new life in this era. The more I think about it, the more I see that maybe his characterization was a combination of all those influences I mentioned above. He was often quiet and foreboding, then explosively angry, at one point genuinely curious (I would love to see that scene on screen!). Darth Vader must be a complex character to pin down and write.

Star Wars: Tarkin is due to be published November 4, 2014. I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for review.



I think I wrote more about Vader than I did about the book itself...



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Star Wars A New Dawn

A New Dawn: Star WarsA New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A refreshing change from previous Star Wars novels, Star Wars: A New Dawn has launched the new Star Wars universe that will include the new novels, the new and existing movies, the new cartoons and The Clone Wars cartoon, some new fiction from Star Wars insider, new comics, and anything else coming out henceforth. It essentially excommunicates almost all previous fiction to the realm of Legend.

A New Dawn does not rely on the bloated universe that existed in all that legendary material before, and while the author had written in that sandbox, this new novel - this new world is fresher. It's still Star Wars. It still expects you, as a fan, to know know what certain races, ships, weapons, and armor look like, it doesn't bother to describe them in much or any detail. The story itself is clearly meant as a setup for the new Rebels cartoon coming out in October 2015 and serves to introduce two of the main characters to each other before the show starts. It's a standalone story though, no need to have any knowledge, or interest, of the Rebels show.

The two main characters are a former Jedi student now grown into adulthood and hiding in the bottle between shifts at a mining operation, and a Twilek pilot looking for civil unrest she can potentially exploit at some point in the future to undermine the Empire. A strong cast of secondary characters also have interesting stories that all intertwine with the main cast and each other. Really, it's more of an ensemble cast that shares the spotlight than focusing mostly on the two mains, though the Jedi Kanan is pretty much the primary character.

If you're a Star Wars fan: read this and get ready for Rebels. If you're looking to jump in to the world of Star Wars novels, this is a good place to start - though I'd suggest you'd have at least seen Star Wars Episode III to share a frame of reference with Kanan's character.


Disclosure: I received an eARC of this novel for review from the publisher through Netgalley.


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Robogenesis

Robogenesis (Robopocalypse, #2)Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is in ruins following the events of Robopocalypse. Archos-18 was defeated, or was it? Other mega AIs scramble to life as well. The Freeborn, humans, and a strange intermingling of man and machine all try to find their place in this new world they thing free of the looming threat of the AI supercomputer. They soon discover they're wrong, and again the fight is on to survive.

Robogenesis picks up pretty well right after the events of Robopocalypse. Though at first we're with some new characters in Russia. We're reintroduced to characters from the first book as they're thinking the war is over and can start moving on with life. Things don't go well though, and the characters slowly realize the war never really ended, and eventually everyone is reunited, and some new characters are brought in as well on both sides.

I absolutely loved Robopocalypse. I was excited to read Robogenesis and see where the story went. This books feels like a middle book in a trilogy, especially the way it ended.

There was very little happiness for the characters in the book. I can only think of two events that were really happy. And I happen to like some happy in my books, even post-apoc end-of-world war stories need some happy in them in my opinion.

I think my favorite character this time around might be Houdini. Loyal and faithful Houdini. A close second would be Nine Oh Two, is almost more human than the human characters, and definitely more human than the other freeborn.

Overall, it's a good book. I don't think it's as good as the first one, but if there's a third book in the series I'll definitely keep reading!

I received an eARC of Robogenesis through Netgalley.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Anthology Review: Far Orbit

Far Orbit: Speculative Space AdventuresFar Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures by Bascomb James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Far Orbit is a wonderful collection of short science fiction stories.

A few of the standout stories to me were:

Open For Business, by Sam Kepfield, is a tale of (practically current day) entrepreneurs starting up an asteroid mining company, and the fall out from doing so.

Composition in Death Minor, by Kevin Jewell, where a cellist assassin has to make a choice.

Spaceman Barbecue, by Peter Wood, is a Twilight Zone-esque throwback with a happy ending.

A Game of Hold'em, by Wendy Sparrow, is an Old West tale set on a colony world.

And I think my favorite was Bear Essentials, by Julie Frost, about a small trading vessel run by a grumpy man and his adult daughter, along with their small crew. This tale has them transporting a live bear from one world to another, along with an unusual passenger, and discovering something amazing along the way. I definitely want to read more stories about this crew (especially if that bear comes back).

Need a quick fix of good old-fashioned science fiction? Far Orbit is it!


An eARC of Far Orbit was provided to me by the publisher for review (thanks!).


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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: Starship Grifters

Starship GriftersStarship Grifters by Robert Kroese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What did I just read? And why did I like it so much?

Starship Grifters is a crazy story about a gambling, alcoholic, con-artist and his robot assistant that accidentally become owners of a planet that put them deep in debt and smack-dab in the center of a conflict between the current galactic empire and the rebels who want to overthrow it.

There are character names like Rex Nihilo and General Issimo, the Malarchy Empire, and the prison planet Gulagatraz. There are borrowed quotes from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and Star Wars, as well as plenty of other similarities and ... parodies. If Ex Nihilo means out of nothing, then does Rex Nihilo mean king of nothing? There were probably other names that had plays on words that I didn't catch.

Taken piecemeal, that would make this book seem quite silly and derivative. However, on the whole it all works. I got caught up in the story, and the absolute wonder of how Rex Nihilo spins his yarns to con people, and the witty, snarky banter between him and his robot assistant Sasha.

If Douglas Adams and Mel Brooks wrote Star Wars as an episode of Leverage, and JJ Abrams and Michael Bay directed and produced it for the SyFy channel, you might end up with something close to Starship Grifters.

And that twist at the end... just another crazy whiskey tango foxtrot moment in a book full of fun moments.


Starship Grifters was provided to me by the author for review. Thanks!


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