Saturday Snapshot: Celebrity Sightings at Comic Con, Lando Edition

In my last Saturday Snapshot, I shared some photos of celebrity sightings at the Wizard World Convention.  This week I have photos of one more very exciting guest…

WizardCon (3)Billy Dee Williams, who you may recognize as Lando Calrissian from Star Wars.  Maybe it’s the influence of the Star Wars books I’ve read (more on that in a moment), but to me, Lando seems just about as exciting as anyone else in the Star Wars universe.

Billy Dee Williams is on this season of Dancing with the Stars, and his dance partner was a surprise guest.

WizardConShe dressed appropriately for the venue. 🙂

I posted once already about my souvenir from the convention, but I’ll share it again…I suspect that The Lando Calrissian Adventures contributed greatly to my excitement at seeing Billy Dee Williams, so it’s beautifully fitting that I got him to sign my copy–and it’s much more unique than an 8×10 photo!

WizardCon1One more photo from Comic Con next week…in the meantime, visit West Metro Mommy for more Saturday Snapshots!

Blog Hop: Creative Things to Do with Books

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: What is the most creative thing you have ever done with a book?

I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what this question is looking for…but vagueness does open wide possibilities!  Mostly, the only things I do with books are read them or keep them on my shelf 🙂 but I do have two interesting stories.

Freshman year in college, I had a small TV that I wanted to put on my desk in the dorm room.  Due to logistical complications, to really watch it I needed it to be about two feet higher on the desk.  So I went to the school library, found eight enormous hardback books, and took them home to use as a stand.  I’m not sure what the person checking the books out for me thought I was doing, considering not all of them were even in English…  But they made a good temporary solution, until I could get to Office Max and buy a more proper stand!

And two, a much more recent story…just last weekend there was a WizardCon convention in my city.  For those not familiar, it was a convention for all things geeky, with merchandise and celebrity guests doing presentations and signing autographs.  One of the guests was Billy Dee Williams, who you probably know as Lando Calrissian from Star Wars.  I decided that the one unique souvenir I wanted was to have my copy of The Lando Calrissian Adventures signed by Billy Dee Williams, General Calrissian himself.  And I got it!

WizardCon1There will, of course, be more on WizardCon for future Saturday Snapshots… 🙂

Favorites Friday: Romantic Couples, Revisited

I was planning to finish up my Wrath of Khan spoof this week…but then it occurred to me that Valentine’s Day fell on Friday, and it just didn’t seem appropriate.  A couple years ago I did a post on Favorite Romantic Couples, and since I’ve read some wonderful romantic stories in recent years, I thought another list would be in order!

I don’t think any of these are big surprises within their books, but if you’re particular about spoilers, this post will give away everything about who ends up with whom.  I warned you!

Heir to SevenwatersClodagh and Cathal, Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Marillier is one of my favorite authors for truly lovely romances.  And this book features a romance between two of my favorite archetypes: the dark hero with a good heart, and the “ordinary” woman who has to find her strength.  Besides being good characters individually, these two simply fit together so beautifully.

Return of the King

Eowyn and Faramir, Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

It shocks me that Tolkien got a couple on this list.  But I love these two characters–and to be honest, after the whole trilogy with barely a woman in sight, Tolkien had set the bar low.  The fact that he spent any time on the romance was thrilling.  And, well, the credit should really probably go to Peter Jackson, since the extended edition of the movie features the world’s most beautiful forty-eight second love story.  It works because I’m assuming this isn’t their first conversation–and because both characters are so beautifully developed and complex that I can see why they belong together without needing to be told.

Magicians and Mrs. QuentThe Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

This is the extraordinarily rare book (trilogy, for the full picture) with a love triangle where I actually managed to get enthusiastic about both romantic pairings.  Details feel more spoilerific here than for the other books, so perhaps I’ll just leave it there…

Northanger AbbeyCatherine Morland and Mr. Tilney, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I know everyone’s favorite is supposed to be Mr. Darcy–but Mr. Tilney actually smiles!  And is witty and personable!  And has a first name (Henry) that comes up more than once!  And I suppose I just like a romance between two people who meet, like each other and go on liking each other.  Sure, there’s a fight in there, but basically, they just like each other.  It’s refreshing.

Gryphon's EyrieJoisan and Kerovan, The Crystal Gryphon Trilogy by Andre Norton

On the other hand, even though these two so clearly need each other and belong together, they still take an entire trilogy to quite sort things out.  However, even if I find Catherine and Mr. Tilney refreshing, I suppose I also have a soft spot for romances between two people who both care about each other but need to do some growth as individuals and as a couple before getting to the happily-ever-after part.

Thrawn TrilogyHan and Leia, Star Wars

I don’t usually think of romance when I think of Star Wars, but I just read the Thrawn Trilogy and Han and Leia really are a wonderful couple.  Typically, books seem to focus on the falling-in-love part.  This trilogy, and other Star Wars Extended Universe novels, give us that rare story, a happily married couple!  And there’s also the aspect of Leia being so amazing, and Han being so unthreatened by that.  He remarks at one point in the book trilogy that some men might be uncomfortable with a wife who can think faster than they can, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  AWW!

Your turn–what romantic stories do you like?  Any suggestions on ones I should read?

Returning to Earth…

2014sfexp400Today marks the close of the 2014 Sci Fi Experience.  I’ve had a splendid time delving deep into some favorite sci fi worlds.  My goals this year were unusually focused and, for me, relatively modest–they were also made easier by having all the books sitting on my shelves!

Happily, I was able to do all the reading (and viewing) I had planned on.  Ages and ages ago, at the beginning of December, I took a trip to Pern.  I then spent almost two months on The Great Khan Adventure (thanks for riding along with me!) and finally this week I got my review up for the Thrawn trilogy.

Here are all the links in one convenient list…

Pern: The MasterHarper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

This is not the strongest of plots, being more like a biography of MasterHarper Robinton.  And that’s okay, since the MasterHarper is one of my favorite characters, and Pern is one of my favorite places for a visit.

The Great Khan Adventure: tracing Khan Noonien Singh through books and screen
Star Trek: The Original Series (selected episodes)
The Khan Trilogy by Greg Cox:
The Eugenics Wars: Volume One
The Eugenics Wars: Volume Two
To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh
The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek Into Darkness
(Bonus: my spoof of The Wrath of Khan!)

The Great Khan Adventure was all I might have hoped for it.  I had read or watched all the pieces before, but putting them together gave me a new perspective on the characters, helped me see new depths, and enhanced every piece of the story.

Sci Fi Experience 2013Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command

I thoroughly enjoyed a trip back to the Star Wars universe too, and appreciated the reminder on how much I love these characters too.  I definitely need to read the next two books by Zahn…and I should do it before the new movies come out.  Zahn took things in very satisfying directions, and it’s best to read more before we run the risk of it all imploding through new movies!

The Sci Fi Experience this year reminded me just how much I enjoy these universes…so even though I titled this “Returning to Earth,” I’m going to try to get back to to the stars again before next year’s Experience!

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Star Trek universe these past two months for the Sci Fi Experience, but I also spent some time in another major sci fi franchise, rereading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy.  These three books are set about five years after Return of the Jedi and, I believe, largely set the stage for the Star Wars Expanded Universe in the books.  The story begins in Heir to the Empire and continues in Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.

Thrawn Trilogy

Following the victory at Endor, the Rebel Alliance has pushed the Empire back into the fringes of the galaxy.  They have retaken Coruscant and set up the New Republic in the old Imperial Palace.  Trouble begins brewing with rumors of a new and brilliant tactician leading the Imperial forces.  Grand Admiral Thrawn is frighteningly intuitive with a flair for multi-layered plans and intrigue.  Meanwhile on Coruscant, Leia and Han are expecting Force-strong twins, and Luke worries about someday training them to be Jedi.  More immediate worries arise when Leia becomes the target of repeated kidnapping attempts.  And then we also have thrown into the mix Joruus C’baoth, a dangerously unstable Jedi Master with an obsession about Luke and Leia; the Noghri, a gray-skinned alien race with a complex and tragic history; and Mara Jade, second-in-command to smuggler Talon Karrde, with a mysterious history and a burning enmity for Luke Skywalker.

As you can see, lots going on here!  The complex web of plot stretches through all three books, and keeps the action tense and the excitement high.  There are clever twists to the plot and usually some kind of complicated strategy going on at Thrawn’s direction at any time.  In some ways it becomes a galactic chess match, with moves and counter-moves, victories and defeats for both the New Republic and the Empire.  Or maybe it’s more like poker, considering there’s plenty of bluffing and psychology at work too.

The plot is solid, and the characters are equally good.  Luke, Leia and Han are all strongly present, feeling very much like the movie characters, plus more insight and depth that’s hard to show on film.  Lando and Chewie also get plenty to do and some very nice moments.  C3PO and RT-DT felt a little under-represented, though they are definitely present.  More impressive, perhaps, even some minor (but important) characters from the film, like Mon Mothma, Admiral Ackbar and Wedge Antilles, have their stories continue here.

Many of the new characters are just as strong and compelling as the familiar ones, Mara Jade in particular.  With her shadowy past and Force-sensitivity, she’s complex and hard-edged yet still sympathetic–which is saying a lot, considering one of her driving goals (stated, at least) is to kill Luke.

Thrawn is a brilliant villain, very different from the Emperor or Vader.  The terrifying thing about Thrawn is that he is not mindlessly evil.  I think it’s telling that he wears a white uniform.  Vader is famous for strangling subordinates if they make any mistake; Zahn does a nice play on that.  Thrawn does kill one subordinate for a mistake–and in a later scene commends another for original thinking, even though the man’s effort failed.  Thrawn thinks before he acts–though when he acts, he is ruthless and cold.  We always see Thrawn through the eyes of his second-in-command, Captain Pellaeon.  He’s a fascinating character too, a good soldier who really believes in the Empire.  He can be a little contemptuous at times, but there’s nothing really villainous about Pellaeon.  He’s just on the wrong side.

Seeing the continuing lives of familiar characters is of course a strong appeal here.  Having seen other franchises go into bizarre places with characters, I think I owe thanks to Timothy Zahn.  At the end of Return of the Jedi, I (most of us?) want Leia and Han to get married, and Luke to become the new leader of the returning Jedis.  And that’s what happens in the Expanded Universe books, I think because Zahn set it up in these three.  There might instead have been new romantic triangles for Leia and Han, beloved characters could have gone over to the Dark Side, someone might have been tragically killed…and all of that would have created plot and drama, but I’m so glad Zahn found his plot in other ways, and sent the characters down the path I for one feel they should have the opportunity to walk.

Beyond the plot and the characters we also have the universe.  In three books, there’s enough time to visit many planets, and I love that.  We get little glimpses into many, many different cultures and civilizations.  It doesn’t generally get into the kind of depth that Star Trek offers, but in a way I like the sampling.  It gives a sense of the vastness and variety of the galaxy.  It actually reminds me of The Magician’s Nephew or The Lives of Christopher Chant, with the opportunity to travel to many different worlds, whether in different planes of existence or just different star systems!

The usual rule (in Star Trek, at least, and I think elsewhere) is that for cross-medium franchises, film counts as officially canon while books do not.  For my personal canon of the Star Wars universe, the status of the prequel trilogy is decidedly iffy, but these three books are definitely accepted.  I’ve read many good Star Wars books, but I recommend this trilogy as the must-read for fans!

Other reviews:
Reviews and Musings From a Geek
Sci Fi Bloggers
Randomly Yours, Alex
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Thrawn Trilogy