Friday, November 21, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama is widely acclaimed as Arthur C. Clarke's best book, and it definitely deserves much of the praise it's gotten. That said, the book isn't perfect, particularly when it comes to the characters.

Rendezvous with Rama starts when an large, cylindrical object is detected hurtling towards the sun. The object is named "Rama" after the Hindu god. The United Planets sends the solar survey vessel Endeavour under the command of Commander Bill Norton to investigate. The rest of the book focuses on the crew's exploration of the alien artifact.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke


Childhood's End is frustrating. The story has several great twists, even brilliant, but it's sloppily executed and the ending veers into paranormal mysticism rather than science fiction. Too often, the story drops the really interesting ideas it raises in favor of some of the sillier concepts. I can't really discuss the problems with this book without SPOILERS, so be warned that there are spoilers throughout!

The story begins rather quickly as a mysterious alien race comes to Earth and... helps mankind create a utopia! Even today, most stories about aliens are either about alien invasions or first contact. But Childhood's End presents a race of benevolent aliens actually helping mankind. Initially, the struggle becomes getting mankind to accept and trust their new "overlords." A group of humans resists the aliens and promises mass resistance. Great twist, right?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Tarkin



As a big fan of James Luceno’s “Darth Plagueis,” I was excited to hear that Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin would be getting the Luceno treatment. Unfortunately, “Tarkin” isn’t quite the equal of “Darth Plagueis” in that it doesn’t provide a sweeping backstory for Tarkin. It’s more a story in which Tarkin is the central protagonist. However, we do get some great background information about Tarkin, especially about his upbringing on Eriadu. And there are some wonderful treats for fans of the old EU.

*** MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD**

Friday, October 3, 2014

REBELS REVIEW: "Spark of Rebellion"

The latest incarnation of Star Wars, Rebels, has now officially aired on TV. I won't be able to review the entire show - I don't even know if I'll have access to cable overseas - but I thought I'd at least share my thoughts on the TV movie, "Spark of Rebellion." Overall, there is some real promise with the characters, but a number of problems with the overall tone of the show and, surprisingly, the soundtrack. It's a fun ride, but does it have the potential to become something more?

I don't feel that I can review the show adequately without discussing key plot points in depth, so there are SPOILERS below.

Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars: A New Dawn


 




Star Wars: A New Dawn” is an important entry into the Star Wars library for a few reasons. First, it is the first book in Disney’s new Star Wars canon. In other words, this book is just as much a part of the Star Wars saga as any of the movies. Second, this book introduces readers to a few of the main characters in the upcoming animated TV show “Star Wars: Rebels.”

To be perfectly honest, I had not been particularly excited about “Rebels.” I had some issues with “The Clone Wars” and the same creative team is heading “Rebels.” From what I’d seen thus far, it seemed like the beginning of the Disneyfication of Star Wars. So I was initially somewhat skeptical of this book. That said, John Jackson Miller is one of my favorite Star Wars authors, so it had that to its credit.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Poli-Sci Jedi is going overseas...

You've probably noticed I haven't been active recently. I found out that I've been selected for fellowship to do research in Myanmar (Burma). So stay tuned because once I arrive I will definitely start blogging about my experiences there, including my experience watching Episode VII abroad...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Far Far Away Radio podcast episode about politics

I just finished recording a podcast episode about politics in Star Wars with Far Far Away Radio. Look for it soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Revising politics in Attack of the Clones

In my article for the Far, Far Away Radio blog, I mentioned that many critics attacked the political scenes in the Prequel Trilogy. I had mentioned that the Prequels sometimes failed to connect the political story with the characters' arcs. Of course, criticizing is one thing; doing is another. So, as an intellectual exercise, I thought I would take one political scene from Attack of the Clones to see if I could retain the substance of the scene but add more of a character moment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WHY WE NEED POLITICS IN STAR WARS

The Far, Far Away Radio blog kindly published an op-ed piece I wrote about politics in Star Wars. I discuss why politics is essential to the saga, as well as how it works best on screen. I then propose a few ideas for the Sequel Trilogy. You can read it here. Thank you again to the team at FFAR for sharing my work!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Got to sink the Malevolence!

Historian and teacher Cole Horton has posted an interesting article about the uncanny comparisons between the Confederacy of Independent Systems flagship Malevolence and Nazi Germany's Bismarck. Horton shows how in both cases a seemingly invincible enemy flagship was destroyed by long-range bombers.

I'd be curious if Lucas and Filoni based this Clone Wars arc on World War II history or the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! based on those events. The movie cottons some historical inaccuracies, but probably nothing that would have been translated into the show.

Read the full article at StarWars.com.

Friday, May 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Science of Battlestar Galactica

As I've mentioned before, I'm also a fan of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, in no small part because of the intelligent way it deals with politics and religion. I've previously reviewed The International Relations of Battlestar Galactica, about the politics of the show, and The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, about the religious themes. Here is a review of a book that deals with the scientific aspects of the show, The Science of Battlestar Galactica, by Patrick di Justo and Kevin R. Grazier.

The word "science" comes before "Battlestar Galactica" in the title of this book, and I think that placement describes this book well. The book is written by BSG science advisor Kevin Grazier and is organized around various scientific issues that arose during the course of the show.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The EU is dead, long live the EU!

UPDATE (4/28/14): Subsequent announcements from DelRey and other sources have now stated that the announcement signals the end of all EU material that had been published up to this point. Thus, the only stories in the canon are now the six theatrical films, The Clone Wars, and Sons of Dathomir, a comic coming out soon wrapping up the Maul arc from The Clone Wars. This is somewhat more disappointing than I'd hoped. Still, I hope to have an article up soon about where politics in Star Wars might go from here.

Disney and Lucasfilm have just announced on the Star Wars website that Episode VII will not follow the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the announcement mentions that Star Wars will continue to draw upon the EU for ideas, this essentially amounts to a reboot.

Most of these characters never existed...
I'm sure the Internet will be flooded with commentary about this. But a few points are worth keeping in mind:

Nixon in Star Wars

I have been reading J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars Return of the Jedi and came across a great quote about George Lucas' early conception of politics in Star Wars. In one the July 13-17, 1981, story conference with Richard Marquand, Lawrence Kasdan, and Howard Kazanjian, Lucas explained about Emperor Palpatine:
... he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy. He sucked Luke’s father into the dark side.
It is well known that Lucas based parts of the Original Trilogy on political events in the 1970s, with the concept of primitive natives defeating a technologically superior army taken directly from the Vietnam War (as discussed here). Nevertheless, I was taken with how directly Lucas equated Palpatine with Nixon. To what extent does Palpatine really reflect Nixon?

Friday, April 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Theology of Battlestar Galactica

As I've mentioned before, I'm also a fan of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, in no small part because of the intelligent way it deals with politics and religion. I've previously reviewed The International Relations of Battlestar Galactica, about the politics of the show. Here is a review of a book that deals with religious aspects of the show, Kevin J. Westmore's The Theology of Battlestar Galactica.

As a fan of Battlestar Galactica, I already knew that the show dealt with complex issues of religion in faith. However, I hadn't realized how sophisticated its treatment of religion really is until reading about it from a bona fide expert on the subject.