Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Book Reviews

Star Wars - Fate of the Jedi: Conviction
Aaron Allston
Arrow Books/Random House
Available Now - £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala's draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counterstrike. And even the Jedi's new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon. Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers' quest threatens to become a suicide mission.

A series that is now coming up on its climax after spanning more than half a dozen entries with more yet to come, the Fate of the Jedi story arc has seen all sorts of twists and turns along the way. It’s natural, therefore, that there is quite a lot to do in the last three novels, of which this is the first. Luke and Ben Skywalker have to make progress in their hunt for the dark side entity Abeloth, Han and Leia are sent to some of the political hotspots which have been developing over the course of the series, and there’s also the matter of Tahiri’s trial, which has occupied a tremendous amount of time.

Thankfully, the utter clusterfuck that all those events suggest is nowhere to be found, and the book itself is considerably more coherent than you might expect from hearing the description. With the considerable amount of storytelling, however, it was really nice to see some elements developed further, such as the Horn children, previously encased in carbonite due to a madness afflicting certain Jedi, unthawed and travelling the galaxy again. Without going into too much detail about their state on leaving carbonite, I will say that their objective ties in heavily with Luke and Ben’s.

The characters don’t really need too much talking about in this scenario, simply because...well, it’s Star Wars. If you don’t know the characters by now, you’re not reading this review to see if you want the book. The settings, however, take the characters from Klatooine all the way to Nam Chorios (which for me personally is one of the downsides, as I found Planet of Twilight to be one of the weaker stories in the EU) and deal with a variety of colourful characters. One of my personal favourites, Kyp Durron, has a small part in the story, and the Jedi themselves in general are developing really well in terms of countering both domestic problems and the rise of the Sith.

All in all, the story is really well done, but it’s one of those stories that requires a heavy investment in previous EU, particularly the few books leading up to this, so it’s by no means for every single fan of the franchise. However, if you’re collecting the series and wonder if it’s worth getting, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. Just maybe wait for the price to drop a little, hardback books are still a little on the costly side in my opinion.

If I had one thing to say about the book, it’s that there’s absolutely tons of buildup, and then the ending is a little bit of a damp squib. However, the ending does set up a rather tasty final couple of instalments, and it will be very interesting to see how events proceed from here.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lightsaber battles, Jedi and Sith abound.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Only franchise-specific words.
Summary: The series ramps up further and further, I’m awaiting the conclusion with baited breath and so should you! 8/10
13 Bullets
David Wellington
Little, Brown

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

All the official reports say they are dead - extinct since the late '80s, when a fed named Jameson Arkeley nailed the last vampire in a fight that nearly killed him. But the evidence proves otherwise. When a state trooper named Caxton calls the FBI looking for help in the middle of the night, it is Arkeley who gets the assignment - who else? He's been expecting such a call. Sure, it's been years since any signs of an attack, but Arkeley knows what most people don't: there is one left. In an abandoned asylum she is rotting, plotting and biding her time in a way that only the undead can.

But the worst thing is the feeling that the vampires want more than just Caxton's blood. They want her for a reason, one she can't guess; a reason her sphinxlike partner knows but won't say; a reason she has to find out or die trying. Now there are only thirteen bullets between Caxton and Arkeley and the vampires. There are only thirteen bullets between us, the living, and them, the damned.

If you’ve been looking for an action packed book, then we’ve found it for you. If you’re tired of vampires as romantic, occasionally tragic, figures and want them to be evil, violent monster (ie. what a vampire should be), then we’ve found the book for you.

13 Bullets is paced like a 1980s horror novel, but unlike a lot of authors from this era who have never been able to evolve or update, (Hutson, I’m looking at you), 13 Bullets has managed to keep the vibe of the genre, but also be smart, hyperviolent and satisfying to read.
The pacing is incredible, there are some scenes that even I found scary (no mean feat – I’ve been reading horror for longer than some of our readers have been alive), and plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Pulp horror at its absolute finest, and an essential read this year.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Stabbing, shooting, explosions, traffic collisions, punching, torture, death, evisceration, extreme blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Full female nudity. References to lesbian sex.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: A rip-roaring return to form for the vampire novel and a fantastic ‘Fuck You’ to the Twilight generation. Pulp action/horror at its absolute best. 10/10

DON'T LOOK NOW GIVEAWAY

Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest horror films ever made, Nicolas Roeg's (The Man Who Fell To Earth, Bad Timing) masterful Don't Look Now is based on Daphne Du Maurier's shattering short story.


Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie give career-best performances as John and Laura Baxter, an art restorer and his wife struggling to recover from the trauma of their daughter's accidental drowning. To assuage their grief, the young British couple travel to wintry Venice, on a working holiday to restore a church. Once there, they get involved with two otherworldly sisters, Heather and Wendy (Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania), one of whom is a blind medium who insists she can get them in touch with their late daughter and warns them of danger.

A truly original work that blends psychological thriller with a disturbing sense of the macabre, Don't Look Now also offers a profound and poignant mediation on love and loss. Making evocative use of its disquieting, out-of-season setting, an emerging generation of directors (not least Steven Soderbergh) have cited the film as an infuence, ensuring that its reputation as a modern classic continues to grow.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Don't Look Now on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 28th June, making sure to put "Don't Look Now" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Don't Look Now" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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