Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Thief and a Clone

Two posts of mine launched at different sites this week: The Clone Wars - 6 Episodes That Will Make You A Fan is my first post for Den of Geek, and my review of Honor Among Thieves came out at Knights Archive.

It's exciting to start working for Den of Geek. I'll be primarily covering The Clone Wars for them, maybe branching out into other Star Wars subjects as time goes on. I chose 6 episodes that I thought would be fun for people who didn't have much background with the show, who didn't want to sit down and start from the beginning but might, when the episodes come out on Netflix, want to cherry-pick episodes to see whether the show will be enjoyable for them.

It took me a long time to start reading Honor Among Thieves, since Han was never one of my favorite characters, but it's a well-written, funny book. New character Scarlet Hark has a lot in common with Leia, and it was cool to see the princess have casual, useful interactions with a female lieutenant. Although Hark isn't a love interest for Han per se, the fact that he's attracted to her and that they engage in the old "flirting to cover up the fact that they're on a spy mission" trick means I can't quite praise Corey for writing a lady who isn't seen through the fanboy lens. I'd read a Leia and Scarlet team adventure. (The short story at the end of the novel, "Silver and Scarlet", was a pleasant addition.)

My full review is now available here:

The writing team of James. S. A. Corey bring strong prose and organic dialogue to their brisk Han Solo tale in Honor Among Thieves. This is a Han who sounds like his A New Hope self, with dialogue that is legitimately funny and filled with attitude. It’s one of the more quotable Star Wars books – I found myself reading funny dialogue even to friends who aren’t into the franchise.

Along with the snappy dialogue comes a Han fresh from A New Hope. This is a sometimes cruel Han, a Han who stays with the Rebellion because he doesn’t like paying taxes and who sees Luke as both a younger brother figure and a romantic rival. While Han’s voice is vivid and funny, he also threatens and shoots the people who get in the way.  Corey raises very interesting questions about the nature and goals of the Rebellion, and notes repeatedly that while Leia is fighting for a new form of law, Han is fighting for the continuation of a galaxy without laws. Han hasn’t seemed this dangerous in a while.

The story is quick and simple, and structured a lot like the companion book Razor’s Edge.  There’s an item to retrieve, nothing new to Star Wars, but that item is actually an interesting science fiction concept to place in a big universe: a defensive mechanism that prevents hyperspace travel. Han can’t imagine what living a whole life inside a single star system would be like.

The adventures feel like classic Star Wars, including a grease-stained Rebel base, a dystopian Imperial city, an ancient temple, and a jungle where Han displays some unexpected knowledge of wild animals.

Rebel spy Scarlet Hark becomes the third member of the Han and Leia group instead of Luke for most of the novel, although Corey establishes a strong friendship between Han and Luke as well. Scarlet likes the thrill of fear, likes being able to see the Empire when it can’t see her, whereas Leia’s interest is in restoring the Republic and her strength is in bringing together people who “have to reason to trust her.” The two women have differences but at first it’s hard to spot them, and some of Han’s dialogue to Scarlet is nearly word for word his movie banter to Leia. This can become a bit bland in a world where it seems like all of the important women are beautiful and dismissive. The novel does pass the Bechdel test, and Scarlet is a nobler person than the character Baasen, whose conversations with Han refer mostly to the past while Scarlet’s ask about Han’s future.

One of my favorite passages from the book widens its perspective and reinforces the feeling that Han is on a precipice, teetering between the past and the present -“The Rebel Alliance was built on stories as much as it was steel or hyperspace engines. What had happened on Kiamurr and Seymari was thick in the air right now, but new events would come and wash it away. It wouldn’t be long before [these] were just bits of trivia, easy to forget in the press of stories that the Rebellion told about itself.”

Snappy dialogue and a lot of energy propel this story of a man who definitely would have shot first.

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