Books

Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad by Christie Golden

No one would mistake me for a gamer. Sure, I’ve dabbled in blowing off a zombie’s head here and there; I’ve taken to the streets of Gotham and defeated the Joker three times; my portal-thinking skills have propelled me through a dystopian future; and I’ve crash landed on a strange alien creation harboring some pesky secrets. None of these has ever made me a serious gamer. They’re more of a pastime than a passion or even a hobby. Inferno_Squad

I do read, though. And I do love traveling through the depths of fandom that might lead me to other forms of it.

Earlier this month, I wrote a review for Delilah S. Dawson’s take on under-used character from The Force Awakens. And if you can get through the tangent at the beginning, you know that the it blew my socks off. Today, I sit in front of my computer trying to find the right words to describe Christie Golden’s prequel to the Battlefront II video game. And the only adjectives that pop into my head are “conflicted” and “heartbreaking.”

The story picks up during the final battle in A New Hope, as Senior Lieutenant Iden Versio maneuvers her TIE fighter, shooting down the Rebellion scum stupid enough to on the galaxy’s ultimate weapon: the Death Star. It’s by chance that Iden is clear when Luke (though not mentioned in the book) takes his shot that causes a chain reaction which destroys the Death Star and every Imperial member on board. Iden, understandably, wants revenge.

She isn’t alone. The destruction of the Death Star has injured the Empire far more than they’re willing to admit. And the knowledge that one of their own created the flaw sends a shudder through those loyal to the Empire. Under the guidance and instruction of Garrick Versio, Iden’s father, she and three others are teamed together to make the Empire’s last best chance to fight against the Rebels who’ve blindsided them.

They are the best of the best (or the best of the worst, depending on perspective) and are known as Suicide Squad Inferno Squad. The other three members are Gideon Hask, Lieutenant JG, Lieutenant Commander Del Meeko, and, my personal favorite, Lieutenant Seyn Marana.

It isn’t long, nor is it a surprise, when Iden is given the role of captain. And after, several successful missions (don’t worry, these are glossed over in the book), the team sets off to infiltrate the last of Saw Gerrera’s partisans known as Dreamers. It’s in this mission where their skills are put to the test and have their limits pushed. And the more time they spend with the members of this Rebel group, the more difficult it becomes to carry out their mission.

This book paces itself despite its slimmer length. There were moments in the story where I wondered if I’d fall in love with any of these characters as I had done while reading Phasma. (With the exception of Seyn. I fell hard for her “quirkiness” from the start!)

By the rise of the conflict, I felt torn between wanting these guys to succeed and desperately hoping they’d fail and betray the Empire. When the resolution came, it left me empty and happy. Giving me, not the ending I wanted but the one I needed.

Christie Golden’s writing talent isn’t up for questioning. She managed to craft a fantastical tale that renders the reader reaching for the tissue while cheering on the bad guys. And upon concluding the book, I’ve a strong urge to play the game upon its release.

It’s just that I really suck with controllers.

Oh well, until next time—keep on huntin’.

Books

Bloodline by Claudia Gray

When Carrie Fisher passed away at the tail end of 2016, there was a great loss in Hollywood and mental illness awareness. Like many Star Wars fanboys and fangirls, I struggled with the loss of a princess, a general. Of a freedom fighting rebel. With the second installment of the sequel trilogy on its way later this year, many fans worried what would become of General Organa. Will they call for reshoots? Gracefully retire the character as they did with Paul Walker’s in The Fast and The Furious franchise? Or will Leia and Han be reunited in the afterlife? These thoughts surfaced my mind one night, a few weeks ago, at Barnes and Noble. There’s no denying it—the only reason I even fathomed picking up th15781789_10100276356518147_1987712409066616206_ne Claudia Gray novel, Bloodlines, was because I stilled mourned the loss of a great actor.

And I don’t regret it for one second.

Before Bloodlines, the only Star Wars novels I read were Joe Schreiber‘s expanded universe novels (now known as Legends because why not?) Death Troopers and Red Harvest. And while those were fun to read, they didn’t exactly add to my fandom. (Though zombie Siths with lightsabers, I mean, what’s not to love?) But Claudia Gray (and the other writers of the new canon) have some serious shoes to fill. After reading this novel, it’s safe to say that the story can only get better.

Set decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, Senator Leia Organa sees the New Republic tearing at the seams as the two factions that make it up are at a civil unrest. Populists, like Leia, “believe individual planets should retain almost all authority,” while Centrists “favor a stronger galactic government and a more powerful military.” Leia knows exactly what happens when one person is given too much power. How could she forget when her biological father was the same man who took pleasure in aiding the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan? When suspicious activities are called into question on the subject of Nikto cartels, Leia volunteers to lead a senatorial investigation. Much to her displeasure, she is joined by Ransolm Casterfo, an up-and-coming Centrist with a collection of Empire paraphernalia (think Nazi memorabilia collector).

As the investigation takes them into new territories, both senators began to realize just how fragile the New Republic is. And as they get closer to uncovering a galactic terrorist group, Leia is faced with another problem as her greatest secret comes to light.

This novel answered some of the questions I had when watching The Force Awakens. Such as where did the First Order come from? Why is Leia general of the Resistance? Why is there even a Resistance in the first place? Wouldn’t the New Republic have an army? Where is the First Order getting its money to fund the behemoth Death Star 2.0 they have? What happened to Han and Leia? Why did I pay money for just seeing a brief moment of Luke Skywalker? (OK that question goes unanswered.)

Like the recent Star Wars films, Bloodlines gives women the pilot seat (if you listen closely, you can still hear the groans and moans from nerd-boys like Max Landis). While men like Casterfo, Han Solo, and Joph Seastriker play pivotal roles as rescuers, they’re basically just the Mad Max character in a movie about Imperator Furiosa. In short, Leia Organa has always been a bad ass and newcomers Greer Sonnel and Korr Sella can hold their own, even in the face of danger and uncertainty.

The book is political driven (and, nightmarishly, mirrors our own politics) so there are moments in the prose where pitfalls happen. But pay them no attention as Claudia Gray packs action and suspense around every corner. The book ends with some uncertainty about certain characters and plot devices, leaving you yearning for more. I only hope that Claudia Gray (or any writer of the new canon) plans on revisiting them in the future.

Bloodlines is the perfect supplemental material needed to fill in the Star Wars shaped—nay! The Carrie Fisher shaped—hole in your heart.

Books

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

“Woo-hoo! It’s revolution time!”

Hero's Guide to being an outlawThe League of Princes is back in their third (and final?) book. Like the first two, The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw shows us the power of wit and wisdom of writer Christopher Healy. Fast paced and fun the whole way through, Healy shows us sides of our heroes that he hasn’t before. Gustav has a soft side? Duncan kingly? A compromising Liam? Frederic as…well, let’s not give away too much.

After last year’s release of The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, I asked Healy whether the series would end as a trilogy. His response broke my heart and left me with hope all the same. Three was the magic number, but after that we’ll see where it goes. (I wish I screen capped this Twitter conversation so I could cite it correctly.) After reading the third book, I’m left with hope again. It’s as open-ended as the first and second book.

If anyone could inspire children to read, it’s Christopher Healy. Several children have shied away when I suggest The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The book is a children’s literature tome. A brick. Added weight in the backpack. However, they fall in love with the characters and Healy’s uproarishly hilarious writing style. Several writers have taken the helm of writing about old, well-known characters found in fairy tales. No one’s carried them the way Christopher Healy has, though. And as an adult reader, he’s inspired me to write again. Hopefully, that means that there are future writers in his audience as well.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Healy is racing towards mastering his craft. With this final book in the League of Princes, it’s clear that whatever he does in the future will excel among his peers. I look forward to what the future holds.

Product description from Amazon:

The League of Princes returns in the hilariously epic conclusion to the hit series that began with Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the more clever, hilariously successful incarnations of the current literary rage to rip apart and rewrite fairy tales.”

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

Product Details:
A Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy
Walden Pond Press (29 April 2014)
ISBN: 978-0062118486
 

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for Kindle and Nook. Until next time, keep on huntin’.