Happy June! May was over in a flash, but that’s because I was working my two SEKRIT PROJECTS. One, you already know about: Calico in Conversation! The other, well, stay tuned…. in the meantime, my brain always needs a break from the day job and SEKRIT PROJECTS, so here’s all the culture I consumed in the month of May!
So yesterday, I posted This is NOT a Review. When my husband saw it on Facebook, he asked, “So you didn’t like the book?”
That’s not what I meant, not at all.
What I meant is that it’s like someone taking U.S. History, or even World History as I was taught, and suddenly telling me it’s pretty much WRONG, and THIS is how it all really happened, and how it all really happened bears little resemblance for what I’d held as true for 20+ years. Like the some of people really existed, others didn’t, but what I thought happened isn’t even close. Even the names of locations are different!
But guys? Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. Like really, really good. Compelling characters, emotional stakes, and sneak peaks into what really shaped the people who know and love (and love to hate) into the characters they are in The Force Awakens.
It’s better than Martha Wells’ Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Wells is a great writer, but I was rather ambivalent about the story and the characterization of that now “Legends” title.
Which was far better than Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia, which one would think would be ALL ABOUT LEIA, but instead it’s about the men fighting for her. I mean, seriously? Why didn’t they get a woman to write that book?
But being a woman doesn’t guarantee you get Leia right. Wolverton’s book was LIGHTYEARS better than Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Crystal Star, which remains the worst Star Wars novel I’ve ever read (not including the novelizations of the films).
These books above? These are the books that I’ve read (there’s a period from 2005 through 2012 where I wasn’t reading the Expanded Universe, sorry folks) that I remember being Leia-centric. And if I think really hard, I’m not even sure The Crystal Star was very Leia-centric: but the parts of the book that are seared in my memory because I hated them so much? All focused on Leia’s plot line.
Leia, I’ve found, is an incredibly difficult character to get right on the page. I’m not sure why. But I have yet to read a Leia-centric book where I think, NAILED IT. It may have a lot to do with the fact that we all see Leia a little bit differently, and while I think we can all read a description of who and what Leia is based on the movies, I think translating that to the books is different for everyone, and I realize I’m particularly picky.
I wonder if it has to do with the fact that for so long, Leia was really the one female character of substance in the Star Wars universe, at least from the films? Does that add an extra layer of difficulty in translating her character on the page? Because Leia had to be ALL WOMEN, and ALL WOMEN are not the same.
Claudia Gray does a great job, but I still had disconnect. For all of the reasons I mentioned yesterday, and also because I wasn’t picturing Leia post-ROTJ, but rather Leia pre-TFA. And while I think it’s meant to be more pre-TFA than post-ROTJ, I couldn’t quite get her visage nailed in my head, nor her voice — her voice in particular was very hard to hear, and I kept hearing Carrie Fischer’s gravel from The Force Awakens. Perhaps I was meant to hear that particular gravel, and this is just the part of the transition of getting used to the way things are, rather than the way things used to be.
I wonder if I’m going to be so picky about Rey’s voice, when it’s time for her to star in her own spin-off novels? I hated how Alan Dean Foster wrote her in the novelization for The Force Awakens (and I hated how he wrote Leia too). I know I was super-picky and protective of Jaina Solo back in the day, and to a point, Tenel-Ka Djo, Tahiri Veila, Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik Horn, and Winter Celchu. I’ve always been so protective of the women of Star Wars and how they come off on the page, and I don’t have enough fingers to count all of the times I felt the characters were written wrong, or badly, just to shoe-horn them into a plot that made no sense of their character (not that the guys are exempt from that kind of mishandling either). I’m still bitter about Jaina’s characterization in the Dark Nest trilogy, let alone how they treated her love life overall in the EU.
But when I talk about disconnect, that has very little to do with how well the book is written, and every much to do with how much time I’ve spent getting to know these characters outside of the movies. You’d think that it shouldn’t be a problem: after all, superhero stories are told over and over and re-told and re-launched ad nauseam, and nobody bats an eye. But those aren’t the stories I keep revisiting. And fan fiction often does the same thing, but I don’t read much of that either, let alone a fanfic canon long-lasting enough to create what is a essentially a parallel universe in my fandom.***
So Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. And no, I don’t miss the EU so much as I miss the familiarity of it, despite characters getting run into the ground. I’m happy that writers have a clean slate from which to write, I really am. As I said yesterday, as long as they’re written as well as Bloodline, I’ll happily keep reading.
*** = Now THERE’s a fanfic idea, as we see how this new trilogy shapes out: take the best parts of both canons and combine them into something entirely new. And I’m sure someone out there’s going to do it.
There’s a weird disconnect, reading this.
Don’t get me wrong: I was REALLY looking forward to it. So much so that when I finished reading my last book (Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) the Saturday before Bloodline was released, I didn’t start anything new because I wanted to open the box on Tuesday and start reading immediately. I’d heard high praise for this book, and I really didn’t need convincing to give it a go, as I had adored Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, and couldn’t wait to see some pieces of the story filled in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
So what’s the problem?
I’ve run into this with the comics, even before the Expanded Universe was relegated to the Legends line: the problem for me is that the stories about Han, Luke, and Leia that take place during the original trilogy and all those years after Return of the Jedi?
I’ve read them. It doesn’t matter that it’s no longer canon (or, lately, that it is): I have read so many takes on Han, Luke, and Leia and their lives and thoughts before, during, and after the original trilogy that it’s hard to read anything with fresh eyes. It’s even more disconcerting to now read about the official canon of Han and Leia’s marriage, when I’ve got the EU take firmly lodged in my brain (as well as the EU take on the New Republic, and Luke’s Jedi Academy, so on and so forth). It takes up a lot of real estate, and it’s not something that’s easy to wipe away.
Am I an EU purist? Oh hell no. I’d fallen out of love with the EU long before Disney bought Star Wars, because I got tired of Luke, Han, Leia, and their families never getting peace, of never having a happy ending. I got tired of what felt like soap opera-esque machinations that took place in order for there to be GREAT CONFLICT. I was, in fact, relieved when Disney said they would ignore the EU and make that a Legends canon and start afresh. Star Wars, as a franchise, needed that do-over, and I applauded the decision whole-heartedly.
Yes, that meant saying good-bye to Mara Jade. To Jaina Solo. To other characters I’d known and loved. But it also meant saying good-bye to the machinations that kept them in turmoil, and I could live with that.
I loved The Force Awakens. Wait, let me clarify: I loved the film, but I hated the novelization with a passion.
And you know what?
I read Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath. Loved it. Read Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars. Absolutely freaking adored it.
You know what The Force Awakens, Aftermath, and Lost Stars have in common?
Those aren’t the stories of Han, Luke, and Leia. Yes, the original three play important roles in The Force Awakens, and that’s wonderful. But the two books? Those characters are ancillary, allowing brand new characters to step into the limelight and shine. The Star Wars universe is so very vast, and there are so many stories to tell within it. Those are the stories I haven’t been reading for twenty-plus years. Those are the stories that I find I’m craving now.
That doesn’t mean I won’t read the books about Han, Luke, and Leia, even if Bloodline taught me that I miss having the map of the galaxy in the front of the books, with planet names I’ve grown to know and recognize. I miss knowing what the universe feels like on the page, miss having a specific timeline to refer back to (oh, sure we have the START of a timeline in the new books, but it’s not very specific, not like the old one was). I miss knowing exactly where Han, Luke, and Leia were in their lives, even if I disagreed with a particular author’s take on their characters.
I love learning what happened to make the universe into the place it is in The Force Awakens. And as long as the books are as well-written as Gray’s Bloodline, I’m going to keep reading to keep learning more.
But it’s going to be an adjustment. It’ll take time, and probably a lot more books before my brain stops comparing the now official canon to the old one.
As Yoda says, I must unlearn what I have learned.
I think there’s always a part of me that will miss having a book blog. After putting together December’s Culture Consumption, I started wondering… what WERE my favorite books of 2015? To figure that out, I pulled up my Library Thing account and started sorting by date finished, and then I started looking at the ratings. Anything four stars or higher got written down on the appropriate list: a full five stars are listed as favorites, and four and four-and-a-half stars were honorable mentions.
Why Library Thing instead of Goodreads? Because LT allows for half stars, which means when I’m rating on Goodreads, I might round up or down depending on how I want the rating to look on that site. LT is a more accurate reflection of my thoughts.
I also did not include a few of the fun, children’s type books on the list. I’m a sucker for Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader series, and Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat books are adorable. So they didn’t get counted.
Before I review my favorites and honorable mentions, I did want to make a few points:
December is here, and with it comes holiday madness and the end of the year. It’s hard to believe we’re at the end already, that Thanksgiving is over. I can’t say there’s anything exciting on the horizon for this month, after all: it’s the holiday season. That being said, it’s no excuse not to share what goodies have helped time fly by so quickly, so without further adieu, here is November!