Jun 232015

HeirToTheEmpire.jpg
HeirToTheEmpire” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

When I heard about production of Star Wars Episode VII and the ensuing controversy about the Expanded Universe vs canon, I started thinking about reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy again. I first read the books almost 25 years ago! I decided that I didn’t really care if the new movies conflicted with the books. I remembered being blown away, so figured they were worth reading again. These books were a very important to me at the time because it was my first real taste of Star Wars outside of the theatrical films. There were other books released before this, but the Thrawn Trilogy marked the resurgence of my interest in Star Wars.

I’ll admit that I’ve been a bad reviewer and powered through the series without stopping to write my reviews. I normally read on my lunch breaks at work and have not had hardly any time outside of work and family life to devote to reviews as I did just a few years ago.

After reading just a few chapters of Heir to the Empire, I realized that there was quite a bit that I didn’t remember, including a rather large plot line that ran through the last two books (Dark Force Rising and The Last Command). Toward the end of The Last Command, I came across a huge plot twist that I had absolutely no memory of until just before it was revealed. I’m simply amazed at how much of this series I couldn’t remember. In a way, it was a blessing because I almost experienced the book for the first time again. This was kind of weird for me as I always thought I had an excellent memory when it came to books. I gave my wife a hard time about not remembering some fairly important stuff in the Wheel of Time series, despite her reading it at least 3 times through from beginning to end as new books came out. At the time I had only read the series once through.

I won’t really go into the plot other than to give some highlights. The story begins five years after the destruction of the second Death Star. The Empire controls a fraction of the systems it once held and the Imperial Fleet is now being brought together by the last “Grand Admiral” Thrawn. He’s a military genius that gains understanding of his enemies by studying their art. Under his command, the Imperial Fleet is gathering momentum to strike back at the Rebel Alliance’s “New Republic”. Princess Leia married Han Solo and is pregnant with twins. Luke has officially become the first Jedi Knight since the death of Obi-Wan.

One of the first things I remember liking about the books was learning how the “mystical energy field” (Force) worked. I’m sure that Zahn took plenty liberties coming up with the various quirks, many of which were rather interesting. Reading the series again was refreshing because even the official prequels didn’t really go much into how Jedi interact with the Force. Luke’s progression with his skills was really just a minor part of the series. Arguably the most important part was the new villain Grand Admiral Thrawn. A good portion of the series focuses on his quest to bring the Empire back from the brink of collapse. Zahn wrote from the Imperial perspective so well that I found myself rooting for Thrawn almost as equally as for the New Republic.

There was one space battle in particular that stood out when I was thinking back to the first time I read this series. Once I re-read the battle, I knew why when I started thinking about reading the books again I just had to follow through. For some reason Zahn’s writing just synced up with my imagination and I could picture the battle taking place very clearly. It really is a shame that the books will never be turned into movies, because they would be awesome. I think I might try to listen to these sometime in the future once I plow through my remaining audiobook library. I can’t really praise Zahn’s writing enough. If you are a true Star Wars fan, you must read these books.

Posted by Stettin
Dec 302014

Book Cover

I usually prefer reading books, but I have about a 15 minute drive to work which over time adds up to a lot of wasted time listening to the radio. A few years ago I listened to Steven King’s Dark Tower series, which took me over a year of trips to work. After Robert Jordan died and his Wheel of Time series was finished up by Brandon Sanderson, I revisited the books I already read on audio as I didn’t want to dedicated reading time to catching up, then read the new ones. This time I wanted ONE book, not a series so I after some digging around I came across Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I’ve previously read Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon. I really enjoyed Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, however Cryptonomicon was insanely long. I about half way through, I started to feel fatigued and found myself just looking forward to the end. Given the length of Anathem, I knew I didn’t really want to dedicate that amount of reading time to the book. I normally read about 15-20 minutes a day during my lunch break at work, so it would have taken forever for me to finish. The audiobook format seemed like a good fit. In the end, it took me about 2 months to make it through the 32 + hours. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Nov 102014

Home_Alone_Boy1

Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

This is it! Isaac Asimov’s Foundation will finally make it to visual media. After the rights passing through a few hands, they’ve finally made their way to HBO. Check out the entire article at The Wrap where Jonah Nolan talks about the new project. I’ll definitely keeping tabs on the development. No dates were given, so I’ll try to hold back most of my excitement until I hear more.

The Wrap via The Verge

Posted by Stettin
Oct 062014

I’m going to try something new and post a deal on a book that I plan on reading. There’s a Kindle edition sale on The Robot Chronicles for just 99 cents! This is a compilation of recent stories from a wide range of authors. I’m a huge fan of robot stories so this is sure to be a dollar well spent. Reviewing Asimov’s complete Robot & Foundation Universe was one of the main reasons I created this site.  One of the newer authors I’ve been reading is Hugh Howey, featured in this compilation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his Wool/Shift/Dust series (sadly not reviewed yet) and look forward to his approach on this subject. This will also be a good opportunity to explore some other authors.

The print price is $15.99, with the Kindle edition going to $5.99 just over 5 days from the time of this posting. Buy now, for less than the cost of a soda!

Posted by Stettin
Jun 082014

For anyone interested in an “open Internet” (not as the big cable companies and wireless carriers define it), take a look at this entertaining coverage of the new Net Neutrality proposal by the FCC. Please comment on the new proposal at the FCC website.

You can also learn more at the Entertainment Consumers Association website here. Through the ECA website, you can provide your information and it will generate form letters for your local representatives in Congress, the President of the United States, and the FCC.

Posted by Stettin
Jan 022014

I just ran across an article on Isaac Asimov’s predictions for 2014 from 50 years ago. I was thinking of a blog post to start out the year, and this popped out as a good opportunity. As anyone that reads this blog should know, Isaac Asimov is my favorite writer. His birthday is unknown for certain, but he chose to celebrate it on January 2nd. More information here. Anyway, back in 1964 at The World’s Fair, he made a few predictions. Some of the more accurate ones are below describing video phones, Robots, vehicular robots (Google car?), “Wall Screens” (not quite yet but very close), and a eerily accurate population estimate.

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

“Vehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

“Wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.”

“The world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.”

Some of the more comical misses are below:

“Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”

“The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”

I also have a prediction for today, the birth of a friend’s baby that is now one week overdue. It would be awesome to share a birthday with Isaac Asimov, right?

For the complete list and link to the original article, click the links below.

Via Open Culture

New York Times

Posted by Stettin
Sep 012013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Ok, so it’s been a couple months since I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I figure I should at least give it a brief review. I managed to go see it almost at the last showing before it got pulled from the theaters. If I had to compare it to the original reboot [Star Trek (2009], which it appears I never reviewed, I would say it was almost as good. There’s quite a bit of action, a little comedy, and just a sprinkling of romance. I did not really read anything about the movie ahead of time, so was a bit surprised when the identity of the terrorist was revealed. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Mar 092013

Book Cover

Welcome to my extremely belated review of Borderlands 2. My quick review for those that liked the original Borderlands: BUY IT! It is bigger, badder, and funnier. That said, this game is rated M for a reason. There’s a lot of gore, crude humor, language, and suggestive themes. This is definitely not a game for the young ones.

Unfortunate for me, Borderlands 2 came out just a month after my daughter was born. Overall, right now I am playing just Borderlands 2 and Battlefield 3 in my spare time. One thing I learned by accident was that a Borderlands 2 session can survive through a standby/hibernation. That has come in handy many times when having to rush to sooth a crying baby.

This game is much more fun playing with friends, however I have had to play most of it solo. So far I’ve really only played the Assassin role, focusing on sniping. Now that I have just made level 42, I am strongly considering starting a different character before I hit 50. I really wanted to avoid “power leveling” my first character. I’ve been told that Soldier is one of the better classes for playing solo. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Jan 012013

Well, we made it to 2013, narrowly avoiding the much anticipated Mayan Apocalypse. I’m not usually one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I am going to do my best to make at least two posts per month from now on. I’m still getting used to having much less free time since the birth of my daughter. Hopefully as she gets a bit older, I can incorporate some Science Fiction in her learning process. I’m already looking forward to Halloween. I’m not sure yet what to dress her up as. Any suggestions?

Anyway, I hope you all have a great 2013, and wish you will come back to see some more frequent reviews.

Posted by Stettin
Dec 022012

Sorry everyone for being MIA for the past few months. I have been having a very hard time dedicating time to this site since the birth of my new baby girl! Anyway, last week my wife and I found some time to watch the new Blood and Chrome web series on YouTube. Overall I think the acting, special effects, and plot are pretty good. I am glad to see that they didn’t try to make everything seem old. One thing that I found very annoying was the overuse of lens flare. I am pretty sure it was to hide the fact that there really weren’t any big sets to film on. Blood and Chrome is being released free on Youtube, then will air on SyFy then on Bluray, DVD, and digital download early next year.

I personally would have rather waited until all the episodes (~12 minutes each) were out, however my wife refused. I think it might be possible she’s a bigger BSG fan than I am. That’s saying a lot! If you are a big BSG fan like myself, you need to check it out.

Posted by Stettin

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