Review of Star Wars: Bloodline

August 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Bloodline by Claudia GrayStar Wars: Bloodline (New Republic)
By Claudia Gray; Narrated by January LaVoy
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 May 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 14 minutes

Themes: / Star Wars / New Republic /

Publisher summary:

WITNESS THE BIRTH OF THE RESISTANCE
 
When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.
 
Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.
 
As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing. . . .

Review:

To start I will say that I was about to give up on Star Wars books because I haven’t been enjoying them lately, but now I’m telling my friends that do like Star Wars book to go read this one because we might be turning a corner here.

What starts out as a slow, politics-laden story became a fun Star Wars book that actually had meaningful events. The recent flow of Star Wars novels have felt like filler more than content so it’s about time a story actually starting to really fill in some of the events between Episodes 6 and 7. The book isn’t perfect by any means but I enjoyed it well enough and it gives me hope that more good novels could still happen. Did you miss all the politics that didn’t happen in Episode 7? Well you are going to love the beginning of this book. Glad there weren’t politics in Episode 7? Be patient with the beginning of the book and you’ll be rewarded with some redeeming adventure afterwards!

The story begins with tension in the senate between Democrats and Republicans in the senate….err I mean Centrists and Populists. Really the whole two party system felt like an allegory for the current political climate in many ways. If you’re sick of all the primaries and partisan stuff going on, you’ll be able to relate to the nonsense going on here. Both sides of the New Republic government see each other a villains or weak and their bickering means nothing gets accomplished (see what I mean about it being just like our government???). Enter a real threat and everyone is too busy arguing to pay any head so lets send a bipartisan contingent to investigate! Leia (populist) volunteers to go on a mission to investigate this criminal organization and an annoying, pompous centrist volunteers to go with her.

Enter Ransolm Casterfo. This guy starts out pretty annoying but I actually came to really like him after the first little foray of adventure. He has more depth to him than many other Star Wars characters and is given many nuanced decisions to make throughout the book while dealing with the fact that he becomes friends with his political enemy. He has a big role to play in this story and does not disappoint. There are a couple of other interesting characters that are introduced in this novel and they are also often more than they seem…but Ransolm Casterfo is the best of them.

Speaking of adventure, the action has a bit of a rocky start but gets to be more interesting as the story progresses. There were some moments early on when I got pretty tired of Leia being some kind of expert of the criminal world and acting pretty reckless, but a lot of that pulpy behavior faded out as the story continued. Star Wars is still the kind of world where you don’t send special forces or spies to investigate criminal organizations, you send some of your most important leaders (Like how Star Trek always seems to have the top ranking officers of the ship on dangerous away missions).

As for the audio side of things Star Wars continues with its great formula of great narration, music, sound effects, and atmospheric sounds. January LaVoy does a great job with the narration even though her range of distinct voices isn’t as varied as some. The music and special effects were great as usual with some odd music choices for some scenes but some very poignant choices for others. Most of the atmospheric sounds were good but some scenes go on a while and I felt like the background noise was on a bit of a loop – a problem I haven’t heard from a Star Wars audiobook since Star Wars: Kenobi (thank goodness it wasn’t very distracting).

Posted by Tom Schreck

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
Filed under: Reviews 

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