Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’


NPR's top 100 fantasy & sci-fi books

Nearly five years ago, I met perhaps the most well-versed geek I've ever known. His knowledge of not just popular culture but the storied foundations of the science fiction and fantasy genres put me to shame. It made me realize that, in my consumption of the latest Star Trek and Forgotten Realms novels, I'd never made time to expose myself to the classics.

I've slowly been trying to rectify that over the past few years, during which time I've read Dune, Foundation, Discworld, Ringworld, Ender's Game, I Am Legend, and Game of Thrones (before it was a television series). My current assignment is The Left Hand of Darkness, after which I know there are many more books yet to read. But rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel, I instead find myself with the opposite problem: with so many good books to read, which do I tackle next?

NPR has the answer. This summer, they invited readers and listeners to submit their favorite fantasy and science-fiction novels for consideration as the best of all time. Five-thousand submissions, 60,000 votes, and 237 semi-finalists later, they presented the final list of the top one-hundred books (and on a single, unpaginated page, at that!).

Of the top ten books, I've read six; I'm embarrassed to say it was only half that before adding the titles I earlier listed. Altogether, only 23% of the books have crossed my reading list. I still have much work to do. But how to choose from the remaining 77, other than haphazardly?

Unsurprisingly, geeks who like fantasy, sci-fi, and NPR also like flowcharts. SFSignal.com has created a comprehensive visual guide to selecting your next novel. By asking yourself some simple questions, such as "Enjoy quests to prevent great evil from conquering the world?" or "Robots or martians?", you can quickly lead yourself to the genre, topic, series, or allegory of your liking.

Using this flowchart, I've determined that my next three sci-fi novels should be Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End; in the fantasy realm, I'll be looking at T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mrs. Norrell. At least one book in each genre is already in my personal library, sitting in my "to-read" pile for years now. That seems as good a place to start as any.

What sci-fi and fantasy novels are on your list?

(Hat tips to Michele and Barbara)


Can't Be Worse Than "Darth Tater"

The current brouhaha in a galaxy far far away is the Darth Who naming contest. Seems that Han Solo and Leia Skywalker's brat is following in his grandfather's footsteps, and readers get to decide what his street name will be.

To understand why he's doing this, I looked up little Jacen Solo's Wookiepedia entry. Link upon link later, I was again reminded of how voluminous the Star Wars expanded universe — or "EU", as Warsies call it, and not to be confused with a bunch of Anglo-Saxons uniting around a depreciated currency — is. My direct experience with this medium is neither vast nor recent, as not counting four film novelizations, I've read only two Star Wars books: R. A. Salvatore's Vector Prime and its immediate successor. I didn't have much difficulty picking up on where these characters were decades after the Battle of Yavin… but I felt no motivation to see where they were going, either.

Star Wars is an epic setting, yet its cinematic tales began and ended in a mere six films. By contrast, their literary extensions take dozens of books to tell a single saga (such as New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force). It's far less episodic than, say, Star Trek novels, which can be picked up and read in any order, based on the appeal of individual plots and characters. Already the NJO books I read seven years ago are set 20 years in the past of the EU's current events. I can't keep up!

Star Wars is to novels as superheroes are to comic books as soap operas are to television: hundreds of characters that live, die, and live again, with intricate plot threads that only the most fanatical loyalist can weave an understanding and appreciation out of. I can't even commit an hour a week to a TV series; how am I supposed to keep up with a Star Wars book a month? I think it's great that some of my favorite films ever have left an epic impact that resonates throughout today's bookshelves; but does it have to be so darn daunting?


This Will Be A Novel Long Remembered

I recently watched all three original Star Wars films for the first time since seeing them in theaters in 1997 (I bought the DVD set in the fall of 2004). But before watching episodes IV and V, I read the novelizations, as I also did immediately after episode VI. In any such converstion of media, the source material is almost always superior, and this was no exception: the books were vastly dependent on the on-screen action to detail what was happening. The most enjoyable novelization of the three was Return of the Jedi, which offered some useful insight into the characters' thoughts: Han Solo's evolution toward selflessness; Luke's struggle with the Dark Side; Vader's machinations against both his son and emperor. I had hoped for a bit more detail into Vader's final redemptive act, but none was forthcoming.

The only other movie novelization I've ever read was Attack of the Clones, which had numerous exclusive scenes (both deleted from the movie and created by the book's author). I guess I was hoping for a similar treatment from the original trilogy.

In related news, IGN.com recently posted its "Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time". George Lucas had the winning entry, of course.