I discovered and started this book under false pretences.
I heard about it via an interview on Eidolon with the author. Given the fact that I skimmed this article at work with half an eye on the register to ensure that I didn’t miss a customer, my comprehension was…lacking. Thus, my main takeaway was that this was essentially a modern-day retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, and not much more–despite the second paragraph:
Like all successful retellings, Home Fire stands on its own merits —- no familiarity with Sophocles is needed to appreciate the novel’s elaborate interweaving of family and state. Like the most successful retellings, the novel casts new light on the original. With a particularly deft hand, Shamsie exposes the complex depths of humanity in Sophocles’ characters and displays how germane the story of the Antigone remains in today’s geo-political landscape. The novel was rightly longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2017.
To put it mildly, this book is stunning. Shamsie very deftly weaves a story that shares many characteristics and an overall arc with Sophocles original, but that still stands vibrantly on its own as a satisfying, melancholy story of modern fear and courage in the face of that fear. Definitely worth a read.31 August 2017
I’ll just say it up front: I really enjoyed these books. Primarily because of Mara Jade (who is one of my favorite characters in any fictional universe), but also because Zahn frequently achieves the right feel of the world and the characters.
There are some pacing issues, and, in keeping with the original material, everyone is straight as straight can be. The Hand of Thrawn duology, especially, also had a lot of sections that I wound up skimming because I just didn’t care about the characters as much (no disrespect to Karrde and Shada) and sometimes it felt like a couple of the ongoing storylines didn’t really have anything to do with anything else in the book?
That being said, the established characters are great. They all sound like themselves, and all of their actions made sense given their established characterization in the films. Importantly, this does not mean that they have all stayed the same. Leia is an accomplished diplomat, is developing her Force powers, and in one particulary memorable sequence, demonstrates some impressive piloting skills. Han has tempered some of his younger recklessness, and is growing into fatherhood. Luke continues to develop his own powers, and in the second series has to grapple with his connection to and use of the Force in some intriguing ways.
Finally, I need to talk about Mara. Like I said at the outset, she’s an awesome character. She’s funny, yet surprisingly relatable at times, and her narrative sections provide a welcome outsider’s perspective that serves to remind the reader just how far the core cast has come. Her backstory, teased out over the course of Heir to the Empire establishes her as an intriguingly gray character, morally speaking, in a universe that had dealt primarily in moral absolutes. Her conversations with Luke (and eventual relationship) explore more of the Force and the Empire, and her growth beyond her past is a delight to follow.
In summary: if you like Star Wars, and want to read some well-written tie-in novels that are not constrained by the prequel trilogy, give these a shot.20 May 2017
23 April 2017
The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Samatar creates and populates a lushly described, fully realized world and society undergoing change and upheaval, splitting the story into the personal narratives of four women who each relate differently to the events of the story: a soldier, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite. This is a story deeply concerned with the art of story-telling, preservation, and transmission. If nothing else, pick it up to experience some amazingly gorgeous prose. N.B.: this is a companion novel to A Stranger in Olondria, which I would also highly recommend.