Tag Archive for Reviews

Wraith Squadron for Kids: Join the Resistance #1

jointheresistance(Note: This review is attempting to be spoiler-light – it’ll describe the main characters and that’s essentially it.)

Okay, hear me out. I know comparing dang near anything to the late, beloved Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron X-wing books is a tall order to justify. I don’t think anything could really fill those boots, but if I had to describe the first Join the Resistance book in a few words, “Wraith Squadron for kids” is exactly how I’d do it. It gets across what’s at the root of the story: a group of misfits trying to be heroes. Some of them don’t come across as misfits at first, and some definitely do. But they’re all imperfect people, trying to defy stereotypes and going through zany hijinks in order to get there. You have to suspend your disbelief a little further: if you could believe that Wedge Antilles could get away with assembling a squadron of washups who performed bizarre undercover missions, then this book asks a little more of you. It asks you to believe that the Resistance would recruit teenage cadets (not too unbelievable), and would train them on their headquarters at D’Qar (a little more unbelievable).

It’s important to remember that this book is for kids. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable for adults – it’s not as nuanced as the Servants of the Empire books, but I had a great time reading Join the Resistance and could hardly put it down.   And it’s not un-nuanced, either. Like I said, the characters are not all what they seem to be. The story also plays into The Force Awakens and the political state of the galaxy, set as it is immediately prior to TFA. There’s some interesting new information in the book, but I wouldn’t say that anybody should read these books for information on TFA or upcoming movies. You’ll just be disappointed, and that’s not what these books are about. Rather, read these books if you want a fun TFA-era story about youngsters from different walks of life learning what it is to be good people and finding that it’s not as easy a question as it sounds. » Read more..

An Imperial Loyalist’s Live Reaction to the Empire’s End (Spoilers!)

16487291_10155039902778713_2212637714534622461_o[This is a chapter-by-chapter reaction to the newly-released novel Empire’s End. This post is FULL of spoilers. Read at your own risk.]

[This post was pre-written and was a live commentary at the time of reading, and it is being posted after the book’s release date to comply with review embargo restrictions. Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a review copy of this book!]

In a first for Eleven-ThirtyEight, I’m going to be doing what’s essentially a live chapter-by-chapter commentary on Empire’s End. There are many reasons for doing this, all of which are named RAE SLOANE. This is the book that terrifies me – not least because of its title, but for the implications it has for the Galactic Empire, the Concordance, and the Empire’s relationship with the First Order. So – let’s go.

Oh and needless to say, there will be spoilers.
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Rogue One – The Architects of the Galactic Civil War

–MAJOR ROGUE ONE SPOILERS AHEAD–

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Rogue One is a movie about many things, but one of the most obvious things is that it’s a movie about the Death Star plans, the building of the Rebellion, and the start of the Galactic Civil War that we otherwise call the Star Wars original trilogy. The main villain is the architect of the Death Star, the heroine starts as the daughter of the Death Star’s designer and ends the film as the designer of the Rebellion itself. But there’s more to the movie than that. Rogue One, though ostensibly a war film, ends up being a very political film about the people who built the two sides of the war, and the people who fight it.

The actors involved are political, with the Rebellion led by senators and the Empire led by a politician-turned-monarch. Rogue One gives us fascinating glimpses into how both organizations work, and how they were built by people whose conditions, circumstances, and goals end up changing the face of galactic politics. It’s not just a story about war, but it’s a story about politics, and ultimately, how it’s people that shape both.

Let’s start with the Empire. Orson Krennic is a different type of Imperial villain — he’s alternatively described as an apparatchik and a man of science, a man of the working class who’s not of the well-spoken Coruscanti élite we’re used to (but neither is Tarkin, fine accent and manners or not). What are his goals? Well, he wants to build the Death Star and earn the favor of the Emperor. He’s pretty transparent on that end. But it’s more than that – his entire story in this film is political, as his actions are dictated by his rivalries and intrigues with Tarkin and Vader. There’s almost nothing military about his objectives at all, beyond the surface-level needs to secure the Death Star plans. Yet the conflicts that he, Tarkin, and Vader create in jockeying for power create the circumstances for the galaxy to blaze into warfare.

As for the Rebellion? Goodness, they’ve just formed and already they are fracturing at the seams. Not only are there profound disagreements as to how – or even whether – to engage the Empire, but there are schemes within schemes inside the Alliance command structure. Everyone is convinced that they have to do what’s necessary to save the Alliance, even if it means misleading the other leaders and even if it means doing terrible things. The Alliance is much more like the Empire than it’s willing to admit, as Jyn points out. On the micro scale, the Rogue One crew are as riven by disagreements and as attached to their pasts as the rest of the Alliance – but they find a common purpose.

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Rogue One: Trailers, Tie-Ins and Fleet Junkies – Oh My!

–MAJOR ROGUE ONE SPOILERS AHEAD–

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I saw this early Thursday night, 2D tickets bought easily, only a handful of people in the cinema too. And then, over the course of just over two hours, I got my head kicked in, metaphorically speaking. Oh and one hell of a buzz. Why? Well, in a word: Everything.

Rogue One is far from a perfect film, it has flaws, it is a bit jumpy at the start, it does have to establish itself apart from the main films, but it gets right far more than it gets wrong. And those things it gets right? It gets gloriously right. This film lives up to being the first real Star Wars movie that shows us the war. It shows us those fighting it and it is not afraid to make a distinction between the two sides while also embracing moral complexity.

Yet, for those of us who watched the trailers, it is also a strange finished product. On the one hand the macro elements are all present – the ground battles, the worlds, the characters, but the changes in the micro aspects indicate the substantive reshoots. There are entire lines present in the earlier trailers that never appear in the film, there are shots that never turn up. It makes for a somewhat disconcerting viewing. What might have been the road not taken? Given the portraits of the Rebellion and Jyn in the trailers, I suspect it may have been a harsher picture. A more cynical and colder Jyn, a more battle-hardened Rebellion, which likely gave rise to the fear, not unwarranted, that viewers may not back both. » Read more..

The Audacity of Rogue One: Gray Alliance, Black Empire

HEAVY SPOILERS: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE

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Light and darkness

When Disney bought Lucasfilm and brought Star Wars back from the obscurity of tie-in media and into the 21st century of cinema through The Force Awakens, one of the most commonly heard complaints was that the movie was too safe. Unlike the prequels, that for all their failings had tried to explore new narrative territory, the first movie in the sequel trilogy seemed happy to give us three fantastic new characters and then drop them in the middle of common places, well-worn storylines, and a neverending series of cameos and winks to the past.

While it can certainly be argued that this nostalgic exercise was exactly what Star Wars needed to be a commercial powerhouse once again, Rogue One takes the opposite approach: it takes place in a very safe point in the timeline, one where X-Wings and stormtroopers and even Darth Vader are common place; it takes one of the most often told stories in Star Wars lore, that of the damned theft of the damned Death Star plans; and what it gives us is the most audacious Star Wars movie so far, one more than willing to alienate its typical family-friendly audience for the sake of telling the story it wants to tell.

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