Category Archives: books

Console Wars: 2 Good 2 Be True

For over a dozen years, I’ve been looking for a good book about video games. For such an influential media, it’s surprising that there are very few books that dive into this topic that are seriously good. When I heard about Console Wars, I knew I had to check it out and I finally did this summer.

Console Wars focuses on one of the most exciting years in video game history, namely, the war between the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. And rather than being a standard nonfiction book (dry and full of references and quotes), author Blake Harris crafts a novel that’s more story than essay yet does not lose the flavor of reality. His book throws you into the early nineties and drops you into the heated moments and settings that shaped the era of videogames. The author’s love and enthusiasm for video games really comes through in this novel and as such, I had a hard time putting this book down.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Console Wars is how big it is. This book is dense but thankfully, does not overload the reader. Even though I knew a lot about video game history, mainly thanks to the internet, before reading this novel, I was surprised at just how little I actually knew, and that was great!

Some of my favorite moments in the book are those that seem like they’re straight out of a movie. I particularly liked the scene involving the recording of the infamous “SEGA!” scream used in commercials. Then there’s the part where the Sega employees were inspired to do a worldwide release of Sonic and Tails on Sonic 2sday. It’s moments like these that really help the book come together nicely.

Now truthfully, this doesn’t mean Console Wars is perfect. There are some problems I have which fortunately didn’t dampen my love for this book. One of which was the many characters. Although the photo section was helpful, I wish there was a simple group shot of the Sega team as I kept losing track of who was who. The biggest problem I had however was one of the big conflicts in the book; the Sega of America vs. Sega of Japan conflict was mainly from the Sega of America point of view. This, unfortunately, paints Sega of Japan as mean, subversive, and unpredictable. I wish we got more scenes from their point of view to understand exactly why there was so conflict between the two. Same thing can be applied to Nintendo as well. Nintendo in this book was like the antagonist in an action movie; we would get scenes of them every now and then and peek into their diabolical plans for their plucky foe. I wish we could see more of them to really help us understand what they were thinking.

But the thing is, that’s not really the point of the book, the point of the book is how Sega, through Tom Kalinske, president and CEO of Sega of America, was able to bring Nintendo to its knees and really shape the video game market. As such, “Console Wars” as a title is a bit off and perhaps a better title would be “the Rise and Fall of Sega” (but then it wouldn’t be catchy).

On another note, I’m pretty sure Blake Harris is a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd. There are several spots in this book that seem a lot like what AVGN has said before. The casual reference to the porno Atari game, Custer’s Revenge, was too on the nose as nobody knew about this game until after AVGN did an episode on it. Even more obvious was the reference to LJN’s bad video games, I mean, that’s one of AVGN’s gimmicks! He hates LJN games! But I love it and I find it funny to think that Blake is a fan of the Nerd.

I was sad when the novel eventually finished as I would have liked to see the battle between the N64, Playstation, and eventually the Sega Saturn. However, part of me is glad that Blake did not talk about that. This is the story of Tom Kalinske and how he turned Sega from a joke to a star. That era of video games was not under his jurisdiction. As such, Blake Harris should seriously consider writing another novel on video games (whether it be nonfiction or fiction) as his love for the material is fantastic. Perhaps a book about Nintendo’s comeback via the Wii? Or on the Atari era and why it eventually collapsed? Or even why the Playstation 2 was such a huge success? All of these are great topics.

And yet, nothing can ever hold a candle to the Console Wars of the early 90s. So much was happening at that time that it almost seems unreal. New video game franchises were born, records were broken, the media boundaries were pushed, and deep rivalries formed.  I doubt there will ever be a time just like the early 90s for video games.

As for me, I’m glad I was finally able to read a book about video games. Thank you Blake, you kept me up late many times.

The Top Six Plot Twists in the Harry Potter Series

Plot twists represent a very important aspect in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Every book has an impacting twist that changes our outlook on certain characters, events, or settings. These twists make reading the Harry Potter series even more exciting to read a second (and third and fourth…) time through as we now see the clues and hints that point us to the bigger picture and it’s amazing. And today, I’ll be counting down the Harry Potter series’ best twists! These twists are ranked by their impact in the book and series’ storyline, their tentative balance between storyline clues and shock value, and the about-face perception they have on our viewpoints. Let’s dig in.

#6-Hermione’s Time Turner in Prisoner of Azkaban

Book 3 exposed a lot of twists, turns, and reveals in the iconic Shrieking Shack scene; so imagine our surprise when we get one last twist that comes straight out of science fiction land. Hermione’s Time Turner is one of the most talked about things in Book 3 and that’s because it was done SO WELL. Hermione’s strange behavior and even stranger skill in attending so many classes was revealed because of time travel. I love this twist so much as time travel was never talked about at all until this moment yet we aren’t cheated by the notion that wizards can time travel. It seems very natural in the Harry Potter universe. What’s more, the reveal leads to one of the most brain boggling scenes in the franchise with two Harrys and Hermiones at the same time. Many discussions of paradoxes and predestination were born from this reveal alone. Finally, Hermione’s Time Turner saved two lives and got us wondering what else there is in the Harry Potter world that we don’t know about yet.

#5 Tom Marvolo Riddle is Lord Voldemort from Chamber of Secrets

It’s hard to remember that at one point in time this twist was profound. Voldemort is barely mentioned at all in this book and BAM, he’s the main antagonist. In the back of all of our heads, we knew Voldemort would eventually return but we didn’t expect him to do so quickly and in the form of a diary as well. It’s certainly quite chilling when Riddle wrote his name in the air and with a simple flick revealed “I Am Lord Voldemort.”  AGH!  IT WAS RIGHT THERE!

This twist certainly gave us an early insight into Tom’s pre-Voldemort’s life and showed us what kind of man he was even at a young age (something that we saw more of in Book 6). But here, we learn that he was a charmer, a manipulator, and a scheming wizard already bent on building his own legacy. The reveal also works quite well as we are led to believe, but with little overemphasis, that Tom is a stand up guy who unfortunately accused the wrong person. Unlike other twists on this list, this twist’s reveal stuck around until the very end of the series, it’s that important.

#4 Mad-Eye Moody is Barty Crouch Jr. in Goblet of Fire

So the “Goblet of Fire” movie made it painfully obvious that something was up with Mad Eye Moody. Hey, he’s licking his lips creepily and is drinking from his flask constantly! What’s up with that? The book downplayed this quite a bit as Barty’s impression of Moody was almost spot on, even fooling the likes of Dumbledore.

This twist is just so mind blowing that I can’t help but admire it. Every weird little detail, like the missing Polyjuice Potion ingredients or Barty Crouch’s name on the Marauder’s Map, is so obvious that we slap ourselves on the forehead for missing it. And it’s not like the Time Turner twist where we didn’t know time travel existed, we have straight up seen the Polyjuice Potion used before in an important scene just two books ago. This twist further piles up as Hammer Space was introduced earlier during the Quidditch Cup so we know that large rooms could be contained in smaller enclosures. This plot twist is so good that you really can’t help but wonder why the characters don’t talk about it more in the proceeding books.

#3 Pettigrew was Scabbers (amongst a few other twists as well) in Prisoner of Azkaban

So again, the movie kind of forces too much emphasis on this twist but the book, thankfully, pulls this off wonderfully. Oh my gosh, there’s so many reasons why I like this twist. So like the Barty Crouch Jr. twist, we are given many hints at the true nature of this reveal such as the existence of Animagi (we first see this in Book 1 via Professor McGonagall), Scabbers/Pettigrew’s missing finger, and the Sneakoscope.

But what makes this twist very noteworthy is that it comes as a great, well-delivered gut punch! Okay, Sirius is revealed to be an Animagi. Oh crap! That’s crazy! That’s how he was able to do all his escape feats! And then we are revealed that Lupin is a werewolf. This is not as surprising because this is a bit more obvious given Snape’s lesson and Lupin’s health.

After thinking we have seen it all, the Scabbers’ twist comes out full force and we are shocked that this grown-man-turned-rat had been with Harry this entire time. Holy crap. I think this twist really hones in the fact that the Harry Potter series has layers of intertwining plot elements that are not contained within their individual books. Scabbers, this innocent, comic-relief character, is actually a back stabber and works for the Dark Lord. And of course, once this is revealed, Scabbers escapes and eventually finds Lord Voldemort and resurrects him. Not only does this twist has impact but it has consequences as it kicks off Harry’s war with Lord Voldemort. Damn I love Harry Potter.

#2 Quirrell is Two Faced in Sorcerer’s Stone

The first Harry Potter twist and one that would set the twist benchmark for the rest of the series. First off, people new to the series would hopefully find this twist surprising in that there was a twist to begin with. Readers perhaps knew Snape wasn’t the guilty party, there’s a lot of emphasis on him after all, but perhaps readers were surprised that it’s Quirrell who Harry faces in the end. Poor, stuttering, Professor Quirrell. Nonetheless, J.K. Rowling does not insult the reader with this twist. Quirrell was there in Diagon Alley when Gringotts was broken into, he had a lively conversation with Snape, and Hermione bumped into him during the Quidditch game (which broke his concentration on Harry). Well played, Rowling.

Perhaps the one fault I have with this twist is the lack of impact it had on the rest of the series. Yes, Quirrell was mentioned occasionally here and there but nothing too meaningful or insightful. Before the final books were released, many fans guessed that Quirrell would return similar to other recurring elements. But surprisingly, he didn’t. This lack of series impact is unlike our final twist that forever changed the books…

#1 Snape Kills Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince

Rosebud, Luke’s Father, “he was dead the entire time;” some twists are so iconic that we know them despite not even seeing the material. Snape killing Dumbledore is so iconic that it has reached this level of spoilers. It’s that good.

Why does Snape killing Dumbledore have a huge impact on us? I think the foremost reason is how so unexpected it is. You see, we were pretty sure Dumbledore would die in one of the last two books but what we didn’t expect was the method of his death. Most people probably guessed that Voldemort would kill Dumbledore (or Malfoy as they read Book 6). Snape killing Dumbledore though comes almost out of nowhere leading us completely aghast. And mind you, by the time Book 6 came out, Harry Potter was a global phenomenon that had die-hard fans combing through the preceding books. Nothing in those five books even hinted at this.

The second reason why this spoiler is so iconic is how much it changed the name of the game. Dumbledore is dead, Snape is a traitor, Hogwarts is no longer safe, and the Order of the Phoenix is in trouble. Harry’s fallbacks are gone or tattered and he can only rely on a few people now. Dumbledore’s death drastically changed the standard series’ plot in Book 7 as Harry Potter no longer lives at Hogwarts taking magic lessons; he is on the run, on a quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes.

And to top it off, as a sweet cherry on this amazing twist, the reveal is iconic because how succinct it is. Snape Kills Dumbledore. You only need three words to describe this twist. And because everyone is already so familiar with the characters we were in dire peril of being massively spoiled for it. I’ve heard and read stories of jackasses driving up to Book 6 releases and shouting, “Snape kills Dumbledore” and driving off. Those people are the worst.

It’s because of this twist that Book 7 was heavily, HEAVILY guarded from spoilers. The series’ book artist couldn’t divulge anything to her husband, book stores clamped down hard on distributing books, the list goes on. When Book 7 was released, I read it as fast as I could and stayed away from the internet until I was done. Everyone was so wary of spoilers because of this twist. And because of that, I can think of no other twist that deserves the number 1 spot more than this one.

What do you think? Do you think these twists deserve their spots? What twists do you think I left out that caught you by surprise? Let me know in the comments section!

The Problem with Timeline-191

So I’ve already talked about two Harry Turtledove series before, Darkness and WorldWar, so now it’s time to talk about Turtledove’s other famous book series.  The unofficially named “Timeline-191” (and sometimes Southern Victory) comprises of eleven books detailing the history of the two American countries after the South won the American Civil War.  Told from multiple viewpoints from both countries (and one or two thrown in from Canada), we experience the tragic history of these two countries as they are drawn into conflict again and again up until 1945.  Now, upfront, I honestly think this may be Turtledove’s weakest major series but before I divulge why, let’s dive into the series and see what makes it so special and one of the most famous alternate history stories of our modern day and age.

So the first Timeline-191 book is called How Few Remain.  In this book we understand why the South won the American Civil War and what happened to the two countries shortly after.  After a brief prologue dedicated to the defeat of the Union, the book picks up twenty years later where the two American countries pick up arms again and fight each other but this time it’s for the C.S.A. acquisition of two Mexican provinces.  Fearing that the C.S.A. would become too strong, the U.S.A. declares war on the C.S.A. but is abysmally defeated thanks to the C.S.A.’s reliable generals and its alliance with France and Britain.

How Few Remain is probably the most interesting book in the series as it can stand by itself very easily.  The book retains all of the Second Mexican War and its immediate consequences as well and as such, many of our stories have a clear beginning and a satisfying ending.  What’s more, unlike the rest of the series, all of our viewpoint characters follow historical characters like Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain.  The book also offers very reasonable ideas of what the world may be like in 1881 such as the C.S.A’s continual involvement with France and Britain and the dominance of Democrats in the U.S.A. up until the 1880s.  Now, Turtledove could have just left How Few Remain as it is but he decided to take this story he created and make a mega book series out of it.  What follows is the next logical step in our timeline, and a 30 year jump with it, the Great War.

This is my favorite part of the series and it’s awesome.  Because the C.S.A. allied itself with France and Britain, the U.S.A., in return, allied itself with Germany and the Austria-Hungary Empire to acquire its own strong allies.  Of course, everything went to Hell in a handbasket, thanks to a certain Archduke, and now, not only do you have the mess of Europe fighting each other, but now you got the U.S.A. fighting Canada and the C.S.A!  It’s a literal world war at this point.

So the first reason why the Great War trilogy is my favorite part in Timeline-191 is how it’s not immediately clear who will win this war.  It could honestly go either way.  In How Few Remain, right from the start, the U.S.A. is kind of done for so there’s not as much incentive to read the book.  But for the Great War, it’s so close and even that any small event can help push the war one way or another.

I also like how Turtledove just didn’t pull any punches with the harshness of trench warfare and the dire outlook for many of the soldier’s lives.  The settings and characters are highly realistic and don’t offer that sweet storytelling guidelines many of us are familiar with.  It’s very similar to the Song of Ice and Fire series, actually.  I also like how diverse our viewpoint characters are ranging from regular soldiers, to spies, farmers, commanders, and politicians.  We definitely get a full spectrum of viewpoints that cue us in what’s happening in this crazy world.  Turtledove excels at this and has done this before in the Darkness and Worldwar series.  This is a guilty pleasure but honestly one of my favorite POV characters is Gordon McSweeney who is a stupid, badass bigot.  The things this guy says and does in this series is great.

Now, there is a third reason but let me get back to that in a moment…

Gordon McSweeney at his craziest. Image from http://jakarnilson.deviantart.com/art/Sgt-McSweeney-s-MoH-47587475

So, spoilers, the U.S.A. along with the other Central Powers, won the Great War.  The series doesn’t end there though as we are treated to our next trilogy in the series, American Empire.  This trilogy is kind of weak as there are jumps of time within the books.  The three books cover about twenty years altogether meaning there’s a lot of plot development crammed into characters whom we already don’t spend much time with.

However, the second, and primary reason, why the Timeline-191 series falters at this point is Turtledove’s over reliance in incorporating plot developments that mirror our real world.  I’m serious.  Turtledove oversaturates his story with parallel events that almost defeats the purpose of an alternate history genre.  Long story short, the C.S.A. becomes Nazi Germany and fights the U.S.A. again in the 1940s.  And guess what?  The C.S.A. loses!  Go figure!

Now, the next four books in the series, called Settling Accounts, is entertaining to read but by this point, all sense of disbelief is kind of thrown to the curb and we aren’t as engaged with the story as we kind of know what will happen in the end.  I even stopped reading the series by this point due to the aforementioned reasons and it was getting depressing fast.  You see, throwing in a little nod here or there in reference to our timeline is fun or all but this is just overkill.

This is why I liked the Great War part of the storyline the best.  True, there are historical references in this trilogy but it doesn’t control the story as much as it does later on.  The trilogy is fun, original, and not bogged down by its sheer alternate history glory.  I’ve actually read online that supposedly, the U.S.A. was going to lose the Great War and actually become the next fascist power in North America.  But then Turtledove decided later on that that wasn’t going to happen which explains several things.  One, Jake Featherston, who becomes the C.S.A.’s Hitler, was a pretty nice, if awkward, guy early on before he almost suddenly develops this hatred against African Americans; and two, Gordon McSweeney was probably going to be the U.S.A.’s version of Hitler until Turtledove pulled the plug on that idea and killed him off, rather inexplicably, at the end of the trilogy.  Very interesting fan theory for sure and I’m interested to see how that story could have turned out.  Regardless, because of this switch, the Great War trilogy is not as tied down compared to the rest of the series and that’s what makes it so good.  My advice is to read How Few Remain and the Great War trilogy and just stop there.

You gotta love the propaganda posters people make for the series as well. Image from http://s13.photobucket.com/user/Redem10/media/Turtledovepropaganda.jpg.html

There’s a lot more to talk about this series so I’ll just leave that for another time.  For now, I’m curious to see if you like this series and if you agree with me or not.  If not, is there another alternate history story you like better involving the American Civil War?  Let me know!

The Extensive Timeline for “Tales from Jabba’s Palace”

I can’t believe it but I finally achieved what I wanted to do for almost ten years. I finally constructed the timeline in Tales from Jabba’s Palace. As mentioned Yesterday, I love this book and all its glorious characters and I even reread the novel solely so I can reconstruct the timeline. Without further ado, here it is!

Tales from Jabba's Palace Timeline, Star Wars, Jabba the Hutt, Jabba's Palace, Tales from Jabba's Palace

If you’re at this point in the article then you probably want to hear how I constructed the timeline. It wasn’t hard but it certainly took awhile.

I decided fairly early on that I wanted two things to be represented in the timeline. The first one was when each of the Tales happened and the second one, and the one I was most interested at, was when each of the major book events happened and at what order. Many times, the protagonists would meet up at crucial plot points that affected their story. I wanted to record these events and know how they fit into the overall grand story.

The first step was to, obviously, become familiar with the events that transpired in Return of the Jedi. All of the characters, with the exception of Melvosh Bloor because his Tale takes place at a completely different time than the others, reference at least one of the movie events during their respective Tales. As such, knowing the order and the relative time these events happen is quite important. C-3PO and R2’s arrival, Oola’s death, and Luke killing the Rancor are probably the most referenced movie events.

Once I got that going, I had to establish relative dates in reference to a certain event. Star Wars fans like to use the Battle of Yavin from A New Hope as a reference point for the overall Star Wars timeline. For Tales from Jabba’s Palace though, we need something more exact. Luke’s Arrival was chosen as the zero mark because the book made a special case at the beginning how

“Jabba is always on his guard, but little does he suspect that his greatest nemesis will come in the form of a single Jedi Knight, who walks in alone from the desert…”

            Indeed, many of the protagonists in the novel plot against Jabba and all fail because of Jabba’s cunningness. However, even Jabba’s intelligence was no match for the unstoppable force that was Luke that day. Jabba planned against many things but a Jedi Knight was definitely not one.

Pictured: A Thorn in Jabba’s Fat Ass. Picture from http://piximggif.com/luke-skywalker-return-of-the-jedi-wallpaper

One thing I struggled with fairly early on was if Luke came two days or one day after Leia arrives as I was initially under the impression that Luke came two days afterwards judging from Malakili’s Tale. Halfway through the novel, I realized this was not the case and I had to adjust because of which. Many of the other movie events, however, were easily interpreted time-wise and naturally built the framework for my two goals.

The protagonist’s Tales were very easy to build on the timeline as the characters would react to a movie event early on in their story and usually react to other movie events as their Tale progressed. Some adjustments were made along the way to account the major book events or if an another protagonist clarifies when that event happened. A good example of this be when J’Quille killed the monk and took the thermal detonator (TD) he was holding. J’Quille’s story ends there but we don’t know when exactly that is. Well, we know this happens shortly before Luke kills the Rancor because Bib Fortuna mentioned how he stole the TD from J’Quille during the Luke vs. Rancor commotion.

Some protagonists’ Tales, admittedly, are unclear when they begin or end and this is represented on the timeline with a question mark. For instance, Max Rebo and co. become Jabba’s Band after Carbonite Han was delivered to Jabba but other than that we have no idea when they were hired. Dannik Jerriko is another example as his POV is very hazy and time progress either very slow or fast depending on the scenario (and in general his Tale is very dreamlike which adds an extra level of confusion to the whole thing).

The book events were definitely the most difficult part of the whole thing as I had to take constant notes who was where at what time. Phlegmin’s death is probably in the top three most important book events as so many characters are affected by his death in one form or another. Hell, soooo many protagonists were present at one time or another when his body was discovered. First Dannik killed him, than Porcellus discovered the body, then Ree-Yees, and finally Gartogg comes by and takes the body to figure out who killed him. All the while, J’Quille and Bubo watch from afar as they witness this strange scenario.

Even trickier to figure out was Leia’s TD. That weapon jumped from person to person and weaved an unclear mesh on who has what. Though it’s not 100 percent confirmed, I believe a monk steals Leia’s TD shortly after she’s unmasked and gives the weapon to J’Quille. I again believe this weapon was stolen by Bib Fortuna but I’m unsure as Bib only said he stole it off of a Whiphid guard. But considering we’re only familiar with one Whiphid, we can assume that was J’Quille.

Even more confusing is the second bomb that was planted on Jabba’s Sail Barge. Tessek gets Barada to plant a bomb on Jabba’s Palace but we’re unsure if this is the same bomb that the Weequay people find in their Tale. Their “God” Quay said it was a bomb planted by J’Quille but we know that’s not true because Bib Fortuna stole it, right? And it also can’t be the same bomb because Bib planted the bomb shortly before their attempted execution of Luke and co. and the Weequays had already found their bomb by then. I thus assume this was the same bomb planted by Barada then.

One thing I realized as I was finishing up this timeline was that a certain degree of interpretation has to be made in order to fit everything as best as it could. Unfortunately, not all of the Tales perfectly line up with each other and may even have some slight transgressions from the movie itself.  For the most part though, things lined up easily enough

In the end, I’m pretty happy with the end result as I think the timeline looks good, albeit amateurish, but it gets the message across well enough. I can finally check this off of my bucket list and now get back to my life…this took too long to make…haha

If you have any suggestions or improvements to the timeline then I will be more than willing to hear them!

My Love for Tales from Jabba’s Palace

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!

The Star Wars’ anthology novel, Tales from Jabba’s Palace (TfJP), is probably one of the most underrated stories ever to be produced in the Star Wars’ universe.  So many funny, clever, and important stories happen in this oft-forgotten book that I wonder why it’s not discussed more often.  I daresay, this is the book that help got me into Star Wars back when I was in Junior High (a time that I hardly ever read to begin with).  After reading this book, I read the other two Tales books (Tales from Mos Eisely Cantina and Tales of the Bounty Hunters) and played great Star Wars video games.  TfJP was my definitive first look behind the movie’s curtains and peer into the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Why?  Why did this book capture me and drive me towards my eventual Star Wars obsession?

Well, remember in Return of the Jedi when Luke killed the Rancor and while he was hustled away, a chubby, shirtless guy ran forward to the now dead Rancor and begin crying?  That scene, both humorous and poignant, spoke volumes about a character, about a history, that we as an audience have not been nor will ever be exposed to.

It is this character’s history, Malakili, whose tale we read first (aptly titled “A Boy and his Rancor”) in TfJP.  A strong story to start on, we are given an in-depth look at Malakili and his developing friendship with his Rancor.  The story, one of the longer ones in the book, takes its time and shows how Malakili and the Rancor eventually trusted each other as more than just a master and his pet but as actual friends, as comrades.

As a reader, we are hooked into this story and empathize with Malakili.  He is a likable character that has goals and feelings.  All of our admiration with him, and even his Rancor, culminates in the end as the Rancor’s death leaves us even sadder than if we had only see the movie.  After reading his tale, you want to learn more about the tales that this anthology has to offer.

*sniff*

Malakili and his Rancor’s tale establishes the foundation that the rest of the anthology builds off of.  Not only do we have a good reason to hate Jabba (besides all the stuff he did in the movie) but we are exposed to the variety of characters whose journey we’ll also follow (e.g., Gartogg the Gamorrean and Porcellus the chef) later on.  Through these interactions, we realize that there is so much more going on in Jabba’s Palace than we realize and that Malakili’s tale is only a part of it.

Indeed, as you read through the anthology, a feeling of unease begins to creep into you as you read each of the characters’ tales.   The protagonists might run into a dead body with an unknown murderer or find out that their plot has gone awry by an unseen force.  Many of the questions we faced during their stories are not answered until much later in the novel though hints are certainly sprinkled here and there on who (or what) are the actual puppeteers.

Generally speaking, as you progress through the novel, the protagonists’ tales usually start or end later compared to protagonists near the beginning of the book.  Hell, many of the protagonists’ stories that make up much of the latter half of the book end with Jabba’s Barge blowing up or shortly thereafter.  Even the last two stories (Boba Fett and Yarna) take place after Jabba’s death and a majority of the time spent with these two characters does not even take place in Jabba’s Palace.  As such, the editor’s deliberate action in placing all of the tales in certain sections of the anthology give a sense of an overarching story in the novel that would seemingly be lost if the stories were randomly distributed.  The result of which is quite amusing to me.

This overarching story works really well for each of the protagonists’ tales.  The best example of this I would say is Ephant Mon’s Tale.  There seems to be a shift in our overall mood towards this novel as we read his tale.  Not only do we progress further in the timeline compared to the protagonists beforehand but we get to confront Jabba through the eyes of a friend, something that no other protagonist can claim.  It’s a different side of Jabba that we rarely see and really hones in how unique all of the characters are in this book.  More importantly, Ephant Mon’s Tale hints that the Force was acting very strong in Jabba’s Palace for the past few days.  Major events, whether seen or unseen in the movie, transpired in the awful establishment and it’s hard to believe they happened purely by chance.

Speaking of chance, I want to talk about one of my favorite protagonists, Gartogg the Gamorrean.  God, this guy is great.  He means so well but he’s just so stupid, haha!  He has this uncanny ability to stumble upon a freshly murdered body with maybe even the murderer to boot.  He’s so good at this that he found the crime scene for all four murders in Jabba’s Palace!  But everyone always tricks him for the sole reason that they don’t get into trouble with Jabba and he believes them!  And he’s just so cheery about it and wants to please his boss and oh my gosh this guy is hilarious.

One of the underlying themes in TfJP is that not everything is as it seems.  Characters that the protagonists perceive as incompetent or inconsequential are actually quite formidable or intelligent.  Ree-Yees is an interesting example of this as he disguises his competence with his alcoholic tendencies and plays the fool most of the time.  Even though he’s an idiot, his plot goes unnoticed by many people, including the conspiracy-sniffing Ephant Mon.   Bubo is probably the best example though as even the reader does not give Bubo two cents until we realize he is a sentient being!

I have to talk about the B’omarr monks as they are definitely an important part in the anthology.  Though none of the protagonists are monks, quite a few of them interact with the monks to some degree such as J’Quille, Bib Fortuna, Bubo, Tessek, and Ree-Yees.  I think because we lack a monk POV we find them unsettling as we know little about them.  Even Bib Fortuna, who arguably is the most familiar with them out of anyone in the Palace, did not foresee the Monks takeover when Jabba was killed.  When we are revealed the fate of Jabba’s Palace, there is another uneasy shift in the novel as we wonder if the next protagonist will be able to survive both Jabba’s barge blowing up and unwanted removal of their brains in jars.

At least, that’s the way I feel, especially for the last Tale involving the fat dancer, Yarna, and the hunter, Doallyn. Just as we begin TfJP with a strong story starring a likable pair of protagonists, we end it once again with two protagonists only this time, the game has changed.  We fear that Yarna and Doallyn do not have much time in the Palace as they could easily be killed by Dannik Jerriko or operated on by the creepy B’omarr Monks.  What’s more, there is an actual risk for the two that we do not experience often in the previous Tales.  The previous Tales take place (mostly) during the events of Return of the Jedi.  As such, we know who may succeed and who may fail.  Yarna and Doallyn’s Tale, however, takes place afterwards, and therefore we venture into completely unknown territory with them.  Without the movie tying them down to any plot specific requirements, the author goes all out in making their tale stand out from the rest.

And what’s more, unlike Malakili and his unfortunate pet Rancor, they succeed, ending the dour novel in a heartwarming light.

Now…

Ever since I first read this novel, I was mesmerized and impressed on how every Tale matched the other Tales almost perfectly.  The protagonists meet each other constantly and as such, the exact same interaction can be found in two different chapters.  So many of these events, which go unnoticed in the movie, are of such importance to the characters that I’m willing to bet that someone made a grand, master timeline of the events and gave it to all the authors in making sure they follow it.  The fact that these interactions happen at all always surprises me.

But as far as I know, no one has recreated this timeline.  It’s quite daunting, that’s for sure, as you would have to be a big nerd to do that.  And guess what?  I did just that!  Tomorrow, I’m going to release my interpretation of the overall timeline of Tales from Jabba’s Palace!  Check it out because I’m super proud of the end result!

If you had read the novel, I would like to hear your opinion on it as I know only a few people who have.  Who are your favorite characters and Tales?  If I were to pick my favorite Tales/Characters it would Ephant Mon, Gartogg, Malakili and his Rancor, and Yarna and Doallyn.

Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar Series is Among the Best Alternate History Stories

Aliens invade Earth during World War 2.

So is the basic, and awesome, concept behind one of Harry Turtledove’s greatest novel series, the “Worldwar” series. First published in 1994, this 8-book series is one of the most famous alternate history stories written and poses one of the most delightful what-if questions ever asked. What if aliens invaded Earth during World War 2?

Now, WW2 is like a magnet when it comes to alternate histories. Soooooo many authors have written about this war posing various what-if questions but they’re usually about what if Nazi Germany won the war.   No other topic in history, not even what if the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War, comes even close to matching the popularity of this topic. As such, alternate historical WW2 stories oversaturate the genre and make it hard to find good stories from this small pool.

What Harry Turtledove does to differentiate himself from other writers is focus on the point of divergence (the point in history where something happened differently than from our own timeline). It’s not Roosevelt or Hitler that gets assassinated, it’s not Nazi Germany refraining from declaring war on the U.S.S.R., it’s not Japan refraining from bombing Pearl Harbor, it’s an alien invasion. Freaking aliens.

Now at this point, you might be saying to yourself, “but they’re aliens! Shouldn’t they be able to steamroll over us and conquer Earth no problem?” You might be right, BUT, these aliens are practical…sensible…and not farcical. These aliens have technology similar to ours right now but with an added bonus of say…50 years from now or so. They have interstellar but slower than light travel, they have large spaceships for holding armies, and they have cryonics to preserve the soldiers during the long flight. So their technology is not too-farfetched.

More importantly though, the aliens, known as “The Race,” were not expecting this degree of advancement from the humans. When the Race sent their first probes to Earth, they sent back pictures and videos of humans riding horses while wielding swords and bows. The probes painted an image of the human race as relatively backwards and not a threat to the more technology advanced the Race. As such, when the Race arrived to the war-torn world of Earth, they were expecting an easy conquering of a backward species.

This is one of the reasons why the Worldwar series is a great series of novels to read. We are presented with a believable science fiction setting that offers a conflict that is not one-sided and can be viewed from multiple protagonists. Oh yeah, the protagonists. In typical Turtledove fashion, we are presented many different protagonists to follow from various walks of life, both human and the Race. They offer us a glimpse into their world and paint us a picture on what events are affecting them and what events they are affecting in return. My favorite POV is probably Molotov though Atvar, the Fleet Overlord of the Race, is a good character as well.

The second reason why this series is so great is that it does not overly rely on parallel historical events to tell a story. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Some authors, like Harry Turtledove, like to use events in their storyline as analogous to the actual historical events. In Harry Turtledove’s other famous series, Timeline-191, where the C.S.A. won the American Civil War, we see A LOT of parallels between the C.S.A. and Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s and in the 1940s’ war between the C.S.A. and the U.S.A. In all honestly, it’s kind of annoying. I like my alternate history stories to progress like they naturally would and not just on some parallel track that was already determined by our timeline. This is why I like Timeline-191’s storyline during the Great War more so than the rest of the series because those parallel events are played down to the point of nonexistence.

Now, to be fair, the Worldwar series does have analogous events but they are portrayed as events similar to what has already happened in human history. Many of the human characters compare the Race’s colonization of Earth relative to British Imperialism in the 19th century. Topics like Social Darwinism and racism are prevalent in the Race’s attitude towards humans. The humans disgust the Race with their non-seasonal mating, long-term romantic relationships, high amount of liquid waste, and ability to handle change easily. But these events do not directly portray one or two significant events that happen during the course of history. In fact, many fans of the series more often than not compare the Race War to that of the Vietnam War. Even then, this is more of just a point of observation rather than directly comparing battles or weapons that the two wars may have.

As such, we are given two strong reasons why the Worldwar series stands out from other alternate historical novels. An original concept combined with a story that is unchained from our own history provides a delightful read that can keep the readers on edge. When I read the Timeline-191 series or other similar stories, I can get a relative idea what may happen and who might be killed at the end of the story. Worldwar pushes this to the side and keeps us guessing what may happen in each exciting new book.

And finally, in the television world where more and more companies like Netflix or Hulu are providing us with original, unhindered shows that can give us exciting and new series, I say this. The Worldwar series would be phenomenal if it was adapted into a television show. We already have shows with multiple protagonists, such as Game of Thrones, and there hasn’t been any good, strong science fiction shows in recent memory. What’s more, the tagline that I gave you at the beginning of the article is enough to entice anyone to at least check out the first episode

Aliens invade Earth during World War 2.

Someone has to make it. This series is awesome.

My only request is that you make the aliens chameleon-like cause god damnet, sooooo many book covers make them just reptilian-like. Make it happen!

Would You Like to Know More? 1.04 Harry Potter: Unanswered Questions and Outdated Theories

 

Would You Like to Know More? Podcast episode 4, this time, we’re doing something a little different.  Instead of analyzing a franchise, we’ll be taking apart the Harry Potter franchise and dive into two uncommonly talked about topics.  Part One we tackle Unanswered Questions.  Even when the last book was published more than six years ago, there are still some questions that the books or even Pottermore website haven’t answered yet.  We’ll ask and discuss such questions like whatever happened to Fluffy, how are Dementors born, and if Albus Severus was actually sorted to Slythern.  Part 2 will cover Outdated Theories.  After every book was published, many theories arose to discuss what may happen or be revealed in the following books.  Most of these theories were falsified but we’re digging them up again to see what went wrong and why people thought those theories existed.

Special guests for this episode are Michelle Gardner, Sarah Keffer, and Ben Preheim.

This episode was recorded at Six Crow Studios, you can reach them at their facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/SixCrowsStudios

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