Specter of the Past: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn)
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 17 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 31 minutes
Excerpt: | MP3
Themes: / Star Wars / New Republic / Thrawn /
Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn makes his triumphant return to the Star Wars universe in this first of an epic new two-volume series in which the New Republic must face its most dangerous enemy yet–a dead Imperial warlord.
The Empire stands at the brink of total collapse. But they have saved their most heinous plan for last. First a plot is hatched that could destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then comes the shocking news that Grand Admiral Thrawn–the most cunning and ruthless warlord in history–has apparently returned from the dead to lead the Empire to a long-prophesied victory. Facing incredible odds, Han and Leia begin a desperate race against time to prevent the New Republic from unraveling in the face of two inexplicable threats–one from within and one from without. Meanwhile, Luke teams up with Mara Jade, using the Force to track down a mysterious pirate ship with a crew of clones. Yet, perhaps most dangerous of all, are those who lurk in the shadows, orchestrating a dark plan that will turn the New Republic and the Empire into their playthings.
No one does Star Wars quite like Timothy Zahn. He knows how to play the characters just right and make good use of the different factions in the Star Wars universe to make for an interesting story. Zahn has added the most significant and lasting characters to the series after the movies themselves and is the author who really got people excited about Star Wars novels after his trilogy that starts with Heir to the Empire. Specter of the Past is a great book if you like Star Wars or science fiction, although there is some back history from Zahn’s previous trilogy that makes me recommend starting there first. If you’ve already read that trilogy, you will definitely enjoy this.
Specter of the Past is part of a two-book series from Timothy Zahn that takes place just before the books from the New Jedi Order series which takes place about 20 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire has pretty much been all but defeated by The New Republic and is only left with a considerably smaller portion of the galaxy to call home. Some in Imperial command are considering proposing a truce with the New Republic while others still want to find a way to regain the power they lost. Those other factions use a secret document from the Emperor’s cache on Wayland to polarize parts of the New Republic while promoting a new rallying point for the Empire.
This is back from the more “golden age” of Star Wars before the prequels changed things, so it feels more like it belongs with the original trilogy. Zahn manages to weave an impressive array of factions in this book: The New Republic, The Empire, pirates, smugglers, gamblers, etc. The story keeps up a good pace throughout and keeps things interesting.
My only very minor gripe for this book is actually because it comes from the “golden age” of Star Wars books. There was less coordination between books back then so Zahn is clearly writing with reference to his previous trilogy that happened 10 years before. Characters seemed to just randomly make references in their heads to things from that trilogy or think back to events from those books even though there are something like 10+ books that happen between that trilogy and this novel. I wouldn’t comment on it except that animals and event from Wayland and things that happened with Grand Admiral Thrawn seem to come up a lot.
Audio book: As usual, Marc Thompson did a great job with the impersonations of our favorite characters and kept things lively and energetic throughout the book. He was easy to understand and I look forward to Thompson doing more Star Wars books. The usual music and sound effects commonly found in Star Wars audio books were also in there and were as good as I’ve heard them.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Star Wars: Scoundrels
By Timothy Zahn, Read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 Discs, 13 Hours 54 Minutes
Themes: / Star Wars / Heist / Ocean’s Eleven / Han Solo /
To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.
But even he can’t do this job solo.
Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.
All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?
I have to start out being a bit misleading. Star Wars audiobooks are simply the best – they combine the intimacy of reading a book with the sound effects and music of the movies. Blasters, lightsabers, R2D2 squeals, and the same compositions as the movies! Then they get amazing voice actors who are pitch-perfect when it comes to the voices of the characters we love. That’s a pretty big role to fill when books are based on movies since we already know how these people sound and anything different…just wouldn’t work.
I have to say Marc Thompson does not let us down. His Lando Calrissian is spot-on even though his Han Solo borders on sounding like Patrick Warburton. You don’t realize how close they actually are until you hear it.
There’s one scene toward the beginning where Thompson voices 11 characters having a discussion and he doesn’t miss a beat. I was astounded, although I had to go back and re-listen because I wasn’t paying attention to what was actually being said, it was way too impressive! But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.
Star Wars: Scoundrels takes us back (or forward since Old Republic is going on right now) to just after the first movie in the Star Wars franchise, episode IV, Star Wars: A New Hope. If you’re confused now, it’s best to just turn away.
I’m not the most well-read when it comes to Star Wars novels, in fact I’ve only “read” any of them through audio form. But, I do know that it can be a confusing timeline because there are A LOT of Star Wars books. Where do you even start? Luckily, they provide you with a nice timeline at the front of every book showing a listing of the books and the movies. In this case, Scoundrels can be read as long as you’ve watched the original movies.
(It looks like this, but I couldn’t find one with Scoundrels on it. You’ll just have to trust me I guess.)
Another way to put this, if you’re human, you can read Scoundrels at any point. It’s just filler, taking place in between movies, it doesn’t follow any other books, although I’ve heard it does contain characters from other Han Solo-involved books. Again, I show my lack of actual knowledge. Scoundrels is essentially Ocean’s Eleven meets Star Wars. There are even 11 people! Han Solo lost all his reward money and still needs to pay off that darned Jabba the Hutt. He’s approached, after a quick nod to the “who shot first” controversy, and gets a team together to get some money.
Of course, it’s all but impossible because blah blah blah. The scene mentioned above with the 11-person discussion revolves around this in fact. Like I said, Ocean’s Eleven inevitably springs to mind, you can’t help it. This comparison’s been thrown around a lot and while it’s fitting, I think it’s a huge detriment to this book. Here’s why I said I was being misleading, I’ve been very positive about this book up to this point, but there was plenty I didn’t like. You can’t help but think of the comparison, but quickly you start thinking how much better Ocean’s Eleven is. At least that was my experience. It really just wasn’t that great of a heist. It wasn’t terrible, but things just kept getting added on and suddenly the ball starts rolling and I really just didn’t care.
Then there’s just not a whole lot of Han Solo. He’s the person this essentially revolves around, but he doesn’t really play a huge part. On the other hand, Lando was really fun to follow for the first time outside of the movies. But he doesn’t really do a whole lot in the movies either. This was cool to see his easy-under-pressure “gambler” side.
The final complaint I have, which really isn’t a complaint, is that I’ve found I prefer lightsabers in my Star Wars. In fact, this was a new discovery during this read. Han Solo’s great and all, but I really really like jedis and lightsabers I guess. I missed them here. I noted above that Star Wars books have lightsaber sounds, but there wasn’t one sound in this audiobook.
Scoundrels is a fun read and the narrator is incredible even, but on the whole I didn’t love this book. It was entertaining at times, boring at others, and just didn’t live up to expectations. That’s not always the book’s fault, but it ran a line much too close to Ocean’s Eleven that begged for the comparison and missed the mark.
3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)
Note: I have to say this is one of the best covers I’ve seen whether Star Wars or not. It puts a spell on you so you have to read the book just to hold longer.
Review by Bryce L.
The SFFaudio Podcast #193 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Jenny, talk about audiobooks, the RECENT ARRIVALS and the NEW RELEASES.
Talked about on today’s show:
the last new releases episode was in October, Amazing Spider-Man #700 (final) is creepy, Spider-Man writer gets death threats, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond is paleo, Jenny’s research paper on music from birdsong and waterfalls, Jon Catler’s microtonal Birdhouse album, Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson (Zombie P.I.), necro-maniac what’s that?, the next one has Tam’s name all over it, Chicks Kick Butt by Caine and Hughes, butt not ass?, Jenny is not Harriet Klausner, Jenny’s term “speed dating books”, The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle, the ‘skrayling’ creature, Area 51 Nightstalkers by Bob Mayer, are we worried about Area 51?, Scoundrels: Star Wars by Timothy Zahn (author of the Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy), sounds like Oceans Eleven, “create suspense through problems not death”, Fantastic Imaginings edited by Stefan Rudnicki |OUR POST|, from Guy de Maupassant to Arthur C. Clarke, (22 hours), Fritz Leiber writes science fiction?, and now New Releases, Audible’s Rip-Off! project uses famous first lines from stories, which stories were the inspirations?, The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers, Jenny’s review from her blog, “don’t have sex or you’ll die!”, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Beautiful People by Charles Beaumont |PDF| (Number 12 Looks Just Like You on The Twilight Zone), Liking What You See by Ted Chiang, we are beauty experts, Bloodchild by Octavia Butler (dramatized on 2000X), Kindred by Octavia Butler (audiodrama links here), Jenny brings up The Cleansed apocalyptic audiodrama without our prompting |OUR DISCUSSION WITH THE CREATOR|, be a prepper, we explain Forgotten Realms to Jenny, kinder means children in German, Brilliance is Audible, R.A. Salvatore was a bouncer, The Wheel Of Time by Brandon Sanderson is the last book, A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven (we’ll do a READLONG of it with Scott on 1/20/13), sounds like Spider-Man, Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton, Toby Longworth blogs about narrating Great North Road, like the movie The Hidden, Tam asks for a new world federation of e-media, Neil Gaiman to give up book tours, Tim Ferriss doesn’t book tour, there’s a ton of new Mike Resnick, his Kirinyaga has African culture
Posted by Tamahome
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
The SFFaudio Podcast #128 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome and Luke Burrage talk about recently arrived audiobooks, new releases and more.
Talked about on today’s show:
Germline by T.C. McCarthy, Russia vs. United States, Kazakhstan, Blackstone Audio, Hannah, Finland, unapologetic fairy tale imagery, Brothers Grimm, Tama is a sucker for girls who kick ass, Kick-Ass, Bourne Identity, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Full Cast Audio, Tunnel In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, interplanetary survival course, “Rod Walker, as Heinlein Intended“, Ozzy in Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton, Between Planets, Space Cadet, Perseus by Geraldine, Hercules, Odyssey, Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce, young adult books, The City And The Stars, abstracting the voices of the characters, Jesse enthuses about Full Cast Audio’s format, Blackstone Audio, Downward To Earth by Robert Silveberg (it draws from Heart Of Darkness, The Secret Sharer by Robert Silverberg, The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, “the heart of lightness”, The Hidden by Jessica Verday, The Hidden (movie) with Kyle MacLachlan, The Hollow, The Haunted, supernatural/romance/YA, “maybe Jenny can take up the lance”, Macmillan Audio, How Firm A Foundation by David Weber, On Basilisk Station, “Steve Gibson loves it”, George R.R. Martin, the Writing Excuses podcast, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, “it’s very tempting to kill everyone”, Star Wars: Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn (20th Anniversary Edition), Mark Thompson, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye (Luke and Leia get married), the Han Solo novels, Michael A. Stackpole, Star Trek novelizations vs. Star Wars novelizations, Wookipedia, perhaps Lucas was lucky and not talented, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, Stories Of The Golden Age: The Tramp and Shadows From Boothill, Jenny is late, War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, Zoo City, South Africa, China Miéville audiobooks flood audible, Iain M. Banks, Audible Frontiers vs. Audible Ltd., Ready Player One sounds like nostalgia not SF, everybody who wears spandex and legwarmers likes Ready Player One, the Gweek podcast, virtual world, Daemon by Daniel Suarez, Blackstone Audio, The Ringworld Engineers, To Sail Beyond The Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein, Origin Of The Species by Charles Darwin, Recorded Books, Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem, Lawrence Block audiobooks, Hard Case Crime, Getting Off by Jill Emerson (Lawrence Block), AudioGo, Such Men Are Dangerous by Lawrence Block, The Specialists, Coward’s Kiss, You Could Call It Murder, Small Town, Paul Kavanagh, Michael Crichton, Eaters Of The Dead, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake, Psycho by Robert Bloch, Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner, Luke’s novel Minding Tomorrow, does Stand On Zanzibar have a cylindrical structure?, long stuff tends to be crappy, Luke is on Audible’s platinum plan, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, Courtney Brown’s Science Fiction And Politics podcast, Spellwright by Blake Charlton, spell errors?, “as you well know…”, Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer, The Swarm by Frank Schatzing, Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein, tie-in novels, Dan Abnett’s Warmhammer 40,000: Horus Heresy series, Black Library, “a fist the size of a baked ham”, Jesse’s meta review of Luke’s meta review of Sword Of The Lichtor by Gene Wolfe, Halting State by Charles Stross, Luke’s pick of the week: Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian, Jesus’ final words on the cross, Jesse’s pick of the week: Invincible Ultimate Edition Volume 1 written by Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Gregg Rucka, Scott’s pick of the week: Declare by Tim Powers, On Stranger Tides, is Declare idea fiction?, Kim Philby, Tamahome’s pick of the week: The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Steve Feldberg, of Audible.com and AUDIBLE FRONTIERS (their Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint), directs our attention to some very exciting new releases. Steve:
Happy New Year.. I wanted to draw your attention to some great stuff we’ve just published. First and foremost, we now have all 4 books in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. I’m very, very excited that we’ve brought this all-time classic to audio for the first time.
Also, we’ve just published Brian Aldiss’ “Helliconia” trilogy. And there’s lots more past that — Timothy Zahn’s “Cobra” books, Travis Taylor’s “Tau Ceti” series, Gail Z. Martin’s “Chronicles of the Necromancer,” Jay Lake’s GREEN, Simon R. Green’s newest “Nightside” book (THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNCANNY) and lots, lots more.
This is TERRIFIC stuff!
And that’s not all – CLICK HERE for a complete list of Audible Frontiers titles!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
The Icarus Hunt
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Jonathan Marosz
9 Cassettes – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape Inc.
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Mystery / Galactic Civilization / Aliens /
From Timothy Zahn, Hugo Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of two landmark Star Wars® series, comes an original new tale featuring a renegade space pilot, his unusual alien partner, and an unknown cargo that can change the course of galactic history.
Captain Jordan McKell, and his alien partner, Ixil, incautiously agree to fly The Icarus and its special cargo to Earth. The Icarus turns out to be an unusual ship containing a ragtag crew and a secret cargo that everybody in the Spiral seems to want to get their hands on. Things look tough but get worse, when they discover one of the crew’s been murdered and that there’s a saboteur aboard.
The Icarus Hunt is more science fantasy than science fiction. Set in a universe very similar to that of Star Wars, it’s also a novel firmly planted in that tradition of smugglers and space jockeys eluding powerful governments, with plenty of aliens, gunfights and seedy spaceports. If you’re in the mood for old-fashioned escapist SF, this one’s definitely for you. Myself, I enjoyed the simplicity of the tale, which is told entirely from one character’s perspective, but with enough curves to keep it interesting. Timothy Zahn wrote a few Star Wars novels, so he’s got the chops for this, but unlike with those novels, Zahn is able to build his own universe instead of just riding on the coattails of the first three movies. Zahn himself has described The Icarus Hunt as “Star Wars meets Alastair McLean”, and he’s telling the truth. The protagonist is a human that’ll remind you of the Han Solo/Lando Calrissian type, the good hearted rogue, and the plot has enough double-crossing to make you think you’re watching Where Eagles Dare or Ice Station Zebra. This isn’t deep material but it’s engaging. The worst sin it commits is in its length, its just a tad long for the plot material.
Jonathon Marosz uses more than a dozen voices and his reading is spot on. The viewpoint character is, as I stated before, a Han Solo type, and Marosz could definitely pinch hit for Harrision Ford in a minute. The cover art for this one is taken from the Bantam books paperback, and looks great. Production values are excellent, sound quality is perfect, though it has no extras at all. A solid reading of a solid space adventure.
Posted by Jesse Willis