Friday, 5 June 2015

An unexpected addition to the library

Well okay, it was partly fueled by needing to buy lunch and the necessity to get something else in order to get past the minimum spend for my debit card, but still... it didn't have to be a book, and didn't have to be this book, but it was.  So there it is.

It initially caught my notice because it had Alistair Maclean's name on it, but it was only the story outline that he wrote - the book itself was written by Alistair Macneill (yes, took me a while to realise it was a different Alistair!).  The book is in the UNAC series, and it's called Code Breaker.  Exactly where it will slot in with the other books on my read list in terms or the order I read them in, I don't know... will depend on my mood at the time I guess!

First Thoughts - Songmaster by Orson Scott Card

This is an intriguing book.  It takes a little while to get used to the writing style, which is often highly introspective, and the fact that for a long time it almost appears that there is no overall plot, such is the emphasis on developing the characters.  I'm a fair way through now and getting to the point where my opinion of is it moving from "pretty interesting stuff" to "uniquely amazing".  Not quite sure if the book peaks at the point I'm reading right now, or if it can maintain that level until the end - if the latter, it will be some achievement.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Book Review - Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson

Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson is the first of a trilogy of Star Wars novels, which presumably inspired the game “Jedi Academy”.  It follows events not only from the original film trilogy, but also the official sequel trilogy by Timothy Zahn comprising of “Hear to the Empire”, “Dark Force Rising” and “The Last Command” – none of which I’ve read, but it doesn’t affect reading this book too much apart from a few references (in particular to “the resurrected Emperor”) which didn’t mean anything to me (although they did pique my curiosity about that other trilogy!).

Anyway, in Jedi Search we have all the main characters we know from the films – Han and Leia (now married with 3 children), Luke Skywalker whose quest to recreate the order of Jedi Knights is the source of the book’s title, Lando and his dodgy dealings, R2D2 and C3PO with their antics, Chewbacca still acting as Han’s sidekick.  There are several narrative threads beginning with Han and Chewy’s diplomatic mission to Kessel (which goes spectacularly wrong), Luke’s announcement of his plans and subsequent search for the candidates for enrollment in his Jedi Academy, Leia with a thousand diplomatic responsibilities and trying to somehow find time to be a mother at the same time, and a few others here and there.  At some points it threatens to break off into too many separate strands and it can be a little difficult to remember what happened last when a particular strand is returned to, but it manages not to get confusing – aided no doubt by most of the characters being very familiar to us in the first place.

The characters are written consistently with what we already know about them, but there is time for a surprise and revelation or two about some of them.  The action set pieces are neatly written, somehow lacking a bit of oomph but there is usually an element of excitement to them.  It’s quite often during the sections where characters are contemplating inwardly that Anderson’s writing comes to the fore – he creates believable motives and worries for the characters that, despite any difference in circumstances between the Star Wars universe and real life, we can easily relate too (juggling a stressful job and being a parent, excited by your plans but terrified of the potential for disaster if they go badly wrong, etc).

Overall it keeps you interested and I definitely want to find out what happens next.  The two main failings of the books are perhaps inherent to what it is – a movie spin-off and the first part of a trilogy.  In order to maintain links with its source material, events from the movies are mentioned or alluded to frequently – I found a little too frequently, as if some of them had been forced in to make the point that it all tied in, rather than because they actually added to the narrative.  There are a few story arcs that don’t really go anywhere in this book, clearly because they’ll be expounded on later in the trilogy (it is perhaps a little unfair to make this comment when in the past I have reviewed trilogies as one entity, but there it is).

I wouldn’t describe Jedi Search as a spectacularly good book, perhaps not even as a very good book, but if you like Star Wars then it’s certainly a good read.  If you don’t like Star Wars to begin with then, well, there’s nothing for you here.  For those of us that do, while we wait for the Force to Awaken with Film 7 this December, you could do a lot worse than check out the Jedi Academy trilogy.

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

First Thoughts - "Jedi Search" by Kevin J Anderson

Yeah I know, I know, I said I was going to read Songmaster next, but in the end this one called to me and I answered.  Good and bad so far, mainly good but a little too self-consciously tying things in to events from the Star Wars films, I thought.  Anyway I've procrastinated from posting this so I'm actually nearly at the end of it, review soon!