Blog Archives

Star Wars: Rogue One (Movie Review)

In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.

Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.

Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.

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The Terrans by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Towards the end of last year, Jean Johnson brought her Theirs Not To Reason Why military space opera series to a close in a grand fashion with Damnation, the fifth and final novel in the series. In this series, she introduced an amazingly detailed setting where our hero was a psychic soldier who takes on the entire known galaxy and reshapes it to battle a menace that no one else could even fathom. It was a fantastic series and by the time I was done reading it, I wanted to read more. But the series was done, and all that was left was the promise from Jean that this year we would go back in time to the First Salik War, the interstellar conflict that put Earth on the big stage and which ultimately segued into the events of Theirs Not To Reason Why.

The hero of The Terrans is a former regional politician named Jacaranda MacKenzie who is selected to be the political ambassador of humanity’s first deep foray into the rest of the galaxy, as the United Planets Space Force launches a massive first contact project on the back of several precognitive visions experienced by numerous powerful psychics. Yep, psychics affirming a first contact mission. We know from Jean’s previous series that this setting is populated by numerous psychics of various abilities, and that is something that she does a great job of in this new series, introducing us to many of the pros and cons of such people, especially within the context of a first contact mission.

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Fearless by Jack Campbell (Book Review)

Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series was a part of my 25-in-14 reading challenge where I attempted to, and succeeded in, reading at least the first novels in 25 different series, across a multitude of genres. Reading Dauntless proved to be quite a fun experience actually because I went in expecting some serious military SF, and the experience was much different to that expectation. It had some nice hard-SF elements to it, but they were sufficiently explained for a layman and the writer kept his focus on the characters and the story itself.

Fearless is the second novel in the series and carries on over from the events at the end of Dauntless with Captain John “Black Jack” Geary and his ragtag Alliance fleet scoring a resounding victory against the Syndics. It was definitely a great moment to end the novel on and Jack Campbell ups the stakes and everything else in the sequel. John has been fighting for unity and discipline and cooperation between the various ships of the fleet since he took over, massively disadvantaged in a lot of ways, and Fearless is just another major test for him as he continues to lead the fleet out of the Syndic Worlds and back home to the Alliance.

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25 Series I Want To Read in 2015

I began this particular reading challenge in 2013, as a way to motivate myself to read widely across genres and also to kind of catch-up on some big names of the various genres I haven’t been able to get around to as yet. The 2013 challenge was a close one for me, and last year’s challenge I completed in full, though there was a bit of a snag with that one early on. Either way, I still love this challenge immensely, given all the different flavours and styles I get to sample with it, and so here’s the 25 series I am looking forward to reading in 2015.

You can see the previous list for 2014 here and 2013 here.

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Best of 2014 Part 2a: Novels

Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.

With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Damnation by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

I didn’t find out until quite late that because of narrative reasons, Jean Johnson had split the fourth and final novel in her fantastic Theirs Not To Reason Why series into two novels, Hardship and Damnation. Not until a few weeks back when I finally got around to reading Hardship that is. And finishing that short-ish novel, I wanted to read the final book as soon as I could, since I love the series a LOT and because the way that Jean ended Hardship, I knew that whatever was next for Ia, it was going to something big, big, BIG. And it was.

Damnation brings to a close a grand saga that Jean kicked off a few years ago with A Soldier’s Duty, the first novel in the series. The end of the Second Salik War is around the corner, and while the frogtopi aren’t going out without a fight, they are definitely on the out and out here. But the Salik aren’t the only antagonists at large for the galaxy’s greatest psychic, since the ancient Greys are also coming back and Ia has to end both wars in such a way that when an even more ancient hostile race comes to the galaxy, the legacy she leaves behind is going to be enough to give the entire galaxy a fighting chance against them. And I’ll also mention here that despite all the different scenarios I had come up with for how Damnation would end, I still got a nice jolt of surprise on the final pages.

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Advent Review #15: EVE: The Empyrean Age (Book Review)

I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.

From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.

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Hardship by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

My first experience with Jean Johnson was back in 2012 when I heard her on the SF Signal podcast with host Patrick Hester. During the podcast she talked about her military SF series Theirs Not To Reason Why that features a female protagonist who happens to have some powerful natural abilities such as pre/post-cognition, telekinesis and the like and who is on a quest to save the galaxy from an extinction-level threat that will not occur for hundreds of years yet. I read the first three novels in the series last year and they all happened to be quite excellent stories that made me a Jean Johnson fan for life. And now, with the fifth and final book in the series just days away from publication, here’s my review of the fourth novel, which I read last month.

Hardship was originally intended to be the fourth and final book in the series, titled Damnation at the time. But as I learned from Jean herself lately, the final volume ended up being too big and the decision was made to split it into two parts. So Hardship is technically the first of a 2-part finale for Jean’s highly ambitious and grandiose story of Theirs Not To Reason Why. And it is just as excellent as the previous books. With things moving towards a conclusion, there’s a sense of finality in the novel and that there is a big confluence of events happening, so the novel checks off on all the things I wanted to see from it, and more.

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Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

The third novel in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not To Reason Why series of military space opera was published last year in the summer and it proved to be almost as good as the two novels before it, which is saying something since both A Soldier’s Duty and An Officer’s Duty stand as some of the best MSF books I’ve read to date. The fact that the protagonist Ia is also an uber badass is just icing on the cake and should there be a day when a movie series on these books is released, I’ll be the first to line-up in the theaters to watch it. The series has that kind of potential in it. Hellfire also made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 2” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson’s A Soldier’s Duty got me heavily invested in the SFvision she had created and when I came back for the sequel, I was astounded by the consistency of pretty much everything, whether character or plot, pacing or action, or what have you. Being how good it is, An Officer’s Duty made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 1” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year. Together, these two novels offer something very different to the norm, and I do recommend them most highly.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson is a writer who wears many different hats, and writes in different genres, one of them being military space opera. Her series Theirs Not To Reason Why is, for me, one of the best such series out there, with a protagonist that I absolutely love and a setting that I absolutely enjoy, no matter what I read of any of it. For me, A Soldier’s Duty was one of the best novels I read last year and it would have made it to be “best of the year” lists if I hadn’t read the sequel soon after. All the same, I highly recommend this novel (and indeed the series).

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Master of Sanctity by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Gav Thorpe is rightly considered Black Library’s resident Dark Angels expert, for he has written more about them than any other author and he even had a hand in shaping their lore back when he worked in the Games Workshop Design Studio on the Dark Angels codex, among other things. Last year, he started a new Dark Angels series called Legacy of Caliban that followed on from one of Black Library’s best novels to date, Angels of Darkness, and continued the tale of the Knights of Caliban as they sought out their traitorous brethren from the days of the Horus Heresy itself and brought them to justice in the innermost deeps of The Rock. Ravenwing was an excellent novel in many ways, and the wait for the sequel was a long one for me, especially since I dropped off on my Black Library reading this year.

But I read Master of Sanctity earlier this month and the wait has been quite fruitful indeed. Gav made the long wait worth every moment since the novel is a brilliant follow-up to what he did in Ravenwing, giving a more thorough insight into the many mysteries of the Dark Angels and exploring their many secrets. The duality of the Dark Angels, in their oaths to the Imperium and to themselves to hunt down the Fallen wherever they may be found, is at the heart of this novel, and our primary lead-in this time is none other than the chapter’s Master of Sanctity himself, Grand Master Sapphon, and we even get a look at the fiercely conservative Chaplain Asmodai, with whom Sapphon clashes again and again in the novel.

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