Archive for the Reviews Category

Review: Deceived

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on 28 July 2017 by Megan

by Paul S. Kemp

I could title this review “how to slash a rating in half in the last 20 pages and make a reader go from ‘I see why people like Kemp’ to profanity-laced ‘Kemp is garbage and I will never read this again or anything else he ever wrote.'” Because up until page 239, this was solidly at 4 stars, better than Revan, and certainly delivering on everything anyone could want from a TOR novel.

I remember in Jude Watson’s Defenders of the Dead how I threw the book across the room when a main character did something totally out of character in the last ten pages. I wasn’t angry when I read this one, though. Just deflated.

Let’s start with the plot description and the other decent stuff first, though.

Deceived is based on a video game, even more directly on a trailer for the videogame, so it was really exciting to get some depth behind the trailer, to put names with the faces and know who those characters were, what was going on, how it relates to the game I play.

It was also amusing to pick out the obvious archetypes from the game imported into the book: Malgus the Warrior with his Vette-companion Eleena, the Knight Aryn with companion T7, the Smuggler Zeeveld — even more fun to have the book identify Aryn and Z as former troopers, as my knight Vish’wecor’annik is a former trooper herself and it confirms my lore. The Agent (Sniper) Vrath was easily my favorite character, but I’ll return to that.

The book has some standard flaws. I found the character development limited, though nowhere near as shallow as in Revan; psychology and memory were provided for the characters, but everything in the book was shown and not told, making for a rather flat experience. There were too many paragraph breaks to ever really settle into a single string of action. It’s interesting, I notice people complaining all the time about how many cuts are made in action movies, and how praiseworthy single-shot scenes are, but nobody ever takes me seriously when I observe that paragraph breaks in novels shatter the flow of action. But it’s a great way to pad pages when you have no idea what to do.

Still, as I said, up until page 239, I was willing to round up my 3.5 rating to 4 stars for Goodreads. I wished there was more depth of character and less telling me how characters feel rather than showing me — but that tell-don’t-show goes back to Lucas himself and therefore is a core thing in Star Wars. The action centers on Malgus, betrayed in his attempt to flatten the Republic, and TOR players will see the seeds of his rebellion and New Empire planted here. Aryn is a Jedi Knight who breaks through the Imperial blockade on Coruscant to hunt Malgus and avenge her master’s death. She uses her old comrade-in-arms Z-man to do so, as he’s been hired by the Exchange to get a load of spice through that blockade.

Star Wars’ classic philosophical themes try to grow here as the marine-turned-smuggler wrestles with his conscience and the Jedi Knight comes to terms with her passion and anger. For whatever reason, though, Kemp can’t follow through with them and the book feels like a cup of tea that smells amazing but wasn’t allowed to steep and therefore tastes like nothing more than hot water. As always, books that disappoint me earn my sharpest criticism, because I was expecting something more and the end left me deflated and angry that I’d been drawn in.

The following paragraph contains explicit spoilers, as I intend to outburst fully on what infuriated me about this book, which requires a pretty detailed summary of those last 20 pages. If you don’t want to know, then consider this the end of the review: a decent book that started well-told but fizzled out like a wet sparkler.

It’s one of my beliefs that death in a book has to be meaningful. Unfortunately, I never wrote the post I meant to about “beautiful book-death,” what it takes for death in a novel to be acceptable, even praiseworthy, cathartic, reassuring even in pain. I can tell you, though, that this book failed, and that the alternative to “beautiful book-death” is “obscene, offensive book-killing,” and that in under 20 pages, Kemp went from 4-stars to “I wish you hadn’t done that” to “massive overkill and eff you too, author guy who apparently hates readers.”

First, as I said earlier, the sniper Vrath was easily my favorite character. I like snipers. I play snipers. I’m sure that has more than a little to do with how relatable I found him. I was also amused that his surname was Xizor, an obvious nod. I understood he was Z’s foil as Malgus was Aryn’s, and admired the clever way he went about doing his job to keep the Exchange’s spice from getting to Coruscant. Two former soldiers from opposite sides, working toward opposite goals, with more than they suspect in common — Vrath was demonstrably honorable, probably wrestling with the same things Z was. I was excited and curious when Vrath ended up Z’s prisoner — but with all the buildup, Z just throws him out an airlock. This was followed two pages later by Malgus stabbing his lover Eleena through the heart because his love for her is a liability.

One blindside could have been acceptable, but two deaths with no buildup, no potential for catharsis, and no emotional payoff was too much. I find it disgusting when death is used for a cheap thrill, so my final word on this book is disgust.

Advertisements

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?

Review: Fanboys

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , on 7 January 2017 by Megan

All right, so this is not a canonical entry. But it’s the seventh greatest movie ever made. I watched it yesterday and was so hit between the eyes at how excellent a film it is that I wanted to review it for you today.

First of all, Fanboys is a movie that could never be made today. All the 1998-authentic fanboy language could get you arrested in the ironically-named “free world” today, but far more striking, imagine supreme hateboys Harry Knowles and Kevin Smith doing appearances in a film that welcomes and praises Lucas’ films for what they are? Geddouddatown. Even beyond that, a group of fanboys like the ones who created the film would no longer be interested in making a heartwarming tale about how Star Wars unites us, binds us in a commonality of love for one man’s genius adaptation of a mythological staple. In the 2010s, “fanboys” are more interested in division and discord than they are about the things we have in common. In a post-2014 version of Fanboys, the protagonists wouldn’t be assaulting Star Trek fans for their differences. They’d be attacking other Star Wars fans who have the gall to love the prequels or call the EU “canon.”

My point is, the world was so much better back before 2010. But I digress. Let’s review the awesome movie, eh?

fanboys

I first learned about this movie back in ’06 or ’07; it was a preview before a horror movie (maybe Pulse?) oddly enough, and I was instantly hysterically looking forward to it. A movie about Star Wars fans? A movie about Star Wars fans so excited about Episode I that they go to steal a print? SIGN ME UP. (Remember that before 2011, fanatical prequel hatred didn’t exist or was so rare as to be unheard of.) But the film’s release was delayed and I forgot about it on and off until 2009 when I was finally able to score a copy. I watched it with a best friend as we were on a road trip from seeing another best friend in Maryland. We were staying in a place called . . . well, I forget what it was called, but here’s the last ever picture of me as a person who had not ever torn a toenail off, and the bag that I tore the toenail off with about 12 hours after this picture was taken.

5018_511771524991_139000521_30466898_4103079_n

Also, this is where I was and what I looked like when we watched Fanboys for the first time. I have a weird memory. Okay, so I first saw Fanboys in 2009 right before ripping off my big toenail and experiencing the 2nd worst pain of my life, so that’s fun trivia. The point is that in 2009, I had never encountered any prequel hate despite being a big time fanboy who spent lots of time online with other fanboys. The concept of prequel hate was so foreign to me that I thought the last line of the movie was a joke, and I still inevitably take it as a joke (“What if the film sucks?”)

fanboys2

It’s Halloween 1998. Windows, Hutch, Linus, and Zoe have been friends since they were kids, and they all love Star Wars — even if Zoe is a stereotype girl who scoffs at their passion; that myth is a little frustrating in its perpetuation — so much so that they reminisce about their childhood plot to drive to Skywalker Ranch and watch Episode I before it comes to theaters. Enter Eric Bottler: he used to be the gang’s fourth, but after graduating high school, he spent three years not talking to any of them except for, apparently, Zoe. After Hutch and Windows see the hostility between Eric and Linus, they take it upon themselves to meet with Eric the next day and tell him something incredibly important — Linus has terminal cancer and has less than six months to live.

This is where Star Wars fans understand each other in a way no one else does. The blow that Linus probably won’t live to see Episode I is as strong on its own as the blow that he is going to die and that Eric has spent the last three years alienated from the man who used to be his best friend. In a desperate attempt to redeem that time, Eric convinces them all to join him on a cross-country road trip to steal the Episode I film like rebel agents obtaining the Death Star plans.

fanboys3

Ebert, who so rightly hit the nail on the head with his review of Episode I, really missed the point of Fanboys and said it was weak for taking itself too seriously. But that’s just the point. Fanboys take themselves seriously because no one else does. And this is a serious film. As Eric struggles to reconnect with lost friends, and his own lost self, Linus struggles to come to grips with his impending mortality. Windows struggles to make his relationship with females work, and Hutch struggles to make something real of himself. With the backdrop of Linus’ illness (almost tragically cut from the final version), Fanboys is no more a geeky comedy than A New Hope is a Kurosawa film with lasers. There’s something more to it. It follows Lucas’ lead, incorporating the patterns of mythology and elevating its subject matter in a way you’d never expect. It’s a film that can make you laugh as well as cry while celebrating something we all had in common when it came out, before the dark times, before the Disneypire.

fanboys4

So, yes, Fanboys is both hysterically funny and deeply moving. There are parts of this movie that I’ve wrapped up and stored in my memory to help when things get hard. As I struggled through a year full of unemployment, almost literal homelessness, and a tragic death in the family, I could turn to this film and be reassured that no, it’s not trivial to love Star Wars. Star Wars is not trivial. There’s more to it.

In closing, I’d like to give you my two favorite lessons Fanboys takes from Star Wars. First, regrets can shape you but they shouldn’t define you. Everyone has mistakes, but don’t wish you could undo them. “You’ve got to keep the flaws. Crappy effects, real puppets. That’s what makes it so good, you know?” Linus explains in his last scene. Sometimes I feel like I wear regret like a cloak, and I almost burst into tears hearing that last night as I rewatched it.

Second, “You just gotta find your Death Star. The greatest thing Luke Skywalker ever did was take down that Death Star. You just gotta find that one great thing you can do that makes you live forever.” That’s what Hutch tells Eric as the latter struggles with an ocean of indecision about what to do with himself. Everyone, every life has a “Death Star,” one great thing; you just have to find yours. It’s out there and you will have it one day. That’s a guarantee.

Review: Choices of One

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on 1 September 2016 by Megan

choicesofoneby Timothy Zahn.

It’s sad it took until the last years of the EU for them to do what I’d been telling them to do for a decade: populate the pre-ABY19 era with new stories!! Forming a loose duology with Allegiance, Choices of One takes place before The Empire Strikes Back and has the rebellion, Mara Jade and the Hand of Judgment, and Thrawn and Pellaeon all skirting around each other and a prospective traitor regional governor and a pirate warlord.

Let me get this bit out of the way immediately: I am not a fan of Zahn’s “Aha, gotcha!” twists. He did the same thing to me in Icarus Hunt and I’ve never forgiven him for it. It took this book from 4 to 3 stars for me. That being said: apart from the distracting and irritating climax, this is an excellent book. And if you like stupid “gotcha” twists, and if you liked Icarus Hunt, you will probably love this book and not be frustrated on any level the way I was.

Han Solo keeps hanging around with the rebels and doesn’t quite know why; it’s fun to see the flickers of friendship developing between him and Luke, so you can really understand how he went from “watch your mouth, kid, or you’ll find yourself floating home” to “The temperature’s dropping too rapidly and my friend’s out in it.”

As is typical, though, the rebellion treats its private contractors and new applicants like garbage and Han is routinely pushed around, pushed down, and left out. He flies taxi service for a snooty Alderaanian to a prospective rebel base being offered by a sector governor turned traitor to the empire. Or has he? Mara Jade is there, too, having recruited LaRone and his four mates to take care of this treasonous governor — but all is not as it seems.

Warming and delighting my heart, Gilad Pellaeon and the Chimaera make their first appearances as well, this time with Pellaeon serving as commander under a less-than-able captain as they follow the oblique orders of one mysterious Lord Odo. Pellaeon is the man, the only man, the greatest, and his presence alone will cause me to forgive Zahn for the stupid climax I’m not getting over any time soon.

A solid adventure, with Zahn’s usual precision characterization of these people we know and love so well. Definitely read it paired up with Allegiance; you can revisit my review of that here.

Review: Revan

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on 30 June 2016 by Megan

revan_coverby Drew Karpyshyn.

Ah, Revan. How does one embark on a book about the most popular character ever spawned by a Star Wars computer game? Well, although I’d had this book for a few months, I actually only picked it up to read it because I saw on Twitter that it’s mostly about Lord Scourge. Lord Scourge is the coolest! So I picked it up.

It’s a few years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic II (which I haven’t played; nor have I finished KOTOR 1, but that didn’t make a difference as far as the plot was concerned). Revan, an inconvenient hero kicked to the curb by the Jedi, is having nightmares about a storm-covered planet and some darkness he is sure he and Malak discovered on the Outer Rim. He simply can’t remember what.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing in the Sith Empire that remains hidden from the Jedi. The Dark Council are plotting against the Immortal Emperor, and a young Sith lord named Scourge is stumbling across the first threads of this plot.

swtor 2016-04-25 23-54-35-90

Scourge is my homeboy!

Anyway, my overall impression of this book is that it feels incomplete, which is probably inevitable with a book based on a video game and written by a guy who writes video games. The player supplies massive amounts of context to the game, but that style can’t be translated into a novel. It just made it feel like whole chunks were missing; there was no real inner monologue for anyone, and the descriptions were heavy handed. Unlike Joe Schrieber, who invoked the feeling of TOR in me even though I don’t even know if he’s ever played the game, Karpyshyn seemed to be working hard to make sure I never forgot for a minute I was reading a video game.

swtor 2016-04-25 23-57-03-20

Yes, stylistically, I found the book wanting — however, since the reason I picked it up was Scourge, I was not disappointed in that department! Much of the action centers around him, so if you’ve played the Jedi Knight class in TOR and went through his entire conversation arc, you’ll get a lot of blanks filled in. The book also strongly compliments the Revan flashpoints in TOR (Maelstrom Prison and The Foundry), and so in that respect it’s worth every minute to read it.

Canderous Ordo makes an appearance, though sadly nothing to indicate why you can find his skull in TOR (hahaha). HK gets a mention, though not an appearance, and a pregnant Bastila Shan shows up along with T7’s adorable predecessor. It’s definitely an information and companion story goldmine that’s worth reading if you enjoy these games.

It’s also a good background on Revan and what the big deal is with him if you aren’t particularly interested in the games. However, I assume due to being the main character in a first-person RPG, there’s very little development of him as a person or character, and my main impression at the end of the book is that he is by far the most depressing person in the entire Star Wars canon. His existence makes me uncomfortable and I dislike him for those reasons.

swtor 2016-04-19 18-58-30-16

In conclusion: Scourge. All Scourge, all the time, because he is cool. He’s also the most developed and most interesting person in this book, and I would again reiterate that if you read it for him, you will not be disappointed! It’s a fun little video game novel, so really I have no complaints about it.

Game Time Started

Posted in Fun, Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 25 May 2016 by Megan

4A review of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) which I have officially been playing for exactly one year today.

This is how Star Wars has gone for me: 1997-2005, Oh my gosh Star Wars is the most awesome thing ever and I swear I will know everything about it that was ever created or published because knowledge is power and I will be the most powerful Star Wars fan ever. 2005-2011, Education is distracting and anyway all that new Star Wars stuff is crap written by people who don’t know jack diddly about Star Wars. I know better than all of them so I can’t be bothered to read their stupid ignorance anymore. 2011-2012, New renaissance! Life is good and wow I missed a bunch of Star Wars stuff and need to catch up. 2012, My life is in the dumpster and to top it off, Star Wars has been destroyed. I give up and quit. 2013- New new renaissance! I will NOT be told by a mouse to get out of my fandom! Star Wars is MINE.

This includes games. I never really played Star Wars games, either because I never had computers that could handle the graphics, or Sims took up all of my non-school hours. Dark Forces II was a perennial favorite, but frankly the way everybody went on about Knights of the Old Republic had me pretty confident I was going to ignore it forever. (I don’t like things people go on about.) I didn’t know The Old Republic was separate. I got sick of hearing KOTOR this that and the other and determined never to play.

And then Disney took everything away. Disney made me reevaluate Star Wars. Also, GOG sold games I could install on Windows 7. So I bought KOTOR and decided to give it a try. And then I found out that The Old Republic was something different.

Star_Wars-_The_Old_Republic_cover

Somebody from the Star Wars group encouraged me to get an account, so I chipped into the game with extreme caution. I logged in, did the first scene, walked out into the cantina, and immediately had a panic attack.

It was huge. It was mind-bogglingly, indescribably huge. And every person I saw was a real person who could see me, too. And they were all judging me. I hadn’t even wanted to ask the NPC in KOTOR for the tutorial because I thought he’d think I was an idiot; how could I handle an entire game full of a hundred real life people actively actually judging me walking into walls, getting killed, and behaving with general incompetence?

Sweet relief, the phone rang and I logged out. I genuinely thought at the time that I probably would never log back in again. So my one-year-ago-to-the-day experience was quite truncated.

Funny thing was, I couldn’t stop thinking about that initial cutscene. As much as everything else made me panic, the fact that I could click on buttons and my character actually said real words filled me with awe. Every other game was stuff like “ask about X” and the person replied; there was no first-person dialogue from me. I was suddenly overwhelmed with interest to know what my character would say. So I tiptoed back in.

anmaradi1

She’s a Zabrak because as f2p, I didn’t have any other nonhuman options. I’ve always come up with insane backstory for every character I’ve ever played — seriously, the hours I used to spend as a kid playing Alley Cat, I spent the whole time coming up with complex histories for the cats. So by the time I’d finished creating Anmaradi, she had a rich history — and I truly intended for her to be me if I existed in the era of TOR.

She made me feel like a badass. It wasn’t easy to learn, especially in pre-KOTFE days, especially for someone who had barely even heard the term “MMORPG” before. But the cutscenes kept me coming back and for awhile, I played just cutscene to cutscene.

And then we decided to form a guild. The group expressed interest mainly in a Republic side guild, so I had to make a pub side character. Anmaradi acquired a brother — a Zabrak smuggler with a grudge against the Empire.

Screenshot_2015-06-07_14_10_36_218745

By then, I realized that I was enjoying the game and that I didn’t like KOTOR. I broke my neck to get internet connection in my new apartment because all I wanted to do was play TOR. And with my first long weekend, I bought a hardcopy of the game from Amazon for $9 and finally got to play as a subscriber.

Which made me really want to make a Twi’lek.

Screenshot_2015-07-22_22_14_27_311259

And then we were collaborating with another guild so I decided making an ambassador alt would be a good idea. And because I had cartel coins — and didn’t imagine I’d ever have another use for them — and I like Sith and didn’t really want to play a Jedi anyway, I decided for the ultimate joke, I’d make a Sith Jedi.

0809151831

Safe to say by the time Vulkeen rolled onto the scene, I was addicted. The music was incredible. The graphics were incredible. I was still addicted to cutscenes. There was so much to do, so much to explore.

When I found out that there were Chiss specific interactions, at least for bounty hunters and agents, I embarked on a new quest — to play every class as a Chiss. And just like that, I’d gone from “not logging back in again” to “gonna play the agent and that’s it” to “four characters is plenty” — to “I’m going to play all 8 classes twice.”

It’s addictive. It’s stunning. I’ve never encountered anything like this game before, but I don’t think that’s why it’s so breathtaking. The story, graphics, characters, companions, gear, everything is made with such attention to detail, such attention to Star Wars — real Star Wars, the way George Lucas originally envisioned it — even though it’s 3,000 years before the Battle of Yavin IV, it feels like Star Wars.

I laugh. I cry. I ride tauntauns and fight with lightsabers. The books seem more vivid when I read them, because I know how it feels to fight my way down a corridor of shock troops. I’ve looked up at a Hutt from his beast pit; I’ve told an emperor his overconfidence will be his undoing. I’ve walked a path of pure light and of pure dark and discovered how each can be painful and difficult. I’ve made friends, lost them, avenged them, married them.

And I’m not even halfway through.

TOR is a great gift. Thanks to the Star Wars group person who got me into the game. Thanks to the people who made the game. Thanks to swtorfamily on Twitter.

And thanks a bit to Peter Cushing’s Ghost who caused me to discover another 40% of the game I’d utterly been missing, because she got an account in January and I discovered just how awesome the social aspect of the game can really be.

swtor 2016-05-22 18-26-56-75

Laugh.swtor 2016-05-22 16-05-16-81

Cry.sweetvector

Love.

swtor 2016-04-03 22-01-11-85

Get social.

I now have 13 total “toons” with at least three more in planning. My first has 6 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes of play time, while my second has 5 days, 14 hours, 58 minutes on the second. After racking up 48 days, 17 hours, 56 minutes of total play time in one year (that’s roughly 40% of all non-working, non-sleeping hours!), I couldn’t ask for more from a game 💝

Review: Tales of the Bounty Hunters

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on 15 April 2016 by Megan

talesBHSomething about bounty hunters seems to naturally fascinate people. Equally fascinating as the vigilante, and existing on the same plane of law enforcement as police, sheriffs, deputies, and other old-west versions, bounty hunters were originally simply mercenaries. Like with so many other western or mythological types, though, George Lucas reinvented them in Star Wars.

Bad guys of a different type, bounty hunters aren’t soldiers (i.e. mercenary troops). And even though — or maybe because — the glimpse of them in the films is quite brief, the fans have been gripped by six individuals most particularly. Ever since 1980, these names — and, I imagine, accompanying action figures — have been bounced back and forth among the fans, just names and stats, their stories unknown.

bountyhunters2

IG-88. Dengar. Bossk. 4-LOM. Zuckuss. And of course, Boba Fett. Who are they? Where did they come from? Where did they go? Of course the EU exists to tell those exact stories, and in this 1996 collection, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, those stories come to life.

Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Wolverton, and Kathy Tyers return to the Galaxy to give us the first three stories; M. Shayne Bell and Daniel Keys Moran present the final two offerings. Anderson’s short story of the four IG-88s and how they plotted to take over the galaxy is a gem. Repetitive big nose jokes aside, the neat way he connects the Battle of Endor with the self-destructing probe on Hoth is clever, further cementing the history. Shades of Greek irony touch the story as well, as even emotionless droids, caught up in their superiority to organic beings, are not immune to hubris. Fan voting declared James Spader should do the voice of IG-88.

Wolverton gives us the tale of Dengar, a modified Corellian assassin with a grudge against Han Solo. Unlike IG-88, though, the inhuman human can remember emotion even if he can’t feel it, and he adheres to his own moral code — and falls in love. Touching on the character more fully fleshed out in The Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy, the story explains his weird bandages and grudging glint in his eye. Fan-casting suggests Vin Diesel to play him, and I’m inclined to agree — though Liev Schreiber came in a close second.

I didn’t enjoy Bossk’s tale (Kathy Tyers) as much, though I was impressed that the Scorekeeper — referenced throughout The Old Republic — appeared first here as part of the Trandoshan religion. So did the grudge match between Wookiees and Trandoshans that also comes up in TOR. The story itself is very clever with a good twist, setting Bossk up as the perennially outfoxed short-fuse that he is in the BHW trilogy.

I did like the tale of 4-LOM and Zuckuss — unexpectedly poignant, a friendship story in the classic Star Wars tradition — and though I’m not familiar with anything else M. Shayne Bell wrote, this story was very well done. I’m picturing Seth Green and Breckin Meyer for the pair, with Breckin’s soft-spoken yet stubborn demeanor perfect for Zuckuss. The subplot of how 4-LOM went from being a steward droid to a jewel thief to a mechanical bounty hunter is worth it on its own, but add a dose of what happened to the coughing girl in ESB and the other rebels who got out on that last transport, and you’ve got a winner!

To be honest, the most disappointing story in the batch was that of Boba Fett, and it’s the only one of the six that I’m not going to even bother retconning into my canon. When I read this book almost 20 years ago, the Boba Fett story made me uncomfortable and depressed and was part of how I knew post-Vision of the Future would never be Star Wars to me when Vector Prime came out in ’99. Boba Fett doesn’t seem in character, which isn’t helped by the fact that Moran attempted to name the man and give pre-ANH detail, which authors weren’t supposed to do. But the same way Schreiber fumbles in Lockdown with making Maul a walking, talking real character, all his mystery and interest gets stripped away by a lackluster portrayal. Han’s appearance and the Slave IV, from 15 years after Endor, just adds to the general weirdness. The only one-star contribution in the book, I must say.

BobaFettMain2

But the rest more than makes up for it, and it remains by far my favorite of the Tales collections. Bounty hunters? We do need that scum.