Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Remember when I listened to the audiobook of Cary Elwes reading his memoir of filming The Princess Bride, and it was everything I wanted it to be and one of the best books I read all year?  Well–I did not manage to repeat the magic by listening to the audiobook of Carrie Fisher reading The Princess Diarist, her memoir of filming Star Wars.

It sounded great–I’d been meaning to explore Carrie Fisher’s writing ever since her death (which still makes me sad), and this promised to be reminiscences of filming the first Star Wars movie, plus excerpts from her journals of the time.  Wonderful!  And it was, for about the first quarter.  She talks a little about her life growing up, her very early film career, and how she first was cast as Princess Leia.  I loved the anecdotes of the first time she read the script, and how Leia got her iconic hairstyle.

But then, as she says, she met him.  I vaguely heard some while ago that Fisher had recently revealed her long ago affair with Harrison Ford–and here I stumbled right into the book that must have done it.  A solid half of the book (albeit in the middle) is devoted to “Carrison,” 19 year old Carrie’s affair with the then-married, mid-thirties Harrison Ford during the filming of the first Star Wars.  It was a remarkably unsentimental affair, probably some form of friends with benefits except they didn’t even appear especially friendly, and whole passages are devoted to how little he talked. Continue reading “Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher”

Blog Hop: From Screen to Page

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you read tie-in novels to movies or television series? If so, which ones?


I have been known to read books based upon the universes of TV shows or movies–I put it that way deliberately, because I only read ones that are novels in their own right.  I’ve never been very interested in companion books that are only retelling or commenting upon the screen story.

I’ve read great swathes of books in the Star Trek universe (almost exclusively TOS) and the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  To large extent, my mental conception of those worlds and their major characters are actually shaped more by the books than by the screen versions.  Separated from the sometimes cheesy acting of the TV show, or the complete disruption of the recent movies, it’s the Captain Kirk of the books that I really love.  And I’m deeply invested in the romance of Leia and Han as portrayed in the Expanded Universe (stable and supportive), and particularly in the later lives of Leia (Jedi, diplomat, leader of the New Republic, wife, mother of three) and Luke (founder of the New Jedi Order).  The seeds are on the screen, but all this is so much more developed in the books.

This creates some complications, of course, when the powers that be go back to the screen and disregard the books.  This happened rather famously recently with Star Wars, but has happened with Star Trek too, contradicting specific books (like Federation and Prime Directive, both disrupted at one go through First Contact).  I’m very comfortable, however, keeping the book version in my head as the “proper” story (for me, at least) and the screen version as an alternate universe.

Outside of those two particularly vigorous book tie-in series, I’ve also read a few Doctor Who novels…but those tend to be a bit simpler than I want in books, so my preference here is very specific–audiobooks only, and only the ones about the 10th Doctor read by David Tennant.  Because…David Tennant!  Reading the Doctor!  It’s kind of halfway to a TV episode right there.

I’ve also held onto two Smallville novels from my high school fondness for the show, and I have the complete Hercules: The Legendary Journeys novel series…which is only four books–but they’re good ones.  I also read a lot of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch novels in high school.  I can’t claim those are mostly high quality (not bad for the target age, but not great literature) but though I’ve culled that collection dramatically over the years, I still have several on my shelf for sentimental fondness.

I think that covers it.  Star Trek and Star Wars are the big ones…but those are the big powerhouse fandoms, so it’s not too surprising!

Classic Review: Star Wars, Original Trilogy

I was glancing through old posts, and found it’s been more than five years since I reviewed the original Star Wars trilogy…which was well before all the new developments in the franchise, when the expanded universe was still canon, there were only three movies (that wasn’t a typo) and Star Wars was much less on my mind.

More than any other Classic Review I’ve posted, this one feels like it was really from a different time in my relationship (because there is one) with what I’m reviewing.  As discussed below, I’m still a Trekkie first, in the great debate.  But this kicked off a lot more reading (or rereading) of Star Wars books, and I happen to be in a book club that frequently winds up discussing Star Wars.  And, you know, things happened in the franchise.  So I’m definitely more into Star Wars now than I was when I wrote this.

Though I don’t think I’ve actually rewatched the original trilogy since then.  I may have to get out those VHS tapes again…


The sci fi kick I’ve been on lately has led me back around to Star Wars, which I must admit I haven’t paid much attention to for about ten years–and it had probably been that long since I watched the original trilogy.

First, a little history.  The trilogy was re-released in theaters when I was in elementary school, and me and everyone around me became Star Wars fans.  I read probably 10 or 12 Star Wars books too, but lost interest when it began to feel like every book was basically “let’s mop up the last traces of the Empire…and then the last last traces…and then this last one…”  More significantly, I also found Star Trek.  For me, the fandoms co-existed for a while, but in the end, the traveling turned out to be more interesting than the fighting (I’m convinced the difference really is all in that second word of the names).

All of this is to say that I identify as a Star Trek fan, but I like Star Wars too, and there was a time when I really liked Star Wars.  And lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to revisit the galaxy far, far away.  So, over a recent weekend, I dug out my very old, shiny gold Special Edition VHS tapes of the original trilogy (a very big deal purchase when I was much younger!) and rewatched all three movies over three days.

And you know, they really are wonderful.  The characters, the strange landscapes, the magic of the Force…even the battles.  It’s often the characters that count most for me, so let’s start there.  Remember it had been ten years (or thereabouts) since I saw these movies.  The biggest “change” was Luke.  Han is right when he’s calling him a kid at the beginning!  You can’t see him the same way when you’re a kid yourself.  I think you have to be older to properly see Luke’s character arc, from a whiny kid on Tatooine (he really is whiny in spots) to the serene and confident Jedi Knight.  It’s the classic growth of a hero story, and it’s very well-done.  I enjoyed Han’s growth too, from refusing to stick his neck out for anybody, to General Solo of the Rebel Alliance–but still with some of that scoundrel edge.  The one who grows less is Leia–she’s awesome from the first moment and stays that way, whether it’s blasting Stormtroopers or making acid comments to Han.  I remembered she was great, but I think I forgot just how much so.

I thought other characters were excellent too–Threepio, with his constant worried commentary, gets some of the funniest lines.  And at the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the looming and menacing Darth Vader.  I don’t think I ever noticed before–his entrance gets more impressive with each successive movie.  I wonder if they didn’t quite know what they had in the first one.

I thought the plot rockets forward at a nice pace, and each time I finished one movie it made me want to watch the next one.  It’s fun to revisit all the iconic lines and moments, and my memory of the later two movies may have been part of why I wanted to go on to watch them.  The trilogy is also a great example of a story which is complete unto itself, despite previous events which influence the present.

Which leads me around to the newer trilogy.  I watched that as it came out, and I don’t think I had seen the original trilogy since watching Episodes 1-3.  Rewatching Episodes 4-6 largely brought home to me how irrelevant the first three episodes really are.  I don’t feel like they added anything to my viewing of the original trilogy.  It was a bit interesting to see the references in the original to the past, and to know how they expanded those references, except that mostly I don’t much like the way they expanded them.

If anything, the new episodes hamper viewing of the original; now when Leia talks about her mother, I’m stuck thinking about Padme’s really stupid death; when anyone talks about Anakin Skywalker, it’s now harder to think of him as a heroic Jedi when I’ve seen him as a sulky teenager who, after the age of nine, was never all that likable.  And even though I like Padme, seeing Leia again makes Padme look like a poor imitation.  It’s sad, really–the original trilogy points up how far the new ones fell short, and how we really already knew anything we needed to know about the backstory.

If I was going to get more backstory, I think I’d rather have it about the galaxy, not the individuals.  Star Wars has good character development, but not so much when it comes to races.  The Wookies, the Ewoks and the Jawas are the only ones I can think of who have their species name even mentioned in the original trilogy (maybe Jabba–is Hutt a species or a title?)  There are endless bizarre-looking creatures, but most of them we know pretty much nothing about.  We don’t need to know about all of them–but it would be nice to know about some of them.  I suppose that’s another reason I ended up as a bigger fan of Star Trek; there’s much more scope in exploring different alien cultures than there is in mopping up the last traces of the Empire.

But there’s plenty that’s good in Star Wars too, and I think I’m going to do a bit more revisiting.  The new trilogy added nothing to the old one for me, but what I remember of the books did.  I remember Wedge got to be a much bigger character, that Leia became a political leader, that Luke continued that character arc to found a new Jedi Academy, that Han kept trying to balance the general and the scoundrel.  I lost interest eventually in reading new Star Wars books, but I remember I liked several of the ones I did read.  So I think I’m going to track some of them down and see if they’re worth revisiting too!  [Edited to add: many, though not all, really were!  And the Thrawn Trilogy is still canon to me…]

Book Review: Star Wars – Scoundrels

I’ve had Timothy Zahn’s latest (written, not chronological) Star Wars novel on my to-read list for a long time, and the aftermath of the new movie seemed like the perfect time to finally get to it.  And then it took me a while longer to get a review up! After the completely Han-less Survivor’s Quest, I went on to Star Wars: Scoundrels, or what I’d kind of like to call Han’s Ten. Because it’s basically Ocean’s Eleven. In Star Wars.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Han is still not sure just how he feels about this rebel group or their snobby princess, and more importantly, he’s got a price on his head he needs to deal with before Jabba’s bounty hunters catch up to him. Luckily, he’s got a line on a heist. With Chewie beside him, they gather together a team of highly-skilled crooks for a highly-complicated sting operation to steal from a very wealthy crime lord. Continue reading “Book Review: Star Wars – Scoundrels”

Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn

I had an excellent time rereading The Thrawn Trilogy, Timothy Zahn’s landmark Star Wars novels, during the Sci Fi Experience this year.  After that, I decided to finally go on and read his Hand of Thrawn Duet, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future.  (Warning: some spoilers to follow for the The Thrawn Trilogy.)

So why did I never read these before?  Funny story about that…I actually used to own both of these books.  I had the first one for quite a while but was waiting to read it until the second one came out in paperback.  It finally did, I bought it, I started reading Specter of the Past…and I found out in three chapters or so that they apparently-returned-from-the-dead Thrawn was actually a fake.  I was so disgusted that I stopped reading and gave both books away.  After ten years or so, I felt I may have overreacted…

There was one thing I was right about though–these two books function like one really long book, with what feels like an almost arbitrary break between, so it’s no good reading one without the other, or trying to talk about them separately!

Ten years after The Thrawn Trilogy (and 15 years after Return of the Jedi), the Empire has been beaten back to a tiny fraction of its former strength.  Supreme Commander Admiral Pellaeon believes they have no choice but to surrender to the New Republic.  Unbeknownst to him, Grand Moff Disra has a plan afoot–he’s found a conman who can pose as Grand Admiral Thrawn, the brilliant tactician who nearly reversed the Empire’s fortunes before; and a member of the elite guard with enough tactical genius to support him.

Meanwhile, the New Republic is struggling to hold itself together, especially when revelations come out that an unidentified group of Bothans contributed to a world’s destruction (like Alderaan, but not) some 50 years ago.  With many worlds demanding vengeance be taken on the entire species, and others using it as an excuse to fight their own battles, the New Republic is swiftly on the brink of civil war.  Leia, Han and various friends try to put out fires and find answers at home.  Luke does his own investigating, around the galaxy and using the Force, until he’s eventually drawn into a rescue mission of Mara Jade.

Looong plot!  There’s a LOT happening, and I think that’s both the strength and the weakness of the books.  So many cool things are going on–but so many things are going on!  Zahn moves the point of view around with every different plot thread, so between the two books we spent time with Leia, Han, Luke and Mara (together and separate), Lando, Talon Karrde, two different mercenary female warriors (it’s complicated), Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron, General Bel Iblis, and no less than five separate groups of Imperials.

To Zahn’s credit, all of these people had interesting things going on, and I had surprisingly little trouble keeping it all straight.  At the same time, I still felt like I was frequently being sidetracked from the couple of plotlines that I liked best, or from the characters I most wanted to see.  I think I might have liked these two books better as one book with half the subplots.

However…these were still solidly engaging books.  I did overreact about the fake Thrawn all those years ago.  While I am still a little disappointed that it wasn’t the real Thrawn (such a cool villain!), the con turned out to be pretty brilliant too.  I especially liked the way it sent all the other characters into a tailspin, second-guessing themselves because they think Thrawn is manipulating them.  So some of the best aspects of Thrawn-as-villain still came through.

Luke had a particularly good thread here too, especially in the second book when he connects with Mara.  Those two play off each other so nicely, and they both underwent powerful character growth in the second book.  There’s some intriguing examinations of the Force as well, as they each explore their abilities and limitations.

The Thrawn Trilogy are probably the best Star Wars books I’ve ever read, and while The Hand of Thrawn didn’t manage to equal them, they’re still solid installments in the continuing saga.  Now I just have to figure out what to read next!  All the various sites about Star Wars books are surprisingly difficult to decipher, but I think the next one I want is Zahn’s Survivor’s QuestStar Wars fans, feel free to weigh in on the subject! 🙂

Don’t forget, you can win a signed copy of my fairy tale retelling, The Wanderers! Just put #WanderersGiveAway in your comment to enter.

Other reviews:
From the Mind of Tatlock
Anyone else?

Buy them here: Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future