Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare

They don't call it Star Peace for a reason, authors Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart put the war in Star Wars with the latest edition in the Essential Guide series, Star Wars: Essential Guide to Warfare.

This book has long been in development originally planned to be the Essential Guide to the Star Wars Military was announced in 2008 and to be authored by Karen Traviss before her Ba'slan shev'la from the galaxy far, far away.

Image from
I have been a constant reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe since it's modern rebirth under Timothy Zahn in the early 1990s, but early in the EU the Essential Guide line was something that while I read felt rather shallow.  This first generation of EG's as defined by Wookieepedia ended with the EG to Alien Species, later we saw a second generation of books along the same subject lines updated and re-branded as "new."  I didn't pay close attention to this second generation as it largely came during the Dark Times of my personal fandom.  My return to the Essential Guide line came with 2007's Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force by Ryder Windham.

The addition of new original content as well as a gigantic leap forward in the artistic illustrations in the books really began for me with the Essential Guide to the Force.  This book was by the breathtakingly geeky Essential Atlas by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry, which took fictional stellar cartography to unparalleled heights.

As a Star Wars book nerd, my most anticipated EG book is Pablo Hidalgo's forthcoming The Essential Reader's Companion.  That being said, Del Rey's Star Wars Facebook page has been releasing sneak peaks of The Essential Guide to Warfare's artwork for awhile now and my excitement has been slowly building.

What authors Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart deliver in this book far exceeded my expectations and sent my inner fanboy into fits of giggles.

The Essential Guide to Warfare reads like an exceptionally well done college history seminar textbook.  You have a mixture of secondary source accounts, primary source excerpts along with a historical narrative and technical discussion.  It is the synthesis of all these elements that comes together so well.

Before I go any farther it would be a shame not to mention the many artists who contributed some really imaginative and fun pieces of art to this book.  Much of this books impressiveness is do to the work of;
Drew Baker, Tommy Lee Edwards, Ian Fullwood, Ansel Hsiao, Stephan Martiniere, Modi, Jason Palmer, Chris Scalf, Dave Seeley, Darren Tan, John Vanfleet, Bruno Werneck, and Paul Youll.
Image from Star Wars Books Facebook
The book covers the entire span of conflict in the Star Wars universe from its earliest beginnings to the events in Dark Horse Comics' Legacy series.  Mixed into the overall historical narrative there are detailed break downs of the ships and technology of war, profiles of important military leaders, detailed campaign maps and a bit of gallows humor thrown in for fun.

There is a tremendous amount of character depth and world building going on in this book, by creating in-universe primary source documents and secondary source accounts we get facts that had previously been created in various sources from role-playing guides to novels coalesce to give you what feels like the author's where sitting between the stacks of the Celebratus Archive at Obroa-skai juggling sheets of flimsi and data-tapes.

Without giving away all the goodies in the book, there were a few sections that made me totally geek out; the inclusion of D'harhan, Han Solo, the Ewoks, and Kal Skirata made this a tremendously enjoyable read.

Hardcore Clone Trooper, Mandalorian and Republic Commando fans will be most happy, we may not have gotten Omega Squad, the Null-ARCs or the Mando training sergeants in The Clone Wars animated series yet, but ....  Go buy The Essential Guide to Warfare and you may still be grinning like this impressed fanboy.

New Exhibits at Legoland California's Star Wars Miniland

I went up to Legoland California last year to check out the Star Wars Miniland, it looks like I am going to have to make a return engagement as they have added new exhibits to the Star Wars area of the park today.

 Legoland California is scheduled to unveil its expanded "Star Wars" Miniland section to the public Thursday, including a 50-pound Jawa sandcrawler made up of 15,000 Lego bricks. 
Other new models will be introduced, as well, including representations of the ion cannon in the Rebel base on the planet Hoth, a Crystal City building and a model of the giant opee sea killer on Naboo.

A dozen characters will be represented as 3-foot-tall mini figures that will be on display in the "Star Wars" Gallery. Each figure was constructed from about 10,000 Lego bricks.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My latest Clone Wars Season 5 Speculation on The Star Wars Report: Darth Maul: Underworld Crime Lord

Please head over to SWR and check out my overactive imagination about where Darth Maul's story could go in Season Five of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Click Image below for LINK: 

Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill Cover Art Makeover

New Cover Art
Del Rey released revised cover art work for the forthcoming Aaron Allston novel, X-Wing: Mercy Kill.

The new cover art superimposes a silver background and Alliance Starbird logo over the original cover art.  This is kind of similar to coloring and use of symbols that we saw on the Shadow Games cover.

Personally I much prefer the original cover art, not only do we loose some interesting new artwork with the change, but the previous cover fit in better with the rest of the X-Wing series covers.  With respect to the good folks at Del Rey, I have enjoyed most of the covers recently (Choices of One not withstanding) but this strikes me as one photoshop too far.

Old Cover Art
Let us take a look at the cover art for the other books in the series:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Timothy Zahn's Next Star Wars Novel: Scoundrels

*3/23/12 UPDATE*

Timothy Zahn provided an update via Facebook regarding the cast of characters that will appear in his next novel.
 An additional note:
I've noticed that speculation has already begun as to the identities of the rest of the scoundrels. Just to make it clear: while there may be a name or two you recognize, most of the rest of the group will be new characters. (Many of Han's old established cohorts are smugglers, and we're going to need *slightly* different skill sets on this one.) today released the front cover art for New York Times Best Selling Author Timothy Zahn's next Star Wars novel.

Star Wars: Scoundrels will be set during the OT (Original Trilogy) and will feature the tumultuous trio of Han, Chewie and Lando, along with a motley crew of other characters in an Oceans 11 style heist story.

We had already gotten a brief description of the novel, but today we got the sharp looking cover art and the official description of the novel from the publisher Del Rey.

The Death Star has been destroyed. The Rebellion has had its first big victory. And Han Solo, newly conscripted to the Rebel cause, is on the run from the Empire and the bounty hunters eager to turn him in for the huge reward being offered by Jabba the Hutt. Now a mysterious stranger offers Han the resources to execute a daring robbery from a major crime lord. The mission is impossible, but the prize will make Han a free man. With no choice but to accept, Han Solo and his Wookiee partner, Chewbacca, set out to assemble a cast of rogues, knaves, and cons with the right combination of wits, skills, and derring-do to pull off an operation of this complexity and scale — the best scoundrels the galaxy has to offer. And then the game is on: a rip-roaring, intergalactic, Ocean’s Eleven-style heist adventure starring Han Solo, Chewie, and Lando Calrissian, written by #1 New York Times bestselling Star Wars author Timothy Zahn!

Chris over at has a terrific column discussion who the potential Solo's 11 could be.  Please go give it a read.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Did you like the Fate of the Jedi series cover art?

The most recently completed Star Wars novel series, Fate of the Jedi featured a very unique style of cover art. This art was produced by the firm Keltie Cochrane under a four year contract.

Keltie Cochrane's Creative Director Ian Keltie dropped what was some interesting news to me in a story on The Northern Echo regarding the firms work with Lucasfilm.

"A hidden gem to the project was that in order to create the artwork I was given the passwords to the Star Wars image vault which is full of the original photography and behind the scenesimagery, which I had to promise to never share - I felt honoured to be part of a privileged few with something that was so special to so many people."

So Lucasfilm has a top secret Image Vault? Add that to the "Holocron" and George Lucas' Notebook on my Star Wars Bucket List of things to get my hands on.

This of course lead me to a few questions:

Did you like the FotJ series cover art? free polls 
What kind of Star Wars cover art do you enjoy? free polls 

"Big Announcement" coming from Del Rey on Thursday March 22nd

Del Rey Star Wars Editor Erich Schoeneweiss announced via Twitter that, "  fans, big announcement coming tomorrow from Del Rey. ." 

What could this be?  

Best bet is an official announcement regarding the title and topic of Paul S. Kemp's Duology Book #1.  I could also see it being a new contract extension, as the current licensing agreement between Lucasfilm and Del Rey runs through 2013.  Perhaps the success of Darth Plagueis has inspired them to raise another cancelled book from the dead and we will get the Boba Fett stand alone novel that Karen Traviss was suppose to write.

Check back here tomorrow after the news breaks for my reaction to the "big announcement."

Also follow Del Rey's new official Twitter feed at @DelReyStarWars 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm will grab your attention and drag you from the heights of Heaven to the depths of Hell in this divine little tale.

Publisher's Description:

Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.“No.”

Holm deftly weaves loads and loads of religious imagery and mythology into an urban thriller that features a chorus of morally tainted characters grappling with free will and the consequences of actions both natural and supernatural.

The story revolves around Soul Collector Sam Thornton and his would be collected soul, Kate.  Sam is just another demonic button pusher, until something strange happens when he attempts to collect Kate's soul.  Sam begins to doubt the veracity of his orders to collect Kate and when the implications of her collection dawn on him, his mission changes quickly instead of her executioner he becomes her protector.  Sam soon finds that there are those in both heaven and hell that are after him, with more enemies then they have answers Sam and Kate are forced to make some strange alliances and some very risky actions in an attempt to survive.

Holm does a tremendous job filling out his cast of supporting characters on both sides of the heavenly divide. Fans of religious imagery and fictional works set against religion, will really enjoy this book. The way Holm approaches demonic possession gives the book added suspense, and the rules and world building that he does is much like you would commonly find in a vampire novel.  Holm details his characters abilities and characteristics in a way that give them an internal logic that works.

For Star Wars fans, if you enjoyed Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived by Paul S. Kemp, you should like this novel and will finds some interesting similarities between Sam and the character of Zeerid (Z-Man) Korr.

Dead Harvest proves the point that a hero isn't someone pure of soul, but someone who would sacrifice his soul for what is right.  Dead Harvest gets Lightsaber Rattling's full-hearted endorsement and the good news is that the subtitle, "The Collector Book One" tells us there will be more where this came from.

You can read a sample of Dead Harvest courtesy of Angry Robot Books below:

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 4.22 "Revenge"

So this Darth Maul guys is pretty cool.  
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."Savage and Maul, now reunited, pursue Obi-Wan Kenobi in search of revenge, and the Jedi Knight finds himself forced to unite with a surprising ally to defend against the deadly siblings.
I could spend a lot of time dissecting this episode, but realistically just go watch it.  This was so much better then last week's episode.  

To briefly recap:

Savage takes Maul back to Mother Talzin on Dathomir, who uses her magic to coax the crazy Maul out of the cargo bay to the Nightsister alter and works her magicks on Maul.  Talzin's work done she disappears and Maul and Savage stop at Raydonia to slaughter a bunch of innocent victims.  Personally I would have just placed a call to the Jedi Temple, but wholesale slaughter probably gets you past the operator quicker.

Obi-Wan decides to go face Maul alone, but conveniently Ventress decides to take a bounty on Savage Opress and ends up arriving just in time to save Obi-Wan's butt.  Obi-Wan of course wasn't expecting to face both Maul and Opress and gets his butt all kinds of kicked.  

A tag team match breaks out aboard the Zabrak's ship and Obi-Wan and Ventress cut and run, launching in the escape pod for parts unknown.  Maul and Opress are left aboard the freighter and use the auxiliary bridge to pilot the ship to their own unknown destination.  

I found it interesting that Talzin worked her magicks on Maul, but as soon as he regain consciousness she dissolved into green mist and high tailed it out of town.  Was she afraid of the power of a Sith Lord and potentially unpredictable character like Maul, or did she simply have nothing left to contribute at this point.  I really wonder about her motivations at this point.

It is cool to see Ventress hanging out with the Bounty Hunters at the Cantina, I dig her purple bounty hunter costume.  It reminded me of some bounty hunter in the wild west walking up to the bulletin board and tearing off a wanted poster before going after their targets.

I thought the initial battle between Obi-Wan and Maul and Opress was well done.  The animation conveyed the strength advantage that Opress had over Obi-Wan and just how formidable of an adversary he would be.  Poor Obi-Wan got knocked out pretty quick, but of course Maul commits the classic villain mistake of toying with his prey and well eventually Obi-Wan manages to escape.

The four way battle aboard the freighter was interesting, I love the banter between Obi-Wan and Asajj and as much as I am sure Obi-Wan would deny it, I think there is some real chemistry between the characters.  The battle between Maul and Obi-Wan felt a lot like the Vader-Luke duel aboard the second Death Star, as Obi-Wan slipped briefly into anger and went on the offensive, just like Luke did.  

It was interesting to see Obi-Wan come to the realization that he and Asajj were over matched and decide to flee.  Of course I am not sure how Obi-Wan knew that the ship's cockpit also was an escape pod, but lets just chalk that up to the Jedi being well read on ship designs.  

Where does this epsiode leave these four characters.  Obi-Wan and Asajj are together, but Obi-Wan is in a curious position.  Logically because of her actions as a Separatist and his role as a Jedi, Obi-Wan should be duty bound to return Asajj to Coruscant and to a Republic prison.  On the other hand she just saved his life, so does he do the right thing and drop her off somewhere?  It is not like she could completely change and become a Jedi at this point, there is no way the Order would accept her.  But perhaps Obi-Wan's long term goal is to redeem Asajj.

It is curious that Savage and Maul don't go after the fleeing escape pod.  With the final line of the episode Maul says that he is counting on the Jedi to come hunting for them.  What is Maul's first move after this? Does he seek out his former Master?  Does he find a place to lay low, access the galactic situation and begin training Savage?  

Maul is really a wild card in the series now but it does have me wondering if they are setting up Ahsoka's fate. I wonder much like Obi-Wan sacrificing himself to Vader in Episode IV, if Ahsoka will end up sacrificing herself fighting Maul to save Anakin.  

I also wonder if Maul has been significantly weakened in the Force given he has lost half of his body.  We seem him in his first attempt to use the Force to summon his lightsaber, struggle a bit.  Is this simply being rusty after spending ten years insane with the only likely Force use being instinctual?  Or much like Vader, is Maul destined to be a pale imitation of the Sith Lord he should have been?  It is interesting that we saw very little Force use overall from Maul, especially no Force Lightning.  
Rating: Revenge gets a 10.  Tremendous episode, great sound design and visually stunning. 

Next time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season Five

No preview trailer for Season Five yet.  Last year we got a Season Four teaser trailer at WonderCon, but today (Sunday 3/18) is the final day of WonderCon 2012 and with no Star Wars: The Clone Wars programming scheduled for today it seems likely they are saving the trailer for a later convention, perhaps CVI or San Diego Comic-Con.  

We do have some very interesting possibilities with the new element of Darth Maul and Savage Opress introduced into the mix.  I for one am very curious to see how Palpatine reacts to the return of Maul.   

As always stay tuned to Lightsaber Rattling and I will provide you with the latest TCW news, commentary and speculation as we learn more about the future of the show. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the Ashes of Apocalypse: Where does the Star Wars Expanded Universe go after Fate of the Jedi?

Troy Denning's recently release Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse concludes the latest nine-book mega-series and sets up some potential story lines for future Expanded Universe novels to explore.  What are some of these potential plots and how would I like to see them explored?  Keep reading to find out, but be aware, massive spoilers will be discussed below.


1) Chume'da/Jedi Queen Allana Djo Solo

One of the major subplots of both the Fate of the Jedi series and it's predecessor the Legacy of the Force series is the destiny of Allana Djo Solo, the daughter of Jacen Solo and Hapan Queen Tenel Ka.

Apocalypse leaves the secret identity and the fact that Allana survived the Second Galactic Civil War revealed to all.  The Lost Tribe of the Sith learns from Vestara Khai of Allana's identity as the Jedi Queen seen in a vision by High Lord Sarasu Taalon.  It can also be assumed from the ending of the novel that the most likely destination for Vestara and Ship is with the One Sith.  So potentially the One Sith will be aware of the vision of a Jedi Queen and Allana's identity as that Queen of vision making her a big target.

The closing scenes of Apocalypse also have an official coming out of Allana, being announced as the Chume'da during the wedding ceremony of Jag and Jaina.  It also sets up future plans for Allana, where her time will be split between spending it with her Mom and at the new Jedi Temple on Shedu Maad.

It would be interesting to see Allana's Jedi training on Shedu Maad.  Could this be set up for another young adult or young reader series in the same vein as the Young Jedi Knights or Junior Jedi Knights series?  On the other hand it could simply be a recurring subplot in the adult fiction line, visited upon when it makes sense for the stand-alone book or series purposes.

2) Jag and Jaina's Honeymoon 

A lot of fans really enjoy the couple novels, whether it is the adventures of Luke and Mara or the adventures of Han and Leia, heck on of my favorite books is I, Jedi which in the end is all about Corran Horn trying to rescue his wife Mirax.

Now we have an interesting situation with Jaina's elevation to Master and Jag's Imperial burden being lifted from his shoulders.  Will Jaina take an apprentice?  Will Jaina and Jag spend some time traveling, spending time together and away from the craziness of the galaxy at large?  It would be cool to see a story focused on Jaina and Jag trying to go away on a honeymoon, only to stumble upon some minor adventure or crisis that they can solve.

3) Imperial Politicial thriller with Jag re-assuming power

Well Apocalypse certainly leaves some interesting connections to be made between this era of publishing and Dark Horse Comics' Legacy series.  If Jag Fel is no longer Imperial Head of State, then how does the Fel line of Emperor's come about.  Does Vitor Reige become the first Fel Emperor and merely take the name "Fel" as an honorific to pay tribute to the man that paved his way to power.  In ancient Rome, the name of Caeser became a title that every Emperor used.  Or will some crisis occur that leads Fel back to stabilize the Empire and assume the throne?

I am not sure which direction they will go, but I am very intrigued and I think now would be a good time for a two or three book series set in the Imperial Remnant.

4) Tahiri establishing the Imperial Knights

The fate of Tahiri, who is one of my personal favorite characters is one I am very interested in reading.  For a supporting character, she got a ton of  page time in Fate of the Jedi.  Denning did an interesting job in telling the story, as an Imperial prisoner and Force-sensitive bodyguard for Jag Fel, you could easily see her future in Imperial service.  On the other hand in her role in the Barabel rescue she is referred to by Master Sebatyne as "Jedi Veila," presumably marking the Jedi Order's forgiveness and acceptance of her within their ranks.

Tahiri is once again a character at a cross-roads with two viable choices ahead of her.  To me the more intriguing choice would be for her to join the Empire and be the one to establish the Imperial Knights.

5) What are the One Sith up to? 

While his identity is not called out specifically, the appearance of Darth Krayt was a huge connecting link between this series and the Dark Horse Comics series.  While the One Sith had appeared briefly in Legacy of the Force as well as Paul S. Kemp's Jaden Korr novels, this marks the One Sith as potentially a big bad for the SWEU for a new trilogy or even spanning multiple series.

6) A Ben Skywalker  novel

After reading the evolution of the Ben Skywalker character in the last two series, I think it is high time for Ben to get a book where he is the focus on his own adventure without his father being involved.  Give the character a real chance to breath as a young adult outside of his father's shadow.

I don't have an obvious mission or story idea for Ben, but I think something interesting could be crafted.

7) Hunt for Kesh

The dead Sith corpse in the room, is what exactly the Jedi intend to do about the Lost Tribe of the Sith.  The Jedi need some serious intelligence on this group and it strikes me that locating the planet Kesh is an essential mission for the Jedi to undertake.

8) Rescue of Raynar Thul

Poor Raynar Thul, finally pretty much healed physically and mentally from his time as UnuThul as a Killik joiner, Raynar is forced to potentially doom himself to that fate again to get the information the Jedi needed to stop Abeloth.

Will Raynar or the Killiks resist the Jedi's attempts to rescue Raynar.  Will the Chiss become involved or catch wind of this.  There are some interesting storytelling possibilities for this.

9) New Jedi Temple/Academy establishing story line

I know sometimes the Jedi Academy Trilogy gets trashed, but the idea of the Jedi Academy in some ways is more entertaining then the Master-Apprentice system that later EU books have returned to.  It's Harry Potter with lightsabers guys.  I wouldn't mind a return to more of a Jedi Academy instead of Jedi Temple feel on Shedu Maad.  I would love to see the introduction of a new generation of young Jedi to follow.

10) A return to Mandalore

Boba Fett, the Fett Nanovirus, and Mandalorian continuity are all  things I want to read more about.  Unfortunately anything involving the Mandalorians may have to wait until after The Clone Wars animated series.  I want more Fett, I want more of the Null ARCs and Republic Commandos.  There is no reason to expect Imperial Commando II  to be resurrected at this point, but It would be interesting to revisit these characters again after Fate of the Jedi.

11) The  Hunt for the Mortis Monolith 

Is this Troy Denning's Outbound Flight?  Denning sends ten Jedi Knights in StealthX's out in search of the Mortis Monolith and the Dagger of Mortis.  Will this be an open mission that continues until Mortis is found, or will it eventually be abandoned.  Will we actually have a story featuring the finding of Mortis and the return of Abeloth?  I tend to think, floating tentacles aside, that Abeloth won't resurface for a long while.  But I wonder what other mysteries or adventures Mortis could hold.  Conveniently it was never mentioned whom the Jedi Knights were who left on this mission, leaving their ultimate fate very up in the air.

12) Han, Leia and the Millennium Falcon's Empty Nest

With Allana dropping her false identity as Amelia, and returning to her mother, Han and Leia are left in an interesting position.  What do Han and Leia do now that all their kids and grand daughter are out of the house, do they simply walk off into retirement and settle at Casa de Tatooine?  Do they stay aboard the repaired (for the one trillionth time) Falcon and travel the galaxy?  What is in store for these two?  I have no idea but I have a feeling we will be seeing them and of course the droids again.

In the end Apocalypse left us with a ton of potential story lines in the Expanded Universe, these are just a few of the ones that stuck out at me.  What stories or characters are you looking forward to seeing set in the post-Fate of the Jedi time period?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 4.21 Brothers

What's up Bro-Sith?

It is entirely possible that I watched way, way to much Scooby-Doo as a child, because the entire first act of this weeks episode I kept seeing Savage Opress channeling Velma.  Jinkies he found a clue.  I am not sure if I will ever view the character again, next week I expect him to throw on a turtleneck and glasses.

"A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished."The dark warrior Savage Opress is on a quest to find his long-lost brother. Could Darth Maul truly be alive, after more than a decade since his gruesome bisection at the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Savage voyages into the depths of a twisted planet to find whatever became of the fallen Sith Lord.

He's Back!  In this Season's penultimate episode we finally see the long talked about return of Darth Maul to  the Star Wars universe.  In an episode that is mostly set up for next week, we see Savage Opress track down and finally find what remains of his brother.  Meanwhile we get a nice little collection of cameos as other characters are set up for next week's episode, featuring Anakin/Ahsoka, Ventress/Latts, and Obi-Wan/Yoda.  It's the Survivor Series, Clone Wars style.

Apparently Savage Opress didn't think his coffee at Plop Dribble's was very good because he choked out Sassi pretty brutally.  After taking out his waitress, Savage goes around sampling dust to make his amulet glow until his magik amulet lights up and Savage stows away then commandeers a ship to the planet Lotho Minor. I loved Will Nichols' design of the Turtle Tank ship.  One of my favorite new ships this season, I am sure it wouldn't do well in atmospheric flying, but on the ground and in space it is a very interesting and functional design.

There is a certain stiltedness to Savage's dialogue in this episode, I have already noticed some criticism of this on social media.  Let's rewind to the Nightsister's trilogy from last season, before his transformation by Mother Talzin and the Nightsister's magiks, Savage had rather normal dialogue.  After Savage was transformed into the "monster" that he became, he was much less vocal and what dialogue he had was much more stilted and much simpler.  It was almost as if his intelligence was clouded by the magiks that made him hulk out.

The Savage Opress we see in this season seems like his mental clarity has improved, while he still feels brutish, there is more intelligence behind it than was portrayed last season.

It is also interesting to see Opress' skills with the lightsaber looking much more advanced in his decimation of the Junkers.  I think someone has been practicing his skills.

While I am on the subject of the Junkers, I am wondering what exactly they are.  Visually it is pretty clear they are droids of some sort, but the Episode Guide concept art refers to the Junkers as a "creature."  Does this mean they are not droids?  Are they cyborgs of some sort like Grievous or are they some kind of sentient droid?  The concept of droid sentience is one of the more intriguing meta sub-plots that spans the Expanded Universe.

The planet Lotho Minor looks very much like The Force Unleashed's Raxus Prime. The galaxies landfill had me wondering about how Darth Maul got to the "Junk World."  Did he simply fall into some garbage chute during his fall in the core on Naboo, and get transported by droids to a garbage freighter and then unceremoniously deposited on Lotho Minor?

Savage likes to choke things, as he did with Maul's pet anacondan Morley.  Morley was an interesting character, we had seen a member of his species earlier this season serving as a bartender.  I think the casual way that Savage kills Morley helps illustrate the character's singular focus on his own goals and desires.  He is a cyclone of destruction that erases everything between himself and his goal.  The lives and feelings of other beings mean nothing to him, which makes me wonder if his desire to find his brother is purely selfish in nature.  It is pretty clear that the Clone Wars team is setting it up for Maul to take Savage as his apprentice next season and we will have a potential secondary line of Banite Sith running around the galaxy.  The question becomes will the familial bonds keep Maul and Savage united, or will Savage come to see them as chains which he must break to reach his destiny?  Will Savage eventually betray his brother, it would hardly be the first time after his murder of Feral.

The look of Maul himself was most impressive, I expected them to go with a spider-leg design much more like the B'omarr monks that inhabited Jabba's Palace.  The design they went with instead was a much rougher and more organic look.  Whether consciously or subconsciously it appears that Maul constructed or is holding together his "legs" with the Force.  It also is pretty clear that he is going to get a jazzy new set of droid legs in next week's episode.  It seems likely that he will be "healed" by Mother Talzin, i.e. the preparations that she was alluding to making.  Does she simply conjure his new legs like she did Savage's blade or do the brothers stop by some cyborg-prosthetics shop on the way to Dathomir?

I really enjoyed the four scenes we got with series regulars.  The episode opens with Dooku talking to Grievous as he sense a disturbance in the Force.  After Savage forgets to leave a tip at the dinner, we see Ahsoka and Anakin arive at the same establishment looking for a snack, it is interesting that Savage just happened to be on the same backrocket world that Anakin and Ahsoka are.  Elsewhere, presumably on Tatooine we see Latts and Asajj having a girls night out at the Cantina when Asajj also feels the same disturbance in the Force.  Meanwhile back on Coruscant at the Jedi Temple, Yoda calls Obi-Wan into his room to discuss the disturbance that they both felt, but perhaps showing Yoda's greater power in the Force then any of the other characters, he is able to not only sense the disturbance but sense the cause of the disturbance, that Darth Maul has risen.

Rating: 7.5  I found this episode very entertaining, but it is hard to view it as more then simply set up for next week's episode.  Some of these arcs are really best viewed as whole and this is one such time that when broken into segments it leaves something to be desired.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 4.21 "Brothers"

Next time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Revenge" Episode 4.22

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."Savage and Maul, now reunited, pursue Obi-Wan Kenobi in search of revenge, and the Jedi Knight finds himself forced to unite with a surprising ally to defend against the deadly siblings.

It is on.  Can't wait to see the Season Finale and how Maul and Savage escape their confrontation with Asajj and Obi-Wan.

Link to High Quality Preview Clip from "Revenge"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Secrets

The eight and final ebook installment of John Jackson Miller's Lost Tribe of the Sith series, Secrets was released last week and it concludes the section of the centuries spanning story featuring Caretaker Varner Hilts the unlikeliest of Sith protagonists, his Keshiri assistant Jaye, and the Sith devotee of Seelah Korsin,  Iliana Merko.

Miller weaves some rather humorous moments into this brief tale of a Sith society in chaos and on the verge of destruction.  Can Hilts an academic, stop the roving bands of Sith warriors from killing each other, destroying the Omen and ruining the society that all the generations before them created.

Miller does a ton of world building in this series that gives the Lost Tribe even more depth and if you liked the portrayal of the Lost Tribe in the Fate of the Jedi series this is a nice supplemental read.  It's a bit like one of the old "Tales of.." novels but done all by one author.

I really enjoyed Secrets and I think you will to if you give it a read.  Plus you cannot beat the price, it is free!

This ebook along with the previous seven installments and a new novella, Pandemonium will be collected in a paperback novel release entitled, Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories to be released around July 31, 2012.

Author John Jackson Miller posts fiction notes for his works on his website, check soon for trivia regarding Secrets.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Four Finale Descriptions from Star Wars Insider

Star Wars Insider Issue #132 features Darth Maul and Savage Opress on the cover and has a number of great features including a description of the last four episodes of this season.

The final two episodes are Brothers (4.21) and Revenge (4.22), and Revenge in particular sounds insanely awesome.

Brothers:  Written by Katie Lucas and Directed by Bosco Ng

"Savage crosses the galaxy in search of his brother, Darth Maul.  Can he rally the broken Sith Lord, who has sunken to the depths of madness?"

Revenge: Written by Katie Lucas and Directed by Brian Kalin O'Connell

"Darth Maul and Savage Opress make a formidable team out for revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi and Asajj Ventress.  Can the Jedi and the fallen assassin work together to stop the horned warriors?"
Revenge sounds like the classic pro-wrestling tag team match.  I love it.

SOURCE: Star Wars Insider

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse

There can be no surrender.
There will be no mercy.
It’s not just the future of the galaxy at stake—
It’s the destiny of the Force.
In the stunning finale of the epic Fate of the Jedi series, Jedi and Sith face off—with Coruscant as their battlefield. For the Sith, it’s the chance to restore their dominance over the galaxy that forgot them for so long. For Abeloth, it’s a giant step in her quest to conquer all life everywhere. For Luke Skywalker, it’s a call to arms to eradicate the Sith and their monstrous new master once and for all. 
In a planetwide strike, teams of Jedi Knights take the Sith infiltrators by swift and lethal surprise. But victory against the cunning and savage Abeloth, and the terrifying endgame she has planned, is anything but certain. And as Luke, Ben, Han, Leia, Jaina, Jag, and their allies close in, the devastating truth about the dark side incarnate will be exposed—and send shock waves through the Jedi Order, the galaxy, and the Force itself. ~Inside Cover Text

Veteran Star Wars scribe Troy Denning is back for his third book in the nine book Fate of the Jedi series with Apocalypse.  This book also marks the third Star Wars series in a row that Denning has wrapped up, he wrot all three of the Dark Nest Trilogy books, he wrote the third, sixth, and ninth books in the Legacy of the Force series, and now in Fate of the Jedi, he has written the third, sixth and ninth books as well.

Apcalypse is a massive, massive Star Wars novel.  While not nearly as long as Denning's monumental New Jedi Order novel, Star by Star which weighed in at 606 pages, Apocalypse comes in at 445 pages and Denning needs every bit of that to wrap up the various threads of the series and to set up potential story lines for future Expanded Universe novels to build upon.

Apocalypse gives us some very interesting character developments and resolutions and really gives you the feel of a book with an ensemble cast.  There are tons of characters in this book and most get their moments to shine.  What I liked most about this novel is the range that it displayed, from the height of heroic self-sacrifice to the depths of self-interested betrayal.  There are a number of tie ins to other Expanded Universe works including a very awesome tie in to some work done by Dark Horse Comics.

Apocalypse will create some controversy.  George Lucas' work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars has sent shock waves through continuity and the Expanded Universe.  What we have seen in recent EU releases is an attempt to in an overt way weave in the new reality of the Star Wars universe into the books.  One of the key plot points in this book involves The Clone Wars animated series and fans are either going to hate or love what the creative team behind Fate of the Jedi did.  Personally I enjoyed what Denning did with this plot point, though I am still not sure what it means in the big picture.  I also wonder just how much of what Mr. Lucas has in his mind regarding certain elements of Star Wars that he has shared with the licensees, because they are treading in areas that seem to be very perilous regarding Lucas' potential to invalidate entire sections of continuity.

One of the biggest critiques that I have seen with Denning is his use of his pet characters.  Some of this criticism may not be the fact that he has pet characters, after all, all authors do this.  Some times author's have favorites because they are characters they created and sometimes they just have fun writing that particular film or EU character.  I think the biggest issue with Denning is that some of his favorite characters can be a bit annoying to the readers.  As much as we may think the Barabels are a cool species, I don't think too many of us enjoy reading lots of dialogue from Saba Sebatyne.  Frankly most people are a bit creeped out by bugs, so the whole idea of the Killiks and becoming a Joiner gets weird.  In Apocalypse I thought Denning did a nice job of sprinkling in his recurring characters without feeling like they were forced in or dominating the scenes.  There is one particular Barabel scene that I absolutely loved.  I was very upset by one characters particular choice and presumed fate.

Denning had a number of very well crafted lines in this novel, these one liners provided some dark humor as well as insight into characters.  One of my favorite lines comes at the end of Chapter one in a scene between Luke and Vestara;
 "Luke frowned. 'Then you used his own shikkar because...'  'Because I didn't have mine, and we have a war to win.' Vestara rose onto her tiptoes and whispered into his ear. ' I did it for the Jedi cause, Master Skywalker.' "
This last page of chapter one does a magnificent job of "showing" instead of "telling" the reader about the inner workings of Vestara Khai's mind and heart.  It just leaps off the page that Luke and Vestara have very different ideas about the "Jedi cause."

Apocalypse opens with a Godfather like settling of Jedi Order scores as the Jedi launch their strike against the Sith in an attempt to retake Coruscant.  But unlike some Star Wars novels that it seems like contract as they develop, i.e. action takes place in various locations and eventually events conspire to bring all the characters and events to one central location, this book feels like it keeps expanding exponentially, spinning off in different and exciting directions.  Some of the decisions that characters make in this novel won't be fully understood unless you have read much of the previous Expanded Universe works, especially the earlier books in this series.  I will say that I was very impressed with the amount of times Denning took the story in a different direction then I thought he was going to go.

The latter third of Fate of the Jedi has really redeemed the series' main villain, Abeloth.  To be frank when we first began reading about Abeloth, I loathed the character.  It was weird and didn't feel like it fit in the Star Wars universe, it felt more like Waru than the traditional Star Wars villain.  While I still don't love the character of Abeloth, I can appreciate her more in these later books as we get more revelations about her nature and abilities.  Of course I began to wonder if the authors had read Harry Potter when they began plotting out the series finale.

One issue that is becoming larger and larger as we move forward on the in-universe timeline, is just how long , Luke, Han, Leia and other characters from their generation can be the center of the story.  When is the proper time for them to transition into more supporting roles.  It seems like between deaths, characters being discarded, or characters not advancing, we are almost stuck treading water.  I was happy that we saw some movement in this regard in Apocalypse.   Killing off the "Big Three" isn't really something I am interested in reading about at this point, but I also am not sure if I want to read about Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker having to remember to put in his dentures before he slays the big bad in the next series.  I was very happy with Ben Skywalker's development in this series.  While Ben is still young, he has proven that he is character that can carry a novel and is an interesting mixture of characterization from his more idealistic father and his more pragmatic mother.

I am also impressed with how well the authors wrote the character of Allana Solo, given the characters age, they gave us a character that is most definitely in the upper percentiles in terms of intelligence and maturity for her age group, but one that was still believable.

The biggest downside of these large series is the issue of accessibility.  It is a real commitment to read a nine book series and takes a great deal of time to catch up if you have not been reading from the beginning.  That being said, if you started Fate of the Jedi and stopped after the first few books, or didn't start at all, pick up the paperbacks now or e-books and work your way to this novel.  Like it or not Denning has once again ended one series and set some courses for future Expaned Universe novels to follow, so this book will be pivotal to future Expanded Universe works in the Legacy era.  The good news for new readers is that in the immediate future the Star Wars franchise will be shifting back to the more accessible format of stand-alone novels, duologies and trilogies.  With a mild Expanded Universe refresher it's much easier to jump into these kind of stories and I hope it brings more readers into reading Star Wars novels.

Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse may not enter the pantheon of greatest Expanded Universe novels, but it is an exceptionally well written and entertaining novel that sets up the Expanded Universe for it's next cycle.  Stay tuned to after the Apocalypse's release as we dig into some of the unanswered questions and unresolved fates in the galaxy far, far away.

For more information on and to read an excerpt of Apocalypse please visit

Friday, March 2, 2012

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 4.20 Bounty

Remind anyone else of ESB?
The Clone Wars takes one part western train robbery, one part Japanese Ninja flick, and six parts Bounty Hunter to make one intoxicating brew.
"Who we are never changes, who we think we are does."An aimless Asajj Ventress joins a team of bounty hunters under the leadership of young Boba Fett. On an alien world, they undertake a dangerous but profitable mission that tests the limits of their skills, and the strength of Asajj's character.
It really must be the gravitational pull of the twin suns of Tatooine that pulls all the riff-raff to the point farthest from the bright center of the galaxy.  Ventress follows in the footsteps of other such riff-raff and ends up at the Cantina, but when you are a hot looking bald former Sith, its hard to enjoy your drinks alone.  One thing leads to another and the Cantina claims another victim. Fortunately for Ventress this spur of the moment murder leads her into the company of Boba Fett's band of merry bounty hunters.

Ventress joins the gang that includes Dengar and the bounty hunters must transport a mysterious package aboard the monorail.

Some nifty looking ninjas
That is when things get awesome and the space ninjas attack and things get crazy.  Turns out the mysterious package is actually a kidnapped girl who is going to be the evil Lord Otua Blank 's forced bride.  Ventress discovers the nature of the cargo and makes the choice to free the girl, Pluma and puts young Boba Fett in his place.  When Lord Otua Blank opens his bridal chest it turns out his bride is a bound and gagged Fett. Ventress extorts Pluma's brother Krismo for some credits but ultimately lets the siblings to depart.
Boba in a Box
Once this episode got going it was non-stop action.  I loved the classic train robbery motif being turned on its head with the bounty hunters instead of trying to steal the cargo aboard the train, they are trying to protect it.

It was also fun to see Dengar (Simon Pegg) flirting with Asajj Ventress, who would have thought that the old fat dude in the turban was a ladies man in his youth? If you enjoyed Dengar's inclusion in TCW I suggest you check out his starring role in the SWEU novel The Bounty Wars: The Mandalorian Armor.  If you have read this novel this particular episode was interesting in giving more depth to the background relationship of Boba Fett and Dengar.

Latts was a very cool looking character (made me think of DC Comic's Poison Ivy), but her go to lasso move was a bit predictable.
Such beautiful animation

C-21 Highsinger was a very cool looking new model of droid who really knows how to clear a room.

Over all this was a fun romp that served for further character growth for Asajj Ventress.  Ventress seems to be much more in control and centered at the end of the episode, finally comfortable in her own skin.  In retrospect this may be the first time in TCW where Asajj forms a plan and sees it through to successful completion.  Whether it is the Jedi or Dooku, it seems like Ventress' plans are always thwarted, it seems like she always fails.  In this episode she made up her mind independently in the middle of the operation when she learned about Pluma.  Perhaps Asajj saw a bit of herself in young Pluma, having no control of her own destiny and in freeing Pluma she helped heal some of her own internal psychic wounds and finally found that internal emotional control that she always lacked.

The episode also shows that as much of a bad bad man that Boba Fett will end up being later in life, he is still a bit out of his depth against some of the more powerful individuals in the galaxy.  Asajj steals his lunch money and throws him in a locker.

The curious thing we see also developing in this episode is Asajj forging her own personal morality.  While the episode starts out with her killing in cold blood, it ends with her showing mercy.  Even though she extracts a monetary price for her mercy, I think she would have done it even without the credits.

We know in the TCW comics continuity would suggest that at some point Ventress returns to Dooku's service, but I have a feeling TCW will not be going in that direction.  Ventress is no longer a Sith acolyte and no longer a Nightsister, what she becomes still remains to be seen, but I look forward to following her journey.

Rating: Bounty gets 8.0 unmarked credits.  Great visuals and action in this wild ride.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 4.20 "Bounty"

Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Brothers (4.21)

"A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished."The dark warrior Savage Opress is on a quest to find his long-lost brother. Could Darth Maul truly be alive, after more than a decade since his gruesome bisection at the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Savage voyages into the depths of a twisted planet to find whatever became of the fallen Sith Lord.

What is Mother Talzin's angle in all this? I guess we will have to stay tuned to find out.

Link to High Quality Preview Clip from Brothers