January 2021 Wrap-Up

I managed to finish 12 titles this month. So, what were they, and what did I think of them? Oh, and here’s my vlog of the same if you’re not up for reading along with my TBR for next month: (Coming Soon)

Why I read it I had finished all my Star Wars graphic novels and had subsequently picked this up, so I read it.
Reading slot 3 Graphic Novels a month (at least)
What is it about? During a hyperspace jump, this ship transporting Luke, Leia and other rebels exits hyperspace early and they find themselves at a major Imperial refuelling station.
Thoughts: This story mostly follows the character of Deena Shan, who had featured in the preceding Empire series as well as the first book in the Rebellion series. Following those events she felt a little overwhelmed and was considering leaving the fight. Accidentally turning up a the Imperial refuelling station means that she’s still in the fight regardless. As the events unfold she finds herself as the sole active Rebel as everyone else is either dead or captured. What follows is a Die Hard type adventure as she single-handedly takes on the Empire.
I really enjoyed this story, even though I didn’t really know much about Deena. I liked that she wasn’t just the reluctant hero, but found that heroism is something that is bestowed by others who can only judge by the results of one’s actions regardless of the intent behind them.
Unfortunately, this series is quite disjointed as a whole, consisting of only the three volumes and concluding with the Vector crossover story and volume two having nothing to do with one and three. The stories are individually enjoyable, but now that I’ve finally read them all, don’t work well together. Furthermore, Deena Shan never makes another appearance after Vector.
My other issue is the artwork is a bit messy. I didn’t even know Leia was present until she was referred to as princess. Certain panels could also have been made a lot clearer. It wasn’t terrible, but it was distracting.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Too many Star Wars books to list
What’s next? Doctor Who: Graphic Novels: Sixth Doctor II: The World Shapers
Why I read it Because the Black Fleet Crisis is so bad I needed something better to read to make it bearable.
Reading slot Active TBR Cycle: Star Wars Novels: Either filling gaps or rereads – Filling Gaps
What is it about? Set after A New Hope Han Solo takes a mission for the Rebellion to go to a planet and pick up a Rebel agent who needs extraction. Of course, things are never that simple and Han and Chewie find themselves getting into a much bigger adventure than they had bargained for.
Thoughts: This was a fun and exciting Star Wars adventure. I loved the characters created for this story, particularly Scarlet Hark, the agent Han is sent to extract from an Imperial world.
The story splits neatly into three main episodes: The Extraction, Hunter Maas and The Device – these are my names for them. As each section was very different to the last, this did feel more like a mini series featuring the same cast and story arc. Not really a criticism, but more of an observation.
There was a good injection of personality in this story, which some good one-liners and other funny and poignant moments.
The new characters had a good Star Wars feel to them and the established characters felt true to form.
What made this book stand out was Han’s rebellious views towards authority. The Empire makes for an easy to hate and a natural body to rebel against, but during conversations with Leia and Scarlet about a possible New Republic, questions are raised about whether his rebelliousness would continue under that new authority. Towards the end of the story when the McGuffin is revealed, Han makes an easy decision about it that Leia and Scarlet struggle with and Han makes some interesting statements that have strong implications for any new government. Fascinating stuff and not something I recall seeing addressed in many Star Wars stories.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: Too many Star Wars books to list
What’s next? Star Wars: Scoundrels
Why I read it Needed a book to read, this was handy
Reading slot Reading to: my wifr
What is it about? A young Aztec man is brought up never to question the priests and to accept the world as it is except he has nothing but questions and what he finds out will change everything forever.
Thoughts: This is a tough one to talk about without giving away spoilers. For the first quarter of the book the story follows Chimal as he lives his life in the valley with the two Azec villages and patrolled by a murderous snake-headed god. The story is barbarous and looks to be headed in a particular direction regarding what’s beyond the rockfall blocking off the exit to the valley. Once Chimal finds out the story takes on a completely new take.
In some ways this story feels very classic sci-fi and if this were put on screen as is it would look very much like sci-fi from the 60s. However, people are still people and the discussion into the human condition is just as relevant now. The characters may be extreme caricatures of particular human characteristics, but the message behind it is very clear.
A very clever book with hidden layers to it with a very satisfying ending.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: The Stainless Steel Rat series; Deathworld 1-3; Bill The Galactic Hero series; In Our Hands, The Stars; Invasion: Earth; The Lifeship; To The Stars Trilogy; Planet Of No Return; Planet Of The Damned; Planet Story; Star Smashers Of The Galaxy Rangers; The Technicolour Time Machine; The Turing Option; The West Of Eden Trilogy
What’s next? Alex Rider IX: Scorpia Rising
Why I read it Saw it and thought, “Why not?”
Reading slot Book of the month
What is it about? Something people start seeing turns them suicidally mad causing mass death on an apocalyptic scale. Pregnant Malorie finds herself trying to survive in a world where it’s not safe to use her eyes.
Thoughts: For the most part, this is pretty standard post-apocalyptic survival fare. Be it zombies, flocks of sound-detecting predators or things that make people commit suicide the surviving characters invariable end up holed up somewhere with the doors and windows barricaded and wondering if they can ever trust each one another. The big difference this time is the paranoia about what can be seen outside and if it’s come inside. By its very nature, the threat is never really made certain – those that do see it don’t last long and many scenes were quite tense as our blindfolded protagonists are blundering about trying to perform simple tasks.
The story itself alternates between two timelines, one whit Malorie and the children going on a journey and the other recounting Malorie’s experiences from when the threat started. In a way this did alleviate some of the tension from the historic timeline, you know Malorie is going to survive that one, but its the fate of the other characters – particularly Tom – that keeps the tension up. Tom’s not in the present, he was in the past – what happened? The story is told in such a way that his fate is not really made definite until quite near the end.
The present timeline is a bit of a slow-burn, with smaller and chapters given to it compared to the past timeline. In it, it’s not revealed for ages where she’s taking the children and why which was a little frustrating, but because those sections were brief, it didn’t detract from the past.
As I’ve already mentioned, whatever is causing the madness is never explained (it is to a degree but keeping the specifics vague here) particularly the origin or the cause. Having not seen the movie (to be watched ASAP) I looked up how it showed the threat – it doesn’t. A little annoying but it certainly builds on the fear of the unknown.
This wasn’t a particularly scary book, but it did know which anxiety buttons to push. I’m not sure I liked the style of writing, it was full of short statemental sentences. E.g. *Opens book at random:* “Tom goes first. Then Jules and Victor. Malorie follows.” It’s not all like that, but it was very noticeable when it was.
I liked the ending, I’m not going to say any more than that.
Score: Buy it
What’s next? February’s Book of the Month

Why I read it My wife told me to
Reading slot 3 Graphic Novels a month (at least)
What is it about? Eight stories featuring the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Frobisher as originally printed in Doctor Who Magazine.
Thoughts: Eight stories, so eight mini reviews:

Story Name Exodus, Revelation! Genesis!
What is it about? The Doctor finds a group of aliens have somehow materialised on board the TARDIS. He follows the signal that caused this to find a nefarious scheme taking place.
Thoughts: What starts out as an interesting space RTA with a group of refugee aliens quickly turns into a more humdrum escapade inside a castle. There is a familiar enemy that pops up, but this didn’t have any staying power.
Score: Boring: Just plain dull
Story Name Nature Of The Beast
What is it about? The Doctor takes his friends on a picnic on a tranquil planet where nothing can possible go wrong. They’re interrupted by a hunt chasing down a wolf-beast.
Thoughts: This one had an interesting story, even if I saw the twist pretty quickly. Two pages (48 and 49) are printed the wrong way round which took me a little while to work out what was going on.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name Time Bomb
What is it about? An alien race send their garbage into the past, contaminating prehistoric Earth.
Thoughts: This one was pretty clever with some nice ideas and consequences. The star performance of this collection.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name Salad Daze
What is it about? After Peri puts the Doctor on a salad diet, he reciprocates by sending her on a mind trip to an Alice in Wonderland story where all the characters are vegetables.
Thoughts: Some weird ideas that ultimately aren’t worth the punchline.
Score: Worth reading, I suppose.
Story Name Changes
What is it about? A shape-changing alien gets on board the TARDIS
Thoughts: I do like stories that feature the extended interior of the TARDIS and this one did not disappoint. That the Doctor has his own shape-changing companion made this a fun read.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name Profits Of Doom
What is it about? Another story featuring a sleeper ship, but this one gets its sleeping crew stolen.
Thoughts: Another quite compelling adventure that unfortunately sees the companions seriously under-utilised. The Doctor does pick up another one for the story, but there’s no reason for Peri or Frobisher to be there. Apart from that, a fun tale.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name The Gift
What is it about? A robot sent as a practcal joke backfires when it starts using the city around to to replicate itself.
Thoughts: Some aspects of the setting to this story really bugged me, but it’s a pretty fun replicating robots story nonetheless.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name The World Shapers
What is it about? The Doctor lands on a familiar world where there’s something terribly wrong with time.
Thoughts: This is a follow-up to the 1st Doctor episode The Keys Of Marinus, which I have not seen, nor know anything about. The story, though plays out with some surprising origins and endings of one well-known Doctor Who enemy.
Score: Worth reading
Final Thoughts A lot of these stories are showing their age in their style and forced “sci-finess”. As a collected set, this is also let down by being solely in black and white. I understand that cost meant it being printed as such in the magazine, but the addition of colour would have really lifted the stories from the page. For my first Doctor Who graphic novel, this was fairly enjoyable as a whole.
Score: Worth reading
What’s next? Heroes: Volume Two
Why I read it Because it was there and the kid take forever to get ready for bed.
Reading slot 3 Graphic Novels a month (at least)
What is it about? A collection of short tales that fit in and around seasons 1 and 2 of the Heroes TV series.
Thoughts: This was another fun collection of stories fleshing out the characters in Heroes seasons 1 and 2 a little more. Is this required reading? No, of course not, but this does give a little back story behind the characters and maybe even provide a little motivation for their actions. Each story is only a few pages long, with a couple of stories serialised over many parts. I would say this is not quite as good as Volume One, but was still very enjoyable. The artwork changed a little between stories, but not hugely so and was pretty good throughout.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Heroes: Volume One; Heroes: Saving Charlie
What’s next? Aliens: Outbreak
Why I read it It’s the next Doctor Who book chronologically, even if it’s not part of the main book run
Reading slot Active TBR Cycle: Wife’s book collection: Doctor Who
What is it about? The Doctor and Amy are competing in a games tournament to win an object that really should be holding the universe together.
Thoughts: This was garbage.
I’ve thought long and hard about what I was going to say about this book and that’s pretty much the summary of them.
For the benefit of others who may read this review, I’ll endeavour to make this a little more informative.
First up, despite it having Doctor Who in bright flashy letters on the cover, this is not a Doctor Who book. Yes, there are two characters with the names of The Doctor and Amy and there is a TARDIS but they are character in name only and are really totally different characters with familiar names. The TARDIS doesn’t feature until the very end of the story and again is interchangeable with a McGuffin.
The story itself drifted from a Douglas Adams style of surreal irreverence to a deeply cerebral exploration into the manifestation of the multiverse that did nothing for the story except to make it completely incomprehensible. On top of that, I just didn’t care. There were admittedly a couple of fun scenes, but they were few and far between. The two revelations at the end were either anti-climactic or of such plot destroying magnitude as to render the whole adventure (such as it was) completely unnecessary.
So, in summary: This is not a Doctor Who story, this is barely even a story and the title makes no sense in regard to the story. A waste of my time.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
I’ve also read: Quite a few Doctor Who books actually
What’s next? Doctor Who: The Way Through The Woods
Why I read it It’s been on my shelf for years.
Reading slot Active TBR Cycle: Star Wars Novels: Progressing chronologically
What is it about? After the Yevethan hostilities, the New Republic must make a decision as to what to do about it, but political infighting makes any progress impossible.
Thoughts: After book 1’s appalling start to the trilogy, I wasn’t going into this one with any great optimism. The first hurdles was that for some reason the three storylines that were intermingled in the first book have been segregated into three separate stories in this one. So part one in the continuation of Lando’s adventures with the mysterious craft, this was really bogged down with a whole lot of not a lot of anything much happening and ends with no real development. The mystery was vaguely interesting, but just dragged. Part two was Luke’s quest to find his mum, and was by far the worst section of the book. I recommend skipping this bit entirely which is easy to do given the layout of this book. The character of Luke is unrecognisable and the woman he’s travelling with is the worst in every possible way. Dreadful stuff. The final third focused on Leia and the actual Black Fleet crisis and was the better part of the book. In book one, Leia was terribly written, but here she’s much more like her usual self. The story does get bogged down again with the minutiae of politics and military manoeuvring, but I found this section far more compelling than anything book 1 and the rest of this book had to offer. This book really was an effort to get through, only one more to go…
Score: Boring – Just plain dull
I’ve also read: Lots and lots of Star Wars.
What’s next? Star Wars: The Black Fleet Crisis 3: Tyrant’s Test
Why I read it Been a while since I read these
Reading slot 3 Graphic Novels a month (at least)
What is it about? Furthing the adventures of Hicks and Newt from Aliens in all but name only, set about ten years later and greedy corporations and religions nuts want the Xenomorphs for themselves but the price is far higher than anyone expected.
Thoughts: Having read the novelisation by Steve Perry first, this was a lot thinner in content. In these stories, Hicks and Newt have been renamed as Wilks and Billie (Alien3 was coming out and defined the canon) but I feel that these further adventures have a much better storyline than what the films did (not difficult to do). As with all well-written monster stories the focus is more on mankind’s treatment of mankind and what could they do over what should they do as well as the depths of stupidity that religious fervour can elicit.
The characters of ‘Wilks’ and ‘Billie’ are very damaged after their ordeal and I like how they become themselves again once they are reunited and face off against the xenomorphs once again.
The artwork is a little sub-par, with some of the characters looking very different from panel to panel making it difficult to know who is depicted from time to time.
I prefer the novel, but this was fun.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Lots of Aliens books
What’s next? Aliens: Nightmare Asylym
Why I read it My son wanted me to
Reading slot Reading to: my youngest son
What is it about? Decades have passed since the adventures of Sky Pirate Captain Twig, and lowly library Rook Barkwater goes on his own adventure in a very different Edge.
Thoughts: As before with this series, I am often surprised by just how dark the stories get. Nobody is safe and anything can happen. That being said, the story itself did drag a little for me in that it retraced a lot of the ground covered in the Beyond the Deepwoods as Rook travels the Edge encountering weird and often dangerous things and environments. Fortunately, this story does pick up after a while and by the end has nicely picked up and was far more engaging. Chris Riddle’s illustrations as always add something to the story. Full of imagination and adventure.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The Twig Sequence; Muddle Earth & Muddle Earth Too
What’s next? The Edge Chronicles: The Rook Barkwater Sequence II: Vox
Why I read it Been a while since I read these
Reading slot 3 Graphic Novels a month (at least)
What is it about? With Earth overrun by xenomorphs, Wilks and Billie hitch a ride on a off world transport to find that their destination is a military space station headed by a mad general attempting to train his own xenomorphs in order to take back the planet.
Thoughts: Another graphic novel in which I had read the novelisation first and so did find this a little thin in comparison. However, the story itself is quite an interesting one with a nice twist on the theme. Wilks and Billie are clearly Hicks and Newt from Aliens and make a really great team. I still prefer the novel, but this was a lot of fun and found the artwork was pretty good.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Lots of Aliens books
What’s next? Aliens: The Female War
Why I read it I don’t remember this at all
Reading slot Active TBR Cycle: Tom Sharpe
What is it about? In Piemburg during Aparthied South Africa, Kommandant Van Heerden goes on vacation leaving the misguided Luitenant Verkramp in charge. While he plans to tackle the policemen’s dalliances with the local women using shock aversion therapy and countering an imagined communist sabotage with his own wave of sabotage, the Kommandant tries to learn how to be more English.
Thoughts: Another brilliant book written by a man who does not hold his punches when tackling subjects that arise when there’s more than one group of people involved. Underneath the witty misunderstandings and farcical situations lies a strong criticism on the attitudes of white people towards everyone else. It is important to note that this is written from the (barely exaggerated) points of view of members of the white population of South African Apartheid. There is just about every slur covered here, few of which, if any, are ever addressed. This is not for the easily offended, but is a satirical look on the attitudes of white people. Written in the ’70s this is just as relevant now as it was then.
I found this less funny than Riotous Assembly but possibly far more insightful. Also full of trigger warnings.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Acenstal Vices; The Great Pursuit; Porterhouse Blue; Riotous Assembly; The Throwback; Vintage Stuff; Wilt; The Wilt Alternative; Wilt On High
What’s next? The Throwback

Not a bad month in other words. So, what did you read?


Star Wars: Rebellion 2: The Ahakista Gambit – Book Review

This is for day 31 of #Blogmas 2020.

Though this follows on from book 1 of the series My Brother, My Enemy it has nothing to do with the events of that book. In this one a criminal who had been sneaking intelligence to the Alliance is found out by his crimelord boss and has a bomb implanted in his skull. His new mission: To bring together a team in order to infiltrate an Imperial installation on the planet Ahakista and plant a spy droid into the information network.

I must confess, it too me a little while to get into this story, firstly because it has nothing to do with the previous book, secondly the artwork and lastly I just didn’t care. Having stuck with it though, I found that it didn’t need to have anything to do with the previous book and was able to stand up one its own in much the same way that Rogue One does. This is another act of rebellion against the Empire and there are many parallels featured in Rogue One. The artwork of the locations, machines and masks is great, it’s just the faces are somewhat fluid in their countenance. Characters can look very different from panel to panel and it’s only their clothing or species that makes them identifiable. Even so, a lot of the expressions are somewhat constipated. Once I got into the story, I found that I did care a lot. The comic relief came from Baco Par a lock breaker who got all the good one-liners. There’s also the surprise return of Darca Nil last seen in the serialised Nomad story in Tales volume 6 and the apprentice of Lycan, the villain of that story.

There were a number of flashbacks which did make the beginning of the story a little jumbled and that was where my caring about the story struggled. Once I was able to get past that, I ended up really enjoying the story and found the finale particularly good, if a little tropey.

Final score: Buy it


Warren Peace: Who Goes Here? -Book Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 26

Bob Shaw, usually associated with ‘straight’ science fiction delves into the genre of satirical science fiction with this hilarious and entertaining anti-war romp.

A man joins the Space Legion to forget (they use a machine to do this) and wakes up as Warren Peace and no knowledge at all of his previous life. Normally people have forgotten the events of the past few days or weeks or a specific episode that they can’t bear to live with anymore, but Warren has no memory of anything at all. He also finds that his former self has just enlisted in the Space Legion for the next several decades and after surviving the first couple of suicidal missions, doesn’t think he’s likely to last a year. So, he hatches a plan to go AWOL and find out just what sort of despicable man he must have been to want to scrub out his entire life.

What follows is a somewhat farcical series of unfortunate escapades that the poor and accident-prone Warren plunges heedlessly into. I read this aloud to my wife and on a few occasions had to take a few moments to recollect myself from laughing in order to proceed.

The character of Warren himself is a little basic, he is someone who is having to react to the various situations he finds himself in but I can’t help but like him a lot. There aren’t many other characters who feature for very long as Warren’s encounters see them come and go pretty quickly, but there is certainly and interesting cast there nonetheless.

This was written in the late seventies and so some of the attitudes have dated a little, but there was nothing plot-related and they were very few and far between.

The humour was certainly more on the slapstick side of things, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and this slapstick was executed effectively.

The ending was a little bit abrupt as Bob Shaw’s signature big revelation came into play. It was a really good one, but the story did end very shortly afterwards.

In the end, this was a great read. For me, it was a reread, but I had forgotten most of it apart from the big revelations at the end. Also a very quick read.

Final score: Booktastic!


Star Wars: Legacy: War – Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 24

This is it, the big finale to the 56 issue run of Legacy. This is a six issue collection making for the largest of the Legacy volumes. The front cover is kind of a spoiler regarding Darth Krayt, so I’ll mention him, but try to avoid divulging any other spoilers.

For the most part, I did enjoy this volume with its intense action, pivotal scenes and great characters. Unfortunately, as this was written as a six-part mini-series following on from the main fifty issues, there was a lot of redundant reminders of who was who and how they were related to the plot so far in an attempt be be a volume that could stand on its own. It really can’t and all that this did was make most of the second issue in this series largely nonsensical. Lots of action was taking place, but I wasn’t sure why or where or with whom. A real shame there. I would also like to have seen a little more resolution with the Jokers who feature, but not very much. With a few stories centered on them over the series, it would have been nice to see where they end up.

Apart from that, the rest of this was a first-rate conclusion to my all-time favourite Star Wars story. The resolution took place much earlier in the volume than I would have expected, but then there was quite a bit of fallout to play out too. There are a few significant character deaths on both sides of the war, but at the same time not everything is nicely wrapped up in a tidy bow either. There is still scope for more in this era of the galaxy not quite such a long time ago, but still far, far away.

As usual the artwork was fantastic.
Final verdict: Booktastic!


WWW Wednesday Book Tag

Another day, another post for #Blogmas 2020.

This book tag was created by someone who wasn’t me. I don’t know who.
Three simple questions about my reading:

What are you reading now?

This month is Star Wars month and so I’m both filling in gaps of books I’ve missed because I didn’t had them at the time I reached them chronologically and books continuing the saga further.
So there’s book 2 of the Black Fleet Crisis – Shield of Lies which is not great, so I’m also reading Honour Among Thieves in between chapters so that I can keep going with it. I’ve also got a graphic novel on the go: Rebellion Vol. 2: The Ahakista Gambit.
Finally. I’m reading 1-2 chapters of Warren Peace: Who Goes Here? to my wife every night.

What have you just finished reading?

The final volume of the fantastic Legacy series: War where Luke Skywalker’s great great grandson faces off against the Sith one last time.

What are you reading next?
Depending on how I get on this month, I may get on to:

Tyrant’s test, the final part of the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy.
Failing that, it’ll be:

If I don’t get these read by the end of the year, then I’m back to my Currently Reading pile.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Review

This is for #Blogmas 2020 day 21.

First up, this is not the novelisation of that terrible Disney film that came out that mistakenly put ‘Star Wars’ on the title and stole the title of this book. Interestingly, Disney Luke’s Force projection in the film is a direct rip-off of the Force projection in this book. This is an actual Star Wars book based in the actual Star Wars universe. Now that’s out of the way, on to the review…

This is a follow-up book to the Coruscant Nights trilogy of books that follow Jedi Jax Pavan and the sentient droid I-Five that originally belonged to his father in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. In this one, the Coruscant-based resistance known as Whiplash is feeling the pressure and it is decided to evacuate their leader off-world to a safer location. Unfortunately, Darth Vader is waiting and kidnaps the leader leaving Jax and his friends for dead. Now Jax must do what he can to mount a rescue.

I do very much enjoy the character of I-Five and this is his sixth appearance in the books. Jax is a lot more unbalanced in this one, dealing with loss and exploring a Sith holocron, which made him a much more interesting character. There was one scene in particular when he discovers that sentient blood is required to open it and a new acquaintance of his suddenly turns up and I really thought he might do something drastic.

The story itself is okay, if a little meandering. For all the urgency in mounting the rescue, there’s an awful lot of preamble and ‘side missions’ that must be done first. Interspersed amongst all this is the ongoing operations of Whiplash without their leader which, though compelling, ultimately don’t really amount to much.

There is no great battle or encounter but the rescue attempt at the end is pretty good. The story does get a little lost with the time manipulation sub-sub plot which felt a bit unnecessary.

Infinitely better than the ‘film’ of the same name.

Buy it.


The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Review

This is for #Blogmas 2020 day 20.

Being a story about books, my wife picked this up automatically. However, her busy reading schedule didn’t have room for it, so she got me to read it to her. So I did.

This is an urban fantasy that follows Susan in 1983 as she goes to London after her 18th birthday to find her mysterious father. In the war of these types of stories, she quickly finds herself in a much larger world with magic and strange beings who are ‘policed’ by a family of booksellers and good ol’ dad is somehow in the middle of it all.

The story itself flowed along okay, it took a little bit of time to get going with lots of the book spent just going to a place, finding out something and then going on to the next place. At about two thirds of the way in, the adventure properly kicks off and that final third is a much quicker read and ended on a satisfying note. On the whole, the story was fine, nothing particularly original about it, but fine.

This Waterstone’s exclusive edition came with a short story tied into it, set a few years earlier. It was okay, it fleshed out the booksellers as an organisation a little more.

My main issues with it were the Americanisms that crept into this story based in 1983’s London. The spelling was not British with colour missing a ‘u’ and so forth, but the worst offence was the use of the word ‘flashlight’ when referring to a torch. The moment I read that word it literally jumped us both out of the story. This happened fairly early on in the story too and had quite an impact on us. This was no longer The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, but ‘that book that used the word flashlight instead of torch’, or just the ‘flashlight book.’ If you’re going to set a book in England with English characters, English words need to be used. Much later on ‘pants’ was used instead of ‘trousers’ but the damage had already been done by this point.

Apart from that, this book just fine. Would have been quite forgettable if it weren’t for ‘flashlight.’

Final score: Worth reading


Binge Watching Star Wars but not the Disney Trilogy

This is for day 19 of #Blogmas 2020.

Over the last 2 days, my family and I have watched the seven films from Episode I: The Phantom Menace to the concluding Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi. We included Rogue One because it slots in nicely between the two trilogies. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched a Star Wars film, and I’ve never binged all seven in such a short time period before. We watched the prequel trilogy yesterday and watched Rogue One then the original trilogy today.

I liked the prequel trilogy when it first came out – I accept that there are faults with it, but I still got a lot of enjoyment out of them. Of course, they weren’t as good as the original trilogy, but they were still good stuff. When Disney got the rights to Star Wars, I was very apprehensive. Having read a huge chunk of the Expanded Universe (EU) I was disappointed to hear that they were going to ignore it (though end up producing a trilogy made up entirely of material and ideas stolen from the EU). I was excited for The Force Awakens and, though it deviated from the EU, I did enjoy it. The following year we had Rogue One which also delivered a story that could slot in before A New Hope in the EU as well as the films. The Last Jedi then destroyed everything good that The Force Awakens had done. Solo was meh and would have been a better space heist movie without being part of Star Wars. Everything hinged on The Rise of Skywalker which pretty much killed the sequel trilogy dead. I’ve no intention to even watch The Force Awakens again having been made so much worse by the two following pieces of garbage.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve watched a Star Wars film since being subjected to The Rise of Skywalker at the cinema.

The prequel trilogy ended up being a really entertaining and enjoyable experience. Despite some clunky dialogue and cringeworthy scenes, the characters were engaging, the scenes were stunning the action was exciting and all four of use had a really good time. The boys loved the universally hated Jar Jar Binks (being the target audience). I’ve never hated him, I mean, he’s never exactly been a favourite of mine, but I never had a problem with him. It was actually quite surprising just how well this trilogy has aged over the last 20-ish years. Even the chronicle of a corrupt rise to power is uncomfortably pertinent for today’s world.

Today, the original trilogy gave the expected level of enjoyment and satisfaction. We kicked off with Rogue One, which has a surprising level of heart and told its story well. Interestingly, following on from Rogue One, A New Hope felt largely redundant and visually primitive. My oldest son found these visuals off-putting having been used to a higher calibre special effects. My wife found Leia’s role in The Empire Strikes Back a step back from her feisty role in A New Hope and had fallen into the typical romantic role most female characters are subjected to. Return of the Jedi pleased everyone at all levels with the boys loving the Ewoks.

Upon concluding this binge, the boys asked if we were next going to do episodes 7-9. The answer: No, we are not. If the boys want to rewatch those films in their own time, I won’t stop them, they’re allowed to make up their own minds about those films, but I can’t bring myself to watch something that has treated the first six films and their fans in such an insulting manner.

What do I mean by this?

Apart from what Disney has done with the EU (another argument that I’m not going into here), the Disney Trilogy’s biggest crime is that they’ve neither built upon nor expanded the Star Wars Universe in any significant or original way.

A New Hope introduced us to the Star Wars galaxy and many of it’s key heroes, villains and planets. It also changed how we viewed science fiction and movies forever.

The Empire Strikes Back brought in the big bad with a hologrammatic Emperor Palpatine, expanded what we knew of the Jedi with Yoda, charmed us with Lando Calrissian and intimidated us with Boba Fett.

Return of the Jedi admittedly doesn’t really cover any new ground though we do finally meet Jabba the Hutt properly and learn of Leia’s relation to Luke.

On top of this trilogy there was a plethora of books, comics and games all telling further tails of the characters we knew so well as well as those blink-and-you-missed them characters in the background who all got a name, species and home planet.

The Phantom Menace brought us the Jedi Order, the Republic, podracing, battle droids and Midi-Chlorians. From this the Knights of the Old Republic was born and a pretty decent racing game.

Attack of the Clones gave us the Clone Wars. From this hundreds of Clone Wars stories has been produced as TV series, games, books and graphic novels.

Revenge of the Sith is really more of the concluding chapter to the Clone Wars but gives us that pivotal transition of Anakin to Vader and Republic to Empire.

The EU covers the Star Wars universe from thousands of years before A New Hope to hundreds of years after.

Rogue One, though largely unnecessary, shows just how those Death Star plans fell into the Rebel hands. It does fit the series nicely though and, apart from neglecting to mention some key players in the Death Star’s construction, doesn’t step on any EU toes.

Now to the problem areas:

The Force Awakens is a basic rehash of A New Hope in almost every way. A hero starting on a desert planet, a Death Star, the death of a mentor and instead of plans there’s a map. What does it build upon the Star Wars universe? Nothing new and nothing not covered in the EU.

The Last Jedi is a reversal of everything set up in The Force Awakens. It also adds nothing to any character and furthers nothing.

The Rise of Skywalker is so insultingly bad in it’s attempt to fix the garbage preceding it that the trilogy ends with nothing resolved at all and no direction for the future.

There are a few tie-in books which you have to read to appreciate the films more. The Force Awakens Lego game is quite fun.

And Solo, a film nobody wanted and adds nothing interesting at all.

The exception to this is The Mandalorian who, after two seasons, fits in better with the EU than it does with the Disney trilogy.

In short: Scrap the Disney trilogy as a bad misstep and give us the Yuushan Vong war and the Thrawn trilogy instead.


Star Wars: Legacy X: Extremes – Review

This is for #Blogmas 2020.

This is the 10th and penultimate book of this epic series set nearly 140 years after the Battle of Yavin. This is one of the thinner volumes being only a 4 comic collection.
The first part of the story utilises one of the ‘stand-alone’ comics: The Fate of Dac

This goes back to the planet Dac (also known Mon Calamari) where Sith scientist Vul Isen releases a deadly toxin that effectively kills the planet. Admiral Gar Starzi of the Alliance fights against the clock, and the Sith to rescue as many lives as he can.
Over the years, the planet Mon Calamari has had more than it’s fair share of bad news, including Imperial subjugation and three subsequent devastating invasion attempts that were halted but after heavy loss of life. It even served as the Capital of the Alliance while Coruscant was being rebuilt. This final nail in the coffin is therefore a blow that matches the destruction of Alderaan. The only difference here is that, rather than an asteroid field the seas are littered with the dead.

The main chunk of the volume follows Cade Skywalker as he hunts down Vul Isen to punish him for his crimes. As more planets and moons fall to Isen’s poisons, the stakes climb steadily. It was also nice seeing the planet Utapau again. The Imperial Knights also attempt to rescue the Emperor’s daughter princess Sia Fel from the Sith on Korriban.
Lots of great action and set pieces as well as a surprise return of a character believed dead.
As usual, the artwork is superb.
I loved this volume, but it does end with far too much left unresolved (like, everything!). Originally, this was going to be the end of the series, but thankfully the final part War did follow.


Book Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

This is for day 11 of #Blogmas 2020

This was the last novel by Terry Pratchett and was published posthumously. As such, it is arguably less-polished than his other works. That being said, it is less rambling than the previous Tiffany Aching installment, though still take a little while to get going.
In this one, there is a significant character death resulting in the elves having another go at causing mischief on the Discworld. Tiffany Aching has become a significant witch in her own right and finds herself holding two steadings. Despite her best efforts, she can’t be everywhere at once, and is struggling even before the elves start turning up. As usual she does have the Mac Nac Feegle tough little pictsies always ready for a fight and the elves sworn enemy. Finally, there’s a boy and his goat, the boy wants to be a witch.

Once again, Terry Pratchett perfectly captured the idiosyncrasies of the ways of being human with some hilarious mannerisms and statements. This story also had a great cast from most of the witching world, including those from the main Discworld series. This was the one issue I had with this book. I have been reading the Tiffany Aching series to my children, who have not read any of the other books in the Discworld series. The Tiffany Aching books are written for younger readers. By including characters and other events from the main series I felt my children missed out on a lot. Even the significant character death wasn’t a character they were that well acquainted with.

In the end, the final book of the huge Discworld series didn’t end with a big bang, but with a much quieter not to life just bloody well getting on. Not the end, but a goodbye.