Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mercy Kill cover updated

The Star Wars Books Facebook page announced that the cover of Mercy Kill received a bit of an update.

Original cover

Even though the font looks a little odd, the artwork is stunning. It captures the essence of the X-Wing books. It feels open, like space. An enemy can approach at any angle.

New cover

The addition of the symbol makes the cover look a bit crowded. The space seems too closed off. The white/silver coloring makes it appear somewhat washed out at parts. It also reminds me of the anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire.

The question is why it was changed. Using a cover design that reminds fans of books they loved makes more sense marketing-wise. If someone quit reading the books for whatever reason, and then saw a cover at a bookstore that looked kind of like a set of books she liked, it seems more likely that she’d pick up a copy.

If anything, the new cover further separates the book from previous X-Wing novels.

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Filed under Allston, Mercy Kill, X-Wing

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Few movies manage to capture to true essence of a book. Fortunately, for fans, The Hunger Games succeeded where films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Eragon failed. There were changes, as expected, but not ones that were detrimental to the feeling of the story.

Immediately fans see how terrified Primrose Everdeen, the main character Katniss’s sister, is of the reaping that day. It’s clear from the beginning how much Katniss cares for her sister—and how emotionally distant she is from her mother. This scene sets the feel for the rest of the film beautifully.

The casting choices for The Hunger Games fit perfectly. Willow Shields broke hearts as young Prim. Woody Harrelson captured Haymitch perfectly—and hilariously. Josh Hutcherson portrayed Peeta’s feelings towards Katniss and his own life in a moving, meaningful way. The spirit and soul of Katniss comes out brilliantly through Jennifer Lawrence.  Each cast member brought his character to life in a believable, fitting fashion.

The addition of scenes not from the books didn’t detract from the story; they enhanced it and set up for Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The scenes with President Snow brought chills to the skin while the moments in the Gamemakers room contained a mixture of horror and fascination. The ones orchestrating the obstacles in the area seemed proud of sending children to their deaths. The technology, though, is quite interesting to see. Think Iron Man’s computer system.

As with any adaptation, some scenes don’t make the cut while others face alterations. The only real complaint in this department is that if a person hasn’t read the book, she may find herself confused on a few points. Fortunately, through the role of Caesar Flickerman, there’s some explanation throughout the Games. It’s almost like sports commentary. It’s easy to miss details like who Foxface is, that Peeta and Katniss trained together at first and that Haymitch was a former tribute.

As expected, the movie contains dozens of incidents of violence. Through shaky camera work and angled shots, viewers see what happens without it being gratuitous. The shaking shots can make viewers a bit dizzy or disorientated, so this is definitely not a movie to watch up close. The amount of blood is enough to make the point without taking it too far. There’s a certain feeling of wrongness accompanied with watching children fight to the death; a feeling present in the books and that fans should never lose. Director Gary Ross captured the horror in an effective method.

Because of the extreme violence and emotionally gripping scenes, The Hunger Games is somewhat hard to watch. From the moment when Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place to the trials in the area, it’s impossible to remain completely calm. Be prepared for tears, laughter and anxiety. It’s difficult to watch characters die, especially ones that worm their way into the hearts of fans without us realizing it. It’s worth it, though.

The Hunger Games is a must-see not only for fans of the book, but the general public. Katniss Everdeen is a true heroine, one that we can all admire. If the box office numbers tells us anything, it’s that the a movie lead by such a fantastic character with an amazing story can and will take the world by storm.

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Filed under female characters, Katniss Everdeen, Review, The Hunger Games

Zahn’s Han Solo novel has a name: Scoundrels

Timothy Zahn’s much-anticipated Han Solo novel has a title: Scoundrels. EW. com has the cover art for all to see. The cover art features Han, Chewbacca and Lando.

EW.com

The release still stands at Dec. 26, as mentioned in the Random House catalog.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Han Solo, Star Wars, Timothy Zahn

Han Solo book blurb and Troy Denning Suvudu interview

The Random House Fall catalog is up and lucky for us, there’s some information about the much anticipated Han Solo book penned by Timothy Zahn.

From the catalog:

Ocean’s Eleven meets Star Wars in this classic adventure set just after Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

 

The Death Star has just been destroyed and Han Solo still needs the money to pay off the bounty on his head. Now the opportunity to make that money and then some has walked into his life in the form of the perfect heist. With nine like-minded scoundrels, he and Chewbacca just might be able to pull it off and live to tell the tale!

Sounds like a fun read!  The listing states Dec. 26 as the release date. That, of course, can change at a moment’s notice. The only question I have thus far is about Lando’s participation (see Key Selling Points). Is Zahn going to create a different “swindle” than what we read about in the Han Solo trilogy?

In other news, check out Eric Geller’s Troy Denning interview on the Suvudu blog regarding Apocalypse. It contains many eye-brow raising remarks regarding Abeloth (no real explanation), Ben, Vestara and an illogical look at Jaina (this is Star Wars. Stories happen all over the place. Not an excuse to keep her and Jag apart).

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Filed under Fate of the Jedi, Han Solo, Jaina Solo, Timothy Zahn, Troy Denning

The Hunger Games: The power of marketing

Marketing is a powerful tool. Lionsgate is releasing a steady stream of pictures, videos, trailers, interviews and other medium for The Hunger Games. As with many movies, it started small. The occasional pictures, the short teaser trailer. Then they launched a website that allowed fans to find out what district they’d reside. The official Facebook page and Twitter feed posted pictures, often coupled with quotes from the book. Theatrical trailers hit movies theaters and the internet. Books and magazines further pull people into The Hunger Games.

Hunger Games merchandise is all over the internet and creeping into stores. Companion books, the mockingjay pin and posters are pretty easy to find. For those who want something a little more, online is the best avenue.

But how much marketing is necessary? There’s no answer to how much a company needs to push a movie. If the movie itself cannot enthrall audiences, millions of dollars in promotions won’t do a bit of good. Take a look at last year’s The Green Lantern. It was impossible to escape those ads. Everywhere people looked; there Ryan Reynolds was in a weird green suit. It needed to make $500 million to fall under the success category. It didn’t even make half that amount. The trailers alone tell viewers to run away.

The Hunger Games benefits from a strong book following. Fans want to see their favorite scenes come to life in accurate, tasteful manner. Each image Lionsgate releases is scrutinized and debated.

Even though countless fans would still see The Hunger Games without the constant clips and images sent their way, would so many be eager to attend midnight screenings or feel as if they had to see it opening weekend? Each snippet makes fans want more. It’s like eating rich chocolate cake; you can’t have just one bite. The more that fans can see, the more they want the whole film.

Without marking, the masses wouldn’t know about a movie. How many people picked up the book because the trailer caught their eye? Social media allows companies to reach even more people than they could before. It also makes it easier to pass around a new image or clip.

Given the number of tickets already sold and the positive reviews, it’s safe to predict that The Hunger Games will be a box office smash. Other films can look at the example when hyping up their own films—provided the content is worth watching.

And there’s no question of the content of The Hunger Games.

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Review: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning

Contains spoilers.

Upon hearing the title of the last book in the Fate of the Jedi series, I cringed. Apocalypse is a word we’ve heard far too much in the past two years. The infamous Mayan 2012 prediction creeps into all media at random intervals to annoy us. Apocalypse seems as if it’s an overly dramatic title for a Star Wars book. The galaxy facing certain destruction is old news. Troy Denning closed out the FotJ with a plethora of action, just as he did Legacy of the Force.

On the surface, Abeloth sounds like a terrifying being. She can’t die. She can be in multiple places at the same time. She has no limitations. After finding out exactly what Abeloth is supposed to be, I felt highly skeptical. The history the Killiks gave bothers me to no end.

I don’t like the idea that everyone’s path is predestined. That takes away the responsibility of choice. The Killiks made it sound as if Abeloth would come no matter what anyone did. There was nothing Luke or anyone else could do about it and that’s an idea that I’m not comfortable with in literature or life. Anakin Skywalker chose to kill Mace Windu and pledge himself to Palpatine. Jacen chose to listen to Lumiya. The drunk driver chooses to climb behind the wheel of his car. The woman acts to cheat on her husband. Personal choice is necessary to avoid chaos. Regardless of how logical the Killiks argument may sound, taking it for face value even coupled with some story Yoda told Luke, is far too trusting for a group of strong Jedi. That the Force has a being that causes massive amounts of destruction for the sake of it doesn’t sound like the Force we all know.

Right from the start, Denning pulls readers into a rich, action-packed infiltration of Coruscant. It sets the idea that the Jedi are there to take the situation into their own hands. Those who prefer a more philosophical or mystical battle for the Jedi may find the book a little frustration at times. It’s gorier than most Star Wars books, what with the way the Sith die, Saba’s fight in the Jedi Temple and Abeloth’s use of her tentacles (think Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean). The pace slows down in the middle a bit, but picks up towards the end. There’s some repetition towards the end that can bog down readers and at times, it’s hard to picture a location.

The strongest part of the Apocalypse isn’t the plot; it’s the characters. As this is a Denning book, Han Solo dances from the pages with sarcastic humor. Master Saba Sebatyne comes across somewhat tamer than she has before (in behavior, not physical combat). Unlike previous Denning-penned books, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the portrayals of Jagged Fel and Jaina Solo. Even Tahiri became much more appealing, a first in this series. She’s wallowed in grief and self-loathing far too long.

Probably the biggest change in characterization was Luke Skywalker. It’s clear by the end Apocalypse that Luke’s growing away from his role as Grand Master. Near the end, Ben mentions that eventually the burden will fall to Jaina’s generation. Throughout the series, Luke still acts as a competent fighter, but he’s physically weaker. While Luke’s power isn’t fading, it actually feels as if a shift is occurring with the Jedi Order. It feels like a natural change.

These revelations came clearest through the conversations between Luke and Jaina. Gone were the rash decisions, the constant back and forth her character constantly suffers. She’s the one who acts as the voice of reason. This is a Jaina that needs to stay. Denning created a balance between the fighter, the Jedi and the woman. Her decisions were logical and sound. There were no questions about her and Jag’s relationship. Even though they didn’t appear in the same place until the very end, the little actions of her calling during a lull in battle and his concern for her during his own crisis spoke volumes more than a conversation about the relationship.

The end of Apocalypse left me with mixed feelings, excluding the last chapter that better fits the term epilogue. Had Abeloth been a more impressive or conceivable villain, the defeat would seem impressive. The elements were there, but the problems lie in the Abeloth character, not the actual confrontations. The end leaves a plethora of questions. What happened to the Dark Man? Is Vestara the next threat or will she disappear? Where do the Jedi go from here? How will the whole future of the Empire play out regarding to Jag?

Some of these will surely come up in whatever Del Rey produces next. As Denning mentioned, the possibilities are endless. The book truly felt like a turning point in the Expanded Universe, something it desperately needs.

And the wedding? It’s about damn time.

Score: 7/10

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, FotJ, Jaina Solo, Luke Skywalker, Review, Troy Denning

Troy Denning talks the Jacen Solo era, writing and more on Apocalypse book tour

Fate of the Jedi Apocalypse is the end of the Jacen Solo era, according to Troy Denning.

I’d never thought of the books like that and still don’t. Denning said it started in the Dark Nest Trilogy, which he said was Jacen’s personal journey. Legacy of the Force was his social journey and Fate of the Jedi was Jacen’s spiritual journey. This coincides with how Denning writes his own books.

I’m still not sure what I think about this. I see the mechanics and the overall arc, but I don’t know. I’ll have to think on it some more.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the Barnes and Noble in Carmel, Ind. for the second stop on the Apocalypse book tour. Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, two Rogues (one man and one woman), a Sith cheerleader, Rebel officer and other types of troopers stood in the front of the store like some type of guard. I picked up my copy of the book, received a wristband and found a seat in the metal chairs by the magazines. The evening started with a chat by Denning and then a question and answer session. The questions spanned Denning’s work and writing.

When it comes time to write a series, the authors, editors, marking and continuity folks meet to discuss the details. Denning stated that each author has a list of plot points for the book he is to write. He used Star by Star as an example, as he was sure no one would be spoiled (he hates spoilers). Anakin Solo dies and Coruscant falls made the list.

Regarding the writing process for FotJ, Denning said, “We don’t share much in the process of writing.” It messes with the momentum. He did point out that they did share a little more of the Ben and Vestara scenes.

Denning pointed out something about the editorial staff and writers that I think captures the feelings of some fans. There’s a certain push for war stories.

“Ended [Apocalypse] in a way to open up a million different kinds of stories,” Denning stated. As for the title itself, he said it fits the current state of the EU. The old EU we all knew is evolving into something new.

And that’s a good thing.

A question arose about the Legacy comics and if Denning and the others felt pressure from the events. While there’s a good chance that the books will eventual lead to that point, Denning stated that the authors and editorial staff are “trying to make the journey of how we get there interesting.”

He used the example of Jagged Fel, whom the Legacy comics revealed to be an emperor. There are things they want Jag to do before that happens.

For the record, Denning said that he didn’t know if he’d be involved or what was happening next in the EU.

As with most author talks, the subject turns to writing. The main piece of advice he had to give was, “It’s easier to fix it than do it right the first time.” It’s very true. Becoming bogged down in details and worrying if something is correct can ruin the stream of creativity. Yes, writers need to be aware of major details, but it’s not necessary to stop every few minutes to check previous pages.

Everyone needs an editor. Denning’s wife looks at his first drafts. He said that he finished Tatooine Ghost (the “chick book” he wouldn’t normally write) three weeks before the deadline, handed it to his wife and she told him to tell them he’d be late. One of the issues was an overuse of Chewbacca to the point where he was practically in Han and Leia’s bedroom. The reason for his constant appearance was that it was the first time Chewie’d appeared in a book after his death in Vector Prime.

Writer’s block is something we’ve all encountered. Countless writers offer various reason and ways to beat back the beast.

According to Denning, writer’s block occurs when a person is “really not prepared to write.” After he said it, I realized that there was some truth to that. While I don’t think it’s true all of the time (especially regarding news articles), the lack of inspiration or ideas is the root cause of many cases of writer’s block.

Overall, I’d consider the evening rather informative. His “chick book” remark was rather off-putting and a cause for concern. It was clear that he has a passion for Star Wars, especially Han and Leia.

Now to read Apocalypse to see how Denning’s latest entry into the EU is.

Check out the video of his talk here:

Huge thanks to my husband for recording it.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, FotJ, Jacen Solo, Star Wars, Troy Denning