Friday, 27 April 2018

#StarWars The Clone Wars: Wild Space Mini Book Review

The Clone Wars: Wild Space is the second in the series of Clone Wars books, tying in and around the TV series of the same name. This book is written by Karen Miler and tells the story of the unlikely partnership of Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi and Galactic Senator Bail Organa, when, after receiving intelligence from an unknown yet previously trustworthy source of Organa's, journey past even the outer rim into Wild Space to investigate rumors of a Sith Holocron's existence within a temple on the planet of Zigoola. Little do they know they're springing a trap concocted by mastermind Palpatine, who hopes to see the downfall of Kenobi and Organa in one fell swoop.

As the two reach the planet, Obi Wan is tormented with disturbing visions pushed upon him by the Sith, forcing him to crash land the ship with the duo barely escaping with their lives. Now, stranded on this Sith haven, Obi Wan and Bail must journey to the Sith Temple on limited supplies and with Obi-Wan constantly tormented by his visions. Navigating harsh terrain and a frosty relationship between the pair, the journey from crash to temple is a real struggle that tests our unlikely team to the maximum.

What I enjoyed about this book was the portrayal of Senator Organa - he's often quite placid and restrained within the TV series, and the book explores some of his darker traits. He has a wry witt and sarcastic tone as he communes with the politician loathing Jedi knight, and the pair often rub each other the wrong way. As the story progresses, both characters learn from each other, making concessions and eventually develop a strong bond and even friendship. The cultivation of this relationship is really well done, and I found myself becoming more fond of both characters as the story progressed.

Though technically, not a lot happens, the adventure is an exciting read. How Organa must assist as Obi-Wan pushes his body to the limits just trying to move as he's subjected to ever increasing torment is quite engrossing. I would've liked more exploration of the Sith Temple and artifacts, but due to Kenobi's state this wouldn't have really been possible.

In addition to the main story, the book fits well into the canon of events, and describes fleetingly but successfully what Anakin and his Padowan are up to whilst Kenobi and Bail are on Zigoola, with lines quoted directly from the TV show. It somehow manages to expand on these relationships too, and somehow makes the universe seem more real.

The story advances at a nice pace, and has short chapters making it an easy read. It's exciting and interesting at all times, well written and fits in will within the wider universe and the canon. Recommended for any Star Wars fans and in particular fans of the Clone Wars era of stories.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

#ABoyMadeOfBlocks by Keith Stuart Mini Review

A boy made of blocks follows the events of Alex's struggles with life. The already difficult job of parenting is made harder by his son, Sam's autism diagnosis and an overly demanding job. Unable to put up with Alex's lack of involvement with Sam, the book begins after his partner Jody has kicked him out of their family home and Alex has gone to live in the flat of his best friend.

As Alex's situation goes gradually from bad to worse, suffering some intense depressive states and being made redundant from his work he eventually begins to pull things back by relating to his son over the video game Minecraft. The blank canvas nature of the video game helps bring out Sam's intelligence and creativity, and he and dad begin to form a closer relationship as they begin gaming together.

The supporting cast of characters from Alex's family and friends to new possible romantic encounters are all colorfully described and events from everyone's lives intertwine and force Alex to adapt and step up, finding new ways to approach existence and becoming a better partner, friend, son and father.

Alex also struggles with the root of his depression; the childhood death of his brother, which he begins to deal with when looking for new schools to help Sam, currently pretty miserable in the school he's in. Through his new found friendship with his son, Alex finds himself dealing with some complex emotions that he's not always sure Sam understands, but who surprises him outright toward the books conclusion.

A story about family struggles with an autistic child was always going to be moving, but the book is embedded in popular culture, making geeky references to video games, scifi, music and movies and it feels like an up to date story. Alex despite his struggles is genuinely likable and I found myself rooting for him throughout the story, and through a few twists and turns (though nothing incredible ground breaking or shocking) the story reaches it's extremely satisfying ending.

Generally well written, with a few breaks between chapters that sometimes caught me off guard (how did we get to here again?!) I very much enjoyed this feel good, emotive and up to date story of Alex's restoration to a functional and happy human being.

The writing style is similar to that of Graeme Simsion, author of the Rosie Project and Rosie Effect and is just as much of a page turner as those two books. Not groundbreaking, but a well crafted and emotional story I can wholly recommend.

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