Lords of the Sith

As I mentioned in this post, I’m embarking on reading the Star Wars canon.  The next installment is Lords of the Sith.  Chronologically, this occurs just after the events of the film Revenge of the Sith.  Anakin, now Darth Vader, has teamed up with Darth Sidious and is now flying around the galaxy shoring up the power of the newly formed Empire.  But not everyone is ok with the Empire’s un-weakening grasp of power.  On the planet of Ryloth, there’s a growing rebellion against the empire.  Due to their determined rebellion, they have made it on the Emperor’s radar and he makes his way there to quell their rebelliousness.  Fighting ensues.

Sith This was a too predictable read. Characters were saved from what should’ve been their death only so they could make it to the final showdown. From the beginning I could tell who was going to be saved for later and who was going to be thrown to the wolves, i.e. droids.  It wasn’t good story telling.  And while I know that the Emperor and Vader are super-Siths, there was just too much chaos for both of them to be so ho-hum about everything.  But then it hit me; maybe they are the first hipsters.  And if they are, does that make all true hipsters Sith lords?  Or are they just cranky Jedi?  I digress…

Then there was the martyr who was set up too early in the novel. I can’t use gender because it would give it away, but before you’re a quarter of the way through, you know to whom I’m referring.  It was just a countdown before it happened. And as we drew nearer to the final show down, you knew what the outcome was going to be.

The world and the story were entertaining, but not as good as the previous novel in the series. Don’t set you’re expectations too high for this one.

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The Dark Disciple

With the Star Wars: Episode VII premiering in December, I thought it might be time to tap into my nerd-side.  I have some coworkers who read the Star Wars books when they were younger and talked about the relationship between the books and the films, so why not launch into a new series for the new year?  Things got complicated from the get go.  When Disney acquired Star Wars’ rights, they re-hauled the cannon and aligned the movies, tv shows, and new books to tell the story based solely on the movies that have been released and those that are in pre-production.  This means that there’s now what’s called “cannon” aka everything since Disney bought the rights, and “legends” aka what was written prior to Disney’s acquisition.  I decided for now to stick with the cannon and then venture over into the legends realm.
Dark Disciple is the first book in the cannon, but is not first chronologically.  Phantom DiscipleMenance (film), Attack of the Clones (film), and The Clone Wars (TV) all come before it.  But the story picks up before Revenge of the Sith (film).  I’ve seen the movies but not the tv series.  Incidentally, I’ve now gone full bore and launched into the 6 seasons show.  I may never find my way out of all of this.  Back to the book.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Maybe because I lowered my expectations that I liked it so much. I figured this wasn’t going to be a work of high literature, but I was looking for something was entertaining, world building, and with good, sincere character building.  I didn’t want anything too pretentious.  Luckily, that’s what this is.
It’s an entertaining read, not too thought provoking, but that was a good thing. It’s Star Wars after all.  Not Aristotle.  However, that’s not to say there weren’t any discussion points along the way.  One of the more prominent is what is good and what is bad?  And how much bad do we need to exhibit before there’s no coming back?  Can good dabble in bad and still be good?  But none of this felt put upon.  I think I saw it mostly because that’s what I do for a living is to find meaning from everything, whether it’s meaningful on purpose or not.
Overall, it’s well written enough that neither the plot nor the characters distracted me from enjoying this read. I didn’t like how the love interest interfered towards the end, but any damage was avoided in the end. Some of the background characters were flat, but not annoying.  Anakin, who annoys the hell out of me, was kept very far in the background.  If only the same could be said for Episodes I, II, and III.

August: Osage County

Several years ago I took a modern American drama course.  One of the first Journeyplays we read was Eugen O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.  It broke me.  It’s the story of one family’s intricate relationships complicated by one of the character’s addictions.  What touched me the most was the complex relationship the character’s had with one another-the guilt, the anger, the frustration, the love.  All of the layered emotions in each relationship felt very authentic.  Too authentic.  It was hard not to project the relationships I have with my family onto the characters.

Since then I haven’t been able to find another work that has touched me quite the same way.  Until I watched, August: Osage County (2013).  I didn’t know anything about the film, other than it garnered some award season buzz, but didn’t haul much in, if I remember correctly.  As for the story, I just knew there was a death in the family and family drama ensued.  Little did I know that it was based on a play and one that had all the trappings of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

The film tells back story without sacrificing momentum.  Each of the characters is fleshed out using sharp dialogue and superb acting.  I expected nothing less from the main stars, Meryl Streep and Margot Martindale, but I was delightfully impressed with Julia Roberts.  I’m not a big fan of hers, but this role brought out a side of her I’ve never seen.  Instead of being pretentious and overreaching, I felt that she was committed to the role and sincere in her delivery.

Just like Long Day’s, this film’s portrayal of a family doing what families do, and being what families are spoke Augustto me in a way that few films do.  I couldn’t help identifying characters in my own family and extended family in the film’s cast.  While the ending is vague, it’s not the completion of the journey, it’s the journey itself.  I like endings that give proper denouement to the plot, but this time I didn’t care.  I feel like the journey to the conclusion of the film was reward enough.

The characters and the plot are equally layered.  And as the film progresses, each of these layers are introduced and developed.  Like a good dessert each time a new layer is a new sensation and mixes rather than over powers the previous layers.  By the time we get halfway into the film, I was hooked.  I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next.

Out of five stars I give it…five stars.  I recommend this to anyone who enjoys family dramas that get at the heart at what it means to be a part of a family.  Also, since it’s based on a play, I will be reading and reviewing the play in the future.  I look forward to it.  But don’t take my word for it.

Flatland

This is the second audio book that I’ve listened.  I prefer to read books rather than to have books read to me.  However, Flatland by Edwin Abbott, was a better audio book than print.  It allowed me to multi-task because the book bored me to death.  I wouldn’t have started it in the first place, but I’m determined to finish all of the books that my book club chooses to read.

Flatland is a Victorian satire, and not well done at that.  Flatland is a one Flatlanddimensional world made up of shapes like circles, rectangles, squares, hexagons, etc.  Each shape is part of a certain caste, e.g. women, soldiers, isosceles, gentlemen, and priests.  There’s no real plot rather a collection of anecdotes that share daily life in Flatland.

The first part of the novel is the narrator, who is a citizen of Flatland, describing the people, their society, their housing, blah blah blah.  Mr. Abbott does not understand the concept of show not tell.  He tells everything for the first 75 pages.  I believe he does it to try and set up the world and do it using, what I’m sure he believes, is a comical narrator.  Instead, it instilled in me a numb boredom and turned me off from the novel.

Some of the details do reveal satire about the Victorian era.  How colors and shapes determine who can marry who and what your place in society.  How men and women are kept, by laws, in separate castes.  The women are not expected to be smart and thus are not taught to read, write, or count.  Male children are taught two languages, the simple one of their female family members, and the more complex language of their male members.  I’ll allow Mr. Abbott some credit for tackling these issues that have plagued most Western societies, but particularly the Victorians who liked to categorize everyone into boxes and not allowing anyone out of those boxes.

I wouldn’t recommend this book at all.  Instead, if you’re interested in British satire, I would have you read Jonathan Swift or Charles Dickens.  This was not a good book at all.  Read at your own risk.

 

Casino Royale

I’m a glutton for a good series.  It’s been awhile since I’ve launched myself into a series and committed to seeing it through.  Since it’s a New Year why not launch a new commitment to a series?  But to what series?  I decided to try one I haven’t read before, but have always wanted to.  And I wanted something that I wasn’t going to get bogged down in (i.e. Game of Thrones. Been there.  Done That). Having seen Spectre (The latest James Bond film), I decided to give the classic spy novel franchise a try.

CasinoThe other reason that I wanted to give Ian Fleming’s well known novels a chance is that I’ve recently identified why I come and go on things labeled “action”, like books and movies.  I’m more into the whodunit, thriller, mind-bending action, e.g. Jason Bourne and James Bond, rather than the shoot ’em up and bombs a la John McLean and Jason Statham.  Plus,  Casino Royale was the first Bond film that I actually enjoyed and felt had a good story.

The novel, Casino Royale, didn’t have as much action as I had wanted, but it did still have the espionage and secrecy one would expect from Bond.  There weren’t any fights until the torture seen between Le Chifre and Bond which I think was better depicted in the book than the film.  I was surprised that I was still engaged in the novel even with the lack of action.  I think it shows that Fleming knows how to tell a good story.

One of the major critiques of the novel was its rampant misogyny.  Fleming didn’t even try and mask it.  Bond is not happy that he has to work with a female agent, Vesper Lynd, and comments that women aren’t to be colleagues, “women are for recreation”.  What?!?  He continues to make small comments like this, but as he gets to know Vesper, he stops the comments.  But I feel like it’s only because she and he engage in some “recreation”.

I’m going to keep reading the series, particularly because I look forward to seeing how Bond reacts to the events of the conclusion of the novel.  If you’ve seen the book, you know what I mean.  I’m curious to see if the misogyny continues or whether that was just something specific to this novel, and his relationship with Vesper changes that.