Archive for characters

Day 13: Favorite Male Book Character

Posted in Opinion, Questions, Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 24 February 2015 by Megan

I know things have seemed dead around here, but I promise that Star Wars is still on my mind and I’m still working on and planning all kinds of fun stuff for around here. In the meantime, though, Star Wars has cropped up again in my reading challenge on my other blog. Surprise ending, Corran Horn is my favorite male book character!

The greatest

The greatest

Rhutopia

Somehow, I’ve always avoided using Star Wars books when it comes to answering book questions. Perhaps because I’ve always kind of taken them as “not quite books,” because Star Wars is, to me, this overarching thing that transcends its medium. But with Zaphod Beeblebrox already covered, I turn without shame to a book character I have underrated up until last year. A character who, the more I read of him, is a character I would no longer hesitate to say is the one I’d have brought out of a book and into real life if that were an option.

But first, because you know me very well and I wouldn’t want to disappoint your prediction, a little prologuery.

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Review: Rogue Squadron

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , on 7 September 2014 by Megan

by Michael A. Stackpole.

Exciting new series

Exciting new series

Oh, wow. That’s a very good way to start a review off, isn’t it? I had forgotten just how excellent these books are. In spite of the fact that I love I, Jedi and have read it repeatedly, I just haven’t gotten around to re-reading Corran’s original series since the first time.

The X-Wing series is one of the best ideas for a series anyone has ever had. It came out in 1996, with well over a dozen predecessors — which meant that its early place in the timeline (the next step in the timeline after Truce at Bakura) was well-bolstered by Stackpole’s knowledge of surrounding events. Various warlords and villains receive their “first mentions” here, making for comfortable after-the-fact foreshadowing. The only disadvantage was Stackpole’s getting influenced toward a racist empire, but that’s somewhat immaterial.

Two and a half years after Return of the Jedi, to be precise (year 01144), Wedge Antilles, hero of the rebellion, decides to re-form the famous squadron that brought down the second Death Star. The best pilots the Alliance has to offer (or the best and most politically expedient pilots) are brought together under Wedge’s direction to take Rogue Squadron from legendary status to imp-vaping terrors.

Corran Horn is one such pilot, a former officer with CorSec with a complex past and unusual clear-headedness. But if you read I, Jedi first, be aware that this is a young and brash Corran just starting off with the Alliance without friends or allies yet.

Other pilots include Gavin Darklighter, a cousin of the famous Biggs; Jace and Erisi, a couple of Thyferran pilots from opposing factions in the bacta trade; and Orryl Qyrgg, a Gand and one of my favorite people ever. They’re being trained to be the best of the best of the best by Wedge, who is facing plenty of politically-charged obstacles — like the ongoing persecution of his XO Tycho Celchu, another hero of Endor who is under suspicion due to his harrowing time as an Imperial POW.

All of these elements — lone-wolf pilots being forged into a single deadly unit without all the homoerotic volleyball of Top Gun plus political interference from top brass, potential traitors and spies in the unit, and one quirky protocol droid — are stirred together in a cauldron of the early New Republic environment: aka, the alliance wants to claim Imperial Center (Coruscant) away from the Empire.

It’s a thrilling premise with strong, dynamic characters written in Stackpole’s typical forthright style. I don’t have a lot of interest in combat, but his dogfights and descriptions of air force life are compelling and exciting. There can be a blurred line between exposition and padding, but with this particular series — nine books in all, and possibly originally planned for more — the exposition is a vital part of the structure’s development. Stackpole sketches out his characters until you know them and care about them, and intersperses hints and pieces from other books until the web between realcanon is a solid, binding thing. It’s just good novels.

There’s no doubt whatever about the X-Wing series’ place in realcanon, and this book is a firecracker to start the series off with. I’m actually glad I only read the first four back in ’99, because I haven’t had a fresh realcanon book to look forward to in a long time, and now I have half a series!

Favorite Yoda Quotation

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , , , on 10 July 2014 by Megan

I don’t think I can do this. Yoda is not my favorite zombified toad — he taints everything he comes in contact with. Sort of like Thomas Jefferson, he’s a hypocritical old bat with a few highly quotable catchphrases. People get caught up on the Yoda train without thinking about it: he’s cast as the wise mentor, Obi-Wan bounces out a recommendation his way, and our minds (trained by generations of fairytales) accept him in spite of the fact that he never demonstrates the wisdom that we supposedly admire him for.

An entire generation misled

An entire generation misled

In the prequels, Yoda is like the worst boss ever. It’s not noticeable in Episode I because he doesn’t do much at all, but in Episode II, he twice goads Obi-Wan into speaking before promptly rebuking him saying anything! He would have done well to take his own advice about the trap of arrogance, because in Episode III, after encouraging Anakin not to care when others die, he insists on keeping the more glorious mission to himself. Even though Obi-Wan is better matched against Palpatine and Yoda could kill Anakin in a heartbeat — Anakin, whom Obi-Wan is incapable of killing — Yoda insists on going against the Emperor himself. When he fails, he arrogantly decides that killing the Emperor is impossible, dusts the fate of the galaxy off his hands, and hops on the speed train to exile. This in spite of the fact that there is no conceivable reason why Obi-Wan couldn’t make another attempt himself, thus preventing Palpatine from saving Anakin in the first place!

(Also — not really against Yoda, but it drives me nuts at the end of E2 when he mutters, “Begun the Clone War has.” How can he possibly know the name of the war? This is like English Prime Minister Lloyd George reading about Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination and saying, “I guess that’s the start of World War I!”)

In the trilogy, Yoda is at his most tolerable in Empire as he amusingly harasses Luke. However, everything he does in that movie is pointless and dumb. I know, I thought it was mystical and cool, too, until I really thought about it. He wastes Luke’s time for about a week, berating him for not being able to use the Force to lift an X-wing fighter out of the swamp after a mere couple days’ training, and continually throwing his faults and failures back at him. I know I learn best when constantly being rubbed with, “Hey, remember how you didn’t do that right? Remember how you did it WRONG?” He even tries to recreate Vader by telling Luke he should sacrifice the lives of his friends for the sake of his training.

No, shut up, or shut up!

No, shut up, or shut up!

The famous

Do or do not. There is no try

is probably the most-quoted line from Star Wars, and probably what the majority of people answer this question with. But this line has troubled me since day one.

First of all, I know this looks good on a bumper sticker, but there’s a reason we say “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Repeated efforts increase the chance of success. If Yoda had simply answered “Okay” to Luke’s “I’ll give it a try,” Luke would have continued working at lifting the ship until he did it. But because Yoda said you can only succeed or fail, Luke couldn’t do it on the first try and opted for failure. Yoda then berates him and shows him up, resulting in obvious discouragement and huge setbacks in his training. Imagine if this is how your parents taught you to tie your shoes! This is a terrible way to teach anybody to do anything. (Honestly I think Yoda was less trying to produce a new line of Jedi and more trying to set Luke up for ultimate failure in order to prove that if he couldn’t defeat Palpatine, nobody could.)

Secondly, I proved in my high school logic class that this statement is itself a logical fallacy. I actually took this quote and used it as the basis of my final paper. I don’t have the paper anymore, or I’d quote it. Suffice it to say, it’s a fallacy.

I’m sorry, I tried to think of any line from him that could qualify as a favorite, but he just made me so mad, I can’t do it. See also: A Character Everybody Else Loves That You Hate.

Facts in Fiction: Conspiracy Theories for Star Wars

Posted in Announcements with tags , , , , on 9 July 2014 by Megan

Did you miss it? I had a guest blog on Star Wars Anonymous today, so be sure and check it out!

Star Wars Anonymous

Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? I do. With my site (www.rebelibrarian.com) focused on canon, I don’t often get to indulge myself with theorizing, so this chance to write about some delicious conspiracies is super exciting. Here are three conspiracy theories drawn from and proven by events from the films only. Please enjoy!

  • Jocasta Nu erased Kamino from the Archive for Count Dooku.

jedi_archives06This discarded subplot drives me insane — it’s the most interesting thing in Episode II, but it’s never mentioned again. Obi-Wan asks who could have deleted Kamino from the archives: he considers it so impossible, it didn’t even occur to him that it could have been done on purpose. Yoda calls the puzzle “dangerous and disturbing,” but never does anything about it. But the answer is obvious.

In a deleted scene, Jocasta Nu finds Obi-Wan ruminating on a bust of Count Dooku. After…

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Favorite EU Book

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , , on 26 June 2014 by Megan

Honestly, I didn’t plan for all my challenges to prompt me to talk about Star Wars books in the same two month period, I really didn’t. But since it asked, well, I’m bound to answer! I don’t want to do an official review for a challenge, though — my recent enthusiasm for I, Jedi might lead you to conclude that that was my favorite, but no. Don’t confuse something that I think “is the greatest” with something I know “is my favorite.” And without any further ado, allow me to introduce to you my absolute favorite Star Wars book of the expanded universe (pending a proper review):

K.W. Jeter is an highly acclaimed author who is credited with coining the term steampunk, everyone’s favorite cogs-and-gears bespangled new fashion statement. These books, however, take a beating in the ratings department — which is part of why I’m so keen to do a series of reviews that gives them justice — and so I shall frame this post as a defense of The Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy as my very favorite in the EU. The three books, The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise take place on a split timeline and follow the most popular of all peripheral characters from the films: the bounty hunters.

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

The books start “Now,” or during the events of Return of the Jedi, but move back and forth to “Then,” just before A New Hope, which is when the titular bounty hunter war takes place. Now, the first time I read book 1, I actually listened to it on tape and was 14 years old, and had absolutely no difficulty tracking the shifts in time throughout the narrative. K.W. Jeter has a clean, dry, acerbic storytelling style that I think meshes well with the character of his, well, characters.

Dengar — the fellow with the bandaged head there — is a Corellian who is in to survival. Having met a woman who has changed his life, taking him off the path of vengeance against the man who scarred his features (Han Solo), he’s just looking for enough of a break to get the money to settle down with her and retire forever. Where can money be had on Tatooine? Well, Jabba’s sail barge has recently exploded in the Dune Sea, and that’s where our story begins, with Dengar scanning the wastes for anything  he can make some cash on.

What he finds should properly shock any genuine Star Warrior: the soft, armor-free body of a human man, Boba Fett, stripped and shelled and vulnerable. “Sarlaac swallowed me. I blew it up,” he tells his rescuer before lapsing into silence. Dengar takes him to his hideout in the rocks, not sure what to do with him — but a young dancer from Jabba’s Palace, Neelah, she is sure what to do with him. She was mind wiped and Boba Fett holds the answers to who she once was. And she wants those answers in a bad way.

The question of Neelah’s identity isn’t the only mystery going on. Kuat of Kuat, one of my favorite characters of all time, has intercepted a message pod with some chilling evidence about who was really behind the destruction of the Lars’ homestead. And Prince Xizor of Black Sun reappears, just following Shadows of the Empire, with all his machinations and Falleen foibles. And you’ve got Bossk — the scaly fellow — out on a vendetta against Fett. It’s a largely peripheral book, with our main characters serving little more than cameos, which is something I always enjoy.

The events of “Then” are all about how Boba Fett was hired by a strange creature called The Assembler to start a war among the bounty hunters, with the eventual aim of breaking up the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. And it’s his involvement there that explains why Bossk is gunning for him so fiercely. The first book ends on such a cliffhanger, I will absolutely never forget the sensation of my panic between the books . . .

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

This is one of those rare trilogies that I was aware of as it came out. In fact, I remember clearly one day going into the local bookstore with Mom and making a beeline for the one shelf of “scifi/fantasy” near the front door (prime for sun damage) while Mom did whatever boring Mom stuff she was doing — and I saw Slave Ship on the rack and snatched it up in my unsteady fingers to belt down the first chapter before we had to go. Just to find out . . . did Slave I really explode on the final page of the previous book?! Well?!

I hear a lot of criticism about Jeter’s storytelling style, that the mystery is not well-developed and there’s a lot of telling without showing, but these are not objections I share. First of all, I dislike mysteries and the words “it really wasn’t a mystery at all!” will always be a compliment from me. And, as I said already, I feel that his narrative style exactly suits his subject matter. Jeter has remained one of my favorite Star Wars authors, and the warm feelings I have for this trilogy have even made me think I might, maybe, sometime go read his non-Star Wars stuff. (High honor, from me.)

Character crush alert!

Character crush alert!

And if nothing else, this book has given me Kuat of Kuat — head of House Kuat and ruler of the planet Kuat, and isn’t Kuat awesome to say? — one of my enduring EU crushes. Hmm, I have an abrupt memory of listening to this trilogy while playing Deer Hunter on our Windows 98. Wow! There’s an old chestnut. I do love these books; I moved them to Indiana with me, and even the other day when I was packing stuff in my storage unit, I had to take them out just to pet and smell them and say hi.

I feel like this post is a little more disjointed than most and a little rambly, but I’ve had a stressful week and am going to do a proper book-by-book writeup of this trilogy sometime in the future, so I think that makes up for it. The question was for my favorite EU book, and I have answered it, Sir!

Dislikeable Character

Posted in Challenges with tags , , on 19 June 2014 by Megan

We all know dislike is my stock and trade. At least we should know, after my explanations about hating Yoda, Mace Windu, and Padmé. Disliking a character isn’t really the same as hating one, though. I’d like to focus on the OT for this one, because I don’t want to make it sound like I direct an inordinate amount of dislike the PT’s way, so let me think about this.

There are three characters in the Original Trilogy whom I rather dislike. And I’m not talking about characters you’re not supposed to like, like random Imperials or Darth Vader, and I’m not talking about spit minor people, either, like the woman who coughs in the Hoth sequence of Empire Strikes Back. (Actually I know her name and life story but that’s not the present issue.)

I have never particularly liked Artoo. My earliest feelings toward him were of bemused toleration, sort of how Threepio acts most of the time. I liked Threepio from the get-go and related to him well, since he was constantly suffering with the knowledge that nobody ever wanted to listen to him talk. (Poor Threepio. Get a blog, it helps!) And he seemed to have some valid criticisms about Artoo. After I became aware of the sweeping, nearly universal fan adoration for him, well, my disinterest leveled up to dislike. What do people see in him? He’s rude. He squeaks, he beeps, he manipulates everybody to get his own way. I guess he’s a determined little creature, but, still, nothing about that droid recommends him to me. I just am never going to love that astro droid.

Princess Leia is another one I just really don’t like, which you probably should’ve gathered from my least favorite romance. I explain there pretty thoroughly why I don’t like Leia: she’s bullheaded at the expense of reason, proud, hotheaded, contrary, and ungrateful. She shrieks. And then, to complete the package, she is exactly average — neither plain nor beautiful, neither brilliant nor bimbo. She’s not regal or challenging. The reason she gets pegged as such an awesome character all the time is that she’s no “damsel in distress,” but “not helpless” is not a great recommended of females in my book. I’d rather have an intelligent and logical female who can treat the men around her respectfully as equals even if she does panic and need rescuing when the going gets tough. Leia treats Han horribly. Her consuming passion for politics and the black and white of wrong and right cause more harm than good. A little less ranting and a little more discretion on her part might have gotten the Death Star plans into rebel hands without losing Alderaan — or at least little common sense on her part might have gotten them to the rebellion without risking Yavin. She’s just so . . . ugh.

Old Ben Kenobi

Old Ben Kenobi

But really, the person who is so much more annoying than either of them is the not-so-subtly named “Old Ben Kenobi.” (An aside — in early days, I used to wonder if Obi-Wan had been a clone of the Clone Wars because his name was so similar to the droids’ designations — OB1.)

Part of the reason I wasn’t really that in to Star Wars on the first watching was there was nothing terribly compelling about it. A squawky kid runs around with an old hermit and blows up a space station. Fun, but not fascinating. And it took all three prequels before I could actually enjoy ANH and not just look at it as something to get through to get to the “good ones.”

The chiefest reason ANH isn’t compelling? This irritating geezer! Sorry. But I’m serious. It took Ewan McGregor for me to take Obi-Wan off my list of least favorite characters, and nevertheless, I can’t help being all “boy did not age well! What a crank.”

Because seriously, what does he do? If you take the story in context, he hides out on Tatooine for twenty years while the Empire stockpiles its tools of war and entrenches itself throughout the galaxy. It’s all well and good for Joseph Campbell to write about the hero’s journey and the mentor, etc. etc., but what kind of warrior goes into hiding for two decades waiting for a “last hope” to age appropriately? And even if a guardian of peace and justice might take that route, why would he leave Luke with unbelieving relatives and only attempt to introduce him to the Force when he was, by Yoda’s observation, too old to ever learn it properly? What was stopping Obi-Wan from raising Luke himself? His phobia of diaper changing? It’s not like Luke or Leia had any legal status whatsoever — Padmé’s children were considered dead in her womb. Obi-Wan’s claim on the kid was just as good as Owen and Beru’s.

Obi-Wan does literally zilch on Tatooine for almost a quarter of a century, and when events finally conspire to bring him out of self-imposed exile, he loads Luke up with lies, half truths, and skewed views of the Force. He says using the lightsaber in the cantina was a last resort, but it was also his first response, so what’s Luke supposed to make of it? He warns that abuse of the Force leads to the dark side, but then proceeds to mind-manipulate Stormtroopers and even one old nonhuman buying speeders. No wonder Luke cries in frustration, “How am I to know the good side from the bad?” (and get a frustrating non-answer from Yode the toad). I’m just coming off reading I, Jedi, it’s true, but Corran Horn hits it with a hydrospanner when he observes that Obi-Wan and Yoda were poor teachers — and I’d add that they did Luke more harm than good.

Blue screen of ghost

Blue screen of ghost

Let’s talk about Obi-Wan and Yoda. Far more annoying than even old Obi-Wan there’s . . . Ghost Obi-Wan. Ugh. It’s possible Luke has had visions of Obi-Wan in the last three years, but then, maybe not, since he becomes convinced it was his delirium that sent him to Dagobah and not a vision in the Force.

If Obi-Wan in life is a dicey teacher and friend, ghost Obi-Wan is downright annoying. If regular Obi-Wan delivers whatever truth however he wants, ghost Obi-Wan is a study in vague abstractions and bad timing. He never offers an explanation for why he can’t interfere with Luke’s confronting Vader when he can show up any other time. In fact, the times he shows up are peculiar at best, and I have a serious suspicion that ghost Obi-Wan is in fact just a Force illusion cast by Yoda in an attempt to further manipulate the poor guy.

Review: I, Jedi

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , on 15 June 2014 by Megan

Michael A. Stackpole.

The greatest

The greatest

I can’t play around with this one. I believe right here, this book is the greatest Star Wars novel ever written, and Michael A. Stackpole carried it off. One of the last realcanon novels set in the New Republic before the prequels came out, it is absolutely unique as the only first person Star Wars book. And while I normally detest first person as a form of lazy writing, this is one novel where it elevates and enhances the plot.

With your patience, one last stylistic detail before I move on to the plot. I complained about the Jedi Academy trilogy because there just wasn’t enough material for three books; for whatever reason (aka profits), Anderson had to split the story into three books that contained a good hundred and more pages of filler. I, Jedi contains two distinct sections, but without the tired insistence on its being stretched into a trilogy, the book boasts a taut narrative without an ounce of flab.

The year is 01149 — aka, ten years after the rebellion’s victory at Yavin 4. The heroes of Rogue Squadron are hard at work cleaning up the mess created by the Emperor Reborn (Dark Empire I), and Corran Horn is with them hotly in pursuit of an ex-moff pirate warlord — or more accurately, war lady, the very beautiful and deadly Leona Tavira.

Who is Corran Horn, you may want to know? Well, he is one of the most compelling expanded universe characters ever written. Stackpole has fleshed out Corellia, Han Solo’s homeworld, into a real, breathing place, and emerging from its rich culture is Corran Horn: we first met him as a brash Rogue Squadron pilot in the X-Wing series. Before that, he was a veteran officer of the Corellian investigatory police, CorSec (Corellian Security), making him an amalgamation of the best elements of every cop show and fighter jock movie ever made. He narrates the story of his most important adventure with a clear, honest, self-aware voice. You’ve heard of unreliable narrators, but Corran is the most reliable, scouring his emotions and laying them bare to himself and his audience without flinching.

Here’s the story. While shaking up with pirates, Corran is wrestling a stronger foe: his wife wants to have kids. Mrs. Horn — that is, Mirax,  the daughter of renown smuggler Booster Terrik —  is a cunning intel operative who goes missing on a covert op against this lady warlord Rogue Squadron is trying to track down.

In fact, she goes so thoroughly missing that her Force-attuned but untrained husband begins to forget who she is. The first chapters of the book touch slyly on the events we’ve already seen in Jedi Search, culminating with Corran taking on the name of a Jedi ancestor and going undercover as a trainee in Luke Skywalker’s training academy for Jedi. Here, the book parallels Dark Apprentice, but there’s no lazy cut and paste of a plot we’ve already seen. Instead, man-on-the-scene Mr. CorSec investigates the strange and tragic happenings in the school and takes on Exar Kun himself in the background of what we’ve already seen in Anderson’s novels.

In the second half of the book, Horn leaves the Jedi academy to go undercover with the pirates who can hopefully lead him to his wife. Mysteries abound there — like how the Invids can predict the New Republic’s moves, and what Tavira’s hints about Force users portends. And while Corran has the discipline to take his investigation slowly, not running half-cocked at anything that might put his wife more at risk, there is a time limit. She can’t survive indefinitely, even if the Invids initially wanted her alive. And the closer Corran gets,  well, the higher the risk becomes.

I love this book. I can still remember the first time I read the first page: we were at the Springfield mall and it was on a stack of new hardback books. I was young enough that it never occurred to me to enter a store to buy anything, so there wasn’t the slightest inclination to purchase in my head when I picked it up and read the opening paragraphs. Just because patience is a virtue doesn’t make impatience a vice, from the second page, has stuck in my head ever since. Some months later, I took it as a book on tape on our trip to Yellowstone in September 1998. At first I was put off by its first person narration, but everything about this undercover cop, fighter pilot, Jedi just hooked me heart, line, and sinker. I loved that the so-beloved Trilogy characters make only cameo appearances.

And now, over 15 years and some eight readings later, I appreciate even more about Stackpole’s style and grace. I also love the somewhat elevated nature of the book: many Star Wars books are all about the plot, the what-happens-next, but in many respects I, Jedi (a call back to the Richard Graves’ I, Claudius, almost certainly) is a more cerebral novel. It is about identity and decision, growth and heritage, maturity and inheritance. The characters are rich, the situation a thrilling backdrop, and the examination of the far, far away galaxy’s current events and politics logical and believable.

So, thank you, Michael A. Stackpole, for this book, which I enjoy reading more every time I read it — and as for the rest of you, get yourself a copy if you don’t already have one. Enjoy it for the first time or the fifty-first, because it will always deliver.