Archive for December, 2012

Knights’ Archive Exclusive: Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn
Photo credit: Timothy Zahn’s Facebook Page

We are honored to present to you a conversation with the prolific science fiction novelist Timothy Zahn! Among his other notable works, he is widely known to Star Wars fans as the man who invigorated the franchise with the spectacular Thrawn trilogy, and has continued that success with such novels as Outbound Flight, Allegiance, and Choices of One.

Many of the characters he’s introduced to the Expanded Universe have become fan favorites, including Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Talon Karrde, and Gilad Pellaeon.

His latest novel, Scoundrels, features Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian in an all new adventure that promises to be fraught with danger, yet fun to read. Along with the familiar characters mentioned above, there is a host of new ones with all sorts of attributes needed to take on an impossible heist.

Mr. Zahn took a break from planning his upcoming Scoundrels book tour to answer some of our questions. Read on for a brief, non-spoiler glimpse into the novel!

Hi Tim! I was pleased to be able to meet you at Star Wars Celebration VI, where you had quite a busy schedule. How was Celebration VI for you, and what do you like most about conventions in general?

CVI was great fun. My main purpose in going to conventions is to meet and interact with the fans; to get feedback on past books, to update them on current work, and to hear about the various directions they’d like to see me go with future books.

I think it’s also useful for readers to be able to match up the author and the book, and doing conventions and other appearances allows me to do that. I think of it as a sort of retro Facebook…

Your next highly anticipated novel is Star Wars: Scoundrels, which features an Ocean’s 11-style heist. Other than hoping they’ll enjoy it, what do you want your readers to take away from this novel?

ScoundrelsIn all honesty, I wasn’t intending to put any deep philosophical messages into Scoundrels, as there’ve been in some of my other books. My goal here was to simply write a book that would be fun to read, with interesting characters, a knotty problem, a twisty but mostly logical scheme, tension and suspense where appropriate, an occasional plot twist to stir things up, and a satisfying ending.

Without spoiling it, of course, can you describe Scoundrels compared to the subject matter of your other Star Wars novels?

It’s really just as the tag line says: “Star Wars meets Ocean’s 11.” Han, Chewie, and Lando are going to assemble eight other scoundrels and hit up a Black Sun sector chief’s supposedly impregnable vault.

One thing that made Ocean’s 11 so popular was the roster of well-known, and dare I say, handsome actors. I remember it being mentioned in one of the film’s documentaries that nearly every scene featured a gorgeous person to look at. Obviously with a book, you don’t have the advantage of such a visual medium. Did that at all present a challenge to you during the development of Scoundrels?

Actually, the goal here wasn’t really to reproduce any of the Ocean’s 11 movies, either in plot or in the glamour of the stars. (Though it does have Han and Lando in it, so I think we can give Danny Ocean and his crew a run for their money.) Rather, I was hoping to match the movies’ tone, in that our crew is working together as a team, with no one scheming to betray the others and no expectation of anyone collecting a knife in the back when it’s all over.

In my (admittedly limited) knowledge of heist/con movies, the two that come closest to this tone are Ocean’s 11 and The Sting.

And since I already had a cast of eleven…

Which minor character(s) would you like to explore in more detail?

I think all of the new characters could be explored, but for me the most interesting are the sisters Bink and Tavia and the Imperial agent Dayja. I could easily see those three in particular showing up in future books.

Let’s just say it: Scoundrels contains one of the most surprising plot twists of all time. It alone is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. Did you have it in mind all along, or was there a meeting at some point to find a way to knock readers off their feet?

Most of the plot twists in the book were my invention, but the one you’re referring to actually came from Shelly Shapiro and the gang at Del Rey. They brainstormed it out together and suggested it to me, and it was indeed so cool that I grabbed it and ran. I’m hoping the fans will get a kick out of it.

Thanks to Timothy Zahn and Del Rey for this interview! If you want to learn more about Scoundrels, read our review and news links below. Then go buy Scoundrels today!

SEE ALSO:
Megan Sits Down With Timothy Zahn
Novel Review: Scoundrels by Bry Dean
Megan’s Review: Scoundrels
38 Pages of Star Wars: Scoundrels Now Online
Star Wars: Winner Lose All: A Lando Calrissian Tale
Star Wars: Scoundrels Cover Blurb
Star Wars: Scoundrels Full Cover Art
Star Wars: Scoundrels Excerpt!
Star Wars: Scoundrels
Untitled Star Wars Stand-Alone by Timothy Zahn Blurb

Video Game Review: Dark Forces

Steal!

The First Person Shooter (FPS) had just gained momentum in 1993 with the release of Doom. Many games attempted to emulate it and were quickly labeled as ‘Doom-clones.’ But as much as LucasArts wanted to make a FPS like Doom, they also wanted to make additions to stand out. Thus, in 1995, came Star Wars: Dark Forces. The game added (what was revolutionary at the time) the ability to look up, down, duck, jump, swim, and it also contained levels with multiple floors. All the above was thanks to LucasArts creating the Jedi engine basically from reverse engineering the Doom engine. In 1995, all those new features made Dark Forces a good game. In late 2012/early 2013, it’s goodwill from said features has pretty much worn out. Read more

Star Wars Weekends 2013 Dates Announced

Star Wars Weekends

Disney has announced the dates for Star Wars Weekends 2013! Also, James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein will reprise their roles as celebrity hosts!

This year’s Force-filled fun will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 17 – June 9, 2013.

While details are still being planned, we’re excited to announce that James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein are returning as celebrity hosts for the annual special event. James, the voice behind many of the most famous animated characters in film, television and commercials, is known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. Ashley, who started her show business career as a parade dancer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the voice of Anakin’s ambitious Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

James is the Official Celebrity Host of Star Wars Weekends 2013, and Ashley is Celebrity Host of “Behind the Force,” a live show that takes fans behind-the-scenes in the Star Wars universe.

SEE ALSO:
Star Wars Weekends 2013

Chapter One of The Last Jedi now Online!

The Last Jedi

Random House has posted the first chapter of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, due out February 26, 2013! It’s written by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. Click here to head to the excerpt.

SEE ALSO:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Blurb
I-Five Returns in The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Welcome Back, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Knights Archive Exclusive: Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Novel Review: Scoundrels

– Minor Spoiler Review –

Timothy Zahn’s latest adventure in the Star Wars universe is a book that features Han, Chewie, Lando and a host of other shady characters from all over the galaxy. Star Wars: Scoundrels is set in between Episodes IV and V, but the events of the book are pretty much completely removed from the events of the movies. In fact, you wont find any Jedi here, or epic space battles. Just a group of smugglers and thieves looking to pull off a large heist. Sounds like a cool idea, right?

It is a cool idea. It’s no secret that Scoundrels was loosely based on the Ocean’s 11 movies, which also included complicated heists. In many ways, Scoundrels felt like like an extension of those movies. The amount of money the crew is looking to score is very close to the amount in Ocean’s 11. The number of people the crew amounts to is, yup you guessed it, 11.

Narrowing down prospective thieves and locating them also felt very Ocean’s 11, as did the strategy meeting discussing the details of the target, along with its vault. The crew base is within view of the target, and of course the mark is someone who you don’t want to tangle with.

This adventure turns out to be quite dangerous, as it will cause the crew to potentially disrupt Black Sun operations. Definitely not your typical heist, much like the one featured in Ocean’s 11.

What helped make Ocean’s 11 and its sequels very successful is all the handsome, well-known actors in virtually every shot. The movie wouldn’t have been nearly interesting if it had a bunch of bland no-names. While Scoundrels doesn’t have this visual benefit, the characters in the novel are quite capable of holding the reader’s interest.

Scoundrels is also accompanied by two prequel shorts, the separate eBook Winner Lose All and the Star Wars Insider short story Heist. They’re two different stories, though there is some overlap of characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if more stories appear featuring some the new characters introduced in Scoundrels.

There’s even a 30 second book trailer over at Amazon to whet your appetite.

A little while back, many fans online were wishing for a fun, adventurous “smuggler” novel, which eventually fell upon the ears of Timothy Zahn and Del Rey. I don’t know with certainty that Scoundrels is an answer to that wish, but it sure seems like it.

Do you want a fun adventure without the weight of galactic events bearing down on the story? How about a twist so surprising that you’ll want to go back and re-read the book? If you answered yes, go order a copy of Scoundrels today!

Be sure to check out our interview with Timothy Zahn by clicking the first link below!

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no charge in order to provide an early review. However, this did not affect the overall review content. All opinions are my own.

SEE ALSO:
Megan Sits Down With Timothy Zahn
Knights’ Archive Exclusive: Timothy Zahn
Megan’s Review: Scoundrels
38 Pages of Star Wars: Scoundrels Now Online
Star Wars: Winner Lose All: A Lando Calrissian Tale
Star Wars: Scoundrels Cover Blurb
Star Wars: Scoundrels Full Cover Art
Star Wars: Scoundrels Excerpt!
Star Wars: Scoundrels
Untitled Star Wars Stand-Alone by Timothy Zahn Blurb

Cover Synopsis:

To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.
But even he can’t do this job solo.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

Review: Target

Target

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any reviews, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading any EU. I’ve found time to sneak in some novels like little kids sneak cigarettes. This has been a good year for the EU but my second favorite novel this year (because, of course, Darth Plagueis is my favorite) has got to be Alex Wheeler’s Rebel Force #1: Target.

This is a novel for young readers (probably ten to twelve) but it has all of the characteristics that made me fall in love with the films and EU. Target begins immediately after Episode IV. The Rebels are still on Yavin 4 and everyone is how we left them in a A New Hope: Luke is still naive and attracted to Leia (Got some bad news for ya there, buddy), Han is smug and anxious to leave the Rebellion, and Leia is still a determined leader and as dedicated to the cause as ever. They and the Rebellion have encountered several problems, though.

TargetA lot of the Rebellion’s assets were on Alderaan, assets that they’ve now lost. This is an interesting point to focus on as the films never made clear how the Rebellion was really able to operate. To continue functioning they must try and access “secret accounts” on Muunilinst. Second, the Emperor is (understandably) furious about the destruction of the Death Star. Rezi Soresh, an Imperial commander, hopes to win favor with the Emperor by sending X-7, a highly trained assassin (they’re always highly trained, aren’t they?), to infiltrate the Rebellion and discover the identity of the pilot responsible.

The novel is an extremely quick read at 186 pages. I’m a sucker for any novels set in the OT, and Alex Wheeler did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of those early films. Target and the rest of the Rebel Force series are highly recommended.

4/5

Summary:

An all-new Star Wars series!

It is a critical moment in the struggle between the Rebels and the Empire: the Force itself hangs in the balance, and all the hopes of the galaxy depend on the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and a host of other heroes. . . .

Star Wars: The Essential Characters

The Random House 2013 online catalogs are starting to appear, and here’s a new listing for the upcoming Star Wars: The Essential Characters, by Dan Wallace: Link

Star Wars: The Essential Characters is the all-new book about our favorite characters from the movies as well as new characters from The Clone Wars cartoon series, comic books, video games, and novels. Written by Dan Wallace, the book will feature 150 full-color character illustrations from fan favorite artist Douglas Wheatley. This is the guide book fans have been asking for for years.

Star Wars: The Essential Characters is an all new standalone guide book that will detail the adventures of iconic characters such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa-Solo, and Darth Vader as well as new fan favorite characters from the Del Rey novels, Dark Horse comics, video games, movies, and Clone Wars cartoon. Author Dan Wallace previously wrote The New Essential Guide to Characters (over 130,000 copies in print!). This all new book will not only serve as a welcome introduction for new readers but also offer all new material for readers who who have read the previous book.

Here are some key points about the publication:

  • On Sale Date: April 15, 2014 Subject to change
  • 256 pages
  • Trade Paperback Original
  • INCLUDES 150 FULL-COLOR ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS by fan favorite Dark Horse Comics artist Douglas Wheatley.

SEE ALSO:
The Essential Characters Preview Art

Battle Hutt Cartel in Upcoming Old Republic Expansion

Hutttastic

Coming off the heels of the recently released free-to-play option, The Old Republic will soon be receiving its first digital expansion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel. With five new levels and a new planet, it’s up to you to discover why the Hutts plan on forcing the entire galaxy to wear the Slave Leia outfit. Actually, the expansion focuses on the Hutt Cartel’s attempt to reign supreme over the entire galaxy (but if they do take over, my scenario doesn’t sound that far off, does it?) Read more

Angry Birds Star Wars Invades Facebook

With the Force already strong with Angry Birds Star Wars, it behooves Rovio to allow as many people to enjoy their creation as possible. How best to do that? Launch a version of the game for Facebook. Read more

Megan’s Review: Scoundrels

- Spoiler Review -

Scoundrels won me over, in true scoundrel fashion, with its affability and sense of luck.

Here’s some background information: I don’t love Timothy Zahn. His writing does tend to be a little tighter and more mature than the average Star Wars author, and he has a sense for the rollicking, space opera side of the franchise as opposed to the politics side. However, none of the beloved characters from the Thrawn Trilogy worked for me, and not being able to tell the main characters apart by voice soured my experience of Allegiance.

Scoundrels was different, though. A great combination of action and character-driven story, the novel took place on one planet in one location (mostly) but showcased a lot of the things I’ve come to know and love about the Star Wars galaxy: spaceships, ominous aliens, and memorable characters.

The story is a series of heists undertaken by a group of eleven characters, each who have their own motivation. Before he gets to the main plot, though, Zahn deflects the reader’s attention from the main characters with a couple Imperial agents who are looking to take down the same crime lord, which gave the whole thing a nice sense of moral grayness (until the Imps ended up conflicting with the scoundrels, of course.)

The four Festivals of elements during which the heist takes place were well-described and memorably beautiful. Other parts of the Star Wars universe get shown off too: Scoundrels shows a scientifically thorough heist in a fundamentally magical world, and the variety of substances and tactics was interesting. No one member of the team was expected to know what every substance on every planet was, so they got explained to the readers too.

Then there’s those eleven characters. Zahn’s characterizations made the characters memorable and easy to keep track of. The dramatis personae is there but I found myself not needing to refer to it.

Personable ship thief Dozer is hired as the “front man” or face of the operation and begrudges it when Lando takes that position. He also gets hit with Faleen pheromones early on and is gun-shy about them for the rest of the book. Dozer’s rivalry with Lando and the appearance of Winter and Kell, who we know from other media work for the Rebels, were just as important as the plot. If friendships or morale fell apart, the heist could too.

Winter and new character Rachele work largely in the background, using cameras and computers. Both are characterized to some degree by elegance: Rachele is a high-class woman who uses her connections to help out, and Winter is haunted by the memories of Alderaan and her belief that she can’t trust anyone in the group with the knowledge that she’s part of the Rebellion. Kudos to Zahn for noticing and making a point of which characters know what: Winter doesn’t know whether Leia is alive after the destruction of Alderaan, and she doesn’t know that Han knows Leia either. There’s no omnipotence in the novel and no skimming over of issues that should be important to the characters.

Hers aren’t the only trust issues: Han wonders whether Lando would leave him to die, and their relationship remains tense throughout, fitting perfectly with Lando’s reception of Han in Return of the Jedi.

Sisters Bink and Tavia have an interesting relationship and like the rest of the team, their own motivations. Both are accomplished cat burglars but while Tavia hates the job and wants them to settle down somewhere quietly when they have enough credits, Bink loves the adventure. I would have liked to see Tavia come into her own more over the course of the book, and thought that her negative response could cause as much action as Bink’s positive one, but it didn’t plan out that way.

Nevertheless, the cast of characters was the best thing about the book. I liked Kell too, another Rebel agent who fears that he won’t be able to get the job done. These characters aren’t inhuman. They bicker and fear failure and rejoice at success, which makes them feel all the more real.

The final battle has a lot of exciting elements and moves fast. A clever Indiana Jones reference or two makes up the central part of that battle, which I found fun and creative – although I could have done without characters pointing out multiple times how much like a ‘holodrama’ it was. Fight scenes are outright difficult to write and Zahn doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy them, preferring characters and decorative sets, but that also doesn’t give him an excuse for outright skipping one toward the end of the novel.

Then there’s the twist, which I never saw coming and which made me smile as I put the book down. Zahn plants suspicions in his characters’ minds carefully, so they’re figuring things out at roughly the same time as the reader sometimes and long after at other times. The twist makes Scoundrels a completely different kind of novel, and I immediately wanted to read it again to see what hints Zahn had (and had not) placed to help readers figure the twist out. Suffice it to say that I think fans will be happy. Scoundrels tops the list of my favorite Zahn novels and probably earned a place in my top ten for the EU in total.

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no charge in order to provide an early review. However, this did not affect the overall review content. All opinions are my own.

SEE ALSO:
Megan Sits Down With Timothy Zahn
Knights’ Archive Exclusive: Timothy Zahn
Novel Review: Scoundrels by Bry Dean
38 Pages of Star Wars: Scoundrels Now Online
Star Wars: Winner Lose All: A Lando Calrissian Tale
Star Wars: Scoundrels Cover Blurb
Star Wars: Scoundrels Full Cover Art
Star Wars: Scoundrels Excerpt!
Star Wars: Scoundrels
Untitled Star Wars Stand-Alone by Timothy Zahn Blurb

38 Pages of Star Wars: Scoundrels Now Online


Click on the image above to open up the Insight Book Preview! The preview includes Scoundrels front matter. Look for Scoundrels on January 1, 2013.

SEE ALSO:
Megan Sits Down With Timothy Zahn
Knights’ Archive Exclusive: Timothy Zahn
Novel Review: Scoundrels by Bry Dean
Megan’s Review: Scoundrels
Star Wars: Winner Lose All: A Lando Calrissian Tale
Star Wars: Scoundrels Cover Blurb
Star Wars: Scoundrels Full Cover Art
Star Wars: Scoundrels Excerpt!
Star Wars: Scoundrels
Untitled Star Wars Stand-Alone by Timothy Zahn Blurb

Darth Plagueis Among the Best in 2012 Science Fiction

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis ranked 4th place in the science fiction category in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012! Link

I believe James Luceno wrote a masterpiece here, and think its ranking is well deserved. Of course, I would rather it be first on the list! If you want a more detailed opinion of the book, click on the links to our reviews below.

SEE ALSO:
Review: DARTH PLAGUEIS by Bry Dean
Review: Darth Plagueis by Andrew
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis Audio Excerpt
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis Back Cover
Darth Plagueis Blurb Now Online
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis Cover Art

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