Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Star Wars

What a year! From Rogue One hype and fear in January to The Last Jedi not going the way we thought this December, Star Wars has firmly re-established itself as a fan phenomenon. My Star Wars nonfiction can be found at the sidebar, and I talk about that a bit more here.

This year saw the end of the Aftermath series, which were carrying a lot of weight as the Star Wars books most focused on ongoing original characters. I very much liked Florian's post on the subject at Fantha Tracks. Six novels were published by Del Rey Star Wars this year, including the short story collections From A Certain Point of View and Canto Bight. With Disney Publishing continuing to put out strong young adult and middle grade books, I've included the five of them in my rankings this year as well.

I have not yet read The Legends of Luke Skywalker.


2017 in Books

My nonfiction and Twine work can be found on the sidebar. This year I didn't focus on marketable fiction as much as I had planned, but did complete NaNo with original fiction and continue to do Star Wars Insider work, as well as signing up for a professional writing workshop for next year, the first I'll have done since college.

My career is progressing gradually, which is better than progressing slowly. This year I've continued to feel the pull between different philosophies: ambition or self-acceptance, contentment or complacency. These questions have been going on for several years and I do not anticipate them stopping outside of dramatic societal upheaval.

Western Reaches is going strong and continues to be one of the most enjoyable projects in which I am involved. I haven't quite yet sat down and decided to do a video game best-of list, but if you want to talk about that, please feel free.

Thanks to Del Rey, Simon & Schuster, and Disney Publishing for putting me on their review lists.

I also started a book-focused Tumblr here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Halo: Legacy of Onyx Review

The shield-world Onyx has been the location of many Halo stories that run parallel to the games, and Legacy of Onyx moves it forward to the days of Cortana’s war. I could not help but think that the ideal audience for this book is the teenage Halo fan I have been, because the book follows a young girl who wants to be a soldier: Molly hates the Sangheili who killed her parents, but she has been enrolled in a multi-species school and winds up tangling with the struggling remains of the Servants of the Abiding Truth. 

I’m delighted by stories of the peace after the human vs Covenant war, and the school on Onyx presents lovely friendships between humans and aliens. This is truly a slice-of-life story, including a Sangheili headmaster and Spartans teaching children self-defense. Molly’s life is dictated by her desire for revenge against the Sangheili, but as one of the “outsiders” in the school she’s thrown into an alliance with aliens. Her wonder is infectious, and it was easy to find common ground when she remarked how beautiful the Forerunner shield-world is. 

The book also offers the over-the-top action and drama one can expect from Halo, compressed into stories a bit closer to home: the fact that schoolchildren are in danger makes that danger much more visceral for an adult. I’m curious to find out whether there are more adventures in store for Molly, and I very much enjoyed the story of a Sangheili teen and his warring clan. 

However, the flatness of the prose made it hard to follow some scenes. The kids’ perspective means that some major events happen without Molly being actually present, making them feel rushed. Matt Forbeck’s voice seems more suited to the Nathon Fillion styling of New Blood than to more straightforward prose: it was sometimes difficult to distinguish characters’ dialogue from one another even if they had strong personalities.

Legacy of Onyx doesn’t go into the kind of detail that made The Fall of Reach such a great start to the Halo series, but it does move the series forward in a meaningful way. It’s also a great school story, something we’ve never seen in quite this way in Halo before. Legacy of Onyx was a fun and different look at the shield-world, and I’m curious to see where these characters will go next.

A copy was provided to me by the publisher.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Book Review

"I prefer the old betrayals, the ones based on trust."

The revelation least tied to the plot of Jeff Vandermeer's Borne rises gently like a wave. It's relatively inconsequential, not like the giant, stinking biotech bear that glides over the ruined city where the scavenger Rachel lives. The characters never discuss it, but by that time the book has revealed its long argument about the value of unspoken truths.

As a fan of the Southern Reach Trilogy, I was looking forward to more of the same - New Weird from one of its masters, biological horror and descriptions of monsters I could pore over. There are passages I mentally marked down as lessons in wording.

More than that, though, it's clear that this is a book about family. It's about empty-nest syndrome, about a parent's fear of raising their child badly, or their fear of the choices that child could make of their own volition. It is about holding a romantic partnership together for a long time under great stresses, and it is about how to express trust through conversations and through silence and through telling one another stories.

I feel the need to find flaws. None of them, though, change the fact that this is a book that left me word-drunk and looking for ways to use what I had learned. (As I write this I'm in a 737, in turbulence. I am not a nervous flier. Nevertheless, with everything going on I think this: as long as it is not too rough for me to write, I am okay.)

In Borne, Rachel and Wick are both consistently and rigorously realized. Rachel especially imbues the book with her own themes of trap-making, of memory, and of her relationships with her strange city and the creatures within it. When all hope is gone, she keeps walking, keeps fixing her eyes on the beautiful things she wants to save. It's a carefully-woven novel that got at my marrow.

(Here is a list of less organized impressions: Wick is so great, as a child of divorced parents some of this novel was difficult, and I'm going to watch the heck out of that movie version.)




Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 in Star Wars

In January, The Force Awakens hype was still in full swing. By December, Rogue One emerged as both a very different and very similar phenomenon. In the world of Star Wars books, there were fewer novels targeted to adults this year than last year: Wookieepedia says there were four this year, compared to last year's seven. Going over them numerically doesn't mean much except that I was bound to fit all of them on the list.

A lot of my Star Wars books discussion happens on podcasts these days. After the collapse of the ForceCast I joined Blaster Canon and Western Reaches, the latter of which also has a Goodreads group.

I talked about some more of my Star Wars work on my other year-end post. Here's a look at my top 5 for 2016. Thanks to Del Rey for providing me review copies and working with me on the HoloNet.

2016 in Books

2016 has been a hard year. This post isn't about that: there's little I could add to the grim, uncertain political commentary of the day. For me personally, it's a year that would have been excellent if it weren't so bad: I gained new opportunities this year and finished my 100-book challenge, setting up for what will hopefully be a year of writing in 2017. There's certainly enough to write about.

Last year I set several goals: to do official Star Wars work, to read more, and to read more books by women. I met that first goal in April, talking about one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars novels. As of Dec. 27 when this post was written I have 105 books on the list of what I've read (including one repeat read that I added to the challenge by mistake), 63 of which were by women. That includes collections edited by women and this manga studio, but not Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Like 2015, 2016 was a year of finding new favorites.While my reading habits had stagnated a bit before, I'm much more versed in contemporary science fiction and fantasy now. With that comes more series. It's harder to recommend series than stand-alone books, but with that comes the thrill of waiting for the next one: I think any one of these would make a compelling TV series.

There was no new Ann Leckie novel this year. We wait in hope.