Review of Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn

February 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Vision of the Future Star WarsVision of the Future: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn Book II)
By Timothy Zahn; Narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: December 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 26 hours, 22 minutes

Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes:  / Star Wars / New Republic / Thrawn /

Publisher summary:

The Empire’s master plan is under way. The New Republic is on the verge of civil war and the rumor that the legendary Admiral Thrawn has returned from the dead is rallying the Imperial forces. Now Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and their allies face the challenge of their lives. They must infiltrate a hidden fortress filled with Imperial fanatics, rendezvous with a double-dealing Imperial commander, and journey into enemy territory to learn the identity of those responsible for an act of unthinkable genocide. But most important of all is the truth about Thrawn.

Vision of the Future is 2nd book of The Hand of Thrawn duology. Zahn always does a great job with Star Wars and does not disappoint here. Is the New Republic going to enter a civil war over the atrocities some Bothans helped commit? How is the New Republic going to react to these rumors that Grand Admiral Thrawn is back from the dead? Will Luke manage to save Mara and discover the secrets behind these strange craft being spotted? What or who is The Hand of Thrawn?

So many questions to answer and it’s no surprise that this book is kind of long for a Star Wars book. The book keeps up a steady pace and does manage to resolve all the different threads and plot points introduced in Specter of the Past. There are many different threads at work in this book but Zahn manages to juggle them well. At one point I got the feeling that more than half of the threads involved characters trying to recover a copy of the Caamas document in their own ways which felt like a lot. At least they were all good reasons to have some crazy adventures.

All in all I’d say that you can’t go wrong with a Zahn Star Wars book but I would definitely start with his Thrawn trilogy (starting with Heir to the Empire) or Allegiance.

Marc Thompson does a great job with impressions of all our favorite characters and the special effects are great too. There was some great use of music during more sensitive moments that helped bring them to a nice crescendo. The pirate’s voice sounded just like ones you’d find in the Caribbean – which was interesting, and the Caamas apparently have an island accent. There were a few times I found the sound effects a bit distracting but overall they are awesome.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn

November 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Specter Star Wars by Timothy ZahnSpecter of the Past: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn)
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN: 9780804128483
Publication Date: 17 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 31 minutes

Excerpt: | MP3

Themes: / Star Wars / New Republic / Thrawn /

Publisher summary:

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

Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

November 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

William Shakespeares Star WarsWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars
By Ian Doescher; Read by Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy, and Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
ISBN: 9780804191791
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 31 minutes

Download excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / Star Wars / Shakespeare / poetry / saga / iambic pentameter /

Publisher summary:

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the audiobook you’re looking for.

What if you went to your local Renaissance Fair expecting to watch a Shakespearean play that ended up being Star Wars: A New Hope? Shakespeare’s Star Wars is pretty much what you’d get. If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted take on Star Wars that’s fun to listen to but can also come off a bit silly, you might enjoy this book. Don’t be intimidated by the Shakespeare part, it isn’t difficult to follow. We’re talking Renaissance Fair level of difficulty in understanding what’s going on.

This book follows the events of the first movie (Episode IV) and was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Some fan service is paid out to small things like whether Han Shot first and Luke’s whining while on the farm. Too much fan service can be bad but I thought this was handled well and not overdone too much. It was just enough that it made me smile or laugh as the story progressed.

As for the Shakespearean side of things, Doescher does a great job of incorporating many of the more well known phrases and devices known from the more well known plays. I have to give him due credit for writing the whole thing in iambic pentameter and making fantastic use of asides (when characters speak to the audience). The asides are really great to show what characters are thinking and I especially like how they are used for R2D2 (and how he “plays the fool”). Doescher makes prolific use of many well known phrases from Shakespeare that work in most places but can be a little too jarring in others when too much of the quote is used (“we few, we happy few…”).

Audiobook: As for the audio performance, I couldn’t have been happier. I expected the Shakespearean dialogue to be difficult to follow but since it’s more like “Renaissance Fair” Shakespeare, it was no problem to understand. The cast did a great job with all the voices and I genuinely laughed after the first couple of R2D2 lines. I should note that I didn’t really like January LaVoy’s performance so much in Razor’s Edge but I thought she did great in this book. All the normal sound effects and music were also present and enjoyable as usual.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Crucible by Troy Denning

October 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Crucible Star WarsCrucible (Star Wars)
By Troy Denning; Read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 9 July 2013
ISBN: 9780385362924
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 8 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / Star Wars / Jedi / space / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.
 
Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a  pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

Star Wars Crucible takes place after the Fate of the Jedi series and is the furthest in the Star Wars timeline to date. I came to this book without having read Fate of the Jedi but didn’t have any trouble what was going on in the story and Denning explained sufficiently for those of us not in the know. Luke, Han, and Leia are getting pretty old at this point, and this novel seems to represent something of a retirement for them or a passing of the torch to the new generation. Denning plays to the characters’ strengths throughout most of the novel. You can’t have Han getting up to his full antics without a buddy, so a healthy dose of Lando is also in there too. If anyting, I liked how this is a nice standalone Star Wars book from that era of Star Wars instead of being part of some 9+ book series.

The general plot of the story has to do with Luke, Han, and Leia going to visit Lando (the ever present entrepreneur) to help him with problems at his mining operation in the outer rim. Cue the bad guys that can even give Jedi problems and the story gets going. The plot is interesting because it pits the gang against highly intelligent organized crime figures (Qrephs) who have an old grudge to settle. There is an element of Battlestar Galactica in here too because anyone could be working for the bad guys so you don’t know who is a cylon…err…agent of the Qrephs. I liked the novel for the most part except near the climactic battle when things to all trippy and weird like anime (Evangelion I’m looking at you).

Luke and Leia were pretty good in this book but Denning really made Han and Lando fun in this book. Since this takes place so far out and they’ve done so many great things, the characters are pretty well revered by people they encounter in the book. Han and Lando setting up a sabaacc game to draw in competition was definitely fun to go through. The sabaacc time goes kind of heavy into logic and tactics sometimes and really makes it look like Han is stronger in the Luck than Luke is in the Force any day.

As for the audiobook, Marc Thompson does as good a job with this book as any other Star Wars book I’ve listened to. All of the background music, ambient sounds, and special effects you’d expect are there and they do a great job of adding that little bit of extra immersion to the experience. Thompson does a great job impersonating the main cast down to Lando pronouncing “Han” with the ‘a’ instead of ‘o’ sound. I also really liked the stoic and simpering voices he used for the Qrephs.

Posted by Tom Schreck

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