Archive for June, 2017

Review: The New Rebellion

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on 29 June 2017 by Megan

by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Seventeen years ago, I had a crush on a boy in youth group whose Star Wars Nickname was Luke Skywalker, either because he was blond or because he was sort of the teen in charge. At least he was the one giving everyone Star Wars nicknames, and the one he gave me was Mara Jade, because my name starts with M and also “you kinda remind me of how she acts.”

Obviously, we were all intensely into Star Wars; though he hadn’t read enough of the books to know why I was secretly thrilled and all warm and fuzzy at being made the Mara Jade to his Luke Skywalker, he had read The New Rebellion, which is why I’m even recounting this memory lane business. That and apparently 2017 is the Year of RebeLibrarian’s Nostalgia That Just Won’t Quit.

The way he summed up Hugo-winner Rusch’s contribution to Star Wars was, “It was okay, I don’t know. She just wanted everything to be the worst ever.”

And that assessment has always stuck with me every time I’ve re-read it. Because, indeed, The New Rebellion is a decent book — well-written, with good pacing and decent characterization, even some imaginative contributions to the universe — but something about it just keeps it from earning more than mediocre status.

That something is the author’s desperate need for everything to be THE WORST THREAT EVER. (So desperately that characters will repeatedly say “I think this is the worst we’ve ever faced,” or variants thereof.)

It’s thirteen years since the Emperor was defeated at Endor. The New Republic is an established government; Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy and the Solo family are also equally established. Our heroes have faced down warlords and masterminds, their own shortcomings and weaknesses, and emerged victorious. The danger of complacency is real.

A new villain with great potential has cropped up on the edges of the galaxy: he rightly sees the New Republic’s inefficiencies and weaknesses, but decides in order to resolve that, he must become the new Palpatine. Capturing Luke Skywalker for his Darth Vader is an attractive bonus. A villain’s megalomania can be forgiven, but the author shouldn’t share his egotistical belief that the galaxy has never faced a worse crisis than his appearance.

The New Rebellion has a complex plot that plays well together and even follows Lucas’ established pattern very well. While the EU routinely shuffles the children off as inconvenient baggage, Rusch at least incorporates parental behavior from Han and Leia, with Han even asking Leia if she’ll be all right weathering a crisis without her husband and children for support — because families, even the incorrigible toddlers, are a source of strength for one another. Leia suffers when she comes home to an empty apartment after being buffeted by hostile political colleagues.

Also praiseworthy is how Rusch makes Lando and Chewbacca more than catchphrase-spouting placeholders. The real friendship between Lando and Han is clear. Rusch has a very Lucas-like ability to juxtapose horror and humor. She also underscores Han’s reputation as a moral man even during his days as a smuggler. Threepio and Artoo have more than titular roles, and the character of Cole Fardreamer is an interesting and compelling one. Far better than yet another sequence of Luke and Artoo aimlessly wandering off alone in search of a planet or person that may or may not exist.

Luke squaring off against a flock of Mr. Bubbles is one of the low points of the Star Wars history, and the action in some places is belabored. The mystery, however, completely holds up, and however many times I’ve read this book in the last two decades, I never can remember how the villain was able to bomb the Senate hall so effectively. And I know I wasn’t the only Star Warrior who sat watching the TV on 9/11, gnawing my lip and remembering the descriptions of The New Rebellion as I watched survivors staggering through debris.

Maybe I’ve been too hard on this book. It’s certainly got a lot going for it, far more than it has going against it. I guess really the only thing it’s got going against it is there’s a lot of “tell, don’t show,” and Rusch is infatuated with very short, brittle sentences. But there’s excellent balance between all the players, particularly in elevating others to stand equal with the Big Three, so let’s give her the full three stars, yeah?

Advertisements

Phantom Menace Day

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , on 19 June 2017 by Megan
Or, “A Hypothetical Baby Born On the Day I First Saw The Phantom Menace Is Now Old Enough to Buy Cigarettes in the United States.”
Or, “I Feel Really Old, Oh, My Gosh, How Am I This Old.”
On May 19, 1999, t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ the US exploded with the sensation of “The Phantom Menace.” (The UK didn’t get E1 until July 14, which makes me feel better about the story I’m about to relate.) I only exploded with impatience, however, because I was 14 and my parents had declared I was “too interested” in Star Wars and therefore would have to wait to see it until it came to our small-town movie theater which typically got new releases five or six months after the general release.
The story of why June 19 is “Phantom Menace Day” in my mind can be traced through a series of increasingly frantic diary entries, which I thought would be entertaining to share with you, since 2017 is apparently the year of me sharing my decades-old diaries with the internet at large.
First, a few entries to set the mood:
“Tuesday, May 18, 1999. The thought of the day: IT’S COMING OUT TOMMOROW!!!! AGGGGGGGG! UNO DAY UNTIL ITS OUT IN THEATRES!! AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!”
“Wednesday, May 19, 1999. The thought of the day: Guess. SW: E1: PM IS OUT. I am SOO Psyched! It opened at midnight this morning. I am SOO dying to see it. M thinks it will be the same movie in June or July, but I don’t agree. It will be different and is liable to disappear if I don’t go see it NOW!”

“Thursday, May 20, 1999. It’s (SW:E1:PM) been out for a day. Nobody’s talking about it yet. I’m going to check the Urbana weekender this week to see when it hits Urbana or Bellefontaine or something. It isn’t fair I’ve got to wait 2 months for it to come to Urbana’s ‘small’ theatre. I want to see it NOW!”

“Wednesday, May 26, 1999. It’s been 1 wk since SW:E1:PM came.”

Offsetting the intense agony of the “no Star Wars until it comes to Urbana” announcement, my mom did buy me the Episode I Visual dictionary on June 16. It was a surprise because I hadn’t even known such a book existed, let alone asked for it, but it became my favorite possession and I spent the rest of 1999 taking it with me everywhere. (Well, not the bathroom. Books do not belong in the bathroom.)

By the way, that’s what eventually happens to a Star Wars visual dictionary that you carry with you everywhere for a year. The cover comes off and half the pages fall come apart.

I tried not to read any of the text so nothing would be “given away,” and the movie I came up with in my head based on the pictures is pretty amusing. Let’s just say that I thought Jar Jar was going to be a lot more “bad cop” than Buster Keaton.

So, maybe my parents had a point and I was “too interested” in Star Wars, because after a month of not seeing the movie, and only about thirty hours after getting the visual dictionary, my diary records an amusing descent into hysteria.

  • June 13, “Got my SW books (SWE1PM).”
  • June 14, “Jamie gave me a COOEL poster.”

To clarify, Jamie was a friend of my sister’s who was always giving me stuff for no discernible reason. Since she always took all my sister’s money, I suppose I could make a better argument that all the random Star Wars junk Jamie gave me actually came from my sister instead ;)

Anyway, this was the poster, the catalyst of the next few days:

Tuesday, June 15, 1999. I WANT TO SEE SWE1PM!!! This sucks. Put my poster up. I am so. . . something. I’m going to DIE if I don’t see E1PM this weekend. I feel ill.

Wednesday, June 16, 1999. I SOO have to see E1:PM this SATURDAY w/ Corey (Heather & Racheal have already seen it.) Racheal accidentally confirmed my suspicions that Qui-Gon Jinn gets killed. I DON’T KNOW HOW IN THE — I”LL BE ABLE TO WAIT UNTIL THIS WEEKEND TO SEE IT! IF I HAVE TO WAIT ONE — MORE WEEK, I AM GOING TO A) DIE, B) KILL SOMETHING. AGHWEWAK:HABSFPIUASFPIUADSFUJOQFQEGEFNEEOEGNO!!!!!!*

 *This particular diary was kept in a text file on the computer so these kinds of outbursts were made just slamming the keyboard…also you can tell I was just holding Shift down because of double quotes for apostrophes…

Friday, June 18, 1999. The thought of the day: It’s Friday. Like DUH. But tomorrow is Saturday, and I’m going to see E1 on Saturday, no matter what. So today I have to be agreeable, and do what I’m told so mom won’t have a reason to keep me home.

Several hours later…

Today was bad. M threw a fit over my poster. Really stressed out. Seeing E1PM tomorrow. I will NEVER get rid of my SW things, not ever. I just LIKE IT.

Ah, teenagers.

No suspense necessary. The very subdued next entry for June 19 was “Saw E1PM.” I must have begged, bribed, and/or cajoled my sister into taking me to the movie theater in Bellefontaine (a mere 3 miles further than the one in Urbana). I remember I wore a yellow tank top and a bead necklace; she sat with her arms crossed for most of it and I cried my eyes out when Qui-Gon died. For some reason, I didn’t write anything about it until June 24, “Its one of the MOST AWESOME movies I’ve ever seen.”

What else can I say? That’s June 19 for me. The day I saw The Phantom Menace for the first time. And it was 18 years ago. Oh my lord. We all got very, very old somehow, didn’t we…