Weekly Comic Star Wars 100s: Novel Edition

By Rob Siebert
Herf Nerder

For the past few years, I’ve been setting reading quotas for myself. In this instance, “reading” refers to traditional prose books and audiobooks rather than comics. Not because of the antiquated notion that comics and graphic novels don’t count as reading. I just think it’s healthy to have a balance of both. I use Goodreads to track and gamify it.

For better or worse, I’ve been reading Star Wars novels since the fifth grade. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but yeah…it’s been a matter of decades, not years. While I’ve tried to phase them out at various times, they always come back. They’re like the Sith in that sense.

After all this time, instead of fighting the impulse to dive back into that galaxy far, far away, I’ve simply accepted that they’re a guilty pleasure of mine. Thus, of the 15 books I’ve read this year, eight are from the Star Wars Universe. That’s fair right? A roughly 50/50 balance.

Thanks to this lovely pandemic we’re experiencing, I’m one of the many whose had a chance to do quite a bit of reading. And so, in my standard Weekly Comic 100s format, I present to you a set of mini-reviews from my Star Wars selections in 2020. As you’ll see, I’ve made a point to differentiate between prose and audiobooks. I’ve also left out the Rise of Skywalker novelization, as I’ve said quite a bit about that already. (1, 2, 3, 4.)

TITLE: Resistance Reborn
AUTHOR: Rebecca Roanhorse
PAGE COUNT:
PUBLISHED: November 5, 2019

I don’t know that I would call this a thrilling read, nor would I say it enhances the Rise of Skywalker viewing experience very much. The most notable thing it does is bring Wedge Antilles back into the fold for his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the movie.

Still, Resistance Rising is well-written and provides a little bit of context for where the galaxy is at heading into Episode XI. No harm, no foul.

TITLE: Thrawn: Treason
AUTHOR: Timothy Zahn
READ BY: Marc Thompson
DURATION:

RELEASED: July 23, 2019

This wasn’t at all what I expected. The title and cover lead you to believe Thrawn commits all-out treason, pitting he and the Chiss against the Empire. That is not what we get. The “treason” in question is very subdued. You can barely even refer to it as that.

Timothy Zahn is one of the godfathers of the Star Wars novel, and will be returning to Thrawn with a new book later this year. While there’s no one more qualified to write the character than him, I can’t say I’ll be rushing to pick that one up.

TITLE: Canto Bight
AUTHORS: Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, John Jackson Miller
READ BY: Sean Kenin, Saskia Maarleveld, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis
RELEASED: December 5, 2017

Kedpin Shoklop. That’s what I think of when somebody says this title. It’s the name of the main character in the first of the four novellas in this book. You can’t have a more Star Wars name than that.

My expectations weren’t particularly high or low for this one. But I’d call Canto Bight an overachiever. Especially because it’s based on The Last Jedi, which obviously wasn’t received in the friendliest of ways. It peaks early, but it’s still very much a worthwhile read.

TITLE: Force Collector
AUTHOR: Kevin Shinick
PAGE COUNT:
RELEASED: November 19, 2019

Definitely one of the more enjoyable stories leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, as we meet a young Force-sensitive in the years prior to The Force Awakens. As you might have gathered, his abilities manifest in a very specific way.

While this is supposedly a one-and-done, Shinick manages to create enough intrigue with the that I wouldn’t mind at all seeing what happens to Kaz as the events of the sequel trilogy progress.

TITLE: Ahsoka (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: E.K. Johnston
READ BY: Ashley Eckstein
RELEASED: October 3, 2017

I heard the new season of The Clone Wars nullifies something in this book. That’s a shame, as this is one of the better books to come out of the new canon. It’s got an entertaining and action-packed story.

This is one of the few instances where I can definitively recommend listening to the audiobook, as it’s narrated by the actress that voices Ahsoka in Clone Wars and Rebels.

TITLE: Queen’s Shadow (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
READ BY: Catherine Taber
RELEASED: May 25, 2018

Is it a coincidence that both E.K. Johnston books are voiced by their corresponding Clone Wars actors?

Queen’s Shadow is something of an odd duck. The narrative has a strange flow to it. It’s an enjoyable listen, though. That’s an accomplishment, as Padme scenes can be famously boring. I liked it enough that I’ll be reading the prequel, Queen’s Peril, when it comes out next month.

TITLE: Most Wanted (Audiobook)
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
READ BY: Saskia Maarleveld
RELEASED: May 25, 2018

This one is more or less what you expect it to be. Which, if you picked it up for yourself, is to say it’s what you want it to be.

We’re with an 18-year-old Han not-yet-Solo. We see a couple of the formative events in his life. Namely the evolution of his relationship with Qi’ra and the first time he experiences space travel. Han also has a nice supporting cast in this book, which is cool to see. Another little oddity about this book? It takes place mostly on one planet: Corellia.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Leia Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the second of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Would not be called “General Rob”

1. “General Leia”
When The Force Awakens came out, I understand why she was marketed as “General Leia.” The world had known her as Princess Leia for almost 40 years. Calling her General Organa, or even General Leia Organa, might be confusing for some. I don’t think the name Organa is said at any point in the original trilogy.

In the movies they did the right thing. She wasn’t General Leia. She was General Organa. Or just Leia. But in the Rise novelization she’s called “General Leia” a handful of times. It’s off-putting. Consider this: In Return of the Jedi we didn’t have General Han or General Lando. It was General Solo and General Calrissian.

So let’s get this down once and for all: In licensing meetings she can be General Leia. But in-story? She’s General Organa.

2. Luke Was Speaking to Leia From Beyond.
As the story begins, Leia knows she’s dying. Thanks in no small part to getting blown into space during The Last Jedi. She knew she had to maximize the time she had left. What’s more, she had a persistent voice telling her that her time to go was now.

Between helping Rey and bugging Leia, Luke was a busy Force Ghost.

Their first exchange in the book is simply…
“Leia. It’s time.”
“Not just yet.”

Brother later told sister, “There is only one thing left. Then you can rest.”

Finally, when Leia sacrificed herself reaching out to Ben and passes into the Force, she feels “a surge of welcome from Luke, who was not alone…”

I’d like to think he’s not talking about all the other Jedi we hear from later. Though that would mean she’d get to see her father, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi. To yours truly, the ideal vision is Anakin, Padme, Luke, Leia, and Han. The Skywalker family reunited in full. Sticklers will tell us that neither Padme nor Han could have preserved their consciousness in the Force.

But it’s intentionally left vague. I imagine there’s a reason for that.

3. Leia’s Jedi Training
With Luke gone, Leia was the only one left who could offer Rey anything remotely resembling Jedi training. She wasn’t a Jedi herself. But as we’d later learn, she was very much a qualified teacher.

The novel delightfully yet briefly touches on Luke’s training of Leia. Nothing too extensive. But we learn that her training, or at least much of it, took place on Ajan Kloss, the planet the Resistance is based on when the story begins. Luke would often compare Leia’s training to his with Yoda. Thus, he tended to refer to Ajan Kloss as “nice Dagobah.”

Certain things came naturally to Leia. Not long after the Battle of Endor, Luke tried to teach Leia a lesson in patience by having her stand on her head for a long period of time. Much like he did with Yoda. In response to taunts he threw her way, she used the Force floated up and on to her feet. “You’re going to make me a better teacher,” Luke said.

4. The Tantive IV
Remember the first ship we see in the original Star Wars? The blockade runner that gets captured by the Star Destroyer? Yeah, apparently that’s not only still functioning 34 years later, but it’s in this damn story. It’s even in the big space battle at the end. It goes down, though. Among the casualties aboard are Nien Nunb, Lando’s co-pilot from Return of the Jedi.

This movie and it’s original trilogy collectibles. Honestly.

5. “Leia Was Stronger Than All of Us”
Luke says that to Rey during their scene on Ach-To.

This book practically worships Leia. Which I’m actually okay with. Not because of Carrie Fisher’s death, though that does make it more poignant. It’s because in the end, Leia was the strongest person in the saga. There’s actually a line in the book

Rian Johnson touched on this in the commentary track for The Last Jedi. Over the course of her life, Leia…

– Was taken from her birth parents.
– Lost her adoptive parents when her world exploded, as she was forced to stand by and watch.
– Discovered her father was Darth Vader, who was the one to hold her in place and make her watch aforementioned explosion.
– Lost her son to the dark side, just as Vader had been lost to it.
– Lost her husband when he was murdered by aforementioned son.
– Lost her brother when he sacrificed himself to save the Resistance.
– Endured the death of so many friends. In the sequel trilogy she also lost Holdo, who’d been a childhood friend, and Admiral Ackbar, whom she’d known since the days of the Rebellion.

And yet, when the galaxy needed her to fight, she kept on fighting.

Turns out Leia, like Carrie Fisher, was as tough as they come.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Mental Health Monday: Maybe Tomorrow by Charlotte Agell and Ana Ramírez González

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When it comes to crying over movies, books, TV shows, etc, I’m a tough nut to crack. Until a few days ago, only one book had the distinction of making me tear up: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I’m sure it was read to me as a kid. But as an adult? I didn’t stand a chance…

But now, The Giving Tree has a companion this regard. Last week, Mrs. Primary Ignition showed me Maybe Tomorrow, written by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez.

It sounds odd to call this a “non-spoiler” write-up, as we’re talking about a kids picture book. But I want to be as vague as I can be, as it’s really worth going out and reading the book yourself.

Written for readers four to eight years old, is about a hippo and an alligator. (You know, that old trope…) Norris, the alligator, is perpetually happy. So happy that he’s always accompanied by a cloud of butterflies.

Elba, on the other hand, is very sad. She’s tethered to a big black block, which stays with her all the time. Norris makes it his mission to cheer Elba up. But it’s not as simple as it seems.

We later learn that the block represents a specific kind of grief that Elba is literally carrying around with her. But one of the reasons I adore this block metaphor so much is that it can represent virtually anything. When I saw it, it instantly came to represent anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Disorder. But whatever you might be living with, even if it’s not a mental illness, it’s so easy to project yourself into this story and relate to this little pink hippo.

One way or another, we all have our own “big black blocks” to drag around.

Every bit as important as the block, is how the Norris character reacts to its everlasting presence. He becomes a model for how to be a friend to someone in Elba’s situation. He does all the right things.

Maybe Tomorrow? also doesn’t have a cut and dry “happily ever after” ending. It’s not a sad ending by any means. I actually found it pretty uplifting. But the book doesn’t shy away from reality, albeit through its unique and colorful veil.

This book is meant to teach children about bad feelings, and how to help someone else when they have bad feelings. But the sad truth is, there are a lot of grown adults in this world who could learn from Norris the dancing alligator and his butterfly buddies.

That might be the best possible praise I can give to this, or any children’s book. It’s lesson is so elementary that even adults, mired in everyday callousness and cynicism, can learn from it too.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

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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