Readings: back to the fandom

IMG_0901Holy hobbits, Batman, is that a Star Wars novel in my hand? Haven’t read one of those since about 2004, also known as that distant period in my life when I read virtually all Star Wars novels available at the time. I started with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire and went on from there. No, it’s not some weird episode I’m terribly ashamed of and evidence of which I tried to erase from my Xanga and Livejournal accounts. I’m perfectly fine with the fact that I was deeply into books set in that universe. I was never really into any other movie- or TV-based book series. Never got into Star Trek, or Doctor Who, or Buffy (I read most of the comics for that one, but I still would rather watch the series). Getting into Star Wars books might have something to do with the quality of the movies, but mostly it was about the fact that I liked that universe and characters and lore.

Eventually I had read everything I wanted to read, and I was not very much into the New Jedi Order books, so I stopped. But here we are, with Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. I enjoyed Wendig’s other books (see my old review of his Mockingbird), and I trusted him to give me a fun Star Wars novel. In true Wendig fashion, there is a lot of stuff happening, and at one point you start thinking maybe there’s too much stuff happening. There are interludes that exist mostly to give you snapshots on the post-Return of the Jedi world (Aftermath is set right after the battle of Endor and the destruction of Death Star II). There are a lot of characters, most of them new, some old (Akhbar being one). In fact, I sort of had to finish it in three days or fewer lest all these people disappeared from my head between readings. It all comes together in the end and sets things up for the next book (this is the first of a trilogy). Plus, there is a little bit of Solo and Chewie, some delightful Easter eggs, and Akhbar basically telling everyone all the time how the remnants of the Empire are devious and should be approached with caution.*

What’s amusing is that Aftermath made me feel as if I were back in 2003 playing Star Wars Galaxies (remember that was a thing?). I think most of the places in the book exist in my head as they were in the game. Meeting people like Akhbar feels like finding them in game. To be honest, I remember all the races and species and what they look like mostly thanks to SWG and Knights of the Old Republic. Game nostalgia is a thing; someone should write a paper on that. (Remember how much time we used to spend waiting for the stupid shuttle?)


By the way, my sci-fi book group is reading Heir To The Empire in January. We aren’t ashamed of that either. Zahn’s books are good.



Book review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Published: June 2012

Where I got it: started reading it on my lunch at work and then had to take it home. You know how it is.

As geeks, we sometimes take our fandoms too seriously. That said, we are also quite capable of making fun of our obsessions. John Scalzi, a master of witty dialogue, does exactly that in his latest novel, Redshirts. It is a bona fide feast of geekery, starting from the title itself and ending with coda number three (it made Wil Wheaton cry, according to The New York Times. May I say this again: THE NEW YORK TIMES, which usually shuns genre like it’s an alien plague, had a piece on John Scalzi and Redshirts?).

Scalzi is obviously not the first person to think of a story told from the point of view of expendable little guys whose only purpose is to die in the name of drama (see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead). Quoting from the novel itself, ‘So same concept, different spin’. He does it quite well, however — it’s a great story full of narratives within narratives and (intentionally) terrible science that will either make you laugh or make you nostalgic (admit it, you are on Netflix now, adding all of TNG to your queue). It is more than just a satire — there are some emotional moments and forays into ideas about the nature of reality and existence.

And yet it is not my favorite Scalzi book, and I wouldn’t say it’s his best. First, I am not sure how much bang for your buck you’d get if you have never seen Star Trek or deeply don’t care about that particular part of geekdom. Second, while at times it is indeed hilarious and brilliant, at other times it just feels padded and even a bit dull. The problem, of course, is this — take out some parts and the book becomes a novella, which I don’t think was the goal here. It has three codas and, while I understand the reason for their existence, I think they are all too long. They also, in my opinion, wrap up everything too well. My feeling is that this particular book would have benefited from leaving some threads untied and some things unsaid.

I’ll give it 3 out 5 phasers set to stun. It did entertain me quite a bit, but I would have preferred a tighter book.