Battlestar Galactica Season 1 Reflection

So I started watching Battlestar about a year ago while it was all on Netflix and I got about four episodes in. I was into it, but when it was taken off the service, I forgot about it and just watched rewatched Cowboy Bebop instead. Then it came to my attention that the series was back up, this time on Hulu, and this was around the time that I had upgraded my account to be commercial free. It was a sign from God, whether they be Kobol’s Gods, or the Cylon God, and I’ve just now gotten through the first season.

A lot happens over the course of one of these seasons, so I’m toying with the idea of doing one per episode for season two, but this first one is going to encompass the whole first 13 episodes, including the two-part miniseries that kicked the whole thing off.

Battlestar Galactica, at least so far, is the story of Humans and their Robots, the Cylons, and it’s a story that has been explored from almost every angle since the beginning of science fiction. I, Robot strung together a collection of stories from the early troubleshooting days of the first intelligent robot assistants, Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep (aka Blade Runner) explores Robot humanity and their similarities to their creators. Meanwhile, in Battlestar, we don’t really get to see much of the Robot’s intended purposes since we come in to the story after they’ve already revolted and left the planet to found their own colony.

When we come in, the Cylons have returned and, in the span of a few hours, have wiped out all of the Human colonies, leaving behind only those already in Space. The Galactica survives thanks to it’s outdated, un-networked software, and soon, they gather the rest of the civilian ships into a makeshift fleet, making FTL (Faster Than Light) jump after FTL jump in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the Cylon fleet.

It’s a story of survival, but beneath the science fiction setting, and political maneuvering, it really has deep religious allegory that has been slowly building up more and more steam. The Humans have their Gods who parallel the ancient Greek Pantheon, and the Cylons have their own monotheistic God, but so far, the whole story feels like a dramatization of a science fiction bible. Stay with me, and I’ll explain what I mean.

The story begins with a forced Exodus of the human homeworlds. The worlds they knew were devastated, and humanity is made to leave with a select few on a series of ships. Humanity is left to drift through space on their arks, trying to weather the storm that took everything from them. Or, if you’re not into the Noah comparison, it also fits quite nicely into the story of the Jews finally leaving Egypt to find the promised land. The Cylons claim to be on a mission from God, a mission that involves destroying the Humans in an effort to re-balance the Universe after centuries of Human superiority and bloodshed.

The character of Gaius Balter is perhaps the most interesting in the entire show, purely for his role in the religious aspects of the story. He is a great scientist, a coward, a self-centered asshole, and a window into the human world for the Cylons. He inadvertently helped bring on the downfall of humanity by allowing a Cylon woman into his bed, and, subsequently, into the defense mainframe that he was working on, and afterwards, he finds himself plagued by hallucinations of her that he can’t distinguish from reality.

His character begins as the epitome of the selfish human. Too smart for his own good, only concerned with himself and his own survival, and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure his own well being. As the show goes on, he’s molded and changed by his internal Cylon muse, and by the end of the first season, we can see him moving away from the human Gods he never identified with, and embracing the Cylon God who seems to save him from certain destruction at every turn. The Cylon woman toys with his mind and his assumed truths about life, but also works to ensure his survival against all odds, all the while, planting the seeds in his mind that he’s a tool of God. The one true God. The God that wishes to see mankind’s destruction.

He’s got all the right traits for her to prey on. He’s self-absorbed, rational, and fearful. He finds himself succeeding against all odds time and time again, more often than could possibly be statistically likely, and so he begins to believe in the idea that he’s got a greater purpose to serve. He remains loyal to human survival at the end of the season, but the audience can see that he’s not resisting the Cylon hand nearly as hard as he was in episode one. He is Abraham, hearing the world of God and reacting accordingly. There are allusions in the finale that he is to have a half-Cylon child, potentially as a unification of the two species. Although my own theories point more in the direction that the Cylons want his DNA to further their own designs.

Putting aside the religious undertones of the show, I’d like to talk a bit about what makes the show compelling from a storytelling standpoint. The show has a decently diverse cast between men and women, and while there aren’t too many POC, it does alright for a show that came out in 2009. The show’s co-creator Ronald D. Moore came up with the term Naturalistic Sci-Fi to explain where this show falls on the spectrum of hard to soft science fiction, and I think the show if well served by not falling too far into either camp. It focuses on characters and their development throughout the episodes, but the technology is present and explored enough within the setting and plot that it never feels arbitrary and magical.

I’ve been very sucked into this show as of late and, unfortunately, my writing schedule has suffered a little bit because of it. Expanse is also not helping. (Seriously, check out Expanse. It’s awesome.) Battlestar is well respected for many reasons, but my favorite aspect of the show, and why I think I’m so engrossed by it, is that it goes beyond the surface layer of space battles and FTL drives. It delves into philosophical issues that mankind has always grappled with, and expands on how those issues might transform in the future once we have the ability to birth artificial, yet conscious life.

Determinism vs. Free Will, artificial intelligence vs. “real” intelligence, individual good vs. greater good. These are the underlying issues that every decision in the show is weighed against, and it makes for TV that is both entertaining from a fiction standpoint, and thought provoking from a human standpoint. Are the Cylons truly things? At what point do the differences between their minds and ours become negligible. Was Tom Zarek’s take over of the prison ship, and his ongoing Populist crusade, justified in using terrorist tactics to get the representation he wanted? I’m not quite sure yet. It’s been one season, and I have way more questions than answers. I’m excited to see how things shape up in season 2.

 

Trouble in Paradise

 

Karen bowed reverently before the portrait of the Grand Leader. Next Sunday would mark his 200th anniversary as the Nation’s chief diplomat, and she and Don were having the Smiths over to watch the ceremony on broadcast to break in their new video receiver.

Don’s car has just pulled into the driveway.” The pleasant voice floated through the room from the small control console on the wall. Karen crossed to the tiny monitor as she acknowledged the disembodied voice. “Thanks Cheryl. Go ahead and set the dining room lights for a dinner date.”

Karen watched her husband walk in the front door. “Hi, honey. How was work today?” Don left his slippers by the door, opting to keep his work shoes on instead. He crossed to the table and stood over his chair. “Karen, I need to tell your something really important.”

Karen looked up with a blissful ignorance that broke Don’s heart. “You can’t wait fifteen seconds to sit down? The food’s getting cold.” Feeling the fight go out of him, Don pulled out his chair and halfheartedly served himself some stew. “Do you remember that trip we wanted to take?” His wife looked up at him, delighted.

Of course! We were going to spend a week on Virgo! Did we finally win the tickets?”

Lying would only make things worse, but the whole truth would be just as troublesome. He didn’t have too many moves left open to him. A few pawns against a queen and her bishops. “Unfortunately, no, but I we’ve got enough saved up to spend some time on Earth if we leave tonight.”

Silence rippled outward like a pebble in a lake before laughter dropped like a stone. “I’m sorry, but you can’t be serious! We can’t just decide to take a trip like that. No, the Robinson’s are coming over next week for the broadcast, what would they think if we just canceled.” She pushed some of the beans around on her plate, mad at being tricked like that.

I’m serious. Just up and leaving would be romantic. Think of it as the honeymoon we couldn’t afford.”

Karen really looked at her husband, beans forgotten. “Where could you have possibly gotten that kind of money? We haven’t even cleared it with the travel board.” Don was suddenly very interested in getting peas from the bowl onto his plate.

Don looked up from his soup. He could only hold out for so long. He took his Karen’s hand across the table and looked into her eyes. She could see their past, and their future, but there was also something else. She could see how tired he was. “I can tell you where I got the money.” he said. “You won’t like it, but it would mean a shuttle for us tonight. I need you to trust that I know what I’m doing.”

Don breathed deeply and Karen could feel his hands trembling. She’d seen him worried, but this was different. Concern rose and her giggle subsided.

I’ve been working for the Unified Front and I think the administration has found out.” Don looked at her expectantly as the giggling came back full force. She withdrew her hands and went back to her beans. “Babe, you shouldn’t even joke about things like that.” She could feel the portrait of their patriarch on the wall, listening from the other side of the glass. “It isn’t funny.” She continued eating and left Don’s hands dangling.

She could feel Don’s eyes burning holes in the top of her head, but couldn’t bring herself to meet them. “It isn’t a joke, Karen. I kept you out of it for as long as possible, but we really need to leave now.” Karen’s plate stared back up at her from the table as they fell away from her. She didn’t remember standing. “Don, this isn’t funny. Please, stop it.”

Don was at her side, his arm around her shoulder, but it was the touch of a dead man. His mouth was moving, but Karen was a million miles away in the deepest, darkest holes in the Earth where they put enemies of the state.

And he was in here with her, shaking her by the shoulders.

Karen could feel the Leader’s eyes on her, she knew that it was only a matter of time before he found out, if he didn’t know already. This was her fault. Don had clearly been brainwashed, he wasn’t thinking clearly. She hadn’t been paying enough attention and she was being punished.

How long has this been going on?” she managed to whisper? “Why would they force you to do this?” Don stepped back. He seemed larger, less tired than before. “This was my choice, and I’m doing the right thing.” He pointed at the Leader. “That man is a murderer. Everything he does is in the name of control, and we deserve better than him.”

Karen was blown away by her husband’s naivety. “They blow up buildings! Don’t you remember the school in B-City that got burned to the ground? Nothing can justify that!”

“Sacrifices will be made.” Don spoke quietly, suddenly serious. “The lives of a few to serve the needs of the many.” He pointed accusingly at the stern figure looking down over the table. “This is what they want. They want to paint us as killers so no one notices the army evaporating whole worlds of dissenters. Did you know that Coren has one less moon now? They were were teaching Pre-War History, and the Leader deemed them a threat to national peace.”

This was too much for Karen to handle, she was shaking and had to steady herself on the table. “We can fix this.” She heard herself say. “Does anyone else know?”

“Until tonight, just my colleagues.”

“Until tonight?”
Don took a step towards her. “Someone followed me home, Karen. I don’t know how they found me out, or who else they caught, but I need you to come with me. We’re not safe.”

Karen stepped back from her husband, torn between her two loves. Torn between two of the most important people in her life. Both watched her silently. Waiting for her decision. The room was stifling.

“Why are you doing this to us, Don?”

“I’m doing this for us.”

“Bullshit, Don! You’re doing this for yourself! You hated my dad, and you hated the Federation! You’ve always hated authority, and now you’ve ruined this family for it.

Don was blown away. “You can’t mean that! Even if me and your Dad didn’t always get along, I love you! I just want us to be able to live safely!”

“Then why join those lunatics?! Why would you throw away everything we have? Is our life together that worthless to you?” Karen’s vision began to blur and she could feel her life slipping away, sifting out the good, leaving only sand and refuse.

I want to bring you with me, but alone or not, I need to leave tonight. I don’t have a choice anymore. You still do.”

Karen knew she didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t meet her husband’s eyes, and hoped that was enough. “You’ll be safer once I’m gone.“ she heard him say. Karen knew it was a lie, and not a comforting one, but one more for his own sake than her’s.

Karen just sat while the peas cooled down and the door slammed. Don crunched down the driveway. She knew what she had to do, and she hated it, but sacrifices had to be made for the greater good. She wanted him to stay. She had begged him to stay. He’d left her no other options. He was a criminal and she had obligations as a citizen. The moral imperative commanded her to act, no matter how painful it was. The phone sat in her hand. When she looked up, the Leader was watching her to see what she’d do next, watching his daughter in a school play, mouthing the words just in case she forgets. She dialed.

“Hello, yes, I’d like to report a U.F. member. I’m at 1534 54th Street, he’s leaving now. Thank you. Hurry.” She hung up. The phone was wet and slipped out of her hands. At some point, she’d slid down onto the floor.

Last time she’d sat on the floor, Don was there with her. They’d gotten fairly drunk and collapsed in laughter over something she couldn’t remember anymore. It was one of the happiest memories she had. She struggled to figure out where she lost him.


 

Don fumed in silence as he drove. He hit a bump in the road and soft moaning echoed from the trunk. Twisting in his seat, Don gave the back seat a smack. “Quiet back there! You were following me, remember?” He returned to his agonized stewing. He couldn’t believe her sometimes. She was one of the most beautiful people he’d ever known, but she was too trusting, too blinded by the promise of safety.

She was infuriating. Amazing, uplifting, and infuriating.

Don wanted to turn around. He wanted to speed back to the house, and take his wife in his arms. Throw her in the car, get on the shuttle and never come back. This wasn’t going at all as he’d planned.

It wasn’t clear yet how, but several agents were compromised and needed to get off the planet. If Don missed his shuttle there wouldn’t be a second one.

He was heartbroken, but on certain planets what he’d done would have been considered honorable, and that delusion would most likely comfort him in his new life. Unfortunately, it didn’t change that fact that his wife would surely be tried for aiding the Front. He attempted to push such thoughts as far back as possible. Push them right back into the trunk to keep his guest company.

He’d laid it all out on the table, granted, sooner than he’d intended, but the whole situation was spinning wildly out of his control. He hadn’t intended to leave without her, but he also did not intend to be taken to the reassignment camps. He’d done what he could.

He would not live a slave’s life at the whims of some despot.

She still loved him him, Don knew that, but Karen had always been entrenched in the pomp of the Leader. Her father had been a bureaucrat for the Center for Safe Speech, and when her mother fell sick the treatment had been paid for by the State. She owed much to the Federation, but a Leader blackmailing it’s own people had as much business governing as a pair of slacks. It was infuriating. Irreconcilable. Don would be damned if he’d let himself be bested by a pair of slacks.

He stopped the car and made a turn to head back to his home.

Then he noticed

Coming by land and by air, Don’s punishment danced in the darkness like light-bugs. Beautiful lures to guide people to their deaths. Don knew it was over even before they shut down his car remotely.

As he was dragged out on to the street Don could feel his resistance remain in the driver’s seat. He’d rejected freedom the moment he turned back, but now he rejected imprisonment as well. Locking someone away in a tower was only punishment if the captive dreamed of escaping. Don was over escaping. Don could be happy in one of the stasis cells for a thousand years, as long as Karen was in there with him.

It was selfish to be sure. Don had never thought of himself as selfish, but as he lay on the pavement, shackled, his lone thought was of himself. “I don’t care what sort of torture they put me through, as long as she’s there with me.”

 

Ender’s Game(Book) Review

Before I get into my thoughts about this book, I want to say that I always figured that this was a kids book. When I was in middle school I had classmates who’d read it, but somehow I never picked it up. Reading it now, I maintain that it’s a great jumping off point to get kids into science fiction, but the story is compelling enough that I feel it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

The basic story is that humanity on Earth has been invaded by bug-like aliens and must train military commanders before they return. The protagonist is a young boy named Ender, thought to be humanity’s last great hope due to his tactical genius and overwhelming desire to succeed.

From beginning to end, we’re with Ender as he’s persecuted by his peers for his talents, and set against more and more insurmountable odds by his commanding officers. Interestingly enough, his challenges never really arise on the battlefield, but stem from his interactions with children his own age and older. Cornered by bullies he’d bested the day before, mocked for being the third child in a world with strict two child laws, Ender is constantly the outsider, and it speaks to readers, especially children, who might find themselves in parallel circumstances. (albeit with much less dire circumstances)

The book itself is not a challenging read, I blew through it in about two days of commute and toilet reading, but the story it tells is well written and clear. The plot would be right at home in a Shonen manga and it’s got decent character development, at least for Ender, so that the ending twist hits as hard as it can. Ender spends the whole book coming to resent the adults molding him into a Commander so when he finally decides to win the last simulation out of spite the realization that he played into their hands is shocking to both himself and the reader.

If I’d read this story as a 10 year old, I would definitely have been jealous of Ender and his amazing mind. He was chosen to save humanity, and what kid doesn’t like to pretend that they’re more than just another face in the crowd. (You’re a wizard, Harry.) As an adult, however, I found myself thinking more about the intense hurdles that the military was forcing him through. I was worried about the mental stability of a child, forcefully isolated and relentlessly trained in order to be the perfect strategist. There is plenty of internal struggling going on, and I think that speaks more to adults than the zero gravity fight simulations. We live in a time where kids are pushed to do more and more, earlier and earlier, and at it’s core, that’s what this book is about. It’s about a child, albeit a genius one, pushed to his very limits by adults who only want to use him for their own purposes.

What else can I say about Ender’s Game that I haven’t already? It’s a fun, quick story that just might be the perfect introduction to dystopian space warfare for your 12 year old. Better yet, read it with your child. Discuss the different themes and messages you each find, because I do think that it speaks in one way to children and another to adults. Children are often smarter than we give them credit for, and this book encapsulates the greatness, and the pain, that adults can inflict with enough pressure.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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Note: While I won’t recap the entire plot, I will mention specific events. If you’ve yet to see the film and care about spoilers, read at your own risk.

Rating: 9.0/10

I’ve been thinking about Star Wars for a little over a week now. I first saw it on the 18th, and finally saw it again on Christmas with my family. I started this review after the first viewing, but I felt like my excitement outweighed any objective critiques that I had about the movie. Now that I’ve seen it twice, I think I’m ready to break down how I really felt about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.

I was tremendously excited for this brand new installment of Star Wars. It’s one of my favorite movie franchises and, I’ll be honest, when the LucasFilm logo came up at the beginning I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted it to be good so badly, but I’d been burnt before. That being said, by the time the end credits rolled it had fulfilled some of my highest hopes, and worst fears.

The film is objectively a retelling of “A New Hope” down to the trench that the Resistance fighters had to skim to get their winning shots on the Death Star’s final form. The original 1977 film is based heavily on the consistently safe mono-myth, so I see the logic in using it to introduce us to the new era of SW heroes and villains, but at times, many of the specific plot points were a little close for comfort. The new Death Star, (but it’s even bigger!) the Villain who kills the lead’s new mentor, and the new heroine’s sandy origins all spring to mind. This is a tried and true structure, and this film was meant to be a return to form after the politics heavy prequels, so I understand why writers JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan wanted to write something familiar while introducing a new post-war Galaxy. No midichlorians, no exposition heavy walking and talking, and no surprisingly offensive aliens mirroring certain Earth cultures. I just wish they could have taken a few more risks with the plot.

We got a film where the force has been returned to the spiritual mystery that it was meant to be, where X-Wings shoot down Tie Fighters, and where the villain is passionately evil instead of mechanically rigid. Kylo is the embodiment of what I wanted from Episode II & III Anakin. He’s stubborn, power-hungry, and most importantly, actually threatening. It was great to see the old cast back in action, but the development of the new cast is exciting and genuine. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver have been set up in a compelling way without ripping the characters straight from the original trilogy.

Having a traitorous Storm Trooper is a great idea. After the clones, the Empire had to begin recruiting real humans who come with real emotional baggage, and not all of them are going to fully embrace the atrocities they are commanded to commit. Ridley’s character grew up on a planet similar to Luke’s Tatooine, but she has been without a family for a nearly her entire life and her character reflects that. She isn’t a whiny teenager, but instead an independent survivor. She also doesn’t fall into the strong-female-character trappings where her strength comes from having traditionally male traits either. Sure, she’s good with machines, can fly a mean starship, and doesn’t need to be saved, but at the same time she’s got a deep hurt inside from being abandoned. When she comes into contact with Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber what she sees scares her to the point that she runs from it, but the important thing is that she comes back. She’s smart and resourceful, but she’s not a walking one-woman army. People need to see that female roles can be strong without having to be invincible, and I think that Ms. Ridley walked that line deftly for her first Hollywood outing.

The characters are the crux of why I really enjoyed this new film. We get to see how they fit into the black and white, dark and light confrontation that they find themselves in. Storm Troopers seem more human thanks to Finn’s desertion and conflicting emotions, the Jedi are less than stoic heroes thanks to Luke’s breakdown and hiding, and the Empire is a fraction of what it once was, realizing just how hard it is to seize power on a galactic scale.

In a sense, Rey, Finn, and Kylo have the same sort of reverence for the heroes of the old films that fans do. Darth Vader is the dark side personified for Kylo, Luke Skywalker is a living legend for all three, and Han plays different, but equally important roles for each of them. Generals, heroes, villains, saviors. The original cast of characters has taken on a mythic status, not just for the fans, but for the new character to aim for, and I think that their progression in the next two movies is going to be fascinating.

Despite my hesitations about mirroring the original trilogy too closely, or my gripes about how every potential Jedi needs to be related to some major character, when I actually sat back and let the film wash over me, I found myself genuinely happy with JJ’s latest work. He did well with Star Trek, but I never had a personal connection to the series. Now, with Star Wars, I’m finally in a position to understand how much he respects the original work, and I’m truly grateful that Disney trusted him to continue one of our most culturally beloved series’. I’ll be seeing it again, I’m sure, and I’ll probably see things that I didn’t the first two times, but I can’t imagine that I’ll find any reason to lower my score.

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Void Warranty

So I had a short piece that I was going to post today, but it ended up expanding more than I thought it would and I decided that I wanted to submit it to a publication. Unfortunately that means I can’t post it here until I hear back so I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in a little while. I’ve found a beautiful piece of art online and I wanted to share a little scene that it inspired.

The art is entitled “Bots and Drugs” and was done by a talented artist named Anthony Beyer. See the rest of his work here.

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“It’ll never feel this good again.”

Dev tried to tone down his logic sensors, but each wave of euphoria left him less and less in control of his system settings.

“You’ll have to find more next time.”

“Shut up,” Dev scratched weakly at his head “I’m trying to enjoy this.”

“15 more minutes and you’ll have to dose again.”

Dev wanted his brain to stop thinking so hard, but he could barely move his arms, let alone navigate his way to the power shut off neurons in his brain. The juice had made its way up his arm and softly vibrated his whole being. This was a feeling he wasn’t programmed for. This is what it is to be alive.

As Dev sprawled out in his dingy warehouse home, the glow from the power source splashed blue light out about five feet before darkness reclaimed the room. He was a little night-light. The box was his North Star.

“What happens when your brain stops responding to the stimulus?”

As buzzed out as Dev got, he still couldn’t completely shut out that little voice reminding him that this was all fleeting. He wasn’t alive now and he never would be. All he could do was run through the pre-programmed life activity presets. He’d gotten so used to them that by now he knew exactly how he’d react given any external stimuli.

What he wouldn’t give for a second of irrational thought. Those minutes of craving after coming down were the closest he ever came. Needing something desperately despite understanding the negative effects it has on his body. Even that was just a product of his neural circuits adjusting to the higher voltages he was feeding them, but it was all he had.

It was coming. He could feel his brain revving to its limits just before the juice ran out. Dev was plunged into a darkness so absolute that his visual cortex might as well have shorted, which had happened once. His body snapped to attention as the last of the juice ran its course. His internal temperature began to cool and synapses in his brain condensed loosely into their factory default. They would never be quite new again but they maintained a, somewhat looser, version of themselves. Small shivers crept down his arm to where the leads had been attached but he barely noticed.

In the pitch black, Dev looked down at his hands and the residual heat from the trip made his hands look human through infrared. He flexed his fingers and tried to push past the logical part of his brain and access the part brought out by the Juice. The part that could make him human.

“Are you happy? Is this the sensation you were chasing?”

Dev thought carefully about the question. Was this what he wanted? Sure, it was exhilarating, but at what cost? His brain was a finely tuned piece of engineering, and was capable of tremendous intellectual feats as well as simulating a huge variety of emotions. Was this foreign feeling of desperate need, even at the cost of his well-being, worth it?

Dev made his choice. “Yes it is.”

Dev was a lonely explorer without his North Star to guide him, but he would find it again, and it would take him home.”

Star Wars: Aftermath Review

aftermath_new-6-red_I just got home after visiting my folks for Thankgiving. I also just finished Aftermath, which as you may or may not know, is Chuck Wendig’s first book in the new Star Wars canon. I know that I haven’t posted in a little while, but I’m home and finally getting things back on track, and I figured I could kick things off with a book review, and a look at what could be in-store for us as we creep closer and closer to December 18th.

First things first, I want to say that I was a big fan of the old Extended Universe. Despite it’s sub par quality control, and some very convoluted, overlapping stories, I genuinely enjoyed quite a few of the books. So, when I heard that Disney was axing the EU I knew to make way for a new series, I was initially disappointed, but ultimately I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re leading up to a new movie, they’re trying to simplify the history of the world, I understand their position, and I was even hopeful that we would see the books step up in terms of consistent quality. I can’t quite speak to the consistency yet, but I should say that I think it falls right in the middle of the pack in terms of quality of writing and Star Wars style.

In Aftermath, we get a glimpse of a post-ROTJ galaxy. We don’t see Luke trying to assemble a new Jedi school, we don’t see Han pop the question, we see young citizens and rebels in the Outer Rim dealing with the last dregs of the Empire as it struggles to reorganize. We see Republic propaganda campaigns. We see Wedge Antilles get tortured until he’s able to miraculously escape. The closest we get to seeing the old gang is a six-page interlude of Han and Chewie zipping through Hyperspace.

Not every Star Wars book I read has to be about the main characters and their extraordinary fight to save the galaxy. Aftermath is pushed forward by a mother looking for her son, a son trying to protect his home, and a bounty hunter looking for a paycheck. In my opinion, those stories can be just as compelling as Luke searching distant worlds for force-positive children that he can train, and way more compelling than the Sun Crusher.

There’s a lot of potential here. The story ideas are solid, and there are glimpses of Star Wars’ particular mix of sci-fi and fantasy, but I kept getting sideswiped by crazy happenstance that served to move the story along, or the kind of b-grade banter where both characters have the same snarky voice with different masks on. Towards the end of the book, there are numerous instances of things happening just for the sake of getting to the happy ending.

I’ll be honest, there are parts of the old EU that I miss, and parts that I don’t mind saying bye to, but I was hoping that by starting fresh, Disney was going to go the extra mile to ensure that these books get quality controlled.This is starting to sound like I didn’t like the book, and it’s true, there are definitely parts where I groaned a little bit, but underneath some wonky plot and some serious sets of plot armor, I think that the underlying direction and premise behind the books is compelling.

Watching the shadow of the Empire under siege from a local population they’ve been abusing is a fun idea. It lets us know that the Empire is weakened but still loosely organized, as well as shows us that people, even in the Outer Rim are beginning to see the light. No matter what you think of the story itself, Aftermath does a great job of setting up the changing galaxy we left after ROTJ.

 

That being said, character death is not served well by immediately bringing the character back to life. Especially not when it happens twice in a row. The sacrifice is diminished when we get death on one page, and then resurrection on the next.

Still, there were characters that I cared about. Mr. Bones, for instance. A psychopathic guard droid is silly, yes, but he was an occasional laugh when all the other characters with either dealing with family drama or bantering  in the background at inappropriate times.

All in all I enjoyed the new Star Wars experience. There were some moments where I scoffed, but there were also times where I was totally sucked into the world. At it’s best, Aftermath is a fun romp through an outer-rim conflict, and even at it’s worst, its flaws aren’t enough to make me stop reading.

Bounty Hunting for Fun and Profit

So I recently bought tickets for Star Wars Episode VII and I’m excited to see it on the 18th, but I’m not excited for the month long wait until then, so to tide myself over, I bought the new Aftermath book. I’m about 40 pages from finishing it, and when I’m done I’ll write a proper review, but the story has me thinking about bounty hunters.

They’ve been a part of the Star Wars Universe since it’s inception, and their role as morally ambiguous profiteers hasn’t really changed too much. From Boba Fett to Jas Emari, bounty hunters have remained suspicious loners, flitting from system to system, taking jobs for the money with little regard for anything but their own survival. That got me thinking about the type of person who would thrive in the chaos we see post Episode VI. I wanted to create a character who kills, not for money, but for their own sense of justice. Money is a means to an end, and the end is the complete destruction of those who had wronged him.

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The rain hadn’t let up.

Even if it Dale didn’t manage to eliminate his target here, at least he’d won his bet back at the bar. That was 20 credits going towards finding something hot to eat. Still, this bounty would net him more than enough for a month of dinners, so that was preferable.

Dale didn’t really care about the money. He scraped by, and that was all that mattered. Now that it was just him, his living costs had decreased dramatically.

Seeing Admiral Chaff drop was much more important to Dale than a payday. He chuckled to himself, “Man, I’m a bad bounty hunter.”

He hadn’t taken this job for the sizable bounty that the New Republic had put on the Admiral’s head. Galactic politics had never been a presence in his life outside determining who his taxes went to, and he was always fine with that. This was a personal vendetta.

When the war came crashing into his life it wasn’t just in the form of propaganda he saw peppered outside local bars. It was Stormtroopers stopping citizens on their way to work. It was Tie-Fighter flyovers at all hours of the night. It was people disappearing.

He had heard that the Empire had lost the Battle of Endor, but that only meant that whatever stragglers were left had come to the Outer Rim looking for footholds from which they could try and mount their counter-rebellion from. Dale’s wife had maintained communication hardware for a living and that was a valuable skill now that the Empire’s best had been vaporized along with their ridiculous “Death Star”.

So now Dale found himself staring down the scope of his modified slug thrower at the man who had taken his wife without even dirtying his own hands to do it. If anyone was going to collect the Admiral’s life, he would, and he didn’t even need the incentive of credits to do it.

The Admiral stood on the balcony of the seized Capital building, staring out into the rainy sky. He almost looked peaceful now, but he had a long and bloody history behind him.

Dale was here to make sure he had a short and bloody future ahead of him.

This is what he lived for now. This is what the galaxy had turned him into. This war was as much the Republic’s doing as the Empire’s, and now that it was ending, his own personal war had begun.

*Bang*