Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tales from the GFFA: Aliens (Book Review)

Just prior to the release of The Force Awakens, a series of eBook short stories were published. These stories are part of an anthology called Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens. Each book was $2-3 dollars, so this was an obvious marketing ploy to make a lot of money off the publishing hype machine that was the Journey To The Force Awakens. That being said, I was one of the voluntary suckers who bought all the stories and read them prior to the movie. I must say they are entertaining!

Below are my notes on each of these stories. Please note that like all my book reviews, this blog post will be filled with SPOILERS!

The Face of Evil

This story is set on Maz Kanada's resident world of Takodana. The tale features two creatures of the Frigosian race: Thromba and Laparo. They are covered in yellow fur, wear breathing apparatuses, and remind me of characters from the imaginations of Sid & Marty Krofft. Their homeworld is Tansyl 5. The live in in the highest tower of Maz's castle where they do experimental surgery, modifying creatures in ways that would turn Dr. Frankenstein green with envy. Their occupation is called cryptosurgery. They have a hunchbacked Snivvian called Drix Gil.

The criminal Balosar, BeeLee Amdas, betrayed and killed her partner Biggleston (cringe!). She agreed to have her appearnace altered, which the Frigosians made into Biggleston. She tried to escape at the nearest trading post, the town of Andui, before being captured by Republic authorities.

All Creatures Great and Small

This is the story of the first practical effect creature we saw, as unveiled by J J Abrams himself. He is a Crittermonger/Storyteller by the name of Bobbajo. He is a long-necked and wizened member of the Nu-Cosian race. Most of the creatures he carried were actually pets:

  • gwerps - lean frog-like creatures with protruding tusks and horns
  • pishnes - long-necked, soft-mouthed, generously feathered creatures that were an odd combination of avian and mollusk.
  • lonlan - a bulbous mammal of a sort that resembled a large, semi-inflated, mud-colored balloon
  • zhhee - a brilliantly colored and especially boisterous species of winged lizard.
  • worrt - named J’Rrosch that seemed to travel everywhere with the wizened old wanderer.
  • thwip - a tiny six-legged mouselike mammal

The story is set in a town called Reestkii—a word that, loosely translated into Basic, meant “the leftover". Reestkii was located near the equator of the desert world, and the only settlement on the planet worth noting—Niima Outpost—was over four hundred kilometers away.

High Noon on Jakku

This is a western style story featuring the gray-skinned Kyuzo known as Constable Zuvio. It takes place in Niima Outpost, which sits near the equator of Jakku, not far from the mountain ridge known as the Fallen Teeth, to the south. At Fallen Teeh, there was an abandoned attempt at a settlement out there that pirates sometimes used to hide smuggling ships when they didn’t want to pay docking fees.

For Jakku, it was a relatively comfortable and temperate zone, with conditions that were mostly survivable.

Zuvio was a stern-looking individual, with most of his features perpetually covered by bandages that helped his sensitive respiration system cope with the climate. The secret truth of the matter was that Zuvio suffered from vision problems, common in Kyuzos, and his expression was formed from years of squinting slightly to see better. He was a Kyuzo, a species that originated from a gravity-heavy world. That meant his muscles were more developed than those of the average bipedal species

Zuvio was permitted part-time use of Niima’s lone secretary droid, CZ-1G5. The droid was over three hundred years old. CZ had served the town since the first colonists landed.

Zuvio had an archaic preference for paper when reading. He had two cousins, Drego and Streehn.

Lovas owed gambling debts to the Irving Boys.

CZ said, his left eye twitching. The other eye had been destroyed in the standoff and was now roughly patched over with metal until a suitable replacement optical sensor could be found. Come along, Bee-Thirty-Three. We have work to do.” So CZ and his new assistant embarked on their rounds to help the citizens of Niima.

The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku

This story I found to be the most interesting. It is a swashbuckling pirate tale involving the following characters:

  • Sidon Ithano - A tall and thin cloaked figure who wears a red Kaleesh mask. Also known as the Crimson Corsair. (He appears in The Force Awakens) He has a nasty habit of making things personal. "...the most dangerous pirate ever to sail the Lost Clusters beyond the Outer Rim, the most feared fighter of the skirmish of Adratharpe 7, the most notorious thief of his species...."
  • Quiggold - a Gabdorin pirate (He appears in The Force Awakens). The first mate. He always carries prayer beads
  • Pendewqell - an Ishi Tib
  • Reeg Brosna - An Arcona
  • Reveth - a red-skinned female Twi'lek
  • Squeaky - an axe-weilding but surprisingly friendly Gamorrean

The pirates are on the planet Ponemah


“Lightsaber crystals. Ripped from the weapons of the fallen Jedi during the wars. Even one is worth a fortune, and Count Dooku is said to have collected them"

The missle the Shrike had fired wasn’t just any missile; it was a rare and highly illegal piece of hardware known as a kinetic disruptor.

I love this dialogue:

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” muttered the Ishi Tib. Quiggold glared at Pendewqell. “You have a bad feeling? Really? Now of all times you suddenly have ‘a bad feeling’?” The Ishi Tib looked a bit defensive. “It’s just a figure of speech….” “Well it’s stupid! Of course you have a bad feeling! We’re in the middle of a derelict warship that’s half-buried at the heart of a sand maelstrom, filled with droids programmed to kill intruders! We all have a bad feeling about this!"

Quotes about clone trooper Kix:

Apparently, the clone had been the last being to speak to a well-known Republic traitor and was believed to be in possession of vital information—not that he had been willing to confess said information to his droid interrogators. So under strict orders from Count Dooku, the clone had been frozen in stasis, and no one else, not even the droids, were to speak with him further. Not until Dooku himself could question the clone directly.

“I’m a medic,” he said between gasps of air. “And I…I learned something…something horrible. Fives knew….He’s the one who figured it all out after Tup…and it got him killed. But I kept investigating. They said it was a virus... A chip in our heads. In all the clones’ heads! And an order. A command to betray…kill…and it comes from the Chancellor!”

“Get me General Skywalker! He’ll help. We can save…save the Jedi…save the Republic!” “What’s your ID, trooper?” Quiggold asked the recently unfrozen soldier. “CT-6116.” The trooper coughed. “Kix. They call me."

“It’s…it’s a Separatist cruiser’s memory core,” answered Kix. “These were designed to self-destruct. But this one…it must have malfunctioned.” The clone looked up. “This cube carries a complete map to every hidden droid factory ever built by the Separatists. Secret bases. Weapons warehouses...and we just happen to have an expert in Clone Wars–era military installations and their security systems on hand. Welcome aboard, Kix."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Force Awakens Soundtracks (Yes, That Is Plural!)

I am a huge John Williams fan, and if you haven't been listening to the Rebel Force Radio podcast, which is a *must*, then you must at the very least be listening the Star Wars Oxygen on the same podcast feed. They do a deep down analysis of every major motif in each of the films.

I am particularly excited to have learned that Disney has released an alternative set of tracks for consideration of awards like the Oscars. This album has been dubbed For Your Consideration (FYC) and each track is available to download free! You can find the track on this John Williams fan site: The Force Awakens - For Your Consideration.

In the forums of this site, someone has gone to a lot of trouble to breakdown and analyze each track along with the original soundtrack (OST). Here are the results: Detailed track breakdowns

Below I have summarized what new material you get in the FYC version as compared to the OST version:

  • No main title on FYC.
  • FYC 03 The Scavenger - The first 35 seconds of The Scavenger (OST 02) is omitted
  • FYC 05 I Can Fly Anything - The first 60 seconds are new (vs. OST 05)
  • FYC 06 Finn's Trek - All new!
  • FYC 09 Snoke - All new, though choral track is same as OST 17
  • FYC 10 You Got A Name? - The first 45 seconds are new (vs. OST 10)
  • FYC 11 I'm No Hero - Extended new material by 54 seconds (vs. OST 10)
  • FYC 13 Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle - Extended new material by 14 seconds (vs OST 13)
  • FYC 14 The Resistance - All new!
  • FYC 17 The Bombing Run - All new!
  • FYC 18 On the Inside - The first 48 seconds are new (vs OST 18)
  • FYC 20 The Ways of the Force - The first 80 seconds are new (vs OST 20)

You can find the details in the track breakdown list above, but here is a summary of how you can make your own The Force Awakens playlist that follows very closely to the order of the film using tracks from both of these releases. Enjoy!

OST 06 Rey's Theme
OST 16 March of the Resistance
OST 17 Snoke
OST 21 Schero for X-Wings

OST 01 Opening Title/The Attack on the Jakku Village
OST 02 The Scavenger
FYC 05 I Can Fly Anything
FYC 06 Finn's Trek
FYC 07 Follow Me & The Falcon
OST 08 That Girl with the Staff
OST 09 The Rathtars!
FYC 09 Snoke
FYC 10 You Got A Name?
FYC 11 I'm No Hero
OST 11 Maz's Counsel
FYC 12 The Starkiller
FYC 13 Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle
FYC 14 The Resistance
OTC 14 The Abduction
OTC 15 Han and Leia
FYC 17 The Bombing Run
FYC 18 On The Inside
FYC 19 Torn Apart
OST 20 The Ways of the Force
FYC 21 The Journey Home
FYC 22 Farwell and The Trip
FYC 23 The Jedi Steps and Finale

Friday, November 13, 2015

Moving Target (Book Review)

Moving Target is one of the trilogy of Adventure books that is part of the Journey to the Force Awakens publishing event. It was released on Force Friday (9/4/2015). Each of the Adventure books features one protagonist from the Original Trilogy. This book features Princess Leia.

You can find plenty of book reviews, so I will keep mine short and sweet. This is yet another excellent book in this series.  I highly recommended all these books to any Star Wars fan. The major plot line of a small team of rebels going on a mission against the Empire really feels like what Rogue One could shape up to be. If so, I think that movie will be excellent - even without any Jedi! This books seems to wipe away the EU Legacy novel Shadows of the Empire. I am perfectly fine with that!

Comparing this to the other two books of this Adventures trilogy that I have already read, Weapon of the Jedi and Smuggler's Run, I am glad I save this book for last. You can see the trajectory of the new character, Ematt, even though he makes just brief appearances in the Prologue/Epilogue and the main story.

This book has the most tantalizing hints to what may be in The Force Awakens. I speculate that Mon Mothma has disbanded the military after the Empire was defeated. The Resistance is a special task force created solely as a check against the growing threat of the First Order. I suspect the job of this task force is containment and I expect them to fail, which leads to Episodes VIII and IX.

What I really want to capture here in this blog are the major elements of the story for future reference. Part of the marketing of these books is that hints about The Force Awakens have been planted in the story. So here it goes!

  • Leia: "We are on the brink of war again - one we may not survive"
  • "You are the leader of the Resistance, a critical check on the designs of the First Order. You are a symbol of the Resistance and an inspiration to all soldiers...." [Perhaps no organized military. This is a task force to counteract this growing threat]

New Depths for Legacy Characters:
  • Leia - has tingling feeling she has learned to trust - it means action
  • Nien Nunb - helped Leia save the remaining Alderaanians, former smuggler. Team pilot.
  • General Madine - strategist chief (heads up commandos)
  • Mon Mothma - Alliance Chancelor from Chandrila
  • Admiral Ackbar - Leader of the fleet. mentioned only.

New Depths for Legacy Story:
  • Threepio belongs to Luke, which he loans to Leia
  • After Hoth, Mon Mothma decided to break up the Alliance into several smaller task forces.
  • Having to fight against Imperial propaganda
  • The Empire plans to destroy Chandrila and Mon Cal with Death Star II. Willing to destroy a people based on the opinions of a few.

New Characters:
  • PZ-4CO - female droid, writing memoir for Leia, "Peazy"
  • Major Ematt (first appeared as Lt Ematt in Smuggler's Run). A man Leia has fought alongside for so many years.
  • Kidi Aleria - Cerean race. Team communications.
  • Major Lokmarcha - Dressellian race. Team commando
  • Antrot - Abednedo race. Team tinkerer and demoltions expert
  • Captain Khoine - Imperial in charge of Corva Sector.
  • ___Yom
  • x Pirates
  • Lt. Ematt - brief appearance
  • Admiral Naatz - (mentioned only)
  • Admiral Vassa - green skinned Duros (mentioned only)
  • General Veertag - (mentioned only)
  • General Tantor - (mentioned only)
  • General Cracken - intelligence chief (mentioned only)

New Locations:
  • Zastiga - on the edge of the Outer Rim. Secret meeting of top level Alliance
  • Sullust - Homeworld for Nien Nunb. Secret S thread boosters exist to create a hyperspace route to the Galactic edge, including Endor. This "Sanctuary Pipeline" is an important military secret of the Empire.
  • Corva Sector - On the opposite side of the galaxy from Endor. Made up of several systems including Basteel, Sesid, Jaresh, and Galaan.
  • Galaan - Mostly unformed system with a yellow moon.
  • Basteel - Mountainous. Covered in caves.
  • Sesid - Water world. Resort and pharmaceuticals.
  • Jaresh - Wooded/plains? Founded by religious enclave.
  • Shieldmaiden - Star destroyer of Capt. Khoine

Plot Notes
  • The theme of duty, without emotion
  • Scatter protocol mentioned again (as in Weapon of the Jedi)
  • The theme of rebels sacrificing their lives to protect Leia
  • The theme of old codes and new codes (mentioned in ROTJ as the Rebels try to sneak onto Endor). Intentionally using codes that are suspect to have been broken.
  • Book is set a few weeks after the Bothans acquire the Death Star II information
  • Operation Yellow Moon (named after the Galaan system)
  • Torture droid programmed to continue without listening to confession. Keeps going until told to stop.
  • Mellcrawler - space yacht used for mission
  • Rebels steal shuttle Tydirium from Shieldmaiden before it self-destructs! (One would think that this would have tipped off the Empire that this shuttle shows up. But perhaps tied up in bureaucratic inefficiency. Also, the Emperor *wants* them to land, so that would have been smoothed over anyway.)
  • Conclusion: Yes, duty but also love for others (Mon Mothma suggests as well - can't live just for duty). Must be balanced.
  • Unanswered question: Peezy memoir of Leia's childhood on Alderaan.

  • Poe Dameron - needs to learn balance between duty and love for others. Old enough to hear Leia but no enough to listen. Best pilot in the Resistance
  • News of Jakku? Major Ematt says yes.
  • General Leia is in center of actions and she likes that.