Review of A New Dawn

October 21, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Star Wars New DawnA New Dawn (Star Wars)
By John Jackson Miller; Narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 43 minutes

Themes: / Star Wars / Dark Times / rebels / Jedi / Empire /

Publisher summary:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.” (Emperor Palpatine)

For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed – and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.

Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.

But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off….

The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.

This is it: The beginning of the new Star Wars content after the entire expanded universe became “legends” and it is….decent. Not awesome but also not bad. It’s hard to be objective because John Jackson Miller is charged with kicking off all new characters with all new adventures, and that feels much different from previous stories with established characters. I was kind of disappointed with the characters because this was an opportunity to be unique and they chose to make recycled versions of previous Star Wars characters. That said, the book was the normal action packed Star Wars adventure you’d expect and didn’t actually end the way I assumed it would – which I liked. I’d recommend this book to Star Wars fans or those interested in the new Rebels show (since this precedes it in the timeline) but would still point to Timothy Zahn’s work as a real gateway drug into Star Wars books.

Miller does a great job getting the feel of Star Wars in this book but the story also feels a bit like the characters from Star Wars have been recycled a bit:

Kanan Jarrus: A bit of a rogue with budding jedi powers kept hidden. He comes of like 30% Luke and 70% Han. Marc Thompson didn’t use either his Luke or Han voice for this character but I noticed him slipping somewhat into a Han voice on some of the more roguish moments.
Hera: Leia meets Mara Jade. She’s all about investigating wrong doing by the Empire, runs around with a hood up, and does some spy-type stuff.
Count Vidian: Evil cyborg guy that works for the Empire. I guess you always need an evil guy that is mostly machine (Vader/Grievous) to show how much they’re lost their humanity.
Skelly: This guy’s hi-jinks just make me think of Jar Jar Binks. No weird accent at least.

The main plot of the story revolves around the Empire wanting to increase efficiency of their mining of a mineral they need for expanding the fleet. The Empire shows up with the ruthless efficiency expert Count Vidian to make the miners be more efficient or else. Action and drama ensue from there and I always find it amazing how many times an author can get all the good and bad guys together only to have people escape / not get hurt and continue on with their plans. I thought the story was pretty well thought out and there were interesting revelations about characters and their motivations throughout the story so it wasn’t just straightforward action.

One thing that kind of annoyed me was a fairly major thread that seems to serve as an allegory to all the leaks in the media lately. There are contractors that monitor citizens (a la 1984) via hidden cameras and microphones but that monitoring has gotten out of hand since the emperor came to power. There is even a “military contractor” that is a whistle blower….. All of this may not have been intentional but it sure felt like it.

As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson did a great job as usual. If you’ve listened to a Star Wars book narrated by him before, you’ve heard his different voices and know what to expect. All the great Star Wars sound effects, atmospheric sounds, and music are there too. I may be less critical now, but I thought all of that was better done, less distracting, and contributed a bit better to this story than in some others I’ve listened to in the past.

And just a fun treat, this isn’t from this particular Star Wars novel but the same narrator:

 

Posted by Tom Schreck

The SFFaudio Podcast #284 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

September 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #284 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, and Seth talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
accent on the new releases, The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, Liviu’s Goodreads review, four dark Jack Cady novels, Jenny‘s Star Wars tweetfest, less chattering and battles, Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, Westerfeld’s Uglies inspired by Ted Chiang, Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami, A New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller, “Is this Firefly?”, the new canon, Marvel can make a movie about anything, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Luke’s unstarred review of Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, Jenny liked Blackout/All ClearA Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett, Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl, mainstream or sf?, Puttering About in a Small Land by Philip K. Dick, it’s mainstream, Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman, Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding HoodBaba YagaMage’s Blood by David Hair, What is a starred review?, Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall, Tales Of Terror Collection, The Best Ghost StoriesThe Scarifyers 09: THE KING OF WINTER (audio drama), “winter is coming”, Devoured by Jason Brant, A Walk Among the Tombstones: A Matt Scudder Mystery and Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf by Lawrence Block, put out his own audiobooks, Man of Two Worlds by Frank Herbert and Brian Herbert, Echopraxia by Peter Watts, same world as Blindsight, it’s got a lot of references, books with “day” in the titleThis Perfect Day by Ira Levin (author of Rosemary’s Baby), Far Futures edited by Gregory Benford, they list the stories and describe them!, The Sound of His Horn by Sarban, Wild HuntThe Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein, Edge of Tomorrow (All You Need Is Kill) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, where is the Full Metal Bitch?, Groundhog Day, Steven Gould’s new Jumper book Exo is inspired by Heinlein, Geek’s Guide interviewthe cool first page, Darin Bradley’s Chimpanzee audio drama?

The Scarifyers 9 The King Of Winter

Posted by Tamahome

Review of Overdraft by John Jackson Miller

February 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Overdraft by John Jason MillerOverdraft: the Orion Exclusive
By John Jackson Miller, Read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / stock market / aliens /

Publisher summary:
In the twenty-second century, humanity has journeyed to the stars, and found them open for business. And when it comes to protecting that business, Chief Bridget Yang and Surge Team Sigma—her squad of heavily armed space marines—are up to the task. Unfortunately, Jamie Sturm is one problem they can’t just vaporize. When Jamie’s financial schemes bankrupt their expedition, Bridget and her crew refuse to let the rogue stock trader walk away. To save their jobs, the soldiers drag him out from behind his desk—and onto a seemingly hopeless mission to the frontier, seeking to open the most dangerous parts of the Orion Arm to trade. But in turning over every alien rock looking for profit, the hapless trader and his reluctant protectors uncover something that endangers humanity itself.

You should read this book. You should read this book if you like adventuring soft SF. You should read this book if you like funny adventuring soft SF. You should read this book if you like funny adventuring soft SF that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So, should you read this? Only you know. Choose, but choose wisely.

The premise of Overdraft is rather underwhelming. A greedy twenty-second century stockbroker is caught before his insider trading pays dividends. In a strange twist, the stockbroker is forced into trying to earn one hundred billion dollars in one hundred days by selling wares to aliens. In the twenty-second century, Earth has joined a galactic syndicate based on the buying and selling of goods. Imagine a door-to-door salesman in space. Throw in power-armor wearing bodyguards who dislike the stockbroker, and you get a plot that seems like it should just fizzle and blow away. But it doesn’t!

Of course, anytime you try and slap funny onto SF, you know what happens. Inevitably, it always draws comparisons to that author with the alphabetical-friendly last name. We all know the writer I’m talking about. If you don’t, don’t panic! All I’m saying is that it’s not fair to forever compare humorous SF to the work of Douglas Adams. Adams is in his own galaxy. So can we please, please, oh please stop trying to measure all prospectively humorous SF to Douglas Adams?

John Jackson Miller delivers a fun space adventure that follows a fairly tight point-to-point storytelling. It never tries to be bigger/more than it is, and for this I am grateful. I thought the beginning drug on a little. I also didn’t feel the double agent was necessary to the plot, if anything it detracted from the story by injecting unneeded complication, but perhaps this is merely character maneuvering for future works in this series.

Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook. It was my first time hearing Daniels read and I admit to feeling some early trepidation. I soon stopped doubting Daniels. He brings each character to life with such subtle grace that his voice becomes the story’s voice. When this happens, when a reader just “becomes” what they are reading, it’s special.

If you can watch the original Get Smart television program without griping that it’s not James Bond, I think you’ll like this book.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Kenobi: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller

September 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

kenobiKenobi: Star Wars
Written by John Jackson Miller; Read by Jonathan Davis
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 27 August 2013
ISBN: 9780804148221
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours; 36 minutes
Download Excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / Star Wars / Jedi /
Publisher summary:

The Republic has fallen.
Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . .
Everything but hope.
 
Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
 
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
 
Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

Star Wars Kenobi takes place between the events of Episode III and Episode IV and explains how Obi-Wan Kenobi settled in on Tatooine and became “Old Ben” that we see at the beginning of Episode IV. While that is mostly true, the feel I got from this book was more like, “The adventures of a bunch of frontier settlers on Tatooine who have problems with Tusken Raiders and each other with a Jedi in hiding mixed in”. While the title of the novel is “Kenobi” more of the story is centered around those settlers and their problems than around Obi-Wan himself. The book isn’t bad for it, it’s just not necessarily what I would have expected based on the title and description.

I liked the book overall. There were some points where it felt like the story could have resolved sooner but I found the overall conclusion satisfactory. The western/frontier setting is pretty interesting with the sets of problems that frontier life and sand people can give you. I liked John Jackson Miller’s portrayal of Obi-Wan as this passive guy that perpetually avoids conflict but gets forced reluctantly into action. You get some more insights into how Obi-Wan is reacting to the events of Episode III and where he thinks things went wrong.

If you like Star Wars books, this is a definite read. If you don’t haven’t read many, this book is not a bad place to start since it doesn’t rely on any back story beyond the movies. The pace of the book keeps up pretty well throughout with only a few slow moments so overall this was a quick fun book. I have to admit that I was into the book enough that I wanted to hit some of the characters if they didn’t get theirs eventually.

Jonathan Davis does a great job reading this book. His Obi-Wan impression does not disappoint and he does a great job with the other characters. One of the main characters is a bit of a schmoozer and he pulls it off really well (I just wanted to smack that guy sometimes.) The sound effects and music are always a plus in Star Wars books. My only grief here is that there are many scenes at a local store and the background sounds are that of a grocery store scanner – which I found incredibly distracting.

Posted by Tom Schreck