Return of the Jedi (Star Wars Episode VI)

Return of the Jedi
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Return of the Jedi completed the one of the greatest film trilogies in film history, though it could not reach the level of either one of the previous two films that is by no means it is not a good film in and of itself. Once again coming up with the film’s story, George Lucas joined Lawrence Kasdan in writing the script while tapping Richard Marquand to sit in the director’s chair.

The film begins a year after Han Solo’s capture and arrival at crime Lord Jabba the Hutt’s palace. C-3PO, R2-D2, Princess Leia—who frees Han from the carbonite only be captured—and Chewbacca arrive through a variety of methods joining Lando Calrissian undercover. Luke Skywalker arrives attempting to negotiated with Jabba but is almost killed by a rancor before being captured by Jabba’s guards. Jabba attempts to kill Luke, Han, and Chewbacca by feeding them to the Sarlacc, but after R2-D2 reveals Luke’s new lightsaber allowing him to free himself and his friends. During the chaos Leia strangles Jabba to death before joining her friends in escaping Jabba’s exploding sail barge. As the others go to rendezvous with the Rebel Alliance, Luke returns to Dagobah and learns from a dying Yoda that Darth Vader is the former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and reveals he has a sister. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force spirit then confirms Luke’s suspicion that Leia is his twin sister before telling him that he must face Vader again to finish his training and defeat the Empire. The Alliance learns that the Empire has been constructing a second Death Star under the supervision of the Emperor, which is being protected by an energy shield from the forest moon of Endor. The Alliance plans to strike, not knowing that it’s a trap planned by the Emperor. Han leads a strike team which includes Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca on Endor; they encounter a tribe of Ewoks, gaining their trust after an initial conflict. Later, Luke tells Leia that she is his sister, Vader is their father, and that he must confront him. Surrendering to Imperial troops, he is brought before Vader failing to convince him to reject the dark side of the Force, and Vader takes Luke to meet the Emperor who intends to turn him to the dark side by killing his father. Han’s initial assault on the generator results in their capture by Imperial forces, but the Ewoks free them through a counterattack resulting in a wide-ranging battle just as Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon and Admiral Ackbar lead the Rebel assault on the second Death Star, finding its shield still active, the Imperial fleet waiting for them, and the Death Star fully operational. The Emperor goads Luke to give into his anger, Luke attempts to attack him but Vader intervenes. During the resulting lightsaber duel throughout the throne room, Vader senses the existence of Luke’s sister and threatens to turn her to the dark side. An enraged Luke defeats Vader by severing his prosthetic hand, a gleeful Emperor entreats Luke to kill Vader but Luke refuses. A furious Emperor tortures Luke with Force lightning but unwilling to see his son die Vader throws the Emperor down a reactor shaft to his death though mortally electrocuted in the process. At his father’s last request, Luke removes Vader’s mask, and the emancipated dark lord dies. With the Ewoks tying down the Imperial forces, Han’s strike team destroys the shield generator allowing Lando and X-win fighter pilot Wedge Antilles to fly into the Death Star’s core and destroy the main reactor, escaping before the station explodes. Luke escapes in a shuttle to Endor where he cremates his father body before reuniting with his friends. As the Rebels celebrate their victory, Luke looks cheerfully upon the Force spirits of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and the redeemed Anakin Skywalker.

After the end of Empire there was two big issues that needed to be done by the end of Jedi, the fate of Han and the intertwined conclusions to the Galactic Civil War and Luke versus Vader. The rescue of Han was a fun adventure before the real seriousness begins, the battle for the freedom of the galaxy and the soul of Anakin Skywalker. While the action, drama, special effects (except for one instance), and the abundance of alien life came together to create an enjoyable film, there were issues. The first big issue was another Death Star, the first instance of a return-to-the-well that occurred in the franchise. The second was the Ewoks and their role in the Battle on Endor, I understood what Lucas was aiming at however it would have been better to have a different species to joining Han’s strike team. While Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, and the debuting Ian McDiarmid gave good performances, Carrie Fisher did not seem to have the same screen presence as she did in the previous two films. The elements of the screenplay written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas based on the story created by the latter were good and Richard Marquand directed a fun film, unlike the previous two installments there seemed to be something lacking.

Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to, though the least of the original trilogy, only one of the next six films in the saga even reached its overall quality thus enhancing its reputation of the years.

Star Wars

Red Country (First Law #6)

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

What would a fantasy western be like? Red Country the sixth book and third standalone novel of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law world answers that question in its blood-splattered pages with a cast of morally questionable characters some of whom are looking to save family, become better, and to get rich.

Shy South, her sister Ro, brother Pit, and their stepfather Lamb live on a farmstead near the little town of Squaredeal in the Near Country, a lawless and large unsettled land west of the Union ruled Starikland that is constantly in rebellion. While Shy and Lamb are in town, their farm is burned to the ground, their friend Gully murdered, and Shy’s siblings kidnapped by an indebted Grega Cantliss who plans to sell children to the Dragon People who reside in the mountains northwest of the goldrush boom town of Crease. Shy and Lamb begin chasing Cantliss’ gang and eventually find three deserters who Lamb beats up for information then kills in a tavern in Averstock to Shy’s surprise. The legendary scout Dab Sweet and his ‘associate’ Crying Rock catch up with the duo and offer them a chance to join their caravan to Crease in the Far Country that they accept. Meanwhile the Union with ‘help’ by Nicomo Cosca’s mercenary company defeats the most recent rebellion in Starikland, Cosca’s company is paid by the Inquisition to head into the Near Country to find rebels much to the chagrin of the Company’s lawyer, Temple. After sacking Squaredeal, Temple and another Company solider go into Averstock to convince the rebels to save the townspeople but Cosca sends in the Company to sack it before the time he gave them was up. Temple runs from the Company and through a series of misadventures falls into a river and is saved by Shy and allowed to join the caravan but in Shy’s debt that he must work off. The biggest incident on the trip was an attack by the Ghosts, native tribesmen, lead by Sangeed through the instigation of Sweet and Crying Rock to get money for their retirement. After fighting off the Ghosts, Lamb kills Sangeed at the negotiation leading the band retreating. Upon their arrival in Crease, Shy and Lamb learn that Cantliss is employed by Papa Ring who is feuding with The Mayor with each control one-half of the city (on either side of the only street in town). Lamb agrees to fight for The Mayor in an upcoming fight for control of the town and later learns his opponent is Glama Golden. Temple helps build a shop for one of the caravan’s participants to finish off his debt to Shy and at the party upon its completion hooks up with Shy but runs out on her when Cantiss bursts into their room to kidnap her before the fighting. Another of the caravan’s members rescues Shy during Lamb’s fight in which he goes berserk and kills Golden resulting in The Mayor winning the town. Ring is hung and Cantliss is captured to lead Shy and Lamb to the Dragon People when Cosca appears forcing a change of plans. Shy, Lamb, Dab, Crying Rock, and a few others of the caravan lead Cosca’s company now including Temple again to the Dragon People and rescue Ro and Pit along with many others as the mercenaries ransack the mountain hideaway that includes a cave full of gold. On the way back, one of the caravan’s members is found out to be the leader of the Starikland rebellion leading to the rest of the caravan members attempting to rescue him by stealing the Company’s pay wagon while Lamb fights his way into where the Inquisition is questioning him. Temple and Shy crash the wagon but are saved by the real rebel leader who takes the gold to start a new war. They return to Crease before the mercenaries and arrange a trick to convince them that the town has pledged allegiance to the slowly rising Old Empire, the Inquisition strips Cosca of leadership of the Company and head back to Starikland. Lamb returns a few days later and the family head home only for Cosca to reappear only to be killed. Upon their return to Squaredeal, Shy takes over the general store while Temple becomes a carpenter/lawyer. One day Caul Shivers appears looking for Lamb to get revenge for his brother but decides not to fight. Lamb leaves the same day for his own reasons.

The amount of morally questionable characters in this Joe Abercrombie work should not be a surprise, what is how many of them are at least trying to not be total…jerks. Shy and Temple were both fun characters to read, each having their previous screw ups to live down but also wanting something better. Seeing the return of one of Abercrombie’s best characters from the first trilogy answered the cliffhanger ending he had at the end of The Last Argument of Kings, but his years long struggle to be a better man ended when he once again became the Bloody Nine. Though I have never read a western, this had the feel of one not only with the caravan and it’s obligatory native tribesmen attack but also a goldrush boom town that its literally isn’t big enough for the two factions opposing one another. Abercrombie also shows that the overall political situation in the world is changing as the Old Empire of the original trilogy is apparently revitalized and a potential rival for the Union, yet the long shadows of the past as seen with the Dragon People means that the fantastic elements of the world are still around ready to play a role.

Red Country is the answer to the question we didn’t know to ask, what would a western be like set in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law world. The mixture of previously established and newly introduced character makes a engaging story that keeps you reading from beginning to end.

First Law

The Empire Strikes Back (Novelization)

The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The novelization of one of the greatest film sequels in history came out a month before its release on the big scene but the biggest surprise in film history didn’t hit the cultural zeitgeist. The Empire Strikes Back novelization by Donald F. Glut brings the amazing film to the page.

The novelization sticks close to the flow of the film without many extra scenes to flesh out the overall story. What could not be expressed on screen, the inner thoughts of characters and what the flow of the Force is like to name just a few, is included in the narrative and helps flesh out the overall feel of the galaxy far, far away. Due to being based on a previous draft of the script there are continuality artifacts, the biggest is Yoda who is blue. Unlike the Star Wars novelization this was a very readable adaptation resulting in completing it faster than its predecessor.

The Empire Strikes Back is a good novelization as Donald F. Glut was able bring the film to the page in a very readable manner. Though the film is preferred, the novelization is something nice to while away the time.

Star Wars

Grant

Grant by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The man who was Lincoln’s main military and policy instrument then ultimately his true political heir has been maligned as a martial brute to his supposedly noble opponent at the tale end of the American Civil War. Grant by Ron Chernow chronicles the life of one of—if not—the greatest general in American history.

As with many biographers, Chernow goes into generations of Grant’s family history—including alcoholism—as well as the personalities of his parents Jesse and Hannah who each shaped Grant for both good and ill. Much the biography covers Grant’s service in the Civil War and his Presidency, yet in the little over 100 pages that Chernow covers Grant’s life from his youth through West Point and career in the military including the Mexican War then his interwar civilian life. Chernow not only used these pages to chronicle the young Grant’s life, but also how the struggle of alcohol and his business naivete that would cause issues throughout the rest of his life. With the start of the Civil War, Chernow goes in-depth into how Grant his first command and then how he slowly progressed up the chain of command while dealing with the rebel soldiers but army politics. Then upon Grant’s ascent into the high councils of Washington, Chernow shows how he reassured Lincoln that he was his man and fully embraced his agenda. It was this adherence to Lincoln’s vision that ultimately led Grant to accept the Republican nomination in 1868 and his policy in the South throughout his presidency. Throughout the pages dedicated to Grant’s time in office while the scandals surrounding those individuals that he naively appointed and supported were covered but Chernow balanced it out with achievements of Grant and many of his outstanding cabinet members did during the eight years. Though devoting a little more space to the later years of Grant’s life than those prior to 1860, Chernow focused on Grant’s battle with cancer as he raced to write his memoirs then his legacy.

Chernow knowing the general view of Grant as an alcoholic that defeated Lee through manpower and resources then presiding over a scandalous presidency took his time to address during the biography via themes throughout. Grant’s battle with alcohol was a constant theme until the latter end of his presidency and post-presidency when it appears the presence of his wife Julia and Grant’s own determination essentially conquered the problem. Throughout the Civil War portion of the text Chernow examines Grant’s tactical and strategic thinking especially when he was facing off with Robert E. Lee in Virginia or more accurately tying down Lee’s army while the rest of Union forces crushed the armies opposing them and the will of rebel civilians. Chernow’s chronicling of the scandals of Grant’s presidency was firmly tied to Grant’s naivete with people and always supporting people who he believed to be his friends, something that made him a huge mark for flim-flam men of the Gilded Age. While Chernow’s biography could be seen as “revisionism” by today’s historical readers, it could also be seen as reversing the ‘Lost Cause revisionism’ that occurred during Grant’s own lifetime.

Grant is a fantastic addition to Ron Chernow’s chronicle of great American lives like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Chernow shows that while Grant was flawed like everyone else, his status today is beginning to return to where it was after he militarily reunited the country after being diminished by those who wanted to pretend the American Civil War didn’t happen.

The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Episode V)

The Empire Strikes Back
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Empire Strikes Back had the unenviable task of following up cultural and industry changing, the result was transforming what seemed to be a science fiction-adventure series into a space opera franchise and be the best film of the entire saga.  After coming up with the film’s story, George Lucas passed the scripting and directorial responsibilities to the hands of Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasden and Irvin Kershner respectfully.

Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Imperial fleet, led by Darth Vader, dispatches Probe Droids across the galaxy to locate the Rebel Alliance’s new base.  One probe locates the base on the ice planet Hoth. While investigating the probe, Luke Skywalker is captured by a wampa, but escapes using the Force and his lightsaber. Before succumbing to hypothermia, the Force spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs him to go to the swamp planet Dagobah to train as a Jedi Knight under Jedi Master Yoda. Han Solo discovers Luke and insulates him against the weather until they are rescued the next morning.  Alerted to the Rebels’ location, the Empire launches a large-scale attack using AT-AT walkers to capture the base, forcing the Rebels to evacuate. Han and Leia escape with C-3PO and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon, but the ship’s hyperdrive malfunctions. They hide in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia grow closer amidst the tensions. Vader summons several bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to locate the Falcon.  Meanwhile, Luke travels with R2-D2 in his X-wing fighter to Dagobah, where he crash-lands. He meets Yoda, a diminutive creature who reluctantly accepts Luke as his Jedi apprentice after conferring with Obi-Wan’s spirit. Evading the Imperial fleet, Han’s group travels to the floating Cloud City on planet Bespin, which is governed by his old friend Lando Calrissian. Fett tracks them to the city and Vader forces Lando to hand the group over to the Empire. He uses the group to lure Luke, intending to recruit him by turning him to the dark side of the Force. Luke experiences a premonition of Han and Leia in pain and, against Obi-Wan’s and Yoda’s protestations, abandons his training to rescue them.  Vader intends to hold Luke in suspended animation by imprisoning him in carbonite and tests the process on Han. He survives and is given to Fett who intends to collect his bounty from Jabba the Hutt. Lando frees Leia and Chewbacca, but they are too late to stop Fett’s escape. The group fights their way back to the Falcon and flees the city. Luke arrives and engages Vader in a lightsaber duel over the city’s central air shaft. Vader severs Luke’s right hand and urges him to embrace the power of the dark side and help him overthrow the Emperor. Luke refuses to join his father’s murderer, but Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father. Desperate, Luke drops into the air shaft and is ejected beneath the floating city, latching onto an antenna. He reaches out through the Force to Leia, and the Falcon returns to rescue him. The group is pursued by TIE fighters and almost cornered by Vader on his Star Destroyer until R2-D2 repairs the Falcon’s hyperdrive, allowing them to escape.  Aboard the Rebel fleet’s medical ship, Luke’s hand is replaced with a robotic prosthesis. He, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 watch as Lando and Chewbacca depart on the Falcon to find Han on Tatoonie.

From the outset this film set a different tone from Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance is still facing an uphill fight against the Empire as the battle of Hoth demonstrates.  With the film’s big battle out of the way, the narrative is divided into three arcs—Luke, Han/Leia, and Vader—set up at the beginning and culminating in Cloud City.  After appearing to be a secondary—yet dangerous—antagonist in the first film, Darth Vader literally became one of the greatest villains in cinematic history throughout this film even before his duel with Luke and then came the stunning conclusion that has become a cultural touchstone that is routinely misquoted.  George Lucas shifted into a producer role and came up with the story that writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasden made into the screenplay that director Irvin Kershner crafted into this stunning film that was again highlighted by John Williams’ soundtrack.  The returning cast members brought the natural evolution of their characters to screen wonderfully and the addition of Billy Dee Williams, as Lando Calrissian, along with the Frank Oz, voicing Yoda, added to the richness of the film and character interactions.

To many, including myself, this film is what made the Star Wars franchise what it is today as it went from science fiction to space opera.

Star Wars

This Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln

This Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln by Abraham Lincoln
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collection in the words of editor William E. Gienapp is to “provide the most direct record of his [Lincoln] ideas.” Given that Abraham Lincoln was a public individual, as hardly any of his private non-political correspondence survived, his speeches and writings not only shows his progression in eloquence and learn but how his political thoughts developed over the decades from 1831 to the end of his life. Divided into seven chapters separated by years—the first chapter covering the longest period—especially when it came to his years in the White House. Lincoln’s most famous speeches are the obvious highlights of the book, but other speeches and letters are added bonuses.

2021 Reading Plan (August Plan)

A doe and her fawns

Hello,

August was quite the successful reading month even though getting reviews written and posted was a different story.  All three of my completed books, plus the one story, were on my original list thus getting more off that particular list.  Let’s take a quick look at the stats.

Overall Total: 28/35 (80%)
Original List: 22/35 (62.9%)
Total Pages: 15051 (537.5)

The best of the month was Watership Down and it was no contest, on LibraryThing I’ve been recommended watching the film adaptation and I might do that in the future but not in the near time.  While technically the Star Wars novelization was rated lower, my worst of the month was Robert W. Merry’s biography of James K. Polk due to the fact that the information he put in there for the political landscape was wrong and it made me question Merry’s research for the McKinley biography that I read in June.

This month I finally did a film review!  Granted it was because I was about to read the novelization of the film, but I actually did one.  Of course I haven’t watched one of the greatest sequels ever yet, but that’s another story.  As for right now I’m approximately two-thirds of the way through Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant and am just a year into his presidency, so there is still a lot to cover with that book.

Coming up this next month I’ll continue reading Grant as my primary read, but I’ll be finishing a home read on the 1st and watching The Empire Strikes Back either the day I post this or the next.  So early in September I hope to have a book and film review done before I’m finished with Grant.  I’m confident in getting through the novelization of Empire and Abercrombie’s last standalone First Law book, but beyond that I have no clue.

That’s all for this month.

January
:Sense and Sensibility (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3) by Scott Lynch
A History of My Times by Xenophon*
Valhalla Rising (Dirk Pitt #16) by Clive Cussler
February
:Pride and Prejudice (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
From Manassas to Appomattox by James Longstreet
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Unique America by John Bahr, Eric Peterson, & Donald Vaughan*
March
:Mansfield Park (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt #17) by Clive Cussler
The New Emperors by Harrison Evans Salisbury
April
Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America by Loren Coleman^
:Emma (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Best Served Cold (The First Law #4) by Joe Abercrombie
Black Wind (Dirk Pitt #18) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster by Lyle Blackburn^
May
Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson*
:Northanger Abbey (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook by Liv Albert^
Truman by David McCullough
June
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
:Persuasion (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt #19) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes*
President McKinley by Robert W. Merry
:Lady Susan (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Complete Novels by Jane Austen
July
The Heroes (The First Law #5) by Joe Abercrombie
This is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount by Jay Weiner+
The Promise by Gerhard F. Hasel & Michael G. Hasel^
Artic Drift (Dick Pitt #20) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln by Anthony Gloss^
A Country of Vast Designs by Robert W. Merry
Watership Down by Richard Adams
:Star Wars (The Star Wars Trilogy) by George Lucas:
Crescent Dawn (Dirk Pitt #21) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Grant by Ron Chernow
:The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Episode V) by Donald F. Glut:
Red Country (The First Law #6) by Joe Abercrombie
Poseidon’s Arrow (Dirk Pitt #22) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
:Return of the Jedi (Star Wars Episode VI) by James Khan:
Star Wars Trilogy (Star Wars Episodes IV-VI) by George Lucas/Donald F. Glut/James Kham
FDR by Jean Edward Smith
Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt #23) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Edward IV by Charles Ross
The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Episode I) by Terry Brooks
Odessa Sea (Dirk Pitt #24) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
William Pitt the Younger by William Hague
Attack of the Clones (Star Wars Episode II) by R.A. Salvatore
Celtic Empire (Dirk Pitt #25)
Bobby Kennedy by Larry Tye

*=Original Home Read
^= Home Read
+= Random Insertion

Crescent Dawn (Dirk Pitt #21)

Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Records recovered from the ancient port of Caesarea, Roman artifacts aboard a sunken Ottoman gallery off Turkey, and two murderous siblings looking to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. Crescent Dawn is the twenty-first book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series and fourth with his son Dirk, finds the Pitt family in the eastern Mediterranean and Britain unknowing find evidence to an ancient mystery while coming across political terrorists and rogue archaeologists.

The plot begins first in 327 AD a Roman galley carrying cargo so important that a contingent of the Emperor Constantine’s own guard is aboard when it is attacked by pirates off Crete before jumping 1916 in which a British warship mysteriously explodes and sinks in the North Sea. In the present, important mosques in Egypt and Turkey are damaged by planted explosives that raise tensions amongst Muslims across the Middle East, but especially in secular Turkey where a popular fundamentalist Istanbul imam is convinced to jump into the upcoming Presidential election by Ozden Celik. Celik and his sister Maria are behind the mosque bombings are the heirs to the last Ottoman sultan and are attempting to resurrect their family’s place in the country while also grabbing up anything connected to the Ottoman family. While doing underwater explorations off Turkey and on the Israeli coasts respectfully, Dirk Pitt and Dirk Pitt, Jr., find historic discoveries but the elder Pitt’s gets him in the sights of the Celik’s due to its connection to Sulieman the Magnificent. Pitt and NUMA are instrumental in help prevent a massive terror attack in Istanbul by the Celik’s just days before the election and prevent the fundamentalist candidate from winning. Summer Pitt stumbles upon a manifest in England that dates to the time of Constantine and sheds new light on early Christianity through relics found by his mother Helena but finds herself followed and foiled by a rogue British archaeologist. It turns out all three Pitts have found things connected to the 4th century Roman gallery that is found in a cavern in Crete with numerous holy relics connected with Christ and the disciples.

This book continued the fantastic run of narratives since Dirk Cussler joined his father in writing the series, however this is the first that had some annoying plot holes. The biggest and most important for the narrative plot is how getting a fundamentalist Islamic candidate win the Presidential election of the secular republic of Turkey would lead to the Celiks once again coming to power, without really touching on this the Celiks are just psychopathic terrorist siblings of which Maria is the better character of the two. The secondary antagonist, Bannister Ridley, was a cleaver annoying—in a good way—character that added spice to the book. The Pitts being split up into individual stories before coming together at the end was smart decision because it allowed Dirk Jr. and Summer to grow as characters even though Pitt and Al Giordino continued to be the A-subplot.

Crescent Dawn continues the strong narrative installments since Dirk Cussler has joined his father in writing though a significant plot hole marred it slightly. Regardless of the usual clichés of the series, Clive Cussler’s signature franchise is going through its best stretch of books.

Dirk Pitt

Star Wars (Novelization)

Star Wars by George Lucas
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Based on earlier drafts of the industry changing film of the same name, Star Wars gave readers an early view of the film that would change media forever. Though credited to George Lucas, it was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster to very mixed results.

Not surprisingly the novel follows the narrative of the film, but with added scenes that help flesh out some of the backstory of characters and elements of the setting. While these aren’t surprising, what is surprising is that the novelization is based on earlier drafts of the film script and before the film was edited due to important scenes that are radically different between the two. These differences are not entirely bad, but they could have been better if they were well written. Throughout the novelization the writing is dry or clunky and the dialogue somewhat wooden, if not for the fact that I knew the plot of the film and was able to power through it might have taken me longer to read the story.

The novelization of Star Wars is fine as Alan Dean Foster did an admirable job in fleshing out the backstory though the overall quality of the writing isn’t his best. Personally, I would stick with the film as the novelization does not really add to the overall narrative.

Star Wars

Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many rabbits in popular culture, but none of them are as tough as the rabbits in this book. Watership Down by Richard Adams chronicles a colony of survivors throughout their adventures to create a new life for themselves while avoiding predators and rabbits that have gone off the deep end.

In the Sandleford warren, Fiver, a young runt rabbit who is a seer, receives a frightening vision of his warren’s imminent destruction. He and his brother Hazel fail to convince their chief rabbit of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own, accompanied by nine other rabbits who choose to go with them. After eluding the Owsla, the warren’s military caste that believe they are trying to spread dissent against the chief, they make their way out into the world. Hazel quickly and suddenly finds himself the leader of the travelling group. After a series of dangerous situations, they come across a rabbit named Cowslip that invites them to join his warren. At first Hazel’s group are relieved, but soon several of them—especially Fiver—believe something is wrong which is confirmed when Bigwig is nearly killed in a snare. Fiver tells the group that Cowslip’s warren is managed by a farmer who protects and feeds the rabbits, but also harvests several of them for their meat and skins. Hazel’s group continue their journey and are joined by Strawberry, a rabbit from Cowslip’s warren. Following Fiver’s visions, the group finds a safe place to settle, the titular Watership Down. They are found by Holly, the head of the Sandleford Owlsa, and Bluebell find the group and related the violent human destruction of their former warren. Hazel soon realizes the new warren needs does or it would eventually die out. With the help of their useful new friend, a black-headed gull named Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren called Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does. Hazel sends a small embassy, led by Holly, to Efrafa to present their request for does. Hazel scouts the nearby Nuthanger Farm finding two pairs of hutch rabbits that express willingness to come to Watership. Hazel leads a raid on the farm the next day and rescues the does and one buck but at the cost of Hazel getting seriously injured a hind-leg. The embassy returns with news that Efrafa is a police state led by the despotic General Woundwort that they barely escaped. However, Holly’s group has managed to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay who wishes to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join in the escape. Hazel and Bigwig devise a plan to rescue Hyzenthlay’s group and bring them to Watership Down; Bigwig is sent to do the mission, with infrequent help from Kehaar, and the group escape using a raft. Again, Bigwig nearly dies in the escape attempt. Once they are at Watership Down, the Efrafan escapees start their new life of freedom. Shortly thereafter, the Owsla of Efrafa, led by Woundwort himself, attacks but their surprise is ruined by Hazel’s friendship with the field mice. Through Bigwig’s bravery and loyalty, and Hazel’s ingenuity, the Watership Down rabbits seal the fate of the Efrafan general by unleashing the Nuthanger Farm watchdog. After the battle Woundwort is missing and Bigwig severally injured while Hazel is almost killed by one of the Nuthanger cats but saved by the farm girl Lucy. The epilogue finds Hazel visited by El-ahrairah, the spiritual overseer of all rabbits and hero of the traditional rabbit stories told over the course of the book. He invites Hazel to join his own Owsla, which Hazel does after assurance of the warren’s success and its future.

How can a nearly 500-page book about rabbits be so entertaining? Is this a children’s story or just literature? Honestly, I don’t care as this book was a fantastic read from the characters to the various adventures to the unique types of warrens that Adams has the rabbits encounter and create. In any case I will never view rabbits the same again, both in a good and a bad way (they are violent little furballs).

Watership Down is a fantastic book with not only adventures but stories of adventures that inspire said rabbits. Richard Adams crafted not only a great narrative but great characters that grew throughout the book. This book was recommended this book by a friend and now I can recommend it to others as well.