Archive for July 2010

I feel blessed

July 28th, 2010 — 10:14pm

I got promoted again today…that’s not why I feel blessed though.

Nine months ago, I found myself wallowing in a depression, the likes of which I had not experienced since before I was saved. In the passing weeks and months, He has blessed me time and time again, but…

I always found myself thinking back to that dark point in my life when I thought nothing would ever go right again and I thought I would simply sink lower and lower until the darkness consumed me. I often wondered why I had to go through all of that, why it had to be me, why I had to be brought so low before I was able to feel so high and, until recently, I had passed it off with the easy reason of knowing that one has to go down before going up, even though I never fully understood it. Today, however, it occurred to me why I had to go through my trial and why I will continue to go through trials as I travel through life.

To go through something is always worth telling or sympathizing, but to go through something, only to come out on top afterward is a testimony and this is what He wants. Not just someone to say, I’ve lived through X and survived, but a true light to the world who can I say I lived through X and triumphed!

Today, I was able to testify to someone, albeit in a more secular fashion than I would have preferred, and it was not until afterward that it occurred to me why I was made to suffer. Without my suffering, my doubt, my pain, I would have had nothing to tell this someone who so clearly was searching for guidance. With no hardship of my own, my advice would have been a lecture, not a testimony.

At nearly 26 years old, I have had a blessed life. I can’t remember ever going hungry a day in my life and, even though my mother tells me we were poor when I was a small child, I never once felt it. As yet, I have yet to miss a rent payment, even though I had gone four months without a job and, while my debt to income ratio is not where I would like it to be, I at least know it exists and can still make plans for the future without worrying about a seven-year black mark on name. I am an American who was raised during the 90s, who never saw life on welfare or drugs in my home or wanton acts by parental figures in my presence; I’ve lived a charmed life.

When I became saved, the first thing I wanted to do was bring someone else to Christ, anyone! But, few willing participants could be found. I won’t go so far as to say that I saved anyone today, but I love simply realizing why Jesus pushes us through trials and uncertainty: so that we can be lights to others wandering in the darkness.

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91-Books – Episode IV: A New Hope

July 19th, 2010 — 11:52pm


The Challenge!
The Review:

😀 – The Force is strong with this one.
🙂 – I’d read it again.
😐 – Meh…
🙁 – I have a bad feeling about this.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by George Lucas/Alan Dean Foster

My rating ~ 😀 – The Force is strong with this one.

I have to begin by explaining that I had my doubts going into this. From a young age, I had the idea of the science fiction novel as a genre as being full of poor writing styles and being likened closer to flash fiction than anything significant driven home in most, if not all of my English classes, so when I first began reading, it was with pursed lips and a skeptical brow. I came to find, however, that my initial assumptions were correct: Mrs. Whatever-her-name-was’s tenth grade Literature class was not the be all and end all of fiction and science fiction is not necessarily “bad.”

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed my first real foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe and my first film novelization. Alan Dean Foster’s writing style took some time to grow accustomed, but once I got a feel for the rhythm of novel, I was able to fall into the fictional world easier each time I began reading. The beginning did start out a bit slow for me since I was not really sure what to expect or how to re-visualize what I reading.

The first few chapters went by nauseatingly slow, even with the first descriptions of Vader, as my mind tried to figure out what it was reading. The memories from watching the film began to fight with my own mental images as one side of the brain said, “I think Tatooine looks like this” while the other side said, “But this is how it really looks!” Once that hurdle passed, I still found myself just wanting the novel to get on with it to the point that I was halfway through it and wondering if I had really bit off more than I even wanted to chew. The only thing to really keep me going were the small details that were either changed from the films or left out entirely.

The novel started to pick up speed, however, once Han Solo hit the scene; there was just something about his character that was very “readable.” All of his quotes seemed all the more quotable in writing and he was the one character who seemed livelier on the page than in the film.

I really enjoyed how Luke’s movements were described during the lightsaber training aboard the Millennium Falcon and also how Kenobi described the elusive and magical nature of the Force. For a brief moment, you begin to fully fall into the fictive dream about how the Force works.

I did not, however, feel fully engaged with the novel until we (Luke, Han and Ben) saw what had become of Alderaan. The destruction of Alderaan was far more profound when described in writing. It was almost as if one could feel the magnitude of what happened far more when one is within the collective conscious of Han, Luke and Ben. I cannot count the number of times I have watched Episode IV, but it never really hit me until I read the novelization, that the entire planet, that is, an entire population, ecosystem and way of life was destroyed in an instant and, it was not until this point that Empire appeared as heinous as the film’s characters had been telling me.

“And while he would have preferred the company of equals, he had to admit reluctantly that at this point, he had no equals.”
What brought the novel from “Meh” into the realm of “I’d read it again.” and beyond were just a few lines of Vader’s thoughts. The one thing missing from the original film was little to no insight on Vader’s thoughts apart from dialogue, which I am unwilling to cite as a true flaw in the film since I am not sure how one is really supposed to convey subtle unspoken emotion through an opaque mask. I will concede they managed to get it done towards the very end of Return of the Jedi, but nothing in the vein of the above quote can be executed on screen without the help of a voice-over. It is not until one can “hear” Vader’s thoughts for some magical, grandiose scheme or the flat out notion that he knows he is the greatest of his kind that one fully realizes how sinister he is and, in hindsight, how far he has fallen.

“If he had miscalculated the degree of arc in their swing, they would miss the open hatch and slam into the metal wall to either side or below it. If that happened he doubted he could maintain his grip on the rope.”
The bridge scene with Luke and Leia was very gratifying and it was at this point in the novel that I could finally appreciate the purpose of a film novelization. For once, my imagination and my memory were not struggling for omnipresence. With a clear image of what had happened, my imagination filled in any gaps that may have been missed and the excitement increased as I got to focus on the moment instead of both re-creating the mental image from scratch and the focusing on the prose.

There were two points in the novel that simultaneously had me glad I could envision the scene purely as written and could also draw from what I had previously watched; the first being when Vader and Obi-Wan meet and the second when Luke is asked if wanted a new Artoo before the battle.

The exchanges between Obi-Wan and Vader were just splendid and, even if I did not have knowledge of all their past history together, I still got the sense that there was a far greater story between the pair than even the characters were letting on at that point.

When Luke is asked if he wanted another R2 unit in the novel, I could appreciate what I read, forgetting that I ever saw the prequels, but having the images of Artoo as a “friend” of Anakin Skywalker from the prequels and from Clone Wars made the question and answer pull a smile to my face.

Chapter Twelve held the entirety of the Battle of Yavin and it was INCREDIBLE! The action was intense and I loved every minute of it. I had to let out a sigh of exhaustion when I finished because I was so absorbed in what I was reading. The dialogue and prose were even perfectly paced to match the excitement I experienced from the film.

It was at this point in the novel that philosophical questions started to bounce in my head, particularly: What else in life have I been missing? If science fiction action could be this gratifying, what other completely awesome things have I disregarded? What greater things could I be experiencing at that very moment?!? Fortunately, the novel’s action kept me from pondering on any of this for too long and I was able to get through the remainder of the book. 🙂

“‘I met your father once when I was just a boy, Luke. He was a great pilot. You’ll do all right out there.'”
As I said earlier, I truly enjoyed reading the novel, but I did have a few disappointments with it that brought me out of the fictive dream, the first of which being the interlude with “Blue Leader” prior to the battle.

This character, described only as “older” and “war-worn,” and his dialogue with Luke left me with so many questions that I had to put down the book for a moment and tear through my memory in a wild attempt to place him somewhere. How did Blue Leader know Anakin was a great pilot? If he was “older” then how young could he have been to not only have been old to enough to be “war-worn,” but also young enough to meet Anakin as a boy and know he was a great pilot? Did he fight in the Clone Wars? If so, how did he not know, or at least see fit to mention, that Vader and Anakin were one in the same?

I feel that there is some explanation I have yet to uncover because I am just starting this journey and have barely perused the comics, but I know an answer must exist other than, “Whoops! Foster wrote this before anyone knew how far the expanded universe…expanded.” which leads me to another point…

In traversing about the Star Wars universe, I have heard theories and counter-theories regarding if Lucas had the entire story of Anakin Skywalker in mind at the time of ANH or not. Reading this now definitely makes me wonder. There were scenes that leaned towards the idea that Lucas did have a master plan in place, such as Han and Luke discussing Leia. It is not experienced to the same degree in the film since we do not have any insight to Han’s thoughts, but the novelization alludes to “something” between Han and Leia in that very scene.

Also, the dialogue between Obi-Wan and Vader sounded as if it had been written fresh from watching the last hour of Episode III. On the flip side, there is the above issue with Blue Leader which leaves many questions unanswered for me, at least for the meanwhile. I also wonder if maybe the edition I have has been “updated” to account for later changes in the EU, but if that is the case, why leave all the little kisses between Luke and Leia?!?

My only other slight disappointment with the novel had to be the description (or lack thereof) for Princess Leia. When I hear phrases like “indescribable beauty,” I cannot help but roll my eyes. How am I supposed to imagine something when the author tells me it cannot be described? It is like telling a long story and stopping every few minutes to say, “Well, man, you had to be there.”

Even in a novelization, things as basic as eye and hair colour are just plain necessary. While I understand the necessity of keeping a protagonist as blank as possible to fit every type of John Q. Everyman out there, the “damsel in distress” should give the reader some kind of imagery. I did, however, really like the prologue from Leia which gave a lot of insight on Jedi and the Republic, which could have benefited the films (but then there would have been little need for prequels and then where would we be?)

All in all, I was quite pleased with A New Hope. It started out a little rocky as it battled through my own prejudices, but it pulled a beautiful story out of my initial experience and helped me enjoy what I had already loved to an even greater degree.

Next up: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. 🙂

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My 91-Book Challenge

July 15th, 2010 — 12:11am


In the past three months, in between working a little, mentoring a little, and editing Wookieepedia a little, I had been pondering on what, if any, Star Wars items I could see myself collecting.

At first, everything I saw looked completely overwhelming to the point that I could not see anywhere to dip my feet into the collecting pool or even where the best place to simply take a great plunge was. There were key chains and figurines and 10-inch R2’s just waiting to be chosen as well as beautiful prints, hats, busts, Obi-Wan Kenobi boots and those ever-covetous Anakin Skywalker lightsabers. Zounds! The options!

Simply put, I had no idea where to begin (though my ‘lil Vader hoodie is en route as I type).

Even my fail safe love of books left me at a loss when I took a good look at the lengthy list at Wookieepedia that shows all the different novels that made up the EU. I know I counted at least a hundred, without even including the youth novels and non-fiction works out there as well, and quite a few of these were out of print.

All this notwithstanding, I have loved literature since I was a kid and, if my own sense of self-satisfaction cannot be met through the unlikely goal of obtaining every single novel of the expanded universe, I can certainly satiate my pseudo-collecting desires by at least attempting to read as many of those said books as possible.

I now battle my long held stigmas of science fiction literature to learn about the Rule of Two and Yuuzhan Vong, about Naga Sadow and Admiral Thrawn, and to finally learn what happened just before the end of the Clone Wars and just after Anakin Skywalker redeemed himself.

The written word has always fascinated me and so I see the books of the EU a fitting method of cementing Star Wars into my life, (fanfiction will probably follow suit as I have started making notes on my very first one).

I had begun reading A New Hope about a month ago since it preceded even the first film and I will continue with the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye since it was the very first foray into the EU. From there, I will delve into the Lost Tribe of Sith series since those books are already itching to be read on my Kindle, but the remaining 85 will move in, more or less, this order:

Episode IV: A New Hope – Review!
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye – Review!
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Precipice – Review for all 4!
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Skyborn
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Savior

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction
Darth Bane: Rule of Two
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil
Darth Maul: Saboteur
Cloak of Deception
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Rogue Planet
Outbound Flight
The Approaching Storm
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Republic Commando: Hard Contact
The Cestus Deception
The Hive
Republic Commando: Triple Zero
Republic Commando: True Colors
MedStar I: Battle Surgeons
MedStar II: Jedi Healer
Jedi Trial
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
Labyrinth of Evil
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
– I am anticipating this one more than any other novel as I have heard amazing reviews of the book from both Star Wars fans and otherwise.

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
The Paradise Snare
The Hutt Gambit
Rebel Dawn
Death Star
Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
– Both anticipating and dreading this one. Novelizations can be almost tedious in comparison to their respective films and, with this being one of my favorite films of all time, I am not sure the novelization will live up to my standards.

Shadows of the Empire
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Mandalorian Armor
Slave Ship
Hard Merchandise
The Truce at Bakura
The Courtship of Princess Leia
Tatooine Ghost
Heir to the Empire
– I am intrigued by the Thrawn Triology as these books began what started the river of EU books that followed in the past two decades. That said, a part of me thinks that there is no way these can live up to the hype I have placed on them.

Dark Force Rising
The Last Command
Jedi Search
Dark Apprentice
Champions of the Force
Children of the Jedi
Planet of Twilight
Before the Storm
Shield of Lies
Tyrant’s Test
Specter of the Past
Vision of the Future
Survivor’s Quest
Vector Prime
– I have been shaking with anticipation to start the New Jedi Order series since I first caught an article about the Vong on Wookieepedia. Out of the whole mix, I think I may enjoy these the most.

Dark Tide I: Onslaught
Dark Tide II: Ruin
Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial
Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse
Balance Point
Edge of Victory I: Conquest
Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
Star by Star
Dark Journey
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Destiny’s Way
Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Force Heretic III: Reunion
The Final Prophecy
The Unifying Force
Dark Nest I: The Joiner King
Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen
Dark Nest III: The Swarm War

Anyone who perused the list may notice that there were whole series I decided to skip and this was intentional. I spent hours skimming through summaries to choose what I thought would interest me the most. I am not sure if this master list is even doable, but that is why I called this a Challenge! instead of my Life-Long Reading List. That said, I am sure there are a few gems I might have missed based on summary since poor summaries can be made about fantastic books, but this is the challenge I have presented to myself and I am going to run through this list heartily.

The goal is also review each one I complete, but I will satisfied if I can just get through the list. I suppose delving into the comics will be the next step in my mental collection, but that is a topic for another day.

Wish me luck! 🙂

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