At the end of Episode III, Obi-Wan Kenobi is forced into hiding after believing that he killed Anakin in their confrontation. He took with him the infant Luke Skywalker and pledged to watch over him until the time was right. Episode VI (or, to us Gen-xer's, Star Wars) sees "Crazy Old Ben" Kenobi pulled out of hiding to finally lead the teen age Luke back out into space to fulfill his destiny.
In between, we have been left to wonder how Obi-Wan became Ben and what life was like for him. This book gives us, at last, the first part of the answer. Set in the months following the end of Episode III, John Jackson Miller takes us on a journey to see how Kenobi struggles to transform himself from the galactic hero to hidden away hermit. The change is not a smooth one for a man used to throwing himself into the action and coming to the rescue of those in need.
The book has been, I think fairly, been called more of a Western rather than a true "Star Wars" novel. But, in truth, it must be what it is in order to successfully deliver Kenobi's story. Tatooine is a remote world where the events of the Republic/Empire are largely third hand tales and life is governed by the efforts to "farm" moisture from the dry desert air while the real threats come from the Hutt's who run the planet and the native Sand People who fight the settlers over it.
The story is largely successful and mostly convincing. Where the story does fall short is in the final acts. The action becomes excessively complicated and feels like something Lucas would throw together as a bunch of unnecessary "wiz-bang". The final disposition of Kenobi, while it ends as it does because continuity requires it, doesn't really get him there in a way I could quite buy into. To say more would spoil things. Overall, it is worth checking out, so I don't want to give too much away.
As is my custom, I consumed this as an audiobook. As has been the case of late, the audio production is superb, and Johnathan Davis, as I've come to expect, does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. He is especially convincing as Kenobi - an iconic voice well known thanks to Ewan MacGregor and James Arnold Taylor's portrayals in the movies and Clone Wars TV series. Davis picks up Kenobi's voice and mannerisms seemlessly and probably makes me give this story it's fourth star when I might have been inclined to just give it three.
Scooby Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft, as told by Joss Whedon
That's my overall impression. This is not the type of title I would probably have picked on my own - but I'm also trying to make an effort to find books I wouldn't normally.
14 combines mystery, horror, sci-fi, and urban fantasy elements into a world with engaging characters and an interesting journey. 14 is the number of a locked apartment in a building that several residents live in. A building where rents are absurdly cheap and residents are in need of a place to stay with limited means. As the tale unfolds, the "Scooby Gang" discovers odd things about their building that don't make sense and work to unravel the mystery. For the rest, you'll have to read for yourself.
One aspect I enjoyed about this was its rather geeky references, both subtle and obvious. As the group digs further into the mystery, the players even start to identify themselves as members of the Mystery gang..or at least trying to decide which members of the gang each of them are. It's also reminicent of the Buffy the Vampire TV series similar self references to the "Scooby Gang". Indeed, the language and mannerisms of the characters convey a strong feeling of something voiced by Joss Whedon. All of this makes for a generally engaging and entertaining tale.
As for the H.P. Lovecraft, that comes into play later, similar to the way Edgar Rice Burroughs comes into play in the telling of John Carter of Mars. Honestly, the shift in the later portion of the story is not as successful as the beginning, and the main reason I give this only four stars.
Still, the overall effect is more satisfying than not, and I find myself able to easily recommend it. For the audiobook, Ray Porter does an excellent job bringing life to the characters and providing a clear view of the world they live in.
Probably one of the best credits I've spent on Audible. 42 hours - 84 lectures covering a pretty thorough survey of the history of the U.S.
Much of it I remembered from school, much I had forgotten, and still more I had never heard before. It was particularly interesting towards the end, hearing historical lectures about the recent decades that I have lived through.
Overall, I found it to be a pretty even handed telling. This is our story - the good and the bad. Going through it all with a more sober and adult level of comprehension offered me some new insights into how our nation and society have come to be where they are now.
The one minor ding is that I believe this was recorded back in 2006, so the presenters do not have the benefit of being able to incorporate or compare with some of the most recent major events in our history. Still, the journey was well worth taking.
After having watched the first several episodes of the new Star Wars: Rebels series with my son, I was interested in this book that gives an introduction and some back story to a couple of the main characters. I was also hopeful as this is the same author who also produced the most excellent "Kenobi" novel recently.
While decent, it's no "Kenobi". That's unfair to a degree, I know as this story has to essentially introduce new major characters to the new Star Wars canon, while "Kenobi" gave us a missing chapter in the life of a well known existing character.
Still, while the novel serves as a useful introduction to the characters, I think they deserved a better story. This one has something of a carbon copy feel of other Star Wars stories we've seen and read about before. Miller is definitely capable of better.
The biggest saving grace of this story, at least for the audiobook form that I consumed it in, is once again Marc Thompson's excellent narration.
Audible put this one on sale as a $5 special, so I thought it was worth seeing if this book lived up to all the hype it generated in 2014.
Subject wise, it's probably one of the most important and insightful books that I've read. Through an extensive survey of the available economic data of the last three centuries, Piketty lays out the case of how wealth grew to be more and more concentrated in the hands of a powerful few leading up to WWI. The period from WWI through the end of WWII saw much of this wealth destroyed and redistributed. After a post war period of growth due to having to rebuild the world, the last portion of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century lead to a return to the pre-WWI pattern of wealth concentration. There has been plenty of data showing that most of the benefits of economic growth in the last forty years have been taken by those at the top, while the rest have seen their purchasing power either stagnate or decrease. Piketty's work gives some explanation of how this came to be.
The final portions of the book suggests ways to address the growing inequality - principally through taxes on the large resources that have been accumulated by the millionaires and billionaires of the world.
It is a challenging, but compelling narrative and deserves to be taken seriously.
I would have given it five stars, but I have to dock a star for the structure of the presentation. The book is very long, and I feel like Piketty repeats much of the information over and over. I think a good bit of the fluff could have been cut down without detracting from the overall message.
Trudge through the beginning - it does get better.
Honestly, the first part of this book is some of the worst excuse for prose I've ever suffered through and I was ready to put this one down and not look back. Yet, the premise intrigued me enough that I kept on going.
Eventually, the writing goes from abysmal, to adequate, to pretty darn good, then finally back to adequate towards the end. I'd almost think the author was attending writing classes over the course of writing this book. Its too bad he didn't apply those lessons to the beginning.
Still, with the premise of a dystopian future where the masses are hungry and poor, yet still able to have computers and log on to the Facebook/World of Warcraft combo known as "The Oasis", the author takes the reader on a journey through a game that is part homage, part mockery of 1980's gamer geek culture. Having come of age in the 80's and sharing the birth year with the creator of "The Oasis" I did at least appreciate many of the references. In the beginning, the references with little more than painfully long lists of books, music, video games, and comic books. Later, the references are more artfully integrated and more enjoyable.
Overall, Ready Player One is a deeply flawed, but ultimately enjoyable romp through 80's nostalgia. For someone in the Gen X cohort, there's enough to make it worth checking out. For those younger or older, I doubt it would be worth the bother.
Wil Wheaton is probably the perfect choice to narrate this particular story.
This is not a book you read to see how the story ends. Anyone who has seen the Star Wars films know where the path leads. This is a book to read to find out how we got to the stories told in the Star Wars films. And this book does it masterfully.
I've read many Star Wars books over the years. Some have been great, some just OK, and many quite mediocre. This book sits at a high place on the list.
This book starts some 40 years before the events of "The Phantom Menace" and tells the tale of Darth Plagueis, the Sith Lord who recruited and trained Palpatine; the one who would eventually become ruler of the Galactic Empire. It picks up with Plagueis orchestrating the murder of his own master and his dropping the shackles of the apprentice role in the Sith Lord pairing. Over the course, we get to see how he finds Palpatine, and how all the pieces are put in motion that have their final payoffs in the prequel trilogy. Count Dooku, Darth Maul, the creation of the clone army, and the engineering of the Naboo crisis with the blockade by the Trade Federation. All with come to be understood and the roles that Plagueis and Palpatine (Darth Siddious) play in bringing them about.
It's more political thriller than space opera. It also represents a rather higher level of prose than I'm using to seeing in a Star Wars novel, and it was most welcome.
Finally, as usual, I took this in as an audio book. While Mark Thompson does well narrating the typical Star Wars novel as a jaunty, swashbuckling adventure, I don't think his style would have worked as well with this story and these characters. Daniel Davis does an excellent job bringing this much darker Star Wars tale to life.
I'll confess that this is one of the few times I've can say that an online ad caught my attention. Adverts for this book started showing up in my Facebook feed with the promise that fans of Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson would enjoy it. That was enough to get me to take a look, but it was ultimately finding that Michael Kramer, audiobook narrator of Jordan's Wheel of Time and Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series that convinced me to make the purchase.
Islington has certainly studied and taken to heart the style of Jordan and Sanderson, and I appreciated that aspect of the storytelling. One difference is that he is less of a world builder - giving enough background, history, and setting to give context to the story he wants to tells. There are no six page descriptions of every last meal, nor page long genealogies of random characters that we pass by in a hallway one time.
That said, the story does getting overwhelmed somewhat by introducing many major characters and taking them in several directions very quickly. This makes the climax rather more tedious than it should be as all the points of view have to come together at the end. This final section is what ultimately lead me to give this a three star instead of four star rating.
Still, being honest, Jordan's and Sanderson's first works weren't perfect. Islington has produced an interesting world and characters. The epilogue provides a promising look at where this story can go and I'm hooked enough to see how it plays out. I would indeed recommend this to fans of Jordan and Sanderson, with the caveat that we're catching a promising author at his beginning, so it is somewhat unfair to expect him to yet be matching these other authors at their mature best.
This is supposed to be one of the first books of the "New Canon" of Star Wars, so I was interested to see what it would have to offer. Honestly, it doesn't bode terribly well for the future.
I wasn't familiar with Kevin Hearne's work, but this effort doesn't leave me inclined to check out his other material.
The novel is set in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and follows a young Luke Skywalker dealing with life after destroying the first Death Star and being fully involved in the rebel alliance. The story is a first person narrative. IMHO, there's no such thing as a good first person narrative story, but some are less terrible than others. This one definitely doesn't rise to the top.
I agree with some other reviews that I came across that this feels like following a video game character through a limited scope RPG. The events come across as tedious as, being both a first person POV and being about Luke Skywalker, the predicaments that Luke finds himself in can't result in any meaningful harm to him.
While the title Heir to the Jedi is a good one, this is not the story to attach it to. While there is some bits of Luke trying to sort out what he's learned from Obi-Wan and what he needs to do to become a Jedi, the book is mostly a series of errands that Luke gets put on.
Ultimately, this book does little to add to our understanding of Luke as a character, nor does it do much to give us a better picture of the Star Wars universe.
Free will vs Determinism is one of those questions that I've always struggled to wrap my head around. How to reconcile what is clearly a universe whose parts are governed by well understood and well described forces and laws with human behavior that, at least for most of us, appears to entail acts of free will?
First off - this series of lectures from the Great Courses series doesn't settle the argument. Not only I, but philosophers in general are still struggling over it. However, what this course does and does well is introduce the various thoughts and concepts, both historical and current, on the nature of free will.
Cases are made from different approaches for both sides - that Free Will is true or that Free Will is false. These lectures cover the first half of the course and give me a lot of what I was expecting to find.
The later lectures that make up the second half of the course build on this and go in directions I didn't expect. Offering more abstract discussions on what free will really means. In addition, there are lectures bringing in the results and observations of neuroscience and speculations about what they mean to the free will consideration. Finally, there's discussion about morality, crime and punishment considered both from the notion that free will is true as well as the implications of determinism being true.
I found the lecturer easily listenable - neither put to sleep monotone, nor excessively dramatic. Overall I found the course interesting and challenging. It's helped me better understand my own beliefs and given me some new things to consider. I rate it a high success. This is my first exposure to one of The Great Courses products since they became available on Audible and I look forward to exploring other titles.
This is not a book I would have normally found on my own. But, a good friend recommended it and I am most grateful that he did. It is a recollection of World War II that everyone should read.
These are the memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck and in it he shares his experiences of his life as an officer in the German army leading up to and through World War II. It also gives his account of the five years he spent after the war in a Soviet POW camp and his eventual return to life as a civilian.
This book is not a glorification or romanticization of war. It is not a defense of Hitler's Germany, nor an apology. It is an explanation of how men who were patriots of their country had that loyalty twisted and abused in Hitler's quest for world domination. It is a view "from the trenches" and gives great insight into both the details of the battles von Luck fought in, and the thoughts and feelings of him and his men through the various stages of the war.
While I did find the narrative bog down from time to time with the details of movements during some of the campaigns, what really makes this book a standout are von Luck's insights into how the German army viewed the war as well as the descriptions of encounters that he had with his enemies both as captor and prisoner. von Luck also brings into this collection additional stories from his companions who got separated from him over the course of the war - of people he befriended in Paris during the time Germany initially occupied it, of subordinates captured by the Americans in North Africa and the time they spent in POW camps in the American Midwest, of the woman who was for a time his fiance before his capture and five year internment.
In war, governments seek to make their citizens see the enemy as something not human. von Luck makes nots of the Nazi propaganda machines efforts to make the German citizens see the Soviets as "sub-humans" at the time that Hitler broke his non-agression pact with Stalin and started the disastrous invasion of the Russian homeland. This book shows that all of these peoples - Russians, Germans, French, Brits, even the Americans - weren't just "others" but were men doing their best to follow the orders of the civilian leaders under difficult circumstances. It is a book anyone who would claim the mandate of leader of a country should read to better understand the human face of war and the young men whose lives are spent engaging in "politics by other means."
For the narration - Bronson Pinchot did an excellent job of bringing this story to life. His inflection, rhythm and accents really made me feel like Colonel von Luck was sitting down in the room with me and telling his story.
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