Solo: A Star Wars Trailer “I have a really good feeling about this.”

You know its important when I actually wake up to my first alarm.

New Star Wars trailers fit into that ‘important’ category.

I’ll do a breakdown later on, when I’m not having to go to work in half an hour.

Firstly – This looks amazing. The heist, western tone is giving me a Firefly flashback and I love it. The Western feel is throughout, the town Solo walks through at the beginning, the bar, Enfys Nest, the fireside handing of the gun, the train job. Amazing.

The actors are all doing amazing work. Ehrenreich as Han is really good, they downplayed him in the last two trailers but this one shows him in fire and with great comedic timing (190 years old? You look great!) and Donald Glover IS Lando. We get to see more of the cast, Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra seems to have a decent sized role and I hope it’s more than eye candy, she’s brilliant in Game of Thrones and want to see her kick some Imperial ass in this film. A couple more shots of Thandie Newton looking bad ass as Val, L3-3T by Phoebe Waller-Bridge finally gets some lines and action and of course there is Woody Harrelson playing… Woody Harrelson.

The relationship between Han and Chewie seems on-point. The banter we get in this trailer really puts that across. And Chewie is with another Wookiee, Malla perhaps?

The Empire is around but not all over this trailer like the previous ones and what we do see is new enough to not feel stale, in construction Star Destroyer and Range Troopers look great. Was that an AT-ST in the dust cloud thing? Obligatory TIE Fighter shot.

And Thurm Scissorpunch was sat next to Lando in the Sabaac scene. Praise to the Scissorpunch.

Overall a great trailer and I can’t wait to see this film next month.

Musings: The Star Wars Podcasting Community

After The Force Awakens came out I felt the desire to be involved with as much Star Wars conversation as I could, but I didn’t really know anyone with the same passion for it as me. So I turned to the one place I could get as much Star Wars talk as I could manage. Podcasts.

The first one I listened to was ‘Now This is Podcasting!’ From the Making Star Wars. Net Podcast Network.

I was quite familiar with the site but had never ventured into the podcasts but it was a needs must situation.

I dove right in with what was the latest episode and after listening to a couple more to really get a feel for the show I was an avid listener, going back a few episodes to satiate my Star Wars talk needs, discussing the news, spoilers and various musings of the Star Wars Universe. These guys were even my soundtrack as I walked around Star Wars Celebration Europe in 2016.

Then I dove headfirst into The Cantina Cast, another member of the Making Star Wars Podcast Network, where the hosts dissect and analyse the characters and events from the films to the slightest detail. Again this was perfect for me and by now I have listened to the majority of their catalogue of episodes.

This network had more shows that I could sink my teeth into, Tarkin’s Top Shelf where they discuss the novels and Idiots Array were my next ventures into the aural world of Star Wars conversation.

More shows have come and gone on the network. Most of which I listen to on a regular basis. Some I avoided for a while, such as Steele Wars, by comedian Steele Saunders. I never gave it a chance until he was a guest on Now This is Podcasting and he was incredibly entertaining, so I gave in and started listening some time in late 2016. The first episodes I listened to were the Blog Pods from SWCE where Steele was recording stuff from the convention (I was even sat behind him in a couple of panels working on the episodes and I never put two and two together). Listening to those episodes gave me such Celebration nostalgia it was almost depressing.

In early 2017 I jumped on to Rogue Won: A Star Wars Podcast For Winners, a great series hosted by three of the nicest guys in all of Star Wars fandom. And recently I have started listening to another podcast from one of those three hosts called Blue Harvest, which I tried to listen to a year ago when they first joined the MSWPCN but either the episode wasn’t for me or I wasn’t in the right mood for it but after getting into it recently I can’t quite understand what my problem was, Hawes Burkhardt is a Star Wars podcasting legend.

My love of Star Wars Rebels led me to finding The Star Wars Underworld Podcasts, especially at the time their ‘Live From Lothal’ series and I started listening to the rest of their shows.

I have listened to others, sometimes for one episode, sometimes more, usually if a host from one of my regular listens guests on another show I’ll more than likely give it a go, and then download a tonne of episodes, trust me, I need them to get through work.

It probably sounds silly but having the near constant stream of Star Wars discussions makes each work day that bit more bearable and any car journey, no matter how short is usually accompanied by a Podcast.

Now I don’t only listen to Star Wars podcasts but the majority are.

Whether it’s up to date Star Wars news from Randy, Jason, Sal and now Corey (and occasionally Steele) on Now This is Podcasting, or Steele interviewing someone who loves the franchise almost as much as him or Johnny, Hawes and Mike waxing lyrical and holding fake phone calls with each other I can’t get enough. It’s like sting back and listening to different groups of friends chatting away whilst you sit back and listen.

I can’t thank any of them enough for what their contributions to the fandom have done for me personally but what I can say is, if you like Star Wars and you like podcasts give these shows a go (and trust me, they haven’t paid me for this adoration filled post).

My Star Wars Life Part 7 – Expanding My Universe Even More

The year 2000 or, the year after Phantom Menace came out in cinemas, I got the video on the day of release in April and I waited to see if there would be any new books that told us any stories about Anakin’s training.

The only one that ever did was ‘Rogue Planet’, and I never read it. My attention was diverted elsewhere in the Expanded Universe, set 25 Years after A New Hope.

On a trip to London to visit family with my Gran, I got a book. It was part of a new series. The New Jedi Order – Dark Tide 1: Onslaught.

Doing what little research I could I found that there was one book that preceded it, ‘Vector Prime’, but seeing as I was in a mini W.H. Smiths at King’s Cross Station with not long before my train was going to leave my choice was pretty limited. So I got it.

The train left the station. I was handed a bag of sweets and I started reading. It was confusing to say the least. What were the Yuuzhan Vong? Sure I learned what I needed to but when you miss the first part of something you always have a few questions.

And then I learned the shocking news. Chewbacca was dead.

OK, this was serious. They killed Chewie. No one kills Chewie. Chewie is Chewie! But it had happened. He was gone, crushed by a moon after saving Anakin Solo. Oh man that was tough.

And I was hooked.

I went back and read Vector Prime. I got Dark Tide 2: Ruins and read that. These Yuuzhan Vong meant business.

The following year I continued to read my way through the New Jedi Order novels, the Edge of Victory duology were great. The first of which I picked up at that same mini W.H. Smiths.

But it was that November that I read my favourite EU novel. Star By Star by Troy Denning.

My friend Graham had borrowed it from his local library and after reading it told me I had to. I devoured it and I did so very, very quickly.

It was through Graham that I joined my first Star Wars fan community, The Holocron.net, where I would spend many nights chatting with like-minded folk across the world.

And then, as the year began to come to a close… the teaser trailer fore Attack of the Clones was released.

Clone Wars!!!! The Clone Wars was coming!!!! Lots of Jedi fighting!!!! Clones!!!! So excited!!!!

#NotMyLukeSkywalker

Ugh!

If I have to read any more posts on Social Media by people who wanted the same old Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi I may have to vomit.

I don’t think I saw or heard one complaint about how the characters of Han and Leia had developed from the Original Trilogy to the Sequel Trilogy.

But as soon as you get a Luke Skywalker who has gone through some character development between the two trilogy’s then everyone looses their minds.

If we got Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker then what would the point be of having the character return. Same old, same old doesn’t work over 30 years.

If you asked any of the #notmylukeskywalker wingers who had grown up with the films from 1977 until now and asked them if they were the same person now as they were 30 years ago I guarantee they would say ‘no’. Ask them why and you’ll be told that life experience has changed them in some way.

Then why can’t the same happen for a fictional character?

Well?

I can wait for the answer.

Is it because of the Legends/Canon debate? Were people really expecting the Luke of the EU? The one who at one point lived in a castle on Coruscant and walked around naked in front of Han being all weird like in ‘The Approaching Storm’? Or the Luke Skywalker who was sat having holiday on a Coruscant resort as the local security come to arrest him in the middle of the Yuuzahn Vong conflict only for him to throw some Peter Parker style quips? Because for me, that’s #notmylukeskywalker.

When I watched The Last Jedi I loved the Luke character. The progression was believable especially after we get the back story of the Luke/Ben altercation that led to Ben destroying Luke’s Training Temple.

I’m not going to recount the events of the end of the film, you’re reading a Star Wars blog, you probably already know, but here’s how it affected me.

As I left the cinema, at almost 3am carrying the two free posters that were given out after the screening I walked to my car. For the whole five minute walk all I could think was ‘I don’t believe it. What just happened?’

The drive home passed me by in a blur, I’m still surprised I didn’t run a red light or something. All I could think about was Luke’s passing.

The next morning, my wife asked me firstly, if I enjoyed it. I said that I didn’t know. Then she asked me to tell her what happens in the film. So over the next hour or so (stopping and starting whilst doing other stuff) I recounted The Last Jedi.

When I got to the Luke and Leia scene on Crait I broke, yes I cried. My wife told me to ‘man up’. I then told her about the death scene and it happened again. It turns out that reliving the story allowed me to essentially come to terms with the loss of my childhood hero. And you know what, it felt right. We got Luke’s story. He’s passed the Jedi mantle on to Rey.

I saw it again that afternoon with my Dad, I grieved. I let it all out in that screening and at no point did I even think that the character of Luke had been used in a wrong way.

Then the click-bait hash-tag hate mongering started. Based on something Mark Hamill said in the previous April at Celebration 2017 about fundamentally disagreeing with Rian Johnson’s take on the character and then admitting that he (Mark Hamill) was wrong.

At work the next day I listened to a few podcasts where the film was discussed, one of which was an episode of Steele Wars where the host, Steele Saunders and his wife Jaqueline discussed the film in the car on the way to the airport (Steele Wars Episode 155: In the Car The Last Jedi SPOILER reaction with Jaqueline) where, when asked what his favourite moment of the film was, Steele said, after starting to cry (and mocking himself for crying),

“My highest point is that Luke Skywalker came back and was a hero.”

I don’t think I could put it better myself, but in memory of our favourite Jedi Master let’s set Twitter ablaze with a new hash-tag

#lukeskywalkerismyhero

Check out Steele Saunders’ Steele Wars Podcast HERE

My Star Wars Life Part 6 – June – December 1999

Oh June was an expensive month.

After that initial spending spree, I still had the monetary gifts that came from the rest of my family, and as it was half-term I had a week of shopping ahead of me.

A trip to town, more specifically the book shop was fruitful, The Phantom Menace novelisation and the Making Of books were purchased with no second thought. The soundtrack was next. Even trips to the supermarket yielded results, I managed to get a rather elusive Qui-Gon Jinn figure from Tesco.

I was going on a week-long school trip to France the week of release, so I persuaded my Mum to let me tag a long with Vix’s Dad and younger brother whilst our mum’s hung out and talked about whatever it was parents talked about.

And so, that warm July afternoon (yeah us English had to wait nearly 2 months after America), sweets and drink in hand I was sat in the cinema and those ten beautiful words came on screen.

The music played and the title exploded into view.

And I loved every damned minute of it.

The child, however did not. He actually said he preferred the Mike Myers vehicle, Austin Powers 2. But what did he know, he was 6.

I managed to see it 3 times during the theatrical run.

The rest of July was spent hunting down action figures, whilst Mum and Nanna were doing some catering work one Friday or Saturday evening I was able to run across the road to Toys R Us. There was the hard to find Darth Maul figure. A family of collectors were also there and already had two in their basket. One to keep in box the other to play with. There was one more Maul figure and they helped me hide it so I could run back to my Mum and pleaded for the £5 to get the last Maul on the shelf. She relented, maybe to shut me up. But I got it. Thank the maker.

As school came to an end I was given a present by my Dad for doing well in school. I opened the bag and inside was my holy grail at the time, the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure from Phantom Menace. This was harder to find than Darth Maul in my experience and I was so happy. Finally I could stop using a Luke Skywalker figure as an Obi-Wan stand-in.

That summer we visited my Aunt and Uncle in London, which of course warranted a trip to the biggest and best toy shop in all the land, Hamleys.

As we got in the shop, the beeline was made to the escalators and up to the fifth floor we went and there it was, the Star Wars display and there were new figures I had never seen before (at hugely inflated prices). The Battle Droid commander OOM-9 and Captain Tarpals were added to the ever growing collection.

The rest of the year was filled with playing Star Wars games, specifically the Phantom Menace demo on repeat, I was only allowed on the internet for half an hour a night back in the old days of dial-up and so I used a weeks worth of internet use to download the demo, playing as Obi-Wan on the Trade Federation starship.

After Christmas, I bought Darth Maul’s double bladed Lightsaber. What a grand purchase that was and I had it for years until life imitated art and one evening, during an alcohol fuelled lightsaber duel, they hit the handle of the Maul saber and cut it in two. Although I salvaged it with electrical tape. Days later we welcomed the new millennium and a whole new decade of fandom awaited.

Musings: Canon vs Legends

One of the most frequent and diversifying topics in the Star Wars fandom has been the removal of the EU from the Star Wars Canon and calling it ‘Legends’ whilst restarting the EU with books, comics and games where it’s now all part of the ongoing Star Wars continuity.

I understand the vitriol that came from that announcement in 2013/14. Since 1991 we had a whole range of Star Wars stories and a slew of characters we had grown attached to in the ongoing books and comics; The Solo children, Ventress, Quinlan Vos. George Lucas even used Aayla Secura in the films after she was introduce in the comics. For it all to be gone like that would be hard for some to stomach.

But they’re not really gone are they? They are still available to purchase. Collectors still own them and can read them at their leisure.

Hell, I’ve read a bunch of the ‘Legends’ novels since the EU was made non-canon and I still enjoy them the same as I would were they still considered Canon.

The change all occurred because J.J Abrams wanted a clean slate when he took on the directorial duties of The Force Awakens and who could blame him? I’m a Star Wars fan but by that point there was so much stuff that had happened in the EU he had no clue where to start. Best to start afresh and build the new EU from there.

But i think it was in Lucasfilm’s best interests to do this anyway.

Now follow me down this rabbit hole if you will, just say the Legends timeline was kept and Episode VII is announced, a brand new story set in the SW universe we all know and love and yo really understand and appreciate this film you need to have read EVERY book set after Return of the Jedi. Chewie’s dead by a moon landing on him. Han and Leia have had three kids and only one is left alive after one was killed at the hands of an alien race that had messed the galaxy up beyond comprehension and the other followed in Vader’s footsteps, turned to the Dark Side and ruled his new Empire only to be killed by his surviving twin sister. And after that the Jedi are essentially shunned and Luke goes off into the far reaches if space with his son, whose mother was a servant of the Emperor who wanted to kill Luke but then married him only to be killed by the same Solo child who turned Dark.

It’s a lot to take in really.

Long time fans would have little-to-no problems but wheat about the casual fans or new fans? Disney want to make their investment back, and they paid a lot to buy Lucasfilm. They want as many people to watch the films and buy merchandise, how do you do that with an already established franchise, do the best you can to start from as close to scratch as possible. In the case of a Star Wars, make it do that anything that isn’t a film or recent animated series (Clone Wars) is no longer canon.

It was a great way to make the future of the franchise as accessible as possible. For me it was a great decision. I wanted to get back into reading the novels but had no idea where to start. Then it was announced, the first book in the new canon was ‘A New Dawn’ the prequel novel to the new animated series ‘Star Wars: Rebels’. Now, to me at least it was accessible, and not in the way that every Marvel Comics ‘Reboot’ has been accessible, this was a real clean slate.

What I don’t get is how there are fans who refuse to accept the Disney SW canon. I do understand that they have invested a lot of time and money into the old EU but really, what does it matter? Isn’t it more important that we are getting any new Star Wars stuff at all?

I stopped buying the novels after Revenge of the Sith. I was really behind on the New Jedi Order series, and was struggling to keep up with the continuity. I had no interest in the Old Republic era of the EU, and the different Clone Wars material kept contradicting each other. I tried to keep up with the ongoing stories using plot outlines and wookiepedia to give me an idea of the goings on but it was a lot.

Now I have almost read every new SW novel that has been released, even the children’s books, because they are all canon and I’ve jumped in head first and loved almost every word of it.

The fan base has grown in the past three or four years and it will only continue to grow and had the d EU stayed in tact I seriously doubt the franchise would have been as successful as it has been had they kept the Expanded Universe intact.

My Star Wars Life Part 5 – Jan – May 1999

It was a slow start to the year.

After the Phantom Menace teaser trailer I was looking for anything Star Wars I could find.

For the Christmas just gone I received Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on PC and I spent most of the early months playing it to death.

I was snatching up the Official Magazine any time I could find it just to see more TPM behind the scenes pictures or any official pictures.

When the posters came out I made sure to buy them, who didn’t love the teaser with Anakin stood in front of a wall where the shadow of Vader loomed over him?

It was in April that I hit what I considered the mother-load. A Toys R Us trip yielded the most fruitful of results. Brand new and oh so glorious…

Star Wars Lego!!!!

X-Wing! Y-Wing and Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter! Luke’s Landspeeder! Speederbike Chase! Snow Speeder!

Oh! My! God!

I bought the X-Wing then and there and I built that thing straight away!

Now I was a Lego fan growing up and had quite a few sets. Then I would try to build new things, including Star Wars ships but with no luck. Now I could build them and do it properly.

A few days later, I got the Y-Wing/ Vader’s TIE set. And not long after that my Grandparent’s bought me Luke’s Landspeeder. I was building myself a little fleet, literately.

Looking back the sets didn’t look all that great, there were a lot of details missing but at the time they were amazing and I still have fond memories of building them. Luke’s Landspeeder was built on a train on our way home from a trip to London, Grandpa surprised me with it, passing it to me over the table as I ate sweets whilst reading something or other. Nanna told me later on that they had been out one day and he’d pulled into the Toys R Us car park, ran in, leaving her in the car and came out minutes later with the surprise gift.

Needless to say, those sets have been built and rebuilt many times and are currently in pieces in a couple of boxes in the shed. I hope to rebuild them all one day.

The next bit of amazing news was on a holiday to France with my parents and there was a news article on TV about the new Phantom Menace merchandise being released soon. More toys!!!

Not long after that I had ventured into town for an afternoon with a few quid (£14 to be exact). I went into the local bookshop and I was blown away. The Phantom Menace books were out. The children’s adaptation of the story, the adult novelisation by Terry Brooks, the Making of and the Illustrated Screenplay. I bought the children’s version and the Screenplay.

I read the children’s adaptation that afternoon. Loved it! The Screenplay just made me want to make a Star Wars film so bad.

Then came the toys. They were released a week or so before my birthday. Again I went to town with strict orders to not buy any Star Wars toys. I went to Toys R Us to have a look. I came out with Mace Windu, oops.

Happy Birthday to me!!!

All I asked for from family was money. I had a lot of stuff to buy. That morning my Mum handed me £100 and we went to Toys R Us ready for opening time. The first item in the trolley… the Commtech Reader that you placed the Commtech chips that came with the figures and it played lines from the film.

After that I loaded the trolley with £80 worth of figures and Lego.

We were out in 20 minutes, Mum said it was the fastest £100 spending spree she’d ever seen.

My Star Wars Life Part 4 – Baited Breath

It was sometime in early 1998 when I came across the Star Wars Magazine (the UK version of SW Insider until recent years). As I was flicking through a couple of things caught my attention, 1 – a mini-guide to the last few levels of a game called Jedi Knight and 2 – on set pictures of Star Wars Episode I.

Now, imagine this, a world where the internet is not everywhere. That was me. We had no internet at that point and so I had to wait another month to find out new Star Wars info when the next issue came out. And all we got was set pics, sometimes with an extra or two but nothing on the story. But there was a new Star Wars film coming out.

Until then I had to be content with what I could get my hands on. More toys of course. New books, definitely and after my birthday, on the required birthday money spending spree I got one of my favourite PC games ever, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight. By today’s standards it looks shoddy but at the time it was beautiful. The cinematic cut scenes were amazing. The story was fantastic and you could choose to be Light or Dark side with different Force powers. So obviously I had two saved games.

Towards the end of the year rumours started up about the teaser trailer for Episode I. The title had been announced some time before if I remember correctly. On the rumoured day of the trailers release Dad and I were going to the cinema to see ‘Mark of Zorro’. I even asked him if he thought we’d see the trailer. He doubted it.

We sat through the trailers, obviously forgettable. The curtains closed. They opened again and the trailer started.

The Gungans coming out of the swamp. Wide shots of Theed. The title cards. ‘Every generation has a legend… Every journey has a first step… Every saga has a beginning…’ The space battle. Young Obi-Wan. What was that weird frog like thing? A droid army? Yoda? Prophesy? Balance in the Force? DOUBLE ENDED LIGHTSABER???

Needless to say I did not pay attention to Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins fighting for freedom in Mexico that night.

And I had to wait another 8 months to see it.

My Star Wars Life Part 3 – 1997

Star Wars Special Editions were on the way. And so was more merchandise.

I was never a big crisps eater. But when Walkers Crisps did their collectable Star Wars Tazos (like Pogs but not quite) I ate crisps like nothing else. I had almost the whole collection and I even had the special folder to store them in. But there was an elusive set of 10 that you could only get by eating a specific brand that neither me nor my parents ate. I was gutted. But some family friends came through and I got all but one, the Wampa. Oddly enough I managed to complete the set about two years ago when I found that last Tazo at my local comic shop. Best 10p I ever spent.

The weekend Star Wars: A New Hope SE came out I was staying at a friend of the families house and we were all going to see Space Jam. I was a late addition to the group and it was questionable that I would get a ticket to see the Warner Bros crew team up with Michael Jordan, so I said if I couldn’t see that maybe, just maybe I’d be able to see Star Wars. I’m afraid it was not to be that day, but I did watch the Behind-the-Scenes special that was on TV that evening. My friend Vix joined me in front of the TV, and when it finished she said she wanted to see those films having never seen them before.

A couple of weeks later Vix and I were sat in the cinema with my Brother and Sister and a few of their friends and it was amazing. We were so in awe we stayed until the end of the credits with my Sister who proclaimed that you hadn’t fully seen a film unless you watched the credits. This was before post-credits scenes were a thing so god knows why. I remember enjoying the new and altered scenes. CGI Jabba was a novelty and something I remembered from the novelisation. The Death Star hanger bay where Han runs in and then away made sense and the new Battle of Yavin shots with more X-Wings and more dynamic shots was mind-blowing.

My Dad took me to see Empire. He hadn’t seen that one before, only having seen A New Hope and Return of the Jedi when they came out originally. I pointed out the stuff that wasn’t in the original cut. The changes to Empire, aside from the Wampa sequence were subtle and welcome. Cloud City looked so much better with windows and the fly-through was great. The new Vader shuttle sequence was one of my favourite changes. Always like more Vader but why was Luke screaming when he let himself fall down the shaft after the revelation? Wasn’t so sure about that.

Vix joined Dad and I for Return of the Jedi. At the time I loved Jedi Rocks (I have since seen the error of my ways). The Sarlacc changes didn’t bother me much. But the ending, the celebration across the galaxy. Wow. The new music was great, it still gives me chills now, and I loved Yub Nub growing up but this was something else entirely.

Of course Star Wars fever carried on through the year, books were read and toys were bought. I was over the moon when on Christmas Day I opened a present to reveal the Special Edition Box Set (Gold). Just in time as well, I was wearing my previous versions out through repeated viewings.

A New Dawn Book Review

Potential Spoilers for A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller and Star Wars: Rebels. You have been warned.

I really enjoy this book.

I’ve now read it three times since I got it in April 2015. That’s how much I like it. It’s the only book in the new Star Wars canon I have read multiple times. I felt compelled to read it after the Rebels episodes ‘Jedi Night’ and ‘DUME’.

Like many, this was my introduction to the story of the Ghost Crew, specifically Kanan and Hera and a new mainstay character from the new novels, Rae Sloane.

Kanan is a great character. In the book he’s a lost man who drinks too much and fights even more. He doesn’t stay in one place too long and doesn’t get attached to anyone and hiding a massive secret, he’s a former Jedi Apprentice called Caleb Dume. I really like this younger Kanan, seeing what he was like before he joined Hera.

Hera is a badass! She’s almost ninja-like with her infiltration skills which she utilises a few times through the book, which is a pity when she doesn’t do this much in the series. She’s dedicated to revealing how bad the Empire really is, almost a pre-Rebellion rebel.

The new characters are well fleshed out. Skelly the Clone Wars veteran explosives expert. Zaluna the Sullistian surveillance operative, these two help Hera and Kanan in their plot to bring down The Empire’s operation on The planet Gorse and it’s moon Cynda. Okadiah, the Obi-Wan to Kanan’s Luke, minus the Force but has plenty of alcohol. And how can we forget Captain Rae Sloane, who through the short stories/novels has moved up the ranks of the Empire from a Cadet in the short story ‘Orientation’ to Grand Admiral by the end of the Aftermath trilogy and Count Vidian, the cyborg efficiency expert who’s schemes are thwarted by our heroes.

As far as the story goes it flows quite nicely, if probably a bit by-the-book, which is not a complaint by any stretch. Through the plot we find out how far the Empire is willing to go to help fund and expand their resources, essentially strip-mining planets and even willing to go as far as blowing up moons to get the resources they need. Kanan is the reluctant hero, Hera is the idealistic Rebel. Their paths cross several times before they end up working together with their rag-tag team to stop Vidian’s plot to double-cross the Empire.

The book acts as a brilliant introduction to Kanan and Hera. My only issue there is that it’s set quite a while before the series so there’s quite a time jump between the two. On the other hand this means that there are plenty more adventures they could go on and stories that could be told to further develop them into who they are in the series. I’ve always wondered how they recruited Zeb and Sabine. Those are stories I want to read now.

Until we get them, however, I’ll be content to re-watch the whole series.

The Last Jedi Audiobook Review: Or How I Had to Hide at Work So No One Saw Me Cry

I am a recent convert to the world of audiobooks. My wife, Sara, has an Audible account which I have access to and so far this year I have plundered it when i’ve exhausted my podcast library.

The other day I asked if she had any spare credits. She did so of course I had to get The Last Jedi, written by Jason Fry and narrated by long time Star Wars audiobook narrator Mark Thompson.

First of all, it’s great. I love the writing. So far out of the recent novelisations it’s my favourite. Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of The Force Awakens was dire. Badly written and the additional material was lacklustre at best. I loved Alexander Freed’s Rogue One adaptation. Lucasfilm hired the best guy for the job after the stellar Battlefront: Twilight Company. He really got into the characters heads and motivations and his writing of battle scenarios was phenomenal. But The Last Jedi by Jason Fry just knocked it out of the park.

Spoilers Ahead

The prologue, a dream Luke is having about what his life would have been like had he not ventured off with Obi-Wan and handed the droids over to the Empire in A New Hope, where he lives the life of a moisture farmer, marrying Cammie (from the deleted scenes of ANH) and carrying on running the Lars Moisture Farm is a welcome surprise. Additional scenes between the Tico sisters before they are split up, carrying on from where Elizabeth Wein’s Cobalt Squadron finishes and expands Paige’s role in the evacuation of D’Quar. The inclusion of deleted scenes, such as Luke’s third lesson to Rey on Ahch-To is a welcome addition and of course the innermost thoughts and small tidbits of backstory that flesh out these film novelisations and makes us fans go nuts.

We get a minor history of the creation of the First Order, the Phoenix Rising from the ashes of the Empire, the grand plan of Emperor Palpatine. A tiny bit of Snoke’s backstory, aiding the rise of the First Order and their domination of the inhabited worlds in Wild Space. Luke deciding he has to leave with Rey only to find out she’s Force-Skyping with Ben Solo and a beautiful and incredibly emotional scene between Leia and Chewie in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit after the Resistance escapes Crait which had me hiding at the other side of the warehouse because I had tears running down my face.

Someone, get Jason Fry to write an original Star Wars novel (adult, I know he’s already written loads for kids and the recent cross-sections books).

What really excited me about this novel is that Rian Johnson was heavily involved, giving these additions a lot more credibility.

Marc Thompson absolutely blew me away with his narration. The character voices are pretty good, his Poe Dameron sounds amazingly like Oscar Isaac it’s scary and the inclusion of sound effects and John William’s music works well.

I do have a couple of tiny issues though. Firstly why does the audiobook only use music from the Prequel films? Not to say the music choices are bad, they fit the scenes perfectly, but the is a score for The Last Jedi, why not use that?

My second minor gripe is with Rose Tico. NOW I love the character in the film, Kelly Marie Tran was brilliant, I loved her interactions with Finn and DJ and her character arc was fantastic. I don’t know if it’s the way she was portrayed in the book or the way Marc Thompson portrayed her, she came across as quite catty, especially when Finn is talking about Rey, which is not how I would have ever pictured her in the film. I’ll find out when I get around to buying the book and reading it.

Overall an amazing novel, a brilliant novelisation and a really fantastic audiobook. Well worth a read or listen or both.

God Speed Rebels

In a matter of hours we will be witnessing the end of an era, the end of Star Wars Rebels.

Rebels has been a divisive element of the Star Wars Universe in the years since Disney took over, having The Clone Wars be cancelled mid-way through the production of Season 6 and then given what, on the surface seemed like a watered down, overtly kiddified idea of what a new Star Wars animated series could be.

The announcements of the characters were underwhelming. A pilot, a grouchy droid, the alien muscle, the artsy warrior, the fallen Jedi and some street urchin that may or may not be Force – sensitive. I was dismayed, given the time period and two leads being Force Users all I could think was ‘can’t we move away from the Force and just see what the Rebellion was all about before A New Hope?’ (Cue Rogue One). And I held out watching with when it finally started airing.

I had read A New Dawn, my first book in the new canon and very much enjoyed it, so much so that I am currently reading it for the third time, so it felt right that I dive in head first to the series.

My initial reaction was that it had promise but it was very much aimed for children. Given the channel it was shown on I was hardly surprised.

As I made my way through season one I was drawn in. The Grand Inquisitor made for a top notch Star Wars villain. The development of the characters was good and by the end of the series we started to see the formation of the Rebel Alliance.

The second season opened brilliantly. ‘Siege of Lothal’ will remain in my top 5 episodes for years to come. Same for the finale ‘Twilight of the Apprentice’, that music still gives me chills.

I was at Star Wars Celebration Europe (London) in 2016 and I was in the Rebels season 3 panel queue from 3.15am. I met a few people I am now connected with on Facebook and later that day I was stood 2 foot away from Dave Filoni. I was just too slow to get a picture with the legend but the memory remains.

I was in the room when they announced Thrawn in the season 3 trailer. I joined in with the almost football stadium chant of ‘Thrawn! Thrawn! Thrawn!’ And smiled with unbridled glee when we watched the season opener.

Season three scratched my itch for character development. But was underwhelmed by the lack of direction for Zeb. The filler episodes slowed it down, much like season 2 and even though it was great, the finale wasn’t up to par with season 2 but I was not dissuaded. How many filler episodes did we have to deal with on Lost? And that was an amazing series.

And here we are. Season 4. By far the best season we have had (my opinion). Like season one the shorter season has worked in its favour, less filler episodes and after the ‘In the Name of the Rebellion’ 2 parter we have had a season long storyline with no deviations. Since our heroes landed on Lothal my anticipation for what could come has been through the roof.

And the last four episodes have been stellar. (Spoilers) Kanan’s death hit me hard. I love the character and I have loved watching him develop over the past four years, from the cocky, overconfident yet drunken former Padawan to the wise and powerful Jedi Knight (surely he could be classed as a Master now though) who sacrificed himself for the cause. The episode ‘DUME’ will be long remembered as the Ghost crew dealt with the loss, and so did the fans.

And a last week we were introduced to the Star Wars concept of time travel. Which until I saw the episode I would never have thought it would happen and in fact hoped it wouldn’t but it did and it worked. It was great to have Ahsoka back even for one episode and gave us the closure we have needed from two seasons ago, Ahsoka lives!

And here we are, waiting for the end as the hour gets ever closer. As I am UK based I can’t watch it live, but my alarm is set so I can try to watch it all before I go to work. It’s the end of an era and I don’t want spoilers.

Will anyone else on the crew die? Any of the supporting characters? I don’t know. All I know is Hera, Chopper and the Ghost make it out safely.

Do I know what I want from it? A satisfying ending, that’s all and given the great things he has done so far, I fully trust Dave Filoni to give us such a farewell to these now beloved characters.

And so I quote Amilyn Holdo’s final words, “God speed Rebels.”

Star Wars Lego Review – Resistance Transport Pod

I just finished building this nice little set. Overall it took about an hour (I was taking my time) and I’m pretty chuffed with it as an overall set.

At 294 pieces I was actually expecting it to be a bit smaller so I was pleasantly surprised by the overall size, especially as I have held back from buying this set based on the price.

I got this set for £24 where it usually retails for £39.99 which for just under 300 pieces, most of which are small, to me feels a bit too much. Especially when the Ahch-To Training set is £15 less and has more pieces (another great build I’ve done recently).

For the size I’m loving the detail that has been put into the set. The engines on the back look great with the framework and I’m liking the new steering columns we are getting.

I was shocked by how many stickers were included with the set, 13 in total and most of them used on the canopy which was not my favourite place to stick stickers. I have seen complaints about this in other reviews but never took much notice because most reviews wings about stickers at some point. There are 7 on the canopy… yikes, don’t want to get them wrong at all.

Of course it comes with the pre-requisite stud launcher and firing missiles like most sets do these days but none are obtrusive. The missiles are tucked away underneath the ship and the stud launcher doesn’t look out of place either.

It comes with two minifigs, Finn and Rose. Both have great detailing on the bodies and reversible faces. I especially love the stitching on the back of Finns jacket that according to the Last Jedi Visual Dictionary was something Pod did whilst Finn was in his induced coma. Rose even comes with her shock stick which is a nice touch. The set also comes with a BB-8 who can hide in the back.

Overall a nice little set but hold on until it’s on sale, a solid 8 out of 10.

My Star Wars Life Part 2 – Expanding My Universe

As with any obsession, more is better.

That was how I felt about Star Wars and I didn’t care how, like Anakin I wanted more.

First of all, toys. And my first ever Star Wars toy was a C-3PO ‘Bendems’ figure. It came with a collectable Trading Card from Topps and I loved it. I got as many as I could get my hands on, each with a trading card. My collection was growing and I hadn’t even realised. Then Christmas ’95 something happened that changed my life forever.

Power of the Force Action Figures.

My face lit up like a thousand Christmas Trees when I ripped open the wrapping paper to find an X-Wing toy. The wings opened up. It made sounds. And you could put a figure inside. I tried to stick my bendems Luke Skywalker in (one of the two I owned, the first ones hand came off and I refused to get rid of it due to screen accuracy) but he was too big.

A day or two later, my parents took me on the obligatory post Christmas ‘spend your money’ trip. To Toys R Us we went and I got myself a Luke Skywalker, a Darth Vader and to complement the X-Wing in my imaginary dog fights, the TIE Fighter.

Who cared that Luke looked like a He-Man reject and the Lightsabers were ridiculously out of proportion? Not me. I could finally tell my imaginary Star Wars tales with five points of articulation and we’re less likely to tear if bent in the wrong way.

Over the years the collection grew. Pocket money was thrown to Hasbro in droves, I had to have them all. Luke faced Vader often and always on a high ledge, provided by my removing a shelf from its brackets and using them as a battle platform. The only one I couldn’t find for years was the Stormtrooper, which I remedied years later when I got the Luke in Stormtrooper disguise and never took the helmet off. Easy.

It wasn’t just the toys that had captured my imagination. I had also heard, from my older sisters Uni roommate that there were Star Wars books.

Now, as a kid, I was a big reader. And not to toot my own horn but I read at a higher level than my peers. Sure I was a fan of the age appropriate fare, such as Goosebumps but I was also starting to read longer, more adult fiction. My greatest achievement in reading at the time was Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. So after some pleading with my folks I was granted permission (I was 9 at the time) to traverse the ever expanding Star Wars Universe. The first books I got were the novelisation of A New Hope by George Lucas (ghost written by Alan Dean Foster) and Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn.

I completed Zahn’s Empire trilogy and jumped into Kevin J Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. This was phenomenal. New stories. New worlds. New characters. Wow, just… wow.

In early ’97 I picked up the paperback of Shadows of the Empire. My original plan was to complete the Young Han Solo Trilogy by A C Crispin but something about Shadows drew me away. Xixor. I had got the action figure the previous Christmas in a 2 pack with Darth Vader (with a proportionate lightsaber) as well as the Millennium Falcon and AT-ST, and so I put my education about Han Solo’s history on one side (still not finished the trilogy) to read the connective tissue between Empire and Jedi.

It was also during this shopping trip that I learned an incredible thing.

The Star Wars Trilogy was coming back to cinemas.

My Star Wars Life Part 1 – The Journey Begins

I can’t remember the first time I saw a Star Wars film. Not the opening to a blog about Star Wars but it’s true. It was however sometime before 1993 when the Holy Trilogy was released Digitally Remastered but somewhere on the cusp of living memory. Bear with me on this one.

At some point in my early years I am sure my Brother and Sister (from my Dads first marriage) had me watch one with them and I am convinced that it was Empire Strikes Back for the sole reason that I had a memory of seeing Luke fall down the shaft on Bespin when I finally watched it properly in ‘93.

Before that night, in front of the ‘big’ TV in the front room and with no memories of any pre-recollection viewings the most Star Wars I got in my life was descriptions of moments by my Dad. One such conversation happened in a hotel room in France on a family holiday, we had been talking about Sci-Fi, and at the time the only Sci-Fi I had seen was old episode of Doctor Who and Star Trek (was not a fan of either) and my Dad told me about this fabled film called Star Wars. He waxed philosophical about the huge Sandcrawler and the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2. How real it all felt, with bizarre aliens, not like Trek where it was just painted people, these aliens looked weird. I was intrigued.

A trip to Disneyland Paris only piqued my interest more. Walking through the park, wide eyed and in awe of the magic all around (and yet to be bored senseless by Its a Small World) there was this amazing looking space plane high above my head, I asked my Dad who told me it was an X-Wing… mind blown… What on Earth is an X-Wing? I must know more. And then there was Star Tours. The queue was long but all I could do was marvel at the scenery and those fabled Droids my old man had described to me only nights before. Then of course we went on the ride. I couldn’t get over Captain Rex, (a real droid pilot!!!) and was blown away by what was on screen, unfortunately I don’t remember what mission we went on but I do remember loving it. I begged to go on again but it was a resounding ‘No.’ and off we went to explore the magical kingdom.

A year or so later and a VHS from 20th Century Fox heralded what could only be my own personal Mecca, the Star Wars Trilogy on VHS. And like any impetuous child I pleaded to get them, and my Mum told me to ask my older siblings if they had a copy on video. I was in luck and so was passed down the first item in my Star Wars collection, The Empire Strikes Back from the 80’s on VHS.

Once home that night I put in the VCR and pressed play. After making it through trailers for Chariots of Fire and the Mel Brooks vehicle, To Be Or Not To Be there was a trailer for Star Wars. Oh boy. Wow! And then the main event.

It was glorious.

It was the best thing I had ever seen.

I don’t know at what point my Mum came in but as Vader revealed the most devastating news anyone could hear I turned to her and I had to ask ‘Is he really?’

‘You’ll have to find out.’ She said to me. To this day I don’t know if she was trying to keep up the mystery or had no idea.

I didn’t find out until Christmas that year when I got A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. Life was complete.