Book Review: Bloodline

If you are going to read Bloodline by Claudia Gray, read it to understand the politics of The Force Awakens.  Actually, make sure you even like politics, because this book has a lot of it.  It fools you with some action, but the action scenes are more like side plots and a cover up to give you a greater understanding of where the political scene is leading up to TFA.

The entire novel centers around Leia Organa who is not yet a General, but a Senator of the New Republic.  We rarely get any moments with Han, unfortunately.  Luke and Ben are off doing their own thing (Ben has not yet turned to the dark side) so we don’t hear from them at all.  The only other returning characters that we know are Threepio who is now Leia’s protocol droid and a brief appearance on the last page of Nien Nunb and Ackbar.

bloodline cover

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

We start off the novel with Leia being completely disenfranchised with the New Republic, being a senator, and the senate itself, which is divided into two camps: the Populists (which Leia is) and the Centrists.  She intends to quit and go travel around the galaxy with Han, whom she still seems to have a pseudo marriage with, though they live apart.

As a one last hurrah, Leia takes on a mission to investigate a cartel and is paired with a Centrist senator: Ransolm Casterfo.  In the beginning, we see him as a pompous young senator who is obsessed with the Empire.  Leia first meets him in his office where he has mementos from the Empire and he claims that he believes the Empire could have been a good thing, but the way Palpatine and Vader ran it was not smart.  Of course, this puts Leia and Casterfo’s relationship on the wrong foot right away.

Yet as Bloodline and their investigation continues, they manage to break past their opposing viewpoints and come to a mutual understanding that eventually leads to friendship.  Together, they discover the beginnings of the First Order and realize that the senate and government is in graver danger than they believed.

The senate decides to nominate a First Senator to create more order and the Populists naturally choose Princess Leia.  She has the name and the long standing goodwill of the people since many of her deeds helped in bringing down the Empire.  Leia, through her friendship with Ransolm, could unite the two opposing forces in the senate and bring it back to what it once was.  Though she realizes she can’t travel the galaxy with Han and can no longer quit, she feels that she must accept the nomination.

But (dun dun dun) then a conniving senator finds out that she is Darth Vader’s daughter and tells her new friend Casterfo, who then releases that news into the senate.  All hell breaks loose.  Leia loses her nomination, Ransolm turns against her, and she can’t continue her mission.  We find out that Ben did not know about this and Leia tells him via a recording (since apparently she can’t reach Luke and Ben because they are on some mission…that’s all very vague).

Being Princess Leia, she continues her investigation into the cartel without approval of the senate or her partner Ransolm and finds all the evidence she needs.  She is able to present the findings to the senate who seem to believe her, despite her tarnished reputation.  Ransolm backs her up, surprisingly, and she is able to hash out differences with him after the senate convenes.  They seem to come back to a neutral relationship of respect and understanding though Leia is still hurt by him outing her relationship to Vader in front of the entire senate without warning her first.

Unfortunately, that sneaky senator who found out that she was Vader’s daughter also doctors some of the footage from when Ransolm and Leia were investigating the cartel to make it look like Ransolm was behind an attack on the senate earlier in the novel – therefore committing treason.  At the end of the novel Ransolm is led off to be executed and Leia is heartbroken.  We have no idea what happens to him.  Leia, in the last pages of Bloodline, star-wars-bloodline-posterforms the very beginning of the Resistance without the knowledge of other senators.  She knows that it is only a matter of time until that glimpse they saw of the First Order threatens the New Republic on a larger scale and she wants to be ready.

 

Pros:

  • I finally understand the Resistance vs. New Republic vs. First Order.   Basically, the New Republic is the ruling government but has fallen to pieces with a lot of internal squabbling.  Amidst this, the First Order is forming on outer worlds and is filled with Empire loyalists and fanatics.  Leia created the Resistance to be ready for when the First Order decides to take on the Republic.  In the opening crawl of TFA, it says that Leia leads the Resistance with support of the Republic.  I’m not sure when that comes about since this is still in the early stages but at least I’m understanding this a bit better.
  • The galaxy finds out that Leia, and by default Luke, are Darth Vader’s children. I always assumed that no one knew about the familial relationship between Vader and his children, but I wondered when they let Ben/Kylo Ren know.  Even though we don’t see that happen here, we do see the beginning of how he found out.  By the time of The Force Awakens, everyone knows Luke and Leia are the children of Vader which puts an interesting new twist on viewing it.  That means Ben had only been on the dark side of the Force for a maximum of six years by TFA.  No wonder he still had some hesitations.
  • For a book that is almost entirely compromised of politics, Ms. Gray does a great job making the book engaging.
  • After the book got through introductions and settled into a good pace, it got a lot less predictable. Every time I thought it was getting predictable, I was thrown off course and what I thought would happen, didn’t.  I love that!
  • I thought she did a great job with Threepio. He still plays a minor role but she writes him so perfectly.
  • There were no real “bad guys” and I liked that. I’m so used to reading Star Wars novels where there is a clear delineation between good and bad that having this murky area was refreshing.  The leader of the cartel was obviously bad, but he wasn’t the main driving force behind this.  Then there was the terrorist in charge of the burgeoning First Order, but she wasn’t really the main bad guy either.  The main antagonist, if there was one, was the sneaky senator who goes around causing trouble.  But even then, it was almost a Professor Umbridge kind of bad.  She wasn’t Voldemort/Vader, just a normal person doing bad things.

General Leia

Cons:

  • I thought the first ¼-1/3 of the book was yawn worthy and played out like any Star Wars novel. It was a little predictable and I felt like skipping through many of the pages.
  • Where were Leia’s feelings for Han and Ben? She occasionally seemed to feel sad that Han wasn’t around but that was it. If I was separated from my husband almost permanently, I would not be as distracted as she was and I would definitely make more of an effort to see him.  She seemed way too resigned to rarely being physically together.  And I think Ben was mentioned only two to three times in the entire novel.  I’m only a new mom, but I can tell you that I’d be thinking of my child more than three times a day.
  • On that subject, I didn’t feel like Han was Han. He was in the novel sporadically but I’m not sure he was captured very well.  I also think Han Solo is one of the hardest characters to capture on paper so I understand the challenges but I thought he was lacking a bit when he did show up.  He was almost too goofy-like, even though his scenes were serious…it’s hard to explain but there was something missing.
  • The action scenes were not well written. I felt like Ms. Gray’s strength lies in writing character’s emotions and relationships – not action. You could figure out what was going to happen in the actions scenes and it felt like they were thrown in just so the book would feel like “Star Wars”.  Instead of trying to interweave action in it, the book should have been entirely about politics and stuck to that.
  • Leia was a little mopey. At some points it was believable…other times not so much. Leia is not a sit on her butt kind of person.  There were times when Ms. Gray remembered that and Leia seemed like the person we remember from the OT, but there are pages where she kind of falls off and I was left thinking she really took after her father in the sulking category.  I know she was trying to make Leia seem jaded, but instead I thought she was moping about.

 

I’d give Bloodline 3.8/5 stars.  It was better than A New Dawn, but it still isn’t Zahn worthy.  (The new Thrawn book coming out by Zahn is definitely going on my list!)  Many people had great reviews for this book and I wasn’t feeling it as much as everyone else, I guess.  I am happy to understand more of the politics of this time in Star Wars, but thought that a few things were too disjointed to make me appreciate this fully.

In Which I Defend General Hux and Speculate on Supreme Leader Snoke

General Hux

I think I’m in the minority out there…but I really like General Hux.  I’ve been reading many reviews that label him as a superfluous character in The Force Awakens but I would like to argue that people who are writing about that are missing the point of who he is.

General Hux is a bad guy, sure.  He’s not the main antagonist like Kylo Ren and, possibly in the future, SL Snoke, but he falls more in the realm of a secondary antagonist.  Maybe J.J. was trying to create him to be the new Grand Moff Tarkin but he fell short.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but just because General Hux is different from Tarkin.

General HuxHux represents a new generation of the Empire.  He is the ideal First Order candidate.  Similar to Finn, he was raised with Imperial propaganda as his breakfast, lunch and dinner.  General Hux sincerely believed that the Empire saved the Republic from the Clone Wars and the current New Republic is weak.  He grew up as a beast frothing at his mouth, trapped by the New Republic.  He’s what I would label a First Order Fanatic (FOF…nice ring, right?).

This is where he is different from Grand Moff Tarkin.  Tarkin worked strategically to get the Empire where it was.  Hux believed it was his God given right to rule the galaxy as one of the best Generals in charge of the biggest, baddest base.   Tarkin was someone who firmly believed the Empire should rule the galaxy.  Hux believes the First Order is there to wipe out anyone who doesn’t agree with them and he should be leading it.

He’s a maniac. I love it.

All his thoughts and actions are surrounding the First Order in a way that reminds you of a deranged serial killer.  He’s obsessed with bringing the First Order to the height that the Empire once was.  He steals kids from birth to brainwash them into being perfect stormtroopers for the First Order!  Wow.

Everything he says and does is purely for the First Order. Starkiller base and it’s troops are his tools that he works into perfection.  Even Kylo Ren does not live up to his expectations, possibly because he knows that he has not completed his training or maybe it’s because of his heritage that involves people who so vehemently opposed the Empire, and now, the First Order.  Though Hux makes mistakes, you can see that he genuinely believes he still has the best army in the galaxy, unlike Kylo Ren who shows a moment of weakness when Hux accuses him of purposefully letting BB-8 escape in favor of taking the girl instead.  General Hux hates weakness and hates mistakes, especially large blunders like the one Kylo Ren made.

All this leads me to talk about why I loved his speech.  There were a lot of complaints out there about how it was badly written, but I didn’t even pay attention to what was said.  I was enraptured with Hux’s face because in that moment, he is in his glory.  Everything he has worked so hard for over 30 years is coming to a the epic climax.  His eyes fill with tears and you can see he means every single word of what he is saying to the core of his being.  This is his moment to show the galaxy that General Hux and the First Order are not ones to be trifled with.

He’s crazy.  I love it.

 

Supreme Leader Snoke

There are rumors going around that Snoke is Darth Plagueis.  He looks like someone once dead and most importantly, people are arguing that Snoke’s theme is eerily similar to the music played during ROTS when Palpatine and Anakin discuss Plagueis at the opera.

I sincerely hope that Snoke is not Plagueis.

Why?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Because the more I’ve written in this blog about Palpatine, the more I love his character.  Lucas did an excellent job intertwining Palpatine’s story between both trilogies to see that he was an absolute genius and mastermind in creating the Empire bringing the Sith back into power.  He was, in supreme leader snokeshort, a genius the galaxy had never seen.

Palpatine, as we know, also learned everything he could from his master Darth Plagueis, and then killed him.  He stole everything he learned.

Do you really think that Palpatine would let there be a chance that Plagueis could return?  By doing so, it shows a weakness in Palpatine’s planning and takes away from how amazing and intelligent 60+ years of his life was.

The music being similar is a good argument, but LFL and Disney has a bunch of tricks up their sleeve.  Remember that the previews led us to believe that Finn was the Force user, as opposed to Rey.

Or perhaps Williams is getting up there in years and forgot he already did a very similar piece.

I just don’t like the idea of Snoke being Plagueis because it takes away from Palpatine’s greatness.  I much prefer Snoke being Palpatine resurrected but, for some reason, I just don’t think that’s the case.  I could be wrong, but I think that would be yawn-worthy and hope they don’t do it.  I like Palpatine’s story just the way it is and I don’t think he should be brought back.

It would also be somewhat out-of-character for Disney to bring in a character that was only mentioned in the PT when they are focusing so much on pulling similarities from the OT.  I will argue that the opera scene is one of the most interesting and best acted scenes in the PT and I don’t think anyone could argue with that so perhaps if they take anything from the PT, they go with the Plagueis storyline since it is canon.

If you’re interested in reading all the theories out there on who Snoke is, combined into one place, click here.

But please don’t.  Leave Plagueis to history and leave Palpatine with his body in fragments across the galaxy after the second Death Star was destroyed.

 

J.J. Abrams (and 3D)

When I posted back on January 17th that I was going MIA for a while, I mentioned that by the time I was done moving into my house, perhaps we would have news on who the Episode VII director is.  Though I said that, I was kind of hoping we wouldn’t know just yet because I wanted to post on the news right away and also not read about it in a hurried glance at Twitter on my phone.

Fate is against me.

In the end, not a big deal, because either way – this is still big news and I still get to post about it!

Lucas and Abrams

Lucas and Abrams

First of all, when I heard J.J. Abrams was directing the movie on Friday (back when it was still unconfirmed, but a very solid rumor), I was intrigued.  Though I am not a Star Trek fan, I saw the reboot he made with series in 2009 and I really liked it.  I was almost ashamed at how much I liked it.  It was one of those moments where I felt disloyal to my True Love…did I fall in love with another movie?  It’s a similar reaction to that moment when your husband catches you checking out another guy and you have to hastily cover it up.  No, of course you weren’t looking at his big muscles; you were thinking that he really is overly jacked and it’s so not attractive anyway.  What’s the point of muscles like that?  Eew.  No thanks.  This is all a hypothetical situation anyway as I would never think that about any other man.  Ha.

But that is what my quick love affair was like with the Abrams’ Star Trek movie.  A attractive glance over, nothing else, but I remembered it when I heard the news this weekend.  If J.J. Abrams can make a die hard Star Wars fan see the appeal in a Star Trek movie, then aren’t we in good hands?  Will he help the jaded, disillusioned older Star Wars fans that have been burned by the prequels?  Will he revive a franchise that people are beginning to think has turned into a Lucas cash grab?  No one can say until 2015 (though there is a rumor that Abrams wants to push it to 2016 now; I’m fine with it if he thinks his work will be better, I don’t want a hasty Episode VII) if he will end up doing a good job.  We won’t know, but I have hope.  He may bring to Star Wars what Daniel Craig brought to James Bond.

My minor tease with Star Trek makes me think that this guy knows how to do a good sci-fi movie, and that is so important to me.  With Michael Arndt as the writer, he will hopefully bring in a more character based/slightly humorous script, which was severely lacking in the prequels.  The two combined could bring us a great sci-fi movie with a depth that outshines the prequels.  I am surprised that I am this positive about it as I tend to skeptically view every bit of new Episode VII news that has been released thus far.   At its core, the original Star Wars is a character driven sci-fi movie, which is what makes it so relatable and enjoyable.

JJ Abrams Star Wars

My other question is that I wonder how the Star Trek fans are taking this news?  How would I feel if I had a beloved director who decided they would “fraternize with the enemy”?

Also, Abrams originally said he was not going to direct our movie, so what kind of offer did they give him that he couldn’t refuse?  When the speculations of directors started back in October, he mentioned he would prefer to be watching it as an audience member.  So what changed?  I know, I know, it is probably the money, but I’m wondering if something else went on morally?

And if I hear one more mention of Abrams and his love of the lens flare trick, I will scream.  Such a minor thing to be obsessed about!  People really do like to get annoyed by the smallest things.  “Oh no, lens flare will make the movie look newer and take away from the old school Star Wars look.”  Get over it.  We will never have the Original Trilogy again, those days are over.  Maybe the New Republic is so far advanced by the point of Episode VII that lens flares will totally make sense.

Finally, officially from starwars.com: looks like the 3D release dates of II & III have been postponed because they want to focus on Episode VII.  By “postponed”, I think they mean “will never happen until we have exhausted Star Wars in every way and need more money”.  Yes, I am cynical about the 3D releases.  I went and saw TPM 3D in the theaters at midnight with Mr. Reticent.  Waste of time and precious sleep.  I figured, hey, it’s Star Wars, I should uphold my reputation.  I definitely almost fell asleep.  The prequels were not filmed with 3D in mind.  It was really a waste of money and time on the Lucasfilm side.  I don’t care how “fleshed out” Rick McCallum was claiming it was and how it looked like you were in the room with them…if the movie was not made with 3D in mind, it really is a pointless move to convert it to 3D.  The effect of 3D is wasted.

That also brings up the question – will they film VII with the thought of releasing it in 3D?  Will that be a move that Abrams wants to make, therefore bringing in more “popping out” shots?  I really don’t know what to call it, but I’ve noticed that all 3D movies I’ve seen lately have had so many scenes of objects/people falling right at the camera so that they get to create that scare effect in the theater when you have your 3D glasses on.  “Ah!  A ship just fell on me!”  I don’t know if I want Episode VII to be 3D, but I’m not sure that Abrams will have a choice.  Disney will definitely want to bring in more money wherever they can, and 3D is all the rage right now.

star wars 3d

Overall, I’m still very interested to see where this all goes and I think J.J. Abrams is a good fit – but more specifically, I like the combination of Abrams and Arndt together.  Will 3D happen for VII?  Not sure, but I’m hoping it won’t affect the outcome of the movie too much if it does happen.