Category Archives: Books

A Star Wars: Bloodline Review – Descended From Darkness

Star Wars: BloodlineTITLE: Star Wars: Bloodline
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
PUBLISHER: Del Rey Books
LIST PRICE: 
$28.00
RELEASED: May 3, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Politics have always been a part of Star Wars. After all, one usually can’t have war without politics. Such things have the spotlight at some points more than others. It’s as much at the forefront in Bloodline as any Star Wars story you’ll ever read. That works to its detriment at times. But ultimately, Bloodline reveals something that may turn out to be a very important factor in Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side.

The book takes place over two decades after Return of the Jedi. The Galactic Senate of the New Republic is divided into two parties. First are the Populists, of whom Leia is a prominent member, who believe planetary authority should be retained by the individual worlds themselves. In contrast, the Centrists believe planets should be governed by a larger government and a more powerful military. Sadly, these two groups are more divided than ever, as such leaving the Senate largely unproductive. But when representatives from the planet Ryloth alert them to the emergence of an organized criminal element, Leia stumbles on to the foundation of a new war for the fate of the galaxy. But Leia is also about to face personal adversity. A secret will be revealed that few have ever known. Even two decades after his death, the shadow of Darth Vader looms heavily.

Star Wars: Bloodlines, postersThe imagery and marketing associated with Bloodline is somewhat misleading. It leads you to believe much of the book is about Leia being nominated for First Senator, more or less the equivalent to what the Chancellor of the Republic was in the prequels. It even comes with a double-sided “Vote Leia” poster, which on the flip side is defaced with an image of Darth Vader and the word “traitor.” In truth, the book has little to do with Leia being part of an election, and more to do with the unraveling of who the criminal group is. This is frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily tarnish the book. Once we get into the second half, and the Vader element comes into play, things really pick up.

One of the reasons many fans soured on the prequel trilogy was the emphasis on politics, and the happenings in the Senate. Such fans will want to avoid Bloodline. It’s less about the action and more about the intrigue. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as much a die-hard as I am, I had trouble staying interested at times. Mostly during the first half.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Princess LeiaThough it plays the political card pretty heavily, Bloodline is somewhat timely for those who are so inclined. The book is largely about a political body heavily divided in its beliefs as they try to elect a leader. If you pay even the most remote attention to the news, that should sound familiar. It even offers us a little ray of hope, as we see Leia learning to trust and befriend a Centrist senator. Apparently even in a galaxy far, far away, one can reach across the aisle now and then.

One of the great things about new Star Wars stories in 2016 is that there’s so much fertile ground to cover between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In various Star Wars novels and comic books (including Claudia Gray’s other Star Wars book, Lost Stars), we’ve been getting bits and pieces of the state the galaxy is in, what happened to the Empire, etc. Bloodline offers a lot of that, including how the First Order and the Resistance were formed.

But the major event of this book involves the revelation to the galaxy that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter. What’s more, Ben Solo, who is off training with Luke Skywalker at this point, doesn’t know the truth about his heritage. That point is understated, but it’s perhaps the most notable development in the entire book. Ben doesn’t know. Imagine learning a secret like that, not from your parents, but from the news. How angry would you be? And in time, wouldn’t you want to know more about the grandfather you never knew you had? For a certain kind of person a fixation, or even an obsession, might form…

Kylo Ren, Darth Vader helmetReportedly, Rian Johnson, the director for Episode VIII, contributed ideas for this book. I’d be floored to learn that either Johnson, or someone on the inside at that movie didn’t float that to Gray. That’s too integral a detail to Ben’s turn to the dark side.

Bloodline isn’t the most thrilling Star Wars book you’ll ever read. Readers will definitely feel its length at times. But it offers an abundance of something many fans are looking for these days: Information. Casual fans may want to leave it on the shelf, but die-hards will gobble this up like a Sarlacc Pit devouring their favorite bounty hunter.

Image 1 from stormtrooperlarry.wordpress.com. Image 2 from cinemablend.com. Image 3 from screen rant.com.

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A Review of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back – The Incredible Journey

The Making of The Empire Strikes BackTITLE: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
AUTHOR: J.W. Rinzler
PUBLISHER: Lucas Books
PRICE: $85
RELEASED: October 12, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Though he has his critics, me being one at times, I could listen to George Lucas talk Star Wars for hours, specifically the in terms of plot evolution. So that was probably the aspect of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back I found most appealing.

Released for the 30th anniversary of the film, this coffee table book chronicles the movie’s creation and release, starting in May 1977 (when the first film was released) and ending in December 1980. It features old and rare interview content from the film’s cast and crew, a variety of photographs, unseen concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, and more.

The really cool thing about this book is that Rinzler more or less presents the content in chronological order. It almost feels like you’re reading a production journal that includes interviews with the cast and crew. That’s likely in part because the book borrows a great deal from Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back by Alan Arnold, which was published in 1980.

Irvin Kershner, The Empire StrikesThe book will likely tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the making of Empire, mostly looking at it from a director’s perspective, an actor’s perspective, and a special effects perspective. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, because if you’re reading this book from cover to cover, chances are you’re going to get bored at times. As I said, I love hearing George Lucas, and in this case Irvin Kershner, talk Star Wars. But as amazing as the special effects in the film are, their formative process doesn’t interest me as much.

But you can certainly argue that this book doesn’t need to be read to be enjoyed. For Star Wars buffs, the photos alone might just be worthy the hefty $85 price. We see some fantastic candid behind-the-scenes shots. For instance: Kersnher showing Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) how he might hold C-3PO’s severed head, Carrie Fisher sitting in the carbon freezing chamber alongside numerous stormtroopers and Ugnaughts (pig men) during a break, Mark Hamill in the swamps of Dagobah with Yoda…along with Kermit and Miss Piggy. Plus, there are lots of shots from the set that just show the actors being themselves. Those are fun to look at.

The detail on some of these photos is amazing. There’s a tight black and white shot of Yoda on Mark Hamill’s shoulder, and you can see not only the sweat on Hamill’s face, but a lot of the little details on the puppet. The creases in its face, the detail in its hands, how life-like the eyes look. It’s almost breath-taking.

Yoda, Luke SKywalker, The Empire Strikes BackThe book provides some insight into the behind-the-scenes tension that went on during the film. Apparently, Hamill was worried that Luke Skywalker was bring written out when he read Yoda’s “There is another” line. Also, Empire was way over budget, and we read about Lucas’ fear of having to turn the film over to 20th Century Fox in order to finish it, as opposed to owning it himself.

The only real drawback to the book is its price. For casual fans, $85 is a lot to ask for a book, and I consider myself more than just a casual fan. You get your money’s worth, but you might have to save up for it. Or you could always try the library.

Though the book in its entirety didn’t interest me, I can’t deny The Making of The Empire Strikes Back is a gem for both die-hard collectors and casual fans of the movie, by virtue of the sheer volume of content it contains. It’s a fitting tribute to one of the greatest films ever made. In a recent interview with StarWars.com, Rinzler said he’d do a book like this for Return of the Jedi if sales justified it, which I’m sure they will. Star Wars is recession-proof that way.

RATING: 9.5/10

Image 1 from grantgould7.tripod.com. Image 2 from curiousintentions.com.

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