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.

Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Bloodline delivered what it promised: Leia Organa navigating the political landscape during the very earliest days of the First Order. Claudia Gray brought her solid character work from Lost Stars to Bloodline, making a story that delved into the thoughts and feelings of Leia, Han, and her political rival Ransolm Casterfo. This one was a hit with a lot of fans, even those who weren't necessarily intrigued by the idea of a political story at first.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed

The more I think about Battlefront: Twilight Company, the more I think of it as a writers' novel. It's a bit difficult to get into as an adventure story, but worth examining at the sentence and scene level. Also, my precious boxcar children, protect them. The Rogue One novelization by the same author is deserving of similar scrutiny, with some interesting additional scenes and a deft take on the movie's final battle. This book would have taken the number one spot on my list if it had been an original story.

Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston

I was looking forward to a story that got inside Ahsoka Tano's head in the time between The Clone Wars and Rebels. This book did that, presenting an Ahsoka who had a strong moral sense and a lot of sadness for the people she lost. (I'll never get over her stumbling her way into referring to Anakin and Obi-Wan as her adoptive parents.) However, it also meandered a bit and took place in a relatively short amount of time, serving as a decent character study but leaving the best scenes, presumably, for TV.

Catalyst by James Luceno

These two are practically opposite one another - Ahsoka has a lot of heart but is paced oddly, while Catalyst's pacing is exquisite and almost completely sterile. I've said before that it was a pitch-perfect match for Rogue One, and Galen and Krennic especially are spot-on. However, Krennic's motivation is simply to gain power within the Empire and is never explored more deeply than that, and an initial warmth between Galen and Lyra isn't really sustained. The book does a good job of expanding on Lyra's role, but it still feels a bit lifeless.

Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

I really loved the characters in Aftermath, and enjoyed seeing where they ended up in Life Debt, especially Rae Sloane's near misses near the end. Life Debt struggled to hold me sometimes, with seemingly arbitrary romantic relationships (Sinjir's boyfriend, who wasn't even part of the crew, felt the least arbitrary) and Norra's struggle to articulate her own motivations. I'm still looking forward to the next in the series, though, especially with the promise of finding out more about whatever is happening on Jakku.

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