Next Friday Wonder Woman makes her long anticipated big screen debut. Many people know about Wonder Woman – she’s a goddess, she’s a feminist, she’s powerful, – but the popular image of her ends there. While she’s been a comic book character for 75 years, the fact of the matter is that very few people have actually read all, or even most, of her comics. Let alone her numerous TV appearances (both live action and cartoon).
So, where is a person to turn if they want to know more about Wonder Woman? Especially if they want to learn more about the context in which she was created? The answer is, of course, a book.
There are two books about Wonder Woman and her origins that were written somewhat recently. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley and The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. Which one you should read depends on how in depth you want to go.
Hanley’s book is a quick read that glosses over some of the details and attempts to sensationalize others. The book is just 300 pages and the writing is breezy and easy to read. If you just want a taste of Wonder Woman’s history and development as a character, this book is the one for you.
If, instead, you’d rather get a detailed look at every possible influence behind the creator of Wonder Woman, then Lepore’s book is the one you should read. The book starts off with the parents of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and traces the strands of influence from the Suffragette movement to Wonder Woman. Everything about Wonder Woman is accounted for. From her clothes to her weapons to her all female society.
Can’t decide which of these books to read? You could always do what I did and read both. It’s interesting to read two books on the same topic and see where they agree and where they diverge. While there is a lot of overlap in information between the two books, the author’s distinctive voices makes reading them together anything but boring.
You can find these books and more at your local library.
There’s almost an overwhelming number of books available with the Star Wars logo emblazoned on the cover, as such, it can be intimidating to try and start reading them. A new reader may ask questions like: Where do I begin? Do I have to go in order? Is there an order to go in? Do I have to read all of these to get the backstory for the movies?
To answer the first few questions, just start somewhere, anywhere you like. There’s no particular order for most of the books, and reading them out of order doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the book. If a book looks interesting, read it. Don’t worry about doing it “right”. Another strategy is to find an author or character you like and follow them. Whatever you do, have fun and read lots.
There really aren’t that many books that cover the period of the Original Trilogy, and of the ones out there, I’ve only read maybe three or four. So there is only one book set during the Original Trilogy that I can recommend, and that is:
Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
5 stars out of 5
This is a fun heist story that’s just the right blend of Ocean’s Eleven and Star Wars. A highly recommended stand-alone book.
These books were all written before Disney acquired LucasFilm and are set during the events of the Prequel Trilogy. Kenobi is technically set after Episode III, but it comes right on the heels of Revenge of the Sith so I included it with the other Prequel Trilogy books.
The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster
5 stars out of 5
This book is a fun adventure story set shortly before the events of Attack of the Clones and actually sets up that movie quite well while remaining a stand-alone book. This book gives the reader a window into the lives of the Jedi before the pressures of the Clone Wars take over the galaxy. If you like Anakin or Obi-Wan it is a must-read.
Outbound Flight by Timothy Zhan
4 stars out of 5
Timothy Zahn finally gives us the backstory to the Katana fleet. This book gives readers the answers to all that transpired when the fleet vanished. It’s a good story with interesting characters and the usual Zahn flare. However, this book is best read in conjunction with the Thrawn Trilogy, otherwise the Katana fleet thing doesn’t really hold much interest.
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
4 stars out of 5
John Jackson Miller shows himself to be a capable novelist with this offering. Taking place just after the events of Episode III Obi-Wan must navigate life on Tatooine while keeping a low profile. Part western, part Star Wars this book is great for any Obi-Wan fan.
I am going to preface the next section by saying that the following three books do not deserve the rating I gave them. The writing is fanfictiony in the worst way and the dialogue is laughable. Melodrama abounds and the plots are contrived at best. That being said, I did enjoy reading these books immensely and rated them on my enjoyment, not their objective quality. If I were to give them a fairer rating it would probably be around two stars each. Still, I enjoyed reading them and have enjoyed rereading them, so if fanfiction style writing is your thing you may enjoy them as well.
Wild Space by Karen Miller
4 stars out of 5
This is literally the only EU novel that features Bail Organa as a primary character and in this book he is in fine form. Bail and Obi-Wan go on a secret mission together and we finally get to see the man who raised Leia in action; and he is everything I could ask for. Bail has the sass and spunk that we see in Leia as well as being likable and shrewd. His character and Obi-Wan have some great moments together and it also fills in the some gaps in Episode III, like why Obi-Wan and Yoda trusted Bail enough to let him raise one of the twins. This is a fun book and is worth looking into if you like Bail or Obi-Wan.
Stealth and Siege by Karen Miller
4 stars out of 5
I’ll recommend these books together because they are really one story telling one continuous plot. Anakin and Obi-Wan go undercover in Separatist space. While this book is light on plot it give the reader a lot of interaction between Obi-Wan and Anakin. If you like those two characters and their relationship then these books are for you.
These are books that continue the story of Star Wars after Return of the Jedi before LucasFilm was bought by Disney. They continue to tell the story of Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the galaxy in a somewhat cohesive way continuing the adventure for many years.
The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zhan
5 stars out of 5
I’m going to go ahead and rate these as a set because the story is continuous throughout the three novels. Each book is a five star book for me. These books could easily be Episodes 7, 8, and 9. They capture the feel of Star Wars and suck you into the continued struggles of Leia, Luke and Han. These books also introduce the characters of Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Gilad Pellaeon, Winter and many, many other characters that have become staples in the EU. Zahn set the EU into motion with these books and should be on everyone’s Star Wars reading list.
Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning
3 stars out of 5
While this book may not be as highly rated as some of the others on this list it is still a good read. This book tackles Leia and her relationship with Anakin, her perceptions of Vader, and her connections to the Skywalker family. If Leia is a character you like then this book might be just what you’re looking for.
Rogue Squadron by Micheal Stackpole
4 stars out of 5
This book is the continuing adventures of the Rebellion against the Empire. The story focuses around Wedge Antilles and the X-Wing pilots as they attempt to drive the Empire out of all corners of the galaxy. This book is entertaining and well written and a treat to read. This book is especially recommended for Wedge Antilles fans and fans of pilots.
These are books published after Disney bought LucasFilm, and therefore tie into the new movies and have their own continuity that is different from all the books published before the Disney acquisition. I haven’t read many of the new books yet, so I only have one real recommendation in this category.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
4 stars out of 5
If you are a fan of the show Rebels then you need to read this book. This book gives you the story of how Kanan and Hera first meet and how they decide to work together. It’s a fun story and a great plot and should be read by anyone who likes the characters of Hera and Kanan.
All these and more can be found at your local library!
Here’s a thought: Snape’s patronus turning into a doe is a tacit agreement on his part that Lily and James were soul-mates.
There has been a lot of discussion about James, Lily and Snape. Their relationship dynamics are incredibly complicated and some people think Lily was stupid for picking a jerk like James over a longtime friend like Snape. But, did Snape think that? In the seventh book, Snape’s patronus takes the form of a doe because of his deep feelings for Lily. The doe represents Lily to Snape, just like Harry’s patronus represents his father who he looks to for protection. So, Snape images Lily as a doe, a creature she’s never otherwise connected with and James is connected to the stag, and the stag and the doe make a pair of soul-mates. Even Snape sees them that way.
Star Wars: X-Wing, Rogue Squadron by Micheal Stackpole is a fun story with lots of action, great characters, and Star Wars worthy thrills. I love the portrayal of Wedge Antilles, who is one of my favorite characters, and I like many of the new characters we are introduced to in the story. Stackpole is a careful and attentive writer, and his descriptions bring the galaxy far, far, away right up close to the reader. I intend to read more in the series, and look forward to finding out where he takes Rouge Squadron next.
That being said, he does seem to have one weakness. Women. To be fair, Stackpole has plenty of women in his book. Unlike the six movies by George Lucas, or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or Episode VII, or Rogue One, or even a lot of other Star Wars EU stories, Stackpole made an effort to include women at every level in his writing. Women are Rogue pilots (Lujayne Forge, Andoorni Hui, Erisi Dlarit, Rhysati Ynr), Mirax Terrik is a woman who smuggles for the Rebellion, Ysanne Isard is a woman and the director of Imperial intelligence, and the main character Corran Horn worked with a woman (Iella Wessiri) during his time at CorSec, along with a smattering of minor characters who aren’t named. So, kudos to Stackpole for including so many women in both prominent and secondary roles, it’s nice to see so many female characters in a Star Wars story.
There is, however, some room for improvement. There is very little variation in the way the female characters are described, take the following excerpts:
Erisi Dlarit is described from Corran’s perspective as “Just a bit taller than he was, but slender and walking on very shapely long legs.” (ch 9)
Ysanne Isard’s underling Kirtan Loor finds her “Attractive” “Tall and slender” (ch 11)
These descriptions are very similar, yet they are supposedly from the perspectives of two very different characters in two very different circumstances. It’s not even bad to have tall, slender female characters, it just isn’t very imaginative either. A little more distinctiveness could have rounded out the female cast a lot. Because Stackpole depends on the same generic descriptions for the characters the reader can spend the entire book not really sure who Lujayne is, or if she’s a different person than Rhysati or Eirsi. It can be challenging to write well rounded and distinctive secondary characters, and when it came to the female characters I think Micheal Stackpole could have done better.
Which brings me to my second kvetch. In the last 150 pages alone, two different women offer to sleep with Corran a total of three different times (of course, he stoically refuses, but not so much that we question his heterosexuality). This seems mostly to show the reader how appealing Corran is supposed to be, rather than show anything about the women who are desperate to sleep with him. Corran spends virtually no time developing or deepening his relationships with these women, yet they want him anyway. As a reader I want to see a relationship develop and if there’s conflict, I want to see that develop too. Here, however, the women only want to sleep with Corran for…some reason, and the only conflict that comes out of it is to pit the two women against each other. Corran, apparently, is so sexually attractive that intelligent women lose their minds around him and start fighting with each other for the right to mate with him.
* Sigh *
The problem isn’t that the women have sexual agency, or that they are interested in Corran, or even that they are jealous of each other. It’s that Corran has done nothing in the story to develop a relationship with either of the women, and yet they pester him for sex. It reduces the women into a vague sexual interest, instead of letting them be a part of Corran’s close inner circle that he’s struggled to find the entire story. It seems lazy to me, and given the kind of detail Stackpole puts into his writing, I know he can do better.
Those two minor points aside, I think this book is excellent. It has everything a person could want from a Star Wars story, while managing the difficult task of presenting a compelling story line sans Jedi. Stackpole is a creative and talented author and his work should rightly be regarded as some of the best Star Wars writing there is. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to other Star Wars fans in a heartbeat. If you haven’t read this book, go get it. Yes, it’s age shows a little, but it’s too good to miss.
Micheal Stackpole has a nice habit of writing mirroring passages. In Star Wars: X-Wing, Rogue Squadron, he gives us this paragraph:
“Corran’s quad lasers shredded the Interceptor’s starboard wing and blew apart one of the twin ion engines. The other, operating at full power, sent the squint spinning away. Corran winced in sympathy with the pilot, then dove into the middle of the TIE formation.” (chapter 16)
and just a few chapters earlier this happen to Corran:
“The ion blast had knocked out his starboard sublight engines, leaving the pair on the port side of the ship operating at full power and without compensation. This put him into a flat out spin, with his stern chasing his nose, completely out of control.” (chapter 13)
Corran trying to get his ship under control is a big part of the chapter. Stackpole brings the event full circle by having the same thing happen to a TIE pilot at Corran’s hands, the parallels are a nice touch that serve to recall earlier events, and humanize Corran (and the TIE pilot) to the reader. The reader can anticipate how the TIE pilot will feel because they have just seen Corran deal with the same thing. It’s also a small bit of payback on Corran’s part, him doing to an Imperial pilot what an Imperial pilot had done to him just a few pages ago.