The Threeway: Top Three Star Wars Characters that Most Deserve Stand-Alone Movies (Adam’s Take)

3smallWe here at the Sweep The Leg were looking for a way to discuss the new Star Wars stand alone movies (one being penned by Lawrence Kasdan). Rumor is a Yoda movie. Meh. Another is that Lucas is pitching a Jabba one. Double Meh (triple in that I want Lucas as far away as possible). Instead of rehashing old news and rumors we thought we’d go a step further. Let’s talk the three characters most deserving of a Stand Alone film (and, I’m going with the theory that Han, Luke, and Leia are “saga only” characters. So, no “Space Solo” or something, although, if I wanted a stand alone Solo film I think Anthony has the best take on it here.):

rogues1) Wedge Antilles – a completely side character who is overshadowed in the Trilogy. But he completely shines in the books. Further adventures of Wedge (and Rogue Squadron) would rock. I loved Stackpole’s (and Allston’s) X-Wing book series (a new one came out last year…mental reminder: need to pick that up) and could make a great stand alone movie. It doesn’t need to follow the books – just the idea of following Wedge and the Rogues. You have a character with some name value (among the core fanbase) and a fleet (in Rogue Squadron) that can have cinematic legs (and get Disney merchandise execs drooling over toy tie-ins). Added bonus, depending on how far in the future Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are, you can seed this movie with back-story for those saga films.

2) Lando – here’s a character with a shadowy back story. We know he’s a gambler and once owned the Falcon but that’s about it (and, yes, I know there is more about him in the books – I just don’t care.) He somehow gets control of a mining community. That’s an interesting transition. I’m intrigued how that happens. The only thing is that I’m sick of prequels (everywhere) so…whereas I like this, I can easily live without it. Although, if we do lando_smoothanother prequel-based movie, how about “Jango Unchained” with an early Jango Fett story? Where he learns to become a Bounty Hunter after being freed from a chain gang (probably by a nice Hutt)? Added bonus if Mace Windu is in it.

3) Someone new. What a cop out! I don’t even name anyone! Go me! Here’s the thing: the sequel trilogy will take place at some point in the future. There will be (ostensibly) new characters. More importantly, there will be new characters introduced in Episode VIII and IX that weren’t in any previous movie (like VII). Why not a full origin or a character (or world, or story line) that is pivotal in the sequel trilogy? For instance, in the original trilogy, there could have been a movie before “Empire” that introduces us to Lando. Or, a movie before “Jedi” that follows Lando/Chewie searching for Han. Things that flesh out the next trilogy, without being a prequel later.

What do you think? Who’s most deserving of a film? Next week we’ll see who is least deserving (and I’ll try and not serious pitch Jar Jar in a remake of “Public Enemy”).

Ready Reader Two

readyplayerone

Rejoice Geeks! Ernie Cline has written again! Or, at least, is getting paid to promise to write again. Either way – a glorious day!

For those not in the know, last year Cline published “Ready Player One.” It might be the best novel ever written about 80s Pop Culture. Seriously, the ability to quote “WarGames” is an important skill/plot point. Not only is it packed with more 80s references than a good Kevin Smith movie* – it’s a fantastic story. If you haven’t read it – go get it. If you are reading this site there is no question you’ll devour that book.

Variety.com is reporting that Crown just bought the rights to Cline’s new book “Armada.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that they bought a “20 page treatment.” That means…there’s no book. There’s an idea, but no actual book. So, we wait. And wait. And wait.

My guess is that he delivers to them sometime next summer, they edit, he refines and it goes away for printing. I hope to see this in my hands by Spring 2014. (NOTE variety.com isn’t giving a timeline – I’m purely guessing.)

Wonder how many times I’ll re-read “Ready Player One” in the mean time.

* – yes, I know there are no good Kevin Smith movies anymore. But, “Clerks” or “Mallrats” would qualify. I could have said “more 80s references than the movie ‘Fanboys'” but that would have been overselling (given the author).

PSA (Halloween Edition): Click-Clack the Rattlebag

A few years back, Neil Gaiman decided he would start a new Halloween tradition, All Hallow’s Read. Instead of giving away gobs of processed sugar, he (and those brave enough to follow him) would give away scary (but not too scary) books to kids. If you were more inclined to give things away to an older crowd; well you could give scary (and these much more so) books to teens (and adults too).

In the spirit of the later, Gaiman teamed up with Audible to release a new scary short story, “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.” It’s a free download from Audible; with every download counting as a donation to DonarsChoose.org. It’s a quick listen and it will set the mood perfectly for your haunts this evening.

Just make sure you pay attention to the dark when you listen.

PSA: Zombies and Bloggers and eBooks – Oh My!

Just in time for that most hallowed of eves, the eBook edition of the first novel in Mira Grant’s excellent Newsflesh trilogy, “Feed,” is on sale for only $1.99!

That’s just under $2 for one of the smartest takes on zombies and new media I’ve read in a very long time. Seriously, it’s as much of a pro-Blogger book as it is an anti-zombie one. The characters are charming (in their own way) and the first book sets the stage for one of the better “horror genre” trilogies out there.

Worth it? You bet your rotted tuckus it is.

PSA: Bargain Basement Deities

I don’t know how long this deal will last, but the Kindle version of Neil Gaiman’s absolutely amazing “American Gods: 10th Anniversary Edition” is on sale for $3!

Being a mythology nut, this book is virtual catnip. Reading through and figuring out who all the deities are is well worth the price of admission. The fact that there’s a great story to back all the Mythology Nerdbait is a bonus. Grab it. You won’t be disappointed.

The Threeway: The Other Adam’s Take

While I may not be as big of Geek when in comes to comic books, tv shows, or tech gear, I do love a good sci-fi novel. For me the allure has always been the how far can an author go without making the reader throw their hands up and say,” why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

So for your humble appraisle I give my summary of what I think are the top three sci-fi books of all time.

RP1

3. “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline – I rarely say that I couldn’t put a book down, but this book is the exception. Being a gamer, I was hooked from page one, but what kept me there was Cline’s attention to detail, character development, and insane world building. The main character takes us through the inner workings of a virtual world that makes anything created to date look like a Commodore 64 (which is referenced numerous times in the book). As my fellow Adam stated in his article, the book is crammed to the hilt with 80’s pop culture, but what intrigued me was how Cline weaved that culture into something that you wanted to know about. Granted I’m pretty skilled on pop culture of that era, but he was pulling out stuff that went way over my head. This was written in a way though that didn’t frustrate the reader, but spurred them on to find out more about it.

Add in a fantastic big-bad, a treasure hunting protagonist on the run for his life, and a treasure hunt worth billions of dollars,  you end up with one heck of a good read.

2. “The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” by Douglas Adams – I always have appreciated an author who is brave enough to leave the realms of this planet for another. Douglas Adams took care of that by blowing the entire thing up to make way for a hyperspace bypass, and forcing our main characters to hitch a ride on a Vogon ship. From that point on things stop being weird and get flat out surrealistic. That has always been the appeal for me with this series, and of course we can’t forget the cast of self interested, egotistical, blundering, and down right nonsensical characters.

For example,  there’re plenty of stories out there about protagonists thrust into adventure. Arthur Dent makes it very clear that he never has and never will want part of any adventure, and would rather just spend the rest of his time traipsing through the universe in search of a good cup of tea.

More importantly we learn that there’s nothing more vital to intergalactic travel than a good towel. So at all costs please make sure you have your towel, your copy of “The Guide,” and no matter what “Don’t Panic.”

1. “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson – It takes a lot of guts to start your book with an epic pizza delivery, but it takes a stroke of genius to make it fit perfectly into the story as an important plot point. Not to mention we get a fantastic look into the personalities of the samurai sword wielding, pizza delivering, computer hacking main character named, “Hiro Protagonist,” and the loud mouthed, teenage, skateboard courier, Y.T.

Neal Stephenson does a fantastic job in painting his own version of a dark and depressed not-so-distant future where corporations really rule the roost. Much like “Ready Player One” most people prefer to stay online as opposed to dealing directly with the crippling poverty, corruption, and general anarchy that covers their waking world. That being said you do get to see much more of that world than you do in “RP1.” Taking you through in style through an everything from privately run city states to a nuclear aircraft carrier turned refugee camp, and how can I forget the tech, the TECH!

Stephenson does a fantastic job making technology that isn’t too far fetched. From simple things like super light body armor, to a nuclear powered guard dogs. Alright so that second one is a little crazy, but when your book is placed in a society that is run by corporations that have created their own rule, who’s to say what’s possible. Regardless, I love how everything reads as if I could hop online and buy it today.

So there you have it, I hope I can make it through my first Threeway without being to beaten down too badly, but when you belly up to the bar with two guys who most likely wear bantha underpants; you learn to keep your expectations low.

The Threeway: Top 3 Sci-Fi Novels (Adam’s Take)

We talk so much about movies and TV shows we sometimes forget about our other geek pursuits: books, gadgets, cooking utensils, etc. Today’s Threeway takes on one of those as we look at books and the three best scifi novels of all time:

3) “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons – “Hyperion” is plain awesome. Its only problem is that it is one long book that the publisher splint into two (with “Fall of Hyperion” being the second). “Hyperion” itself is “Canterbury Tales” in space as we find a group of pilgrims setting off for a distant world. Along the way, they tell each other tales of why they are on the ship and what they hope to find on the planet. Each tale is unique and memorable and awesome. Even before I became a father I was always thought “The Poet’s Tale” was best.

Strangely, none of the other books in the “Hyperion Cantos” (as the four book saga is known as) has the same structure. “Fall of Hyperion” takes place immediately after “Hyperion” ends (the book basically ends with “and then they reached the planet”). Then the next two books (“Endymion” and “Rise of Endymion”) are also like one giant novel split in half. But the short story element is gone. This is a series to read all of.

2) “Ready Player One” by Ernst Cline – I’m shocked that this didn’t make Anthony’s list. If you are reading this blog and haven’t read this book do so. NOW.

RP1

Go. GO! It is that great and engaging. The story takes its structure from the 80s ATARI game “Adventure.” In a not to distance future, the world pretty much sucks. Poverty, shanty houses, etc. The one cool thing is a giant online world treasure hunt. The Steve Jobs creator of the world has died and hidden his fortune (billions of dollars) within the game. The hook is that the guy lived and breathed 80s pop culture. Thus, everyone assumes that the key to winning the game is rooted in that knowledge. “Ready Player One” is the ultimate 80s fantasy played out in a space-age future.

1) “Ender’s Game” and “Speaker of the Dead” by Orson Scott Card – OK, this might be cheating a little but I don’t think so. Way back when, Card wanted to write “Speaker.” Before he could, however, he knew he needed to tell the story of Ender Wiggin. “Ender’s Game” started as few chapter introduction to “Speaker” that morphed into its own novel.

The two books aren’t similar in tone (“Game” is more adventure while “Speaker” more spiritual and socially conscious) but they compliment each other perfectly. Additionally, they are both great in their own way.

“Game” tells the tale of a young Ender Wiggin (6 years old) sent to Battle School to train as a solider (and possible last hope for humanity) to fight the Buggers. The story weaves in political turmoil on Eatrh, complex relationship that Ender has with other kids in the school (as well as his brother and sister) and some fantastic sci-fi concepts (the battle room portions are exhilarating and should be fantastic in the upcoming movie).

“Speaker” is nothing like “Game.” Taking place hundreds of years later on a distant planet. The story revolves around a human colony and their encounter with a new alien spices. Ultimately, the story is one of morality – as Card weaves a drama-filed tale from the human POV.

Unfortunately, the books don’t stop there. Card has milked this series for all he could. With…varying degrees of success. As a quick crib sheet:

Ender Series:
Ender’s Game – GREAT
Speaker for the Dead – GREAT
Xenocide – Ok. The series is beginning to slow down.
Children of the Mind – Not very good. But readable.
Ender in Exile – Good, but almost great. Card makes a strange plot choice about half way through that takes away from the overall experience.

Ender’s Shadow Series:
Ender’s Shadow – Great. Takes place during “Ender’s Game” but from an alternative POV.
Shadow of the Hegemon – Ick. The series gets bad, fast.
Shadow Puppets – Double Ick.
Shadow of the Giant – At least the series is over…until.
Shadow’s In Flight – Not bad. Mostly disposable end to the series.

First Formic Wars: (A new series – will be at least three books):
Earth Unaware – A very good beginning to the series. I’m intrigued about what will happen next. Tells the story of the first encounter humanity has with the Buggers.

The Threeway: Top 3 Sci-Fi Novels (Anthony’s Take)

Sci-Fi is one of the most underrated, and most important genres in modern fiction. When our grandfathers were young, Jules Verne wrote of circumnavigating the globe and flying to the moon. Utter fictions that were dismissed by “serious” readers; but still were potent enough to capture the imagination. Hundreds of years later, where are we? Those dreams planted in the minds of our forefathers took root and grew and shaped the world around us today. Sci-Fi can be escapist; but at its best, it shows us where we’re going, be it good or very, very bad.

3. – “Neuromancer” by William Gibson is a beautiful chestnut of a story. It may not be the most literary, or even the best written of Gibson’s novels; but it created a revolution in Science Fiction. “Neuromancer” heralded the rise of Cyberpunk. The story of Case and Molly isn’t nearly as important as the crunchy neon world in which they lived; a gritty reality where people did war in virtual spaces, heavily modified their bodies with tech, and basically thumbed their noses at the glittering rocket spires and shiny robots of “conventional” Sci-Fi. Read today, “Neuromancer” suffers from nostalgia for a near-future never realized. In which even the brilliant opening line “The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.” is a complete anachronism (if my son were to read this, he would assume the sky was black or blue…not the silver static that Gibson was evoking). The tech may not have turned out quite the way Gibson envisioned, but the echoes of “Neuromancer” can be found in every headline where hackers have hijacked yet another piece of the digital world upon which we base our lives.

2. – Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion” is a classic format: loosely related travelers gather to tell their tale on their way to achieve a common goal. But the magnitude of the world building done in “Hyperion” belies its classic roots and dwarfs nearly everything Simmons has written since. Set in a future so far-flung, it feels like the human race has doubled-back upon itself, seven pilgrims of wildly varying origins travel to encounter the Shrike – an omnipresent bogeyman that is seen by some as the destroyer of the universe and by others as its salvation. Unlike my other two choices, “Hyperion” is closer to the “Space Opera” sub-genre than anything else. However, Simmons is able to anchor his universe-spanning tale with characters that are utterly entrancing; as you learn more about them and their pasts, the anxiety slowly builds. It doesn’t matter that they are traversing a sea of grass on their way to the Time Tombs; you care about them and are forced to wrestle with the fact that the opponent they face will almost certainly destroy them. Utterly. Completely. The “Canterbury Tales” format was only used in “Hyperion,” and as a result, it’s the most gripping of the the four-book Cantos. Don’t let the length of the series intimidate you, even if all you read is “Hyperion,” you’ll have read something that accomplishes what very few Sci-Fi authors have achieved: Painted a universe that is impossibly large; and yet we still feel we know intimately.

1. – “Pump Six and Other Stories” by Paolo Bacigalupi is a brilliant collection where the author asks himself “What if…” and then runs with that central idea to its ultimate conclusion. Bacigalupi’s stories all have roots in our current societies and technologies; but he’s taken the modern inconsistencies (like heavily altered, natural grown food supplies) and amplified them until we are left with something that is barely recognizable as our own and yet, is familiar enough to be terrifying. The titular story, “Pump Six,” has kept me awake at night as I ruminate on the state of education and the seeming dearth of intelligent discourse in modern society. Actually, I’m reminded of a line from “Phineas and Ferb” where the father declares “Oh, you Americans; you’re all just like big, happy children!” Take that and extrapolate it into a future where nothing is built, nothing is fixed, nothing is created, and no responsibility is taken (because it’s someone else’s job…somewhere). As you start to understand the scale to which Bacigalupi has built his constructs, you cower from the conclusions being drawn. And that’s just one story. The others deal with radical food shortages, water wars, voluntary sterilization, and one somewhat hum-drum murder. Actually the murder story is something of a relief, if only because you can finally get your footing and say “Yes. This exact thing will not happen. I do not plan to kill my spouse.” Again and again, Bacigalupi takes our idyllic expectations of the future and runs them through a shredder. Sifting through the pieces is a process you shouldn’t deny yourself.