“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”

“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””

“Inventing Tomorrow” by Sarah Cole

9780231193122I admit I’m probably not the intended audience for this book. I’ve read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, and I’m very interested in the history of science fiction, but I’m not as well versed in his broader body of work. Sarah Cole’s Inventing Tomorrow is an academic study of Wells’s writing that takes him seriously as an early 20th century author. Not an early 20th century science fiction author – just an author. Continue reading ““Inventing Tomorrow” by Sarah Cole”

“Alien Vault” by Ian Nathan

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I discussed Alien, Ridley Scott’s seminal science fiction masterpiece, on a Mythgard podcast last year. Alien is one of my favorite films. No matter how many times I watch the film, I can’t help but be drawn into Scott’s dark, dreary vision of our future. Like Star Wars, another science fiction classic from that era, the story behind the scenes is almost as interesting as the film itself. In Alien Vault, Ian Nathan chronicles what it took to make a film unlike anything else before or since. Continue reading ““Alien Vault” by Ian Nathan”

“George Orwell: A Life” by Bernard Crick

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The name “Orwell” is more closely associated with dystopia visions of the future than with a man who lived and breathed. Ever since the publication of 1984, we’ve used the term “Orwellian” to describe suffocating oppression in totalitarian regimes. Yet, George Orwell’s life and political philosophy was more than a condemnation of totalitarianism, as notable as that condemnation was. Bernard Crick’s biography of Orwell – the first of its kind when it was published in 1980 – attempts to understand the man and his works.  Continue reading ““George Orwell: A Life” by Bernard Crick”

“A People’s Future of the United States”

40163361._SY475_I’m a political scientist and I love science fiction, so in some ways A People’s Future of the United States was right up my alley. This is a collection of short stories by progressive science fiction authors about possible visions for America’s future. Some of the stories are more literal extrapolations of present trends into the future. Others try to show how our future could be different – for better or worse. A few work more on a thematic or symbolic level than a literal level.

As I mentioned, these are progressive science fiction authors. The futures imagined in this book all fall along the same political ideology. You won’t find libertarians in the vein of Robert Heinlein in this book. These stories don’t use subtle analogies to try to introduce new points of view or challenge preexisting biases. Rather, they’re bold proclamations about our political future. They’re more about inspiring those who already agree rather than persuading those who don’t. I certainly don’t say that as a criticism, but rather to note that the book will likely appeal most to certain kinds of readers.

I hope this isn’t the last book of its kind. I love the idea of science fiction authors engaging in more (overtly) political storytelling.

“Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski

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Some of us might know Joseph Michael Straczynski through his work on Babylon 5. Some of us came to know him through his time on the Spider-Man and Superman comic book lines. Some might have found Joe by browsing on Netflix and finding Sense8. Some of us might even know him primarily through his always amusing and often insightful Twitter feed.

Well, unless you’ve read this book, you don’t know Joe. Continue reading ““Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski”

“Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden

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I am writing an article about Star Wars Expanded Universe references in the animated TV shows for an upcoming book, and so decided to reread Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple. This book is a fascinating case study in transmedia storytelling and adaptation. Dark Disciple is based on scripts written by Katie Lucas for The Clone Wars animated show before it was canceled in 2013. However, the seeds of the story originated in the Dark Horse Comics Republic line, which was part of the Clone Wars multimedia project in the early 2000s. The book both draws upon and contradicts the comics in interesting ways. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden”

“Defining a Galaxy” by Bill Slavicsek

51wIkLXTh2L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_I’m currently working on a project about the Star Wars Expanded Universe – the collection of tie-in novels, comics, video games, and other media before the Disney era – and how it influenced the Star Wars animated TV shows. I picked up Bill Slavicsek’s Defining a Galaxy as part of my research. Slavicsek worked as an editor at West End Games while the company was creating material for Star Wars roleplaying games during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading ““Defining a Galaxy” by Bill Slavicsek”