Tuesday 29 June 2010

Book Reviews

Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi: Omen
Christie Golden
Arrow Books
Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Forbidden to intervene in Jedi affairs, Luke Skywalker is on a desperate mission to uncover the truth behind what's turning peaceful Jedi into raving lunatics. But finding answers will mean venturing into the mind-bending space of the Kathol Rift and bargaining with an alien species as likely to destroy outsiders as deal with them. Still, there is no other choice and no time to lose, as the catastrophic events on Coruscant continue to escalate.

But an even greater threat is looming. Millennia in the past, a Sith starship crashed on an unknown low-tech planet, leaving the survivors stranded. Over the generations, their numbers have grown, the ways of the Dark Side have been nurtured, and the time is fast approaching when this lost tribe of Sith will once more take to the stars to reclaim their legendary destiny as rulers of the galaxy. Only one thing stands in their way, a name whispered to them through the Force: Skywalker.

I'm generally a pretty big fan of the Expanded Universe when it comes to Star Wars, and there have only been a handful of books that I've found to be below the standard that some of the better ones have set. It is with regret that I say that this particular novel does little to distinguish itself from some of the more average novels among the Expanded Universe.

There are some positive points, as with all the novels. The chase scenes, involving some of the Jedi who have gone insane due to unknown reasons, necessitating Skywalker's exile into the Unknown Regions, are well done and exciting. The characters, like all novels in the series, are well-developed, and at no point is there any unnecessary emphasis on one character over another (beyond the sensible points anyway, this is after all about Luke and Ben Skywalker, as a series). The series is also doing a bang-up job of teasing what's coming next, as well as developing the timeline in the background.

However, this novel really does feel like a step in the direction of the story's ultimate conclusion, and a novel that really deals in filling in the story rather than a staggering story-based progression. The ending is really good, ending on a cliffhanger, but other than that the story sort of plods along, in particular with the Sith timeline, which doesn't really have much in the way of action going on. This is all designed to build to a big event, which I understand begins in the third book proper, but the book sort of has a pace problem as a result.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : A few action set-pieces, largely based around the escape and capture of crazy Jedi.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : Some of the traditional Star Wars language, but some of the characters have been known to swear, yeah.
Summary: A reasonable book, but at the same time feels like a step on the road to a big plot point rather than an action-packed instalment. 6/10
Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi: Allies
Christie Golden
Arrow Books
Available Now - £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

What began as a quest for truth has become a struggle for survival for Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben. They have used the secrets of the Mindwalkers to transcend their own bodies and speak with the spirits of the fallen, risking their very lives in the process. They have faced a team of Sith assassins and beaten the odds to destroy them. And now the death squad's sole survivor, Sith apprentice Vestara Khai, has summoned an entire fleet of Sith frigates to engage the embattled father and son. But the dark warriors come bearing a surprising proposition that will bring Jedi and Sith together in an unprecedented alliance against an evil more ancient and alien than they can imagine.

While the Skywalkers and their Sith allies set off on their joint mission into the treacherous web of black holes that is the Maw, Han and Leia Solo risk arrest and worse to aid the Jedi imprisoned back on Coruscant. Tyrannical Chief of State Natasi Daala has issued orders that will open a permanent schism between her government and the Jedi Order - a schism that could turn all Jedi into renegades and wanted criminals.

But it is in the depths of the Maw that the future of the galaxy will be decided. For there the Skywalkers and their Sith allies will engage a true monster in battle, and Luke will come face-to-face with a staggering truth.

This book is absolutely fantastic in terms of build-up, with the main premise of the book being the fact that the Jedi Ben and Luke Skywalker are forced to team with a Sith apprentice, all the while with an entire Sith armada of spaceships bearing down on them. Their trip takes them into the Maw, where they believe the source of the Jedi madness lies.

The characters and sub-plots are well developed in this book. You have the Jedi learning about the Sith, the Sith learning about the entire galaxy, Chief of State Daala trying to keep order without reverting back to the old Imperial ways, and a really intriguing sub-plot about an underground anti-slavery resistance building up across the entire galaxy. It's a really interesting addition to the series, and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

However, this book becomes a bit of a let down at the very end of the novel, with the event that the series has been building up to coming up very quickly, and being a little bit of a disappointment. The book even brings back a very old character from the Expanded Universe as one of the most pointless returns ever. On the plus side: Lando!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A few scenes, especially the final battle, although it's slightly anti-climactic.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some Star Wars-specific bad language.
Summary: A great build-up building to a slightly disappointing anticlimax, but with some serious potential for future instalments. 7/10
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown Book Group

Available Now - £11.99 (Hardback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the Newborn Army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

Having read all of Stephenie’s other novels, I have the same unpleasant taste in my mouth that I got after having watch Chris Weitz’s film adaptation of New Moon. This book feels lazy and uninspiring - here was an opportunity for Meyer to shine, having gained so much more experience of being an author. When she wrote Twilight she had never written a book...she was hungry and excited, but still a novice. The Twilight Saga is her bread and butter; this is how she made her money, which makes this novella even more disappointing because it adds nothing to the books or a greater understanding of the characters.

I can understand why she was so attracted to the character of Bree in the first place, she is a brave young girl who the leader of her coven in order to stay alive. However I do not believe that novella really expands upon her as a character; it only really describes the nature of new born vampires - something that Meyer goes in to a lot of detail in Breaking Dawn. The style of writing that Meyer uses is different to the other novels and it is so much less emotive and descriptive. I know what you are thinking...all of the other books are written from the perception of Bella. Well you are wrong! Breaking Dawn was written through Jacob and Bella’s eyes and although the characters reactions are different, the style of writing is the same.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
To be fair to the book it was fairly violent.
Sex/Nudity: Some snogging, it’s always a PG when it comes to petting in Stephenie Meyer’s books.
Swearing: None.
Summary: In the words of Edward Cullen, this book “is like a human only eating tofu, it's filling but never quite satisfies.”. 5/10
The Dark King and The Lightning Tower
Dan Abnett & Graham McNeill
Black Library

Available Now - £10.00 (CD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Great Crusade is ended. Mankind dominates the stars, but when the favoured son of the Emperor, Horus, falls from grace, brother will turn on brother and the galaxy will burn. This is the Horus Heresy. This is the death of worlds. This is the Imperium’s darkest hour.

In The Dark King, Konrad Curze begins his descent into insanity, attacking his brother-primarch Rogal Dorn and setting down the path that will see him become the Night Haunter.

In The Lightning Tower, Rogal Dorn must tear down the beauty of the Emperor’s Palace, preparing it for the coming armies of Horus. As he builds a fortress fit for the imminent conflict, he must face the prospect of confronting those he once called “brother” on the battlefield.

Atmosphere is the name of the game for this first audiobook-only release for Warhammer 40,000, and that it delivers in spades. The music, the sound effects, the production – everything is simply superb. Narrator Danny Webb turns in a simply awesome performance, nailing every character, and making them all distinctive, for ease of listening. If I didn’t already know different, I would have presumed that it was a full cast dramatisation.

The backing effects are obvious, but never intrusive, acting as sonic illustrations to the stories. Storm bolters fire, daemons gurgle, ships blast off, Terminator armour clanks, and it never seems overwhelming. This is how most audiobooks should be.

The stories themselves are hardly action packed, but as a duology of sombre mood pieces and character studies, they are superb. Fans of Warhammer 40,000, and The Horus Heresy series in particular, owe it to themselves to check this out. Well worth the price of admission. Casual fans may be less impressed by the lack of action – but I for one hope Black Library release more audiodramas (two more are already in the offing)...they have a lot of potential.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Grim Darkness. Far Future. One thing. You know the deal by now.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some very mild.
Summary: An impressively mastered piece of radio theatre. Fans of audiodramas and WH40K will be impressed, casual fans may want to wait for something with a little more kick to it. 8/10

The multi-award winning Beyond the Pole will make it’s highly anticipated U.K. DVD and Blu-ray debut on 5th July 2010.

Brian Tongue and Mark Bark Jones (Stephen Mangan - Green Wing) are setting out on the first Carbon Neutral, Vegetarian, and Organic expedition ever to attempt the North Pole. As a world first they have high hopes of getting into the Guinness Book of Records and, if all goes well, of saving the planet from Global Warming.

Unfortunately they have never done anything like this before, and they hadn’t reckoned on the polar bears, the cocky gay Norwegians, played by True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård and Lars Arentz-Hansen, or on Mark’s rapidly loosening grip on reality.

Packed full of sidesplitting adventures, Beyond the Pole is certainly a film not to be missed this summer and to celebrate its release we’re giving away a copy of the film on DVD.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question…

Stephen Mangan starred in which hit TV series?

a. Green Fluff
b. Green Wing
c. Green Zone

Send your answers in to beyondthepolegiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 6th July to be in with a chance of winning this awesome movie!

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