Book Review: The Shikari Series

When it comes to ‘ye olden times in space’, things have grown repetitive for frequent readers of science fiction. How many times can one read ‘Horatio Hornblower in SPAAACE’? Most of the subgenre seems to fall into that category.

I never had much stomach for that and I’m one of the few sci-fi readers who has never touched an Honor Harrington novel. I got my fill with the old Mech Warrior books many years ago. It would take something really different to take me back to the subgenre.

The Shikari series by Alma Boykin are very different. Take a bit of space opera, a bit of colonial England, a bit of Jane Austen, and you have these delightful novels.

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Book Review: The Clone Wars: No Prisoners

In the spirit of the moment- admittedly an iffy spirit these days- I figured I’d tell you about another awesome Star Wars book, this time one based off the cartoon based off the prequels based off the legendary movie trilogy, Karen Traviss’ The Clone Wars: No Prisoners.

In The Clone Wars: No Prisoners, we join Anakin Skywalker, his alien padawan Ahsoka, awesome clone trooper Captain Rex, career military man Captain Pellaeon, Republic spy Hallena Davis, and a very different splinter group of Jedi on an unexpected and interesting mission during the Clone Wars period of Star Wars history.

You may never have heard of any of these people before, but that’s a shame. First of all, Star Wars Legends is the only true Star Wars. The characters are better and the plots are more interesting. Even the bad and/or stupid ones, like you there, The Crystal Star. You.

If you haven’t seen The Clone Wars cartoon, it and all books associated with it make you like, respect, and understand Anakin, something the prequels utterly failed to do. It makes his fall to the dark side make more sense. It makes it truly tragic because he was the good man, the hero that Obi-Wan described to Luke in A New Hope.

Ahsoka is a wonderful character, though she seems like she seems like she should be very annoying. She grows up and she grows up in and through war. She is also very much a teenager, though the novels bring out her alienness more than the cartoon does.

Rex is just awesome. He’s the consummate solider, brave, smart, loyal, with a dry sense of humor. He’s a good man who takes care of his troops and is a good tactician on top of that. He also questions the whole situation going on behind the war and the place of the clones in the galaxy, a recurring theme in anything to do with The Clone Wars.

Pellaeon and Hallena are great, too, compelling one-shot characters for this book. They feel real and their stories are compelling. They fit well with what’s going on in the universe and react like real people.

The splinter group of Jedi, the Altisians led by Master Altis, is very interesting. They are Jedi who are allowed to marry and families are very central to their organization. There’s no child kidnapping involved, either, as they only take on adult apprentices. They function more like knight-errants, going forth and righting wrongs where they find them, than the government stooge Shao-lin monks of the Jedi Order written by Lucas. It’s very much a predecessor to Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order, which has a similar structure and function.

Master Altis himself is a character Lucas is incapable of writing: a good and wise teacher who openly admits he does not know what the right thing to do is in difficult complex situations. He’s really likeable. We also meet Callista, one of his students who will later become one of Luke Skywalker’s long line of tragic girlfriends through some very strange circumstances. We also meet her fianc√©. Her fate is very well foreshadowed, which as a long term Star Wars EU fan I really appreciated.

As for the plot, it’s essentially a spy thriller gone wrong. Hallena’s intel is terrible and she lands in the middle of the righteous revolt the Republic wants her to stop so they can keep their shady ally in power. Many other things go bad. Bad on top of bad.

There’s fewer action scenes in this book than you might think. It’s quite philosophical. The war is philosophically difficult. It has all the problems of the death and destruction caused by war, plus the full horror of being a fake war constructed by a terrible person.

The Republic is not great, which is illustrated time and time again in The Clone Wars. It fails to help when it should, it props up governments that range from evil to incompetent. It also is using a slave army.

The Clone Wars media is deeply concerned with the status of the clones. The Republic treats them like organic droids. We get to know and like many of them. Then we watch them die. We see a lot of them die in awful ways. Many people, including clones, Jedi, and others, question everything about the clone army: its morality, its sudden appearance at just the right moment, what the fate of the clones will be after the war. The clone army is the single most awful, evil thing Palpatine ever did. He had an entire population created just so they could die in a war that wasn’t real, and he managed to trick the Jedi and many other good people into being complicit in the whole thing.

Karen Traviss’ Star Wars books do a lot of questioning of the Jedi Order. She is not a fan of Yoda. The introduction of the Altisian Jedi is all about that. Considering that Anakin’s fall is caused in large part by his obsession over Padme, it’s interesting ground to cover. The Jedi teachings of having no attachment is just so bad. People naturally develop close relationships. There is currently a cottage industry of books looking at just how valuable such attachments are to our well-being– though they can also be difficult. It seems like the Jedi Order left Anakin with no real idea of how to handle his own relationship, so it warped into obsession and could easily be manipulated, resulting in the disaster of Darth Vader.

You can, as always, find The Clone Wars: No Prisoners on Amazon.

Book Review: The Marcus Corvinus Series

I’m actually not one for historical novels much, though I love history and I especially love Roman history. However, Roman historical novels tend to…over-modernize. For a period of which we have extensive but hardly compete records, many authors decide to be too anachronistic in any number of ways. Sometimes it’s as bad as having the main character be an anti-slavery crusader, which is so historically absurd that you might as well include airplanes, sometimes it’s so subtle as just the wrong words or tone (garnered from some badly, badly taught history classes). Then there’s the “he-he sex” genre that takes on many different skins.

The Marcus Corvinus series by David Wishart has none of these problems. They are not only my favorite Roman historical novels, but they are my favorite mysteries and frequent comfort reads. I can’t recommend these books enough.

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Ridiculous Acronyms and the People Who Use Them

I had cause recently to dwell upon the insane acronyms I encountered during my time in the Army., mostly because I recently found out that the Army had come up with one for e-cigarettes that sounded about right (i.e. stupid): Electronic Nicotine Delivery System, which is ENDS.

Many comments were made on the post where I learned this, informing me of what might be a Soldier-made acronym for the same thing: Personal Electronic Nicotine Inhalation System.

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Show Review: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I’m not really an anime person for a number of reasons. While anime can contain some beautiful and/or interesting art, all too often they just do the weird faces (I know, chibi is the term) way too much. Just as often there characters simply become annoying (Naruto). They also have a tendency to be pacifistic to the point of madness, which I suppose is principled, or go too far with the Eastern version of moral relativism, a sort of ’embrace your sins as a part of yourself’ in a way that never existed in Western thought. To cap it off, the genre tends to just go off following the histories of people I don’t care about (Bleach).

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood does none of this. It is the best anime I have ever watched and I recommend it to anyone who likes Brandon Sanderson (or just good fantasy stories) and Babylon 5 but finds Naruto annoying.

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Announcing Valor

After several months of research, editing, and planning, I am pleased to announce the release of Valor, my short story collection, now available on Amazon.Valor Book Cover

Valor consists of five short stories set in fantasy and science fiction worlds, all focused on courage– though not always the same kinds of courage. I wrote these short stories over the course of the past several years, mostly on deployment. While this is not an epic undertaking and it won’t change the world, I’m proud to finally let these tales out into the wild.

Video Game Review: Vermintide II

I played Vermintide II over its free weekend. I highly recommend it if you’ve got some time to kill and some friends to play it with.

Vermintide II is, as you might guess, the sequel to Vermintide. Both games are set in the Warhammer fantasy universe as the world is actually really coming to an end. No seriously, Games Workshop blew it up at the conclusion of the arc.  I played Vermintide some time ago on PC, and I was very terrible but I enjoyed it. I played the sequel on the Xbox and did much better but still not really great. Once again, I enjoy video games, but I am not good at them.

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