“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”

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“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”

“Becoming Dr. Seuss” by Brian Jay Jones

511YVC9L5bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Brian Jay Jones is quickly becoming the foremost chronicler of the lives of American pop culture icons. His biography of Jim Henson is one of my favorite books of the past decade. His treatment of George Lucas wasn’t quite as insightful, perhaps because there have already been many other books about Lucas and Star Wars. His latest book, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, looks at a very different creative genius.  Continue reading ““Becoming Dr. Seuss” by Brian Jay Jones”

“Star Wars: Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray

91AAlmNqJYLIt’s ages since we’ve had a compelling story set during the Prequel Trilogy. As Disney and Lucasfilm have focused on the Sequels and nostalgia for the Original Trilogy, it’s sometimes felt like the Prequels had been left by the wayside. Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice captures much of what made me fall in love with this era of Star Wars saga 20 years ago this month (hint: it’s not the acting). Gray is easily the strongest writers currently working in the Star Wars canon. She manages to imbue Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi with a depth only hinted at in The Phantom Menace.

*** Mild Spoilers below *** Continue reading ““Star Wars: Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray”

“Infomocracy” by Malka Older

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For a while, I’ve felt that, when it comes to politics, science world-building has been stuck in the past, fixated on stories about galactic empires or rebellions against totalitarian regimes. Governments in science fiction almost never resembles the messy democracies of our world. By contrast, in Malka Older’s Infomocracy, the protagonists are political operatives and central threat is a conspiracy to manipulate an election. This is perhaps the first science fiction story I’ve read that takes electoral institutions seriously and makes them central to the story (not surprisingly, Older is a political scientist). Continue reading ““Infomocracy” by Malka Older”

“The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion Front Book CoverIn theory, The Fall of Hyperion is the sequel to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (reviewed here). However, it feels like it comes from a different franchise. Fans of Hyperion expecting to learn more about the six pilgrims will find themselves disappointed. If anything, Fall of Hyperion draws more from the frame narrative of Hyperion than the short stories.

Fall of Hyperion focuses less on character and more on plot. We spend relatively little time with the pilgrims and more time with Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone and her war council. As hinted in the end of Hyperion, war has broken out between the Hegemony and Ousters, and as well as an Artificial Intelligence construct. Continue reading ““The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

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Hyperion by Dan Simmons is an example of a book I don’t enjoy but that I respect immensely. Hyperion is a work of art. It is regularly ranked amongst the top 10 science fiction books of all time. Simmons employs an innovative narrative structure that serves to create a sense of dread. Despite Simmons’ skills as a storyteller, I found Hyperion a difficult story to read.

The book starts off 700 years in the future. Seven pilgrims – a captain, a priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, and a diplomat – travel to the planet Hyperion to visit the Shrike, a mysterious, murderous, quasi-religious figure. While en route, they agree to tell each other their backstories and their reasons for wanting to visit the Shrike (à la Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). The book then proceeds like a collection of short stories, one for each pilgrim.

Continue reading ““Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Contact” by Carl Sagan

Contact_SaganFor me, the film version Contact is still the gold standard for intelligent science fiction in cinema. After having read Carl Sagan’s Contact, I realize that the movie benefitted from exceptionally strong source material. Sagan manages to explore Big Ideas™, but also develops compelling characters. In addition to being a talented scientist, Sagan could write better than most professional science fiction authors.

Continue reading ““Contact” by Carl Sagan”

“Arthur C. Clarke” by Gary Westfahl

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Of the “Big Three” authors who dominated the Golden Age of science fiction, I’ve always felt I had the weakest grasp on Arthur C. Clarke. Isaac Asimov’s oeuvre is easy to summarize: technological optimism and robots. Robert A. Heinlein tended to infuse his works with libertarian politics and nonconformists. As for Clarke? I’ve read several of his most famous novels and short stories, but always struggled to identify common themes. Clarke seems to veer wildly between hard-nosed science and wild-eyed mysticism. Childhood’s End features humans who gain almost godlike psychic powers, while Rendevouz with Rama tells the story of a scientific exploration to a mysterious alien object. Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey seems like a warning against A.I., yet Clarke was hardly anti-science – most of Clarke’s protagonists are scientists.  Continue reading ““Arthur C. Clarke” by Gary Westfahl”

“Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama is widely acclaimed as Arthur C. Clarke’s best book, and it definitely deserves much of the praise it’s gotten. That said, the book isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to the characters.

Rendezvous with Rama starts when an large, cylindrical object is detected hurtling towards the sun. The object is named “Rama” after the Hindu god. The United Planets sends the solar survey vessel Endeavour under the command of Commander Bill Norton to investigate. The rest of the book focuses on the crew’s exploration of the alien artifact. Continue reading ““Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke”