Friday, August 16, 2013

Evil Empires (Star Wars VS Putin)

Narrator Jonathan Davis is the best reason to order KENOBI by John Jackson Miller. It's the latest Star Wars novel, and there are plenty. In fact, the Empire of Star Wars can be likened to the war between Coke and Pepsi (Pepsi being Star Trek.) The novels fill out the movies and animated features within no less than seven distinct eras, from the Dawn of the Jedi, the Old Republic, the Age of the Empire, the Rebellion, the New Republic, the New Jedi Order, and finally to the Legacy. There are many writers for these novels, a current one being Miller, who also authored Star Wars: Knight Errant, Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories, and fifteen Star Wars graphic novels. "Kenobi" hails from the Rebellion era, and is over 13 hours long as it engages Obi-Wan in a battle on Tatooine between the Sand People and local farmers. Tusken Raiders are out of control, and only Obi-Wan, emerging from the shadows with the power of the Force, can level the playing field. Davis is a three time Audie award winner with a panoply of vocal tricks up his sleeve. For those older listeners wishing to hear more original science fiction than that presented within the Coke vs. Pepsi universe, see the SF listing and my interview with Davis at this site. Which is not to say that this novel isn't well written. It is. However, I must confess to only hearing about three hours of it, sampled from various points, and so cannot comment on the work as a whole. (I don't drink soda personally, and try to avoid empty calories since I'm nearer, now, to that age of ultimate doom, being more susceptible to the evils of a ravaging horde of dark side diseases.) In short, my own opinion holds that Star Wars and Star Trek are for mass audiences who may not be familiar with the works of...but that's another story. 
     For those who were alive in the 1960s, or have an interest in politics, try JFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS by Thurston Clarke, as read by the always easily followed and resonate-voiced Malcolm Hillgartner. The subtitle is "The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President." It's a week by week account of John F. Kennedy's life, the opposite of what is usually examined, (a president's first hundred days.) Reagan's "evil empire" challenged Kennedy in nuclear showdown, but JFK later enjoyed the summer of 1963, his last. An elusive man with many facets, Kennedy gave some of the best speeches ever, including one called the greatest speech ever given by a President on foreign soil. This is particularly notable after considering Khrushchev's "we will bury you" speech, and our current faceoff between Obama and Putin, in which Obama plays the Kennedy role (including being called a traitor and socialist as Kennedy was,) and Putin Khrushchev's naysayer "Age of the Empire" role. Some questions the book raises and attempts to answer are "Would the Vietnam War have happened, if JFK hadn't been assassinated?" Kennedy challenged advisors about Vietnam, and would have withdrawn advisors from South Vietnam. "How would civil rights advances and the war on poverty have played out?" and "Who exactly was Kennedy, given that he showed different aspects of himself to different people?" Clarke reveals that this question is more important than conspiracy theories about who shot him or was behind the shooting. It is the main question the book seeks to answer, sparking a tantalizing extrapolation of where America might be today had he survived. JFK's death was equivalent to killing Obi-Wan, causing "a great rift" in the Force (which was JFK's personal charisma and powers of positive and visionary leadership.) The audiobook is a fascinating journey back to that time, maybe not to the dawn of this flawed New Republic Jedi Knight, but to incidents within his nearly royal family which are less known to the public than is Queen Amidala's in Star Wars.  

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