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Tag Archive: Del Rey book


Review by C.J. Bunce

Every fan of Stranger Things will likely approach a Stranger Things novel looking for something like an “X-File.”  Adam Christopher’s new novel Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town is about Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour in the Netflix TV series), and it takes place in 1977, seven years before a Christmas in 1984 where he is enjoying a winter in his cabin with his newly adopted daughter Eleven (played on the series by Millie Bobby Brown).  A few weeks after the events of Season Two, Eleven finds a box of Jim’s mementos and wants to know more about his past, so he decides to tell her a crime story from his days as a New York City detective.  So it will help the reader’s 432-page journey to know this is not an X-File–there is nothing fantasy or science fiction about Hopper’s past to be learned, no demogorgons or other monsters, and although it includes a few scenes with his wife Diane and daughter Sara, we never learn more about why they aren’t around when the series takes place.

Understandably reader expectations might be wrongly set by the folks advertising the book.  This is how Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town is marketed:

Chief Jim Hopper reveals long-awaited secrets to Eleven about his old life as a police detective in New York City, confronting his past before the events of the hit show Stranger Things.  

I don’t know what “long-awaited secrets” could mean for Stranger Things fans other than learning what happened to his wife and daughter.

But if you can get beyond a sci-fi/fantasy assumption, or if that is not even your expectation, then you’ll learn more about what makes Hopper tick.   In a story laid out like a 1970s prequel Law & Order episode, Hopper goes undercover in the style of Donnie Brasco or The Departed, except the undercover work begins and ends not over several months but inside of 12 days (making Hopper very lucky or some kind of supercop) between the Fourth of July 1977 and the aftermath of the real-life July 13-14 city power outage.  As a crime story for beginning readers of the genre, Christopher’s storytelling provides a thorough tale of an alternative cause for a real-life event.   He uses gangs, connecting Hopper, a new partner, federal agents, and research on returning prison inmates to the public after serving out their sentences in a hot summer where the Son of Sam was still yet to be captured.  It may very well say something about Hopper’s character, that he would select this story to tell his daughter.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.  That is the last novelization in the Star Wars universe that was as fun as Mur Lafferty’s new novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded EditionThat’s saying a lot, because Glut’s exciting prose is what got many of us through the 2.5 year wait period before The Return of the Jedi arrived, in the dark days before VHS.  Lafferty writes with quick, succinct sentences that zip the reader through the action-packed, roller coaster ride of a story.  This is the space fantasy and space Western nostalgia that fans of the original series were hoping for when the prequels and sequels came along.  Electric and classic like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the novelization energizes an already great movie.  Of course screenplay writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan deserve the appropriate praise for the bones of the story, but the novelization provides everything else that couldn’t make it into their 135-minute movie.

Best of all is a three-page epilogue that directly ties Solo: A Star Wars Story together with not just the obvious connections you already know with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the original trilogy stories.  The novelization introduces an intersection with two other major characters from the Star Wars saga no one could possibly predict.  As good as the gambling scene was between Han and Lando at the end of the movie, it’s a shame this scene did not become part of the film.  No spoilers here, but the book is worth reading for the epilogue alone.  You’ll also find a revealing scene between Qi’ra and L3-37, and a surprising, hilarious exchange onboard the Millennium Falcon between Lando and Chewbacca.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Expanded Edition has an apt subheading, because it is precisely what sets it apart: expanding on every major character’s backstory.  Han and his encounters with Lady Proxima on Corellia and life in the Imperial Navy (including an appearance by comic book characters Tag & Bink) are told in flashback memories.  Chewbacca‘s thoughts are fleshed out, too: how he got to where we meet him in this story, and his passion to help Sagwa and the other Wookiees escape from the muddy spice mine on Kessel.  We learn what happened to Qi’ra right after Han left her behind, as she is sold to another slaveholder and finally falls into the clutches of Dryden Vos and Crimson Dawn.  Lafferty expands on the relationship between Val and Beckett, including their first encounter, too.  And most enlightening is the heavily emotional inner-workings of Lando‘s droid L3-37 and how her mechanics–plus a little coaxium–made the fastest ship in the galaxy all that it would later become.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In her debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was an enigma, the latest of the uniquely costumed bad guys in the Star Wars universe, following in a line that progressed from Darth Maul to General Grievous, Count Dooku, and Darth Vader in the prequels, and later into Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels.  In Delilah S. Dawson’s new novel, Star Wars: Phasma, Phasma finally gets the spotlight.  Readers learn about her backstory through an interrogation of a Resistance spy working for General Leia Organa, by yet another aspiring Imperial/First Order warrior, Captain Cardinal.

The spy, Vi Moradi, is pressed to provide Cardinal with damning information to help him bring down Phasma with the current leader, General Armitage Hux, son of General Brendol Hux, the leader who ushered both Cardinal and Phasma from their primitive worlds to train the future warriors of the First Order.  Dawson tells this story as a play on A Thousand and One Nights, where the reader is compelled to wonder whether the information is true or that the end will be of the Keyser Söze variety.  Moradi reveals a story of Phasma’s rise to power among a tribe on the planet Parnassos, and her discovery by Brendol Hux when his ship crashes on the planet and his emergency escape pod leaves him and his Stormtroopers far from the wreckage and any chance to communicate back to the First Order for assistance.

Phasma’s story will be most familiar to readers of the Star Wars universe novel Thrawn (reviewed here earlier at borg.com).  Both Phasma and Thrawn literally battled their way to the top.  Those familiar with the third trilogy novels will find an interesting parallel in the selection of the stories released leading up to the new canon films, including Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel centered on the feud between Krennic, Tarkin, and Galen Erso, and Tarkin, introducing readers to Tarkin’s confrontations with Darth Vader.  Star Wars: Phasma has much in common with the Star Wars Rebels prequel novel A New Dawn, and indeed Vi Moradi would fit in well with the crew of the Ghost.  Dawson pits Cardinal against Phasma like the Emperor pitted Anakin Skywalker against Grievous and Dooku, continuing some consistency from earlier Star Wars stories.

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