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Goodbye Aaron

I’ve never done a post like this. The reason is that of all the creators that have passed in the 3 years since I started this blog, I’ve never had a personal connection with them. But this week, Aaron Allston passed away, and with this fine gentleman I have a very personal and important connection, something that I’ve unfortunately overlooked in recent times when talking about my first proper forays into the wide world of science fiction and fantasy.

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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As a kid, I remember when the original trilogy was released in India in theaters. There was a huge promotion about it, to the tune that you could get these nice little stickers in packets of chips that you could then use to add to these booklets that you could buy from confectionaries, grocers etc. That was when my fascination with Star Wars began. Years later, I picked up my first Star Wars book, Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston, and a few years later I saw the third movie in the prequel trilogy in theater with a friend, and then soon after that I saw the original trilogy for the first time, in college. I then went on to read a ton of Star Wars novels, thanks mostly in part to a well-stocked college library (or libraries rather, I should say), and I’ve almost always had fun.

In 2012, George Lucas and Co. began to roll out 3-D versions of the movies, starting with Episode I. It was a fantastic experience for me. But my excitement for watching the successive movies in the new format died out when it was announced that all plans had been put on hold pending Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. And now Disney has no plans to rerelease the movies in 3D, moving forward instead with a new trilogy and several spin-off films. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

So, anyway, here’s a repost of my review for the 3-D version of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

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NANP: Naming For The Long Haul

Today’s guest on Names: A New Perspective is New York Times Bestselling author John Jackson Miller, who has worked on multiple Star Wars media in the past, particularly the really good Knights of the Old Republic comics from Dark Horse, and the recent novel Kenobi which is set in the aftermath of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. His Lost Tribe of the Sith series is on my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge as well and I’m really looking forward to those books. My experience with John’s work has been quite positive over the years, and he is definitely among my favourite writers, so its really exciting to have him on the blog and talking names in fiction. Here’s what he has to say.

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Star Wars: New vs Refurbished

Last year, news arrived that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and that once the deal was done with, the company owned full rights and licenses to anything involved Star Wars, Indiana Jones and other properties that were under the purview of Lucasfilm. At the time, there was absolutely no news about future Star Wars movies, and the license for all related comics was with Dark Horse Comics, who’ve had that specific license under contract for almost two decades and have done their share of adding to the Expanded Universe over the years, building on what Marvel originally did. But then, as expected and dreaded, it was announced a few days ago that by the end of this year, the license would be shifted back to Marvel and that Dark Horse would no longer publish any new Star Wars materials.

Part of this entire move has been that within weeks of buying Lucasfilm, Disney announced plans to do a third Star Wars trilogy of movies, Episodes VII to IX, and even plans to do several spin-off movies, most notably involving the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars setting. The big question now is how much of the Expanded Universe would Disney adhere to, and whether it would just chuck out all of it. Details are starting to emerge on this front and there has been a lot of talk about it recently. Here is what I have to say on the matter, as someone who has been invested in the setting since early 2001 and has really come to love everything about it, whether good or bad.

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25 Series I Want To Read in 2014

Last year, I blogged over at The Founding Fields about 25 book series from various genres, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, etc that I wanted to read in 2013. The intention behind that particular reading challenge was to read a broad variety of some of the most popular names in those genres as well as to try out several new authors and revisit some favourite classics. While I wasn’t as successful in the challenge as I might like, I’ve made it a new year resolution to make sure that I do indeed repeat the challenge in 2014 with new books, new authors, and finish it this time.

To that effect, here are the 25 book series I’ve picked for this reading challenge for this year. You can see the previous list for 2013 here.

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12 Days of Best SFF Characters of 2013: Day #8

For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my eighth pick is trio of Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, who have been the mainstays of the Star Wars universe since its earliest days and have recently starred together in several novels, most notably in Troy Denning’s latest, Crucible, as an old generation of heroes and in Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge as a young generation of rebels against the galactic tyranny of the Empire. Both novels are among my favourite novels of the year and the portrayal of this trio has been excellent in both.

Hit the break to see why I picked these characters.

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Best of 2013 Part 2a: Books

Since 2013 is now over, its time to do my second “Best of the Best” list, for the second half of the year from July-December. There were some really good reads in this period, and as always, picking the best has been a chore. I always try to keep these lists as diverse as I can and hopefully you agree.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2013: Day #9

The ninth pick for the “12 Days of Best Covers of 2013″ list is the cover for Martha Well’s latest novel, a Star Wars tie-in for the new Empire and Rebellion series, The Razor’s Edge. This new series takes place after the original Star Wars movie and continues the adventures of Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in those early days of the Rebellion. It was a really fun book that did much to add to the mythology of these characters and add to the overall Star Wars lore as well. The most fun part was in seeing how these characters continued to interact after their victory over the First Death Star, and the primary protagonist was Leia herself, one of my favourite female characters in SFF.

The ninth comic cover that I pick is Nick Runge’s excellent cover for the first cover of J. W. Rinzler’s adaptation of George Lucas’ original script for Star Wars, The Star Wars. I’ve read the first three issues of the series and they’ve been quite interesting and fairly good. They betray a much more fantastical tone to the entire setting and its evident that George Lucas’ imagination really did run wild for that initial attempt. I’d definitely recommend the series!

Without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2013: Day #1

For this new seasonal end of year list, the first book cover that I pick is the second novel in the Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle, published by Angry Robot Books. Anne’s first novel, The Alchemist of Souls, was one of my first Angry Robot reads last year and it got me hooked on to reading more of the publisher’s output. The cover for that novel too was rather excellent and that success was repeated for the second book in the series.

And the first comics cover that I pick is the first issue of Brian Wood’s Star Wars from Dark Horse Comics. As a life-long fan of the entire setting, it is one of the best covers I’ve seen to date and its what got me started on really reading again all the different Star Wars comics, regardless of where in the setting they are set. And it also gave me a good solid taste for the kind of books that Dark Horse puts out each month.

So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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Comics Picks of The Week 09.10.2013

Finally, this was a week where my non-DC reading far out-stripped my DC reading. Villain’s Month really seems to have taken a toll with my reading, what with reading like seven or eight titles a week. Things are finally becoming more normal, and that’s excellent in and of itself. Lots of Dark Horse and IDW reading as well this week, which was really nice, since I’m playing catch-up with a few of their titles and really need to be getting down to read these issues.

However, no luck with reading any graphic novels again this week. I had hoped to read at least one during my flight back to Dubai from Delhi but things didn’t work out like that since I slept on the entire flight, all three and a half hours of it. That’s something I suppose. But now I have the time I hope so will see what happens.

In the meantime, here’s another edition of this new feature. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Grimdark Fiction

There’s an article floating around today in which Damien Walter talks about grimdark fantasy within the context of the David Gemmell Legend Award and the World Fantasy Award. There has been a lot of discussion about the contents of the article and grimdark fantasy on both Twitter and on the article itself. In a nutshell, it has been a very interesting argument on all sides and some good points have been made. But, as a reader and reviewer, I feel that something is getting lost in the translation because there are misconceptions being thrown about as to what grimdark fantasy is.

Additionally, there has been a distinct lack of acknowledgement of grimdark fantasy as written by women. Or, you know, just grimdark fiction in general, whether it is science fiction or fantasy. This isn’t something new of course, because the publishing industry and the reader/fan-base have become adept at glossing over the contributions of women in SFF, for the most part. This is a perception that desperately needs to change but sadly, there are very few agents of such change.

Regardless, fact remains that grimdark fiction isn’t what most people think it is. It is much more nuanced than the general public believes to be.

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Are Classics Re-readable?

As part of my “Top 25 Series To Read In 2013” reading challenge, I’ve read a fair amount of books this year that can be considered to be classics of science fiction and fantasy, in all their different forms. There is a certain charm to all these novels that has persisted long after they were first published. Whether we talk about Frank Herbert’s space operatic political intrigue epic Dune or Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s true-to-style epic fantasy Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I’ve had a lot of fun with these novels.

And that is my question: are they re-readable? I’ve read Dune and Dragons of Autumn Twilight several times since when I first read them in 2001. I think they are rereadable, but I’m not completely sure. Is the question answerable in part with regard to whether the book is good or not? We shall see.

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