Star Wars, Aftermath by Chuck Wendig @ChuckWendig – a review

Pew-pew-pew!

I have vivd childhood memories of always traveling with my Star Wars figures, always being eager to get on the floor and start playing pretend with them. I can still close my eyes and smell what the plastic smelled like when the figures were brand new. I’d tell my parents over dinner what stories I’d created while we all ate dinner.

Star Wars AFtermath

Chuck Wendig’s book evokes that for me. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Writing books set in established intellectual properties, especially one as vivid and important to my generation as Star Wars will always be playing with toys to some degree or another.

The author pours some toys onto the floor: a bounty hunter on the job, a crackerjack pilot recovering from the battle over Endor, a rebel soldier caught behind enemy lines, an admiral of the Imperial Navy desperate to put the pieces of the Empire back together, a desperate Grand Moff, a kid with a protective, violent droid and gangsters, lots of space gangsters. He stirs them in a pot and pours it all out into a story that takes place in the months after Return of the Jedi. For those who want Timothy Zhan’s books to be what you remember from that period, I don’t think this book will over-write that. If anything, they compliment each other and if my hunch is right, there’s a big easter-egg in there for you Zhan-novel fans.

He does it all without any Jedi, which might be my only criticism of the book and it isn’t much of one. Luke is a mythical figure mentioned by characters throughout the book in awed tones and he lets the Force be something mysterious. I can’t fault him for not playing with the prettiest toy in the Star Wars set for the sake of continuity.

The interludes are where Wendig shines. We see Han and Chewie setting a course for Kashyyyk and we hear about the criminal underworld of Cloud City. Sith cultists are paying any price to recover Vader’s lightsaber (or was it?). But we see things more important than that. We see people recovering from war. There are plenty of blasters, bounty hunters, gangsters and a truly bad-ass sheriff on Tattooine deserving of his own book. Wendig invokes westerns, Grosse Point Blank and of course, lots of Star Wars. He puts the Wars in Star Wars. We see Wookie slaves set free from the Empire’s shackles by the New Republic’s soldiers but not given anywhere to go. Kids on their way to become Stormtroopers right as the rebels destroy the training center are given a new path.

He puts a very human face (even when the face isn’t human but you get the idea) on the Fall of the Empire and makes it feel more substantial without sacrificing an ounce of fun. He makes war something worth hating but lets us still love space opera without any reservations. Wendig picks the plastic action figures up off of the floor where the 8 year old left them when the battles were over and he wonders what became of them. We wonder with him.

I’ve heard that there was some kind of kerfluffle about his inclusion of gay characters. There are in fact three gay characters – one main character and two minor characters who only spoke in one chapter. If this bothers you, if you think the little gay kids playing with their Star Wars figures shouldn’t see themselves represented when the toys are poured out onto the floor – I only hope that your fear doesn’t become anger and your anger doesn’t lead to anything that might dominate your destiny.

May the Force be with you.

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Ingition City

Ignition City is a comic book, “an ongoing epic told in five issue series,” written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Gianluca Pagliarani.

Commando Cody, Flash Gordon (along with a few of his back-up characters), Buck Rogers and so on are all characters, thinly veiled Planetary-style on Ignition City. In a science fiction reality 1956 where the retro-future pulp science fiction heroes have all gone to the stars and faced the aliens on Venus, Mars and beyond earth nations have still abandoned their space programs. Ignition City is the only place where space ships can take off or land.

The protagonist is Mary Raven, whose father was killed in Ignition City and she shows up to figure out the mystery. For some reason her midriff is showing.

Raygun fights in the street, flashbacks to alien worlds, martians sell alien food from stalls and space crabs eat human remains while cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, staggers around drunk muttering on about what a hero he is. Everyone in the series is earth-bound, wanting to get back into space and not able to do so.

Pagliarani’s art is amazing and he really brings the city to life. The buildings are all grounded, rotted out space ships, tremendous pulp rockets with fins; they’re glorious. His art brings Ellis’ mad ideas to life. Ellis gets to vent about our stuttering steps into space while playing with pulp toys, something he does well and with gusto. The first three issues have been solid fun and I’m looking forward to seeing more of pulp sci-fi space.

This comic, combined with talking about pulp sci-fi heroes last night with Pete prompted me to pick up another edition of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon series, the Flash Gordon Saturday morning cartoon series on DVD and a collection of Buck Rogers.

Mouse Guard RPG Mini-Review

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game by Luke Crane

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a must-have for those who enjoyed the graphic novel, those who enjoyed Brian Jaques Redwall books (but maybe wanted a bit more moral ambiguity) and those who want to game with their kids.

The game text has set a new high mark for RPG’s, a mark previously held, to my mind, by Dogs in the Vineyard in that it is clear, tells you how to play it, leaves so much room for invention and creation within a fun structure.

It is always a good sign when I finish reading a game and cannot wait to play. I cannot wait; I am chomping at the bit.

I am a grown man who cannot wait to gather with his friends and pretend to be mice with swords.

View all my reviews.

Note: The fact that this post will irritate Shreyas is not its purpose but is clearly a welcome side effect.

The Monthly Stash has Arrived

Daredevil #110-111: Daredevil, it has been a great run but you’ve been lingering on the line, on probation ever since Bendis’ fantastic arcs and then Brubaker’s promising run with Matt Murdock, Punisher, Bullseye and Kingpin all in prison together but now it is time to go our separate ways.

The end of the last arc did nothing for me and the Lady Bullseye arc’s first issue was rubbish.

I am done.

Criminal #4-5: This is the best book to come out consistently. Every arc is like a kick-ass crime movie in graphic novel form. I always choose the order of my comics reading very carefully. Criminal is always something I read in the middle, to remind me that comics can be awesome.

Superman #679-680: Robinson is writing the best Superman arc…well, maybe ever. I have never been a Superman comics fan. In the past, they have tried nonsense where Superman, Action Comics and whatever other Super-comics out there have gone together to form a giant, lame narrative.

But now they seem to be letting each creator do their own thing on each title and the results are fantastic. I will review Action Comics later but for now, Superman is going really well.

Krypto the Super-Dog plays a big role in these two issues and I loved it, a surprise to me, having never been a Superman fan.

Ultimate Spider-Man #125-126: Ultimate Spidey feels like it is getting its feet under it again and is back in action as a consistently fun super-hero comic. The return of Ultimate Venom wasn’t great, didn’t cover the comic in glory but it was good wall-crawling fun.

Northlanders #9-10: This was a two-issue arc about a little boy growing up in northern England. More than even the story, I like the format of Northlanders. I love how we are getting these little vignettes about various people from all over the Norse world. Maybe they will inter-connect and maybe they won’t. I am not sure I care either way.

Fantastic Four #559-560: Wow, man. Wow.

Time travel, Galactus, Dr. Doom, Ben Grimm’s love life, Johnny Storm’s rock band, and all drawn by Bryan Hitch. This is a glorious run for the Fantastic Four, a comic book that, to me, should have always been about family drama and epic, mad ideas but never seemed to measure up. Millar’s run is measuring up.

Still in the pile: Action Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Runaways…

Mini-Review: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Old Man’s War, at its core, is about an old man who misses his late wife. In the course of missing her he enlists in military service that puts him in a young body and then all over the universe to protect human colonists from aliens. It is kind of Starship Troopers without its whackadoo politics mixed with Cocoon with nanotech. Kinda.

If you want to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon reading a fun science fiction novel, check it out. The reading is easy and accessible and should not take most folks more than a few days to read.

I enjoyed it and if I am ever on a beach and want some fun sci-fi candy, I will likely pick up one of its sequels.

Game: This book reminded me so much of 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars it hurt.

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Mini-Review: Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

Thirteen Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Prelude: Carl Marsalis, the protagonist of this novel, should be played by Idris Elba. He would rock the shit out of this role.

Nature vs. Nurture, Black vs. White, Blue State vs. Red State and Faith vs. Reason collide with lots of sex and violence in this modern Blade Runner. If you are upset by the graphic sex but not upset by the vicious violence that counter-balances it, I don’t know what to tell ya other than Morgan isn’t the writer for you.

My only complaint about this book is that it was named Thirteen on the cover, a ball-less and eggless move on the part of the U.S. publisher, rather than calling it Black Man, its U.K. title and a far better way to refer to the book.

I loved it. I think it is Richard K. Morgan’s best thing yet. Despite being another hard-ass soldier who is weary of the machine he has killed for in the past, Carl Marsalis is a breath of fresh air.

That said, I feel like this archetype is cooked. Morgan has commented on the world through the eyes of a veteran bad-ass now in every novel but Market Forces. I’d like to think Marsalis is the last of them and see new moves in the coming books.

The book does what science fiction novels are supposed to do. It comments on our own society in a way that made me vaguely uncomfortable while entertaining me and educating me.

There are twists and turns like in a good noir whodunnit and while it is relentless in its critique of certain political parties of the U.S. of A., it does not simplify the matter and vilify the red states for an easy villain, far from it.

P.S. I listened to the majority of the book on my iPod via Audible and found the narration really solid. I got impatient with the last hour and broke out the book so I could read it and be done with it.

Games to check out if you liked this:

Shock: Social Science Fiction

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Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Blade Itself is a character-driven fantasy novel with vivid and exciting action scenes. Several of the point of view characters are really thrilling and one in particular left me really cold. I put the first book down and did not run out and pick up the second and third right away but I will get to them.

The back cover blurb calls it fantasy noir and I am not sure I agree with that entirely. I reckon that the noir descriptor is referring to the shades of gray morality and the lack of a Sauron in Mordor.

The way the bits of setting are communicated, with history and back-story really deftly woven in where I least expected it was well done.

The action scenes were really amazing. From the first scene with Logen Nine-Fingers dangling from a cliff with a Shanka on his back to the city-spanning brawl at the end of the book, the action and violence were amazing.

Something about Captain Jezal dan Luthar, the point of view character who did the least for me, felt one-note and flat but he was still readable and the other characters are solid and well developed.

It is the first of a trilogy and the other two books are on the shelves already. I love not having to wait. I am in.

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