The Legends of Luke Skywalker (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi) (2017) by Ken Liu is a book that gives the fantastic writer Ken Liu a chance with the Star Wars Universe. He does remarkably well.
I am a huge fan of Star Wars but almost all Star Wars books are actually fairly terrible. I’ve started quite a few more than I’ve finished. Star Wars films are great but when you try and flesh out the universe it often becomes apparent how completely silly it is. It’s a real challenge in a book, that needs a bit more depth, to not write things that are ludicrous.
Liu confronts this challenge and overcomes it. He has managed to write involving and genuinely interesting stories about Star Wars. He’s picked a character who is right for him. He’s also managed to absorb the Star Wars universe rather than it absorbing him.
The stories give a fascinating idea of what Luke might have done since the last of the original trilogy and before the start of the new one. They are clever and have some depth to them and even the way they are told, in a thousand and one night’s style, is clever.
It works well and it’s a delight for people who want something more from a Star Wars book and appreciate Liu’s fine writing.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Donal Glut is a novelisation of the sequel to Star Wars. The film is the one that really cemented the place of Star Wars with fans. The character of Vader and the relationship between him and Luke made the series something more than magic knights in space. Also Han and Leia’s relationship developing improved the series.
However, the novel really doesn’t capture whatever it was that made the film. It does the job, it’s pretty much Glut writing up the film, but it fails to generate the feeling of the film. It’s serviceable. But nothing more.
I read Star Wars and Return of the Jedi as a kid after the movies came out and have since reread them and somehow found those books better. It might be age, but it might also be that the lack of nuance in those films made the books easier to write.
The Only Story (2018) by Julian Barnes is a story about a tragic first love and a man looking back over his life.
Barnes writes superbly as usual. His prose is measured and delivers stories of middle class English life brilliantly. The book is moving and quite depressing and delivers emotion very well well. Perhaps some readers will find the sweet sadness that characterizes his other books. This one didn’t work for me however, the initial story and development work but later in the book the timeline speeds up and it feels a little as though Barnes wanted to finish the book.
It’s not his finest book but definitely worth a read for anyone who appreciates Barnes books.
Five Go Away on a Strategy Away Day (2016) by Bruno Vincent is a satirical Famous Five book where they go on a corporate away day full of buzzwords and team building skills. It’s clever, I picked the book, laughed and wound up reading it through a short time later.
It’s clever, not brilliant, if you’re in the right mood it would be really amusing. Strategy away days are rich fodder for satire. It doesn’t quite really work though.
The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway is a classic novel of the lost generation. It’s hard boiled literature. Hemingway’s sparse, low description style is easy to parody.
But the book must have really been something in 1920s America, a time when few people had been outside the US and here was Hemingway presenting life in exotic Europe, living and drinking with British aristocrats in Paris and going to see the bull fights in Spain. There is a strong overtone of what has happened in the war. The sparse description also works very well when describing being at the sea, swimming and living.
The characters in the book and the doomed love of Brett and Jake is well carried out, somehow it didn’t grab me though.
I really liked the start of the book, but then got bored a bit before enjoying the end. It wasn’t the experience that it seems to have been for some people nor was it the dull, racist, sexist and facile book it is for others.
It’s an interesting book and a good read.
Cosmic Engineers (1950) by Clifford D. Simak is a fun, short, quickly paced sci-fi story that has quite a few clever concepts and ideas. It was originally published as a short story in 1939. It’s a bit pulpy, but some of the ideas that crop up seem to have been revisited many times. While this might not be their first airing it’s still earlier than I’d thought some of the ideas had appeared.
It’s not great, but it’s fun and worth a read.
Snow Country (1937) by Yasunari Kawataba is a fine, moving and skillfully crafted story set in Western Japan.
Shimamura, a wealthy man from Tokyo meets Komako, a geisha. They fall in love, but he leaves and returns in years following.
The craft of the story, and the great translation I read, is really something. Short and well worth reading.