Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review: Monument by Ian Graham

A drunken vagrant named Ballas, comes close to death when a pickpocket goes horribly wrong. Nursed back to health by a clergyman Ballas learns of a jeweled piece owned by a friend of the clergyman who owns a museum. Stealing the piece Ballas hopes to fence it and make his fortune. When a disagreement with an underworld boss, with church connections, ends in the offender's death Ballas finds himself on the wrong side of the Church's considerable resources and on the run. But with the church controlling most of the known world Ballas has no choice but to seek out a mythical lands which may or may not exist. In fact it almost seems like a compulsion...

Monument's greatest strength is the way the character of Ballas is gradually built throughout the novel. While it is obvious from the beginning that he is no hero finding out exactly what he was, was fascinating. Although ninety percent of the novel was told from Ballas' perspective tiny portions are told from a few other character's points of view. While I'm generally not a fan of this (I'm more of the opinion that either stick to one character's perspective or divide it more evenly, small sections in isolation seem like a cop out to me.) in this case it actually and in fact the novel wouldn't have worked without one in particular. The  supporting cast are well realized and the world-building is solid and unintrusive.

Overall Momument is a solid character-driven  novel. 8.5/10,    

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zhan

Five years after the events of Return of the Jedi the members of the rebellion have formed a New Republic, trying to get intergalactic trade up and running, enticing new worlds into the republic and dealing with the remnants of the empire. Thrawn, the last of the empire's Grand Admirals, has taken control of the scattered imperial fleet. He plans on using technology hidden away by Emperor Palpatine and an unlikely alliance with a dark Jedi, Joruus C'Baoth ,  to restore the fleet. In return for his aid C'Baoth would like other Jedi's to bend to his will, leading Thrawn's forces to target Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia.

For the most part Zhan succeeds in capturing the right feel for the characters, though at times it does feels like he is trying to hard by having them repeat lines from the original movies. I was especially impressed with how well Zhan was able to portray non-speaking characters like R2D2 and Chewbacca and really made them come to life.

The original Star Wars movies are pretty intent on portraying the empire as irredeemable evildoers which does give it an overstrung aspect of black and white. However in Thrawn Zhan has created a capable and intelligent nemesis who I couldn't help cheering for a little bit.

The copy I read was the 20th anniversary edition which included commentary by Zhan which added an behind the scenes aspect that added an interesting layer.

I did have an issue with some rather bizarre and silly aspects which popped up from time to time and did spoil my immersion. The best example is a new Wookie character that humans can understand due to a speech impediment.

I did find Zhan's prose a bit simplistic at times.

Overall Zhan delivers a very good Star Wars book but some issues can be distracting. 6.75/10.

This edition also contained a novella entitled Crisis of Faith. I enjoyed it and felt Zhan's prose markedly improved, is well paced and has one of the more interesting alien points of view I have read. 8/10.