About the Author:
Alexander Freed was born near Philadelphia, USA and now lives in Austin, Texas.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.3 out of 5
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The novelisation of the awesome film (the best Star Wars film since the Original Trilogy, if you ask me), set 0 BBY. For those not in the know, this story follows the renegade Jyn Erso as she is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help locate her scientist father and discover the secrets of the Empire's rumoured new superweapon; the Death Star.
'Rogue One' is absolutely the kind of Star Wars story that I want to see; telling the tales of the ordinary men and women who enabled the Rebellion to triumph. And when I say 'ordinary', I mean that each of the characters here are believable human beings, with hopes, fears and regrets. Whilst I do love the mythic quality of the likes of Luke Skywalker's innate goodness, it's nice to read stories about people who we can understand through their flaws. Freed was definitely the right choice for this novelisation too, since the rogues gallery of Rebel commandos featured here would have been pretty comfortable around the soldiers of 'Twilight Company' from the author's last Star Wars novel.
This story does a fantastic job of enriching the Star Wars mythos with new planets, cultures and heroes whilst simultaneously leading perfectly into the opening of 'A New Hope'. Freed also makes the most of the medium and does a great job of exploring the inner thoughts of the protagonists in a way that the movie can't, offering explanations for some of the dialogue and reflections that might surprise you.
There is only one reason I've not given this book full marks and it's not really the author's fault. As a lifelong fan of Star Wars literature, one of the perks which mitigated being looked down on by movie purists was that we always got to read the novelisation before the film came out (a Star Wars mainstay going all the way back to 1977). However, with evil Disney in control of the rights, the movie had been out for more than a month before the novelisation followed and therefore the reading experience is unavoidably coloured by having seen the film first.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Battlefront - Twilight Company
3 ABY. A tie-in to the Battlefront computer game (the Dice reboot, that is), this book follows First Sergeant Namir and the Rebel Alliance's Twilight Company as they find themselves facing overwhelming odds on the front lines of the war against the Galactic Empire.
Whilst this is exactly the sort of story I like Star Wars novels to tell, that of characters outside of the main movie heroes, it actually took me quite a long time to get into this book. For the first half of it I was struggling to connect to Namir, the main protagonist, as he is far too cynical and hard-bitten, not believing in the ideals of the Rebellion or even in its chances of winning. Don't get me wrong, he's a type of interesting new character we've not seen much in Star Wars literature but to have your main character be so overwhelmingly negative about everything really drains any sense of fun out of the book.
I had very mixed feelings about the mid-section of the book too. The scenes at Echo Base before and during the iconic Battle of Hoth were awesome but they were also over far too quickly and involved far too few of the characters who feature throughout the rest of the book. Nice to see how an ordinary grunt reacts to seeing the Force in action for the first time in the hands of Darth Vader though.
Things really picked up in the second half, however, as the decimated Twilight Company finds new purpose and engages the Empire head-on on Sullust. The battle scenes in this latter part of the book were brilliant and seeing Namir's cynicism start to melt made the character's story arc worthwhile in the end. It was a great ending but was just too weighed-down by the drudgery of the first half of the story.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: The Old Republic - Blood Of The Empire
(Art by Dave Ross and Mark McKenna)
Set 3,678 BBY, thirty five years before 'The Old Republic' MMO. This book drops us right into the middle of the Great Galactic War between the Republic and the Sith Empire which serves as the background to the RPG computer game. It focuses on Sith Apprentice Teneb Kel and his quest to hunt down the Sith Emperor's former apprentice, who has gone rogue.
Considering the fact that it's a vast conflict across the galaxy, the Great Galactic War has been surprisingly under-used in the TOR tie-in material, so it was nice here to get to see a bit of it. I also enjoyed seeing the almost insurmountable challenges that face young Sith if they want to advance in the heirarchy of the Empire.
I originally read this book before having played 'The Old Republic' and the book suffers as a result, since many of the plotlines seem to ultimately lead nowhere. I've marked it down as a consequence of that but, if you have played TOR, then this book offers some great background details to the story of Darth Thanaton and the Children of the Emperor.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: The Old Republic - The Lost Suns
(Art by Dave Ross, George Freeman, David Daza and Mark McKenna)
Set 3,643 BBY, shortly before the start of 'The Old Republic' RPG game. This story follows Republic spy Theron Shan, the half-mad Jedi Ngani Zho and the smuggler Teff'ith as they journey deep into Sith-controlled territory to investigate the danger represented by the Empire's Sun Razer.
This book is at its best when we're learning more about Theron Shan. He's an intriguing character; the secret son of a renowned Jedi, raised and trained by another Jedi and yet completely without Force powers. Here we get to see the details of his birth and upbringing and witness his struggle to understand his place in a galaxy where he was raised to be a Jedi but never can be.
Unfortunately none of the other characters are given as much depth or insight and the plot on offer here is fairly thin and unremarkable. Also, as with other TOR tie-in material, we are left with questions that will only be resolved in the game which is a frustratingly transparent marketing ploy.
3 out of 5