STAR WORDS: Hyperspace Troopers


Video game tie-in novels are typically of dubious quality. Shadows of the Empire was never great storytelling as prose or pixels. It came as a surprise to me how much I enjoyed Battlefront: Twilight Company and how grounded the series felt. Freed was clearly inspired by the long history of military science fiction and the hard-hitting reports of wartime journalism so prevalent in the last decade. What we get is a gritty, grimy, soldierly look at war on a galactic scale from the perspective of a boots-on-the-ground grunt. And somehow the book maintains the optimism inherent in Star Wars. It’s a refreshing look at Star Wars and brings to mind Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath in many ways – the action has an immediacy that pulls the reader into the world, caring about one character rather than the fate of a galaxy.

Johnny Rico, meet Namir

The novel follows Namir – a veteran sergeant of the 61st mobile infantry, Twilight Company – as he rises through the ranks during the darkest days of the Rebellion. He’s a jaded soldier fighting for the Rebel Alliance because fighting is all he knows. There is no patriotism in him, no love for the cause. As he is thrust up the chain of command he must grapple with his own doubts and whether he can serve the soldiers under his command if he is not a true believer. [Read more…]

City on the Hill: Living in Minas Tirith


So, by now, you’ve all seen the trending topic on Facebook/Twitter/ Basically, a Lord of the Rings fanatic cum architectural profession has, along with a bevy of colleagues/friends, started an Indiegogo fundraiser titled “Realise Minas Tirith“. Their goal – to build a living, working real-live version of the fantasy city from Tolkien’s epic trilogy.

I’m sure this has raised some questions amidst the neophytes and non-architecturally inclined. Fortunately, as the Recorder’s resident Tolkien scholar (insert grain of salt here), I can provide answers to these questions.

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Persistence of Memory: Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant”

Image of The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroMemory is a finicky thing. It’s subjective to an incredible degree, affected by a multitude of factors including personal bias, innate desires, and decaying human physiology. In short, every human being on earth has a different means of forming memories, as well as a different capability to retain memories. Some are treasured, and some are reviled. In the end, what we remember bubbles to the surface with obscene irregularity – and what we forget is often costlier than what we remember.

If that sounds convoluted, don’t read The Buried Giant, the latest work by acclaimed author Kazuo Ishiguro. If it peaks your interest, you’re more likely to find a thought-provoking existential treatise on what memories mean to our collective human experience. [Read more…]

Alex and Travis Talk Tolkien – The Sequel (Part Two): The Appeal of the Medieval

Being the third part of a conversation that started months ago. The original, wherein we talk about The Hobbit can be found here and the first half of our Fellowship talk can be seen here.

Alex’s Response:

Heh. I can’t lie, most of the reason I roped you into this conversation was because I knew you would be spitting mad about my reaction in some way. To keep my response short: I get why the appeal of Tolkien is in the scope, why the characterization is archaic, and I did read it with an open mind. Like I said, I did enjoy Fellowship quite a bit. Just not without reservations.

But I do think the pleasures of Fellowship outweigh the reservations. Like I mentioned in the first half of this piece, one thing I particularly enjoyed were the touches of the medieval. Chris and Andrew had a pretty great discussion about this when they wrote about Hild last month, but the Medieval period we see in pop culture is very rarely anything but a mess in terms of accuracy and spirit. I won’t dive too deep into complaining about it, suffice to say reading history books about the actual events of that period in European history has been really eye-opening over the past few years.

Raedwald was a guy who knew how to party.

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Alex and Travis Talk Tolkien – The Sequel (Part One): The Blandness of the Ring

How do you like that clunker of a title, everyone? Travis and I will be continuing this talk soon, but there’s enough here to merit its own post. Also, clunky titles are appropriate for the material! – Alex 

Okay, so it has been three months and I have successfully read a book! Actually, I’ve read about a half-dozen books in the past three months. But only one of them is relevant to this article (for now): The Fellowship of the Ring. Thus the long-awaited second installment of “Alex, Travis, and Tolkien Step Into a Bar…” Wait, did we really call it that? Must have been Polar Vortex Madness. Anyway!

Since this is my journey back through the Tolkien I read as a youth, I suppose the burden is on me to start things off this time. As just a blanket opening statement Fellowship was…good. I want to be clear of that, I did like this novel and expect to enjoy its sequels to a similar degree. However, this is still a novel that it took me about three months to read, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Especially since I set it down several times to read such light fare as The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, and Lonesome Dove (OHMYGOD, THAT NOVEL). Those three tomes put together are longer than all of The Lord of the Rings, and I devoured them in a fraction of the time it took me to wade through Fellowship. In the novel’s defense, perhaps I just wanted to wait so that our next entry would synch up with the Blu-Ray release of The Hobbit Part Deux. But, uh, that theory would hinge upon me having long-term planning skills. So, it’s probably more likely that Fellowship just never really took a hold of me. [Read more…]

One Last Ride on the Wheel of Time: Review of “A Memory of Light”


Imagine, if you will, that you are cordially invited to the opening of a new theme park. Let’s say for the purposes of this metaphor that this new wonderland of amusement is called “Robert Jordan’s Fantasyland”. You arrive at this theme park eager to check out all of the new rides, having been to previous such parks as Middle-Earth, Narnia, and the World of Shannara. In this particular theme park, there are fourteen rides and one ducky pond (helpfully titled “New Spring”) for your enjoyment, but while visiting this park, you must ride the rides in a prescribed order, so as to fully maximize your experience. At the same time, some of the rides are continually under construction, so you don’t really have a choice except to follow the park’s guidelines (even though you can see some of these rides from a mile off and already know what’s up). Also, each ride has a boarding cost of $7.99, except for the mysterious ride #14, which is $34.99, but from what you can see from the street, looks incredibly awesome.

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