“Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s The Martian was one of my favorite books of the past decade. The focus on smart scientists solving hard science problems was both a welcome throwback to the Golden Age of science fiction and a clever new take on the space-disaster genre. I thought Artemis was a bit of a misfire, largely because Weir seemed to struggle writing a female protagonist. Project Hail Mary retains Weir’s trademark glorification of science and scientists, but also differs from his previous two books. It’s a more emotional story and takes some very unexpected turns.

Continue reading ““Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir”

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View 2

My favorite Star Wars books as a kid were the “Tales of…” series edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Those books imbued the Galaxy Far, Far Away with the sense that Greedo, Dengar, Bib Fortuna, and the hundreds of minor background characters from the films each had stories of their own. Those books – and the fan hunger for more stories – are a major part of the reason why the Star Wars franchise has been able to grow beyond the Skywalker saga through shows like The Mandalorian.

The “From a Certain Point of View” books continue that tradition – but in both more expansive and limited ways. The first book, released in 2017, celebrated the 40th anniversary of A New Hope by collecting stories from a variety of science fiction and fantasy authors. As the title suggests, the stories are told from the point of background characters. This latest volume does the same for The Empire Strikes Back.

Continue reading “Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View 2”

“Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man” by Steve Alpert

During the past few years, I’ve become a fan of Studio Ghibli’s animated movies. I recently decided to learn more about the company and the people behind the films. I’ve read Susan Napier’s Miyazakiworld, which is more of an intellectual biography of Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki. Steve Alpert’s Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man is a peek into the corporate side of the studio, something which doesn’t get as much attention from scholars and fans.

Continue reading ““Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man” by Steve Alpert”

“Star Wars: Queen’s Peril” – by E.K. Johnston

Star Wars: Queen’s Peril is a prequel to E.K. Johnston’s other novel about Padme Amidala, Queen’s Shadow. However, I think this novel works better because it’s an origin story for Padme’s handmaidens. Where Queen’s Shadow seemed to assume we were already invested in the handmaidens, Queen’s Peril shows how and why they came to serve the queen – and therefore make me feel more invested.

Continue reading ““Star Wars: Queen’s Peril” – by E.K. Johnston”

“Poe Dameron: Free Fall” by Alex Segura

Image-1“You were a spice runner?” 

JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio wanted to create conflict between the main characters in The Rise of Skywalker and so gave each one a secret they were hiding. For Poe, this meant he now had a shady past as a drug dealer. This proved controversial. Some fans pointed out that the new backstory seemed to contradict other Star Wars stories about Poe Dameron, such as the novel Before the Awakening. Others noted that making the first Latino lead in the franchise a drug runner played into some unfortunate stereotypes. In the film, Finn and Rey seem to quickly forgive and forget Poe’s shady past, but Alex Segura’s Poe Dameron: Free Fall seems to exist largely to explain this new backstory. Continue reading ““Poe Dameron: Free Fall” by Alex Segura”

“Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge”

51KPpunHkhLI had the opportunity to visit the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge theme park in Disney World last December, just a few months before it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, it was an incredible experience. I cam away extremely impressed with the attention to detail and the quality of the merchandise, food, and other amenities. Disney’s Imagineers went the extra mile to make the park feel immersive; once you enter, you can’t see anything to remind you that you’re still on Earth.

I had read Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire novel and the Galaxy’s Edge comics before I went, so I understood the importance of Batuu to the Resistance and the First Order. I loved having read about Dok-Ondar and then seeing him. My wife and I had fun trying to identify the Resistance spy.

Unfortunately, the park itself doesn’t make that backstory accessible to most visitors. Continue reading ““Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge””

“The Star Wars Heresies” by Paul F. McDonald

Anakin as baby Jesus? (Star Wars Heresies)
Anakin as baby Jesus?

Like many Star Wars fans, I used to dislike the Prequel Trilogy. Unlike most of those fans, I’ve read The Star Wars Heresies.

The Original Trilogy rightly receives considerable praise for the ways in which it echoes Campbellian “hero’s journey” and other mythological themes. Paul F. McDonald, librarian and consummate Star Wars fan, applies the same thoughtful analysis to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. While I was aware of some of the parallels between the Prequels and real-world mythology, this book showed me that I had barely scratched the surface. Continue reading ““The Star Wars Heresies” by Paul F. McDonald”

“Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights”

91jIPsEcjRLI wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Dragon Age fan, but I enjoyed the first game – later renamed “Origins” – and was sufficiently intrigued by the ending of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The world of Dragon Age is a darker take on Tolkienian epic fantasy. Despite the obvious similarities with The Lord of the Rings – complete with an alliance between men, dwarves, and elves against an army of orcs (called “Darkspawn” in Dragon Age lore) – Dragon Age manages to evoke an illusion of depth. There are realms as interesting as Ferelden just offscreen. Continue reading ““Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights””

How “Star Wars: Duel of the Fates” fixes “The Rise of Skywalker”

star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-21Writing movie reviews can be tricky because we can only judge a film based on what we see on screen. We can’t compare the movie we got with the one we might have gotten. Usually. With the leak of Colin Trevorrow’s script for Episode IX, we have a rare treat: a look at a possible alternative to the film we got. The story, titled Duel of the Fates, is quite different from the story told by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio. I don’t know if I’m ready to declare that it’s “better” than The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), but do think Trevorrow’s script does a better job than the final film of continuing the themes and character arcs set up in The Last Jedi. Continue reading “How “Star Wars: Duel of the Fates” fixes “The Rise of Skywalker””

“The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

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I’ve made no secret of my disappointment in The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), particularly in Ben Solo’s redemption arc. However, whatever my feelings about the final film, I find the process of making Star Wars movies fascinating. I always make it a point to pick up the “Art of Star Wars” books by Lucasfilm creative art manager Phil Szostak, which collects concept art used to bring director J.J. Abram and writer Chris Terrio’s story to life. Continue reading ““The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker””