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Abnett, Dan
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Allston, Aaron
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Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
Bear, Greg
Bendis, Brian Michael
Bischoff, David
Bisson, Terry
Blackman, Haden
Bova, Ben
Bowen, Carl
Brooks, Terry
Canavan, Trudi
Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
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Heinlein, Robert A.
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Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
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Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
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Paolini, Christopher
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Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
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Stevenson, Robert Louis
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Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
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Strnad, Jan
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Tolkien, J.R.R.
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Truman, Tim
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Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
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Reviewing Literature
The Books of Troy Denning

Troy Denning, who has written under the pseudonym Richard Awlinson, lives in Wisconsin with his wife, Andria.  Amongst others, he has written novels for the umbrella franchises of Star Wars and Forgotten Realms.

Average Review Score: 4.1 out of 5

Star Wars: A Forest Apart
An e-book set shortly before 'Tatooine Ghost', it was later republished in the novel's paperback edition.  Basically the story involves Chewbacca and his wife, Mallatobuck, trying to rescue their son Lumpy (short for Lumpawarrump, no less!) from a group of Imperial saboteurs in Coruscant's undercity.  Sadly, the story is little more than a merchandising gimmick to help the sales of 'Tatooine Ghost' and nothing terribly exciting or interesting happens in it.  It's not without any merit, it's nice to see Chewie interacting with his family and provides a bit of background to Lumpy's coming-of-age trials in the Black Fleet trilogy.  As always, Denning's prose makes for enjoyable reading, but ultimately, this is just a curiosity and not worth buying separately from 'Tatooine Ghost'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Tatooine Ghost
A stand-alone novel set between Dave Wolverton's 'The Courtship Of Princess Leia' and Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy.  Shortly after their wedding, Han and Leia broach the subject of children.  Han is in favour of the idea, but Leia is still haunted by the shadow of her father.  They, along with Chewie and C-3PO, are sent on a mission (shockingly, to Tatooine) to recover a painting that holds the key to a New Republic spy network.  This novel sets about tying the prequels and the post-RotJ Star Wars stories as Leia discovers Anakin Skywalker's past on Tatooine.  Denning uses the excellent idea of having Leia discover Shmi Skywalker's diary, thereby allowing Leia to view Anakin through the eyes of a loving mother, gaining a new perspective on Darth Vader.  Perhaps one of the most poignant moments is when Anakin's slaughter of the Tusken Raiders comes to light and Han says that he might have reacted the same way in similar circumstances.  This book wonderfully ties together Tatooine's story from the prequels, the classic movies and the Expanded Universe.  On top of the wealth of fan appeal (which includes a couple of Episode I's Podracers), Denning also writes an exceptionally compelling story of his own.  The scene in which Han is lost in the desert was so flawlessly written that I had to get a drink to ease my parched mouth!  One of the best stand-alone Star Wars books, fans should keep a look out for a certain red-eyed blue-skinned alien Imperial.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Recovery
This e-book was republished as the prologue to the paperback edition of 'Star By Star', but it is actually set directly after the events of Kathy Tyer's 'Balance Point'.  On Corellia, Leia is still crippled from the beating administered by Tsavong Lah on Duro and Han is desperately trying to keep them hidden from the Vong, the Peace Brigade and their other enemies.  Forced to flee from assassins, Han and Leia encounter a group of Jedi Knights unafiliated with Luke's Order and uncover a plot by the Senator Viqi Shesh.  This is definitely the best Star Wars e-book, in terms of length, quality of writing and the fact that it's not just an aside from the main novel, but is a complete and interesting story in and of itself.  I enjoyed learning about how the Wild Knights came to join the larger Order (they seemed to appear out of nowhere in 'Star By Star'), as well as seeing how Han and Leia repair their fractured marriage.  There's also a nice cameo by the black sheep of the Solo family; Thracken.
5 out of 5
'Outside the medcenter viewport, a ragged crescent of white twinkles known as the Drall's Hat drooped across the violent sky, its lower tip slashing through the Ronto to touch a red star named the Eye of the Pirate.'
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Star By Star
The ninth books of the NJO and a strong contender for the best Star Wars book of all time.  The story begins with the Jedi discovering a frightening new Yuuzhan Vong weapon; the Voxyn, a creature genetically engineered to hunt and kill Jedi.  The story then splits as a group of young Jedi set off on a mission to destroy the Voxyn Queen and the rest of the New Republic braces itself for a renewed Vong offensive.  The story of the young Jedi is excellent, allowing the newer Jedi Knights to step out of the shadow of the heroes of the movies.  The diverse makeup of the Jedi team gives the plotline a classic quest-story feel, the results of which will genuinely leave you reeling in shock.  Meanwhile, Denning also continues the war on a larger scale, dramatically telling the stories of battles, skirmishes and the like until, finally, the Vong appear in the sky above Coruscant itself.  Whereas some of the NJO books have been too dark and depressing for their own good, Denning manages to strike a balance, having the heroes score several minor victories to offset the two major tragedies.  This book is addictive reading and never fails to make you chuckle at the humour (particularly the YVH droids), feel sad at the losses and surprise you with it's twists (not least of which is that fact that Borsk Fey'lya turns into something of a hero!).
5 out of 5
'The dark sliver of a distant starliner crept into view, a blue needle of ion efflux pushing it across the immense sweep of a brilliant orange sun.'
Star Wars: Dark Nest I - The Joiner King
The first book of the post-NJO Dark Nest trilogy.  Set five years after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war, the reformed Jedi Council is disturbed by the news that several of their young Jedi, the survivors of the Myrkr mission in 'Star By Star', have disappeared into the Unknown Regions and apparently begun a war with the ruthless Chiss.  At first I had a great deal of trouble enjoying this book.  It stemmed from the fact that the old hive-mind thing has been done a dozen times before (not least with Star Trek's Borg) and therefore the first quarter or so of the book is fairly old hat.  Thankfully, once the unsurprising revelation about the hive-mind controlling the Jedi is passed the story gets much better as the Jedi begin their hunt for the Dark Nest.  This book is very much a follow-up to 'Star By Star', using many of the same characters (Denning continues to show his affection for the characters of the Young Jedi Knights series) and also resolving some of 'Star By Star's unanswered questions; particularly relating to the fate of Raynar Thul, Welk and Lomi Plo.  Denning also takes the opportunity to sew up some continuity problems caused between the New Jedi Order books and Timothy Zahn's 'Survivor's Quest'.  As he did with 'Tatooine Ghost', the author also manages to link the prequels into the continuing story, with Luke discovering some Episode III revelations buried deep in R2-D2's memory.  Another problem I had though, was the Jedi's 'new understanding of the Force' in which they use both the light side and the dark side in order to serve balance.  Frankly this is a really uncomfortable deviation from Star Wars' classic good-versus-evil core and no matter how much logic says that things are never as simple as good and evil, I'll never be comfortable with things like Mara using Force-lightning.  I enjoyed this book (it's great to see how different the galaxy is after the NJO) but flaws like the hive-mind thing, the new Jedi philosophy and the decidedly uncomfortable ending mean I can't give it full marks.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Nest II - The Unseen Queen
A year has passed since the events of 'The Joiner King' and the Galactic Alliance has discovered that the Dark Nest has been supplying pirates and smugglers with toxic black membrosia.  Luke and Han are held on one of the Killiks' new worlds when Raynar suspects the Jedi are behind a strange phenomenon plaguing the Colony.  Soon another war between the Colony and the Chiss begins to build up and, after Cal Omas throws the Jedi Order into turmoil, the Galactic Alliance is free to act without restraint.  Denning continues to be an excellent writer, but the story itself has some ups and some downs.  I enjoyed Jacen's new character direction, since I was just so sick of the preachy whining Jacen of the NJO.  Now he's more powerful, has talents no other Jedi does and his desire to protect something (I won't ruin the surprise) leads him into acts that may be the first steps towards the dark side.  One of the things I disliked was the circular arguments with Raynar.  We realised in the first book that the Dark Nest was manipulating him, so why belabour the issue here.  Another point in it's favour is Admiral Bwua'tu.  I thought he would be just another obstructive Bothan like Borsk Fey'lya, but I found myself coming to really like him.  On the down side, again, most of the story is left unresolved.  However, to end on a good point; this book is one of the first where I've actually liked Leia's bit - it's great that she's becoming a proper Jedi now.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Nest III - The Swarm War
As the war between the Killiks and the Chiss rages with no quarter given, the Jedi struggle to find the cohesion necessary to end the fighting.  I was very disappointed with this book.  The whole trilogy has turned out to be something of a nonevent and this book is the worst of them, largely repeating issues covered in the previous two books.  This is particularly apparent in Jaina and Zekk siding with the Killiks against the Chiss (just like in 'The Joiner King') or in the scene where the Jedi attack the Dark Nest's flagship (just like in 'The Unseen Queen') or in the scene where the Falcon is trying to avoid a Chiss boarding party (again, like in the first book).  Denning's writing of the ground battle on Tenupe somehow manages to capture the sense of dirt, noise and horror that it should have done.  I was very excited when the Killiks began attempting to take control of insect governments galaxywide, but that too proved an anticlimax and we never even got to see the retaking of Thyferra.  Another big disappointment was Jacen; rather than continuing his ruthless decisiveness, he's become deceptive and arrogant, leaving you with no sympathy for his inevitable fall to the dark side (which we're sure to see in the upcoming Legacy of the Force series).  Something else that bothered me was the way that the flashbacks to Anakin and Padme's relationship, provided by R2-D2, are all from Episode III and I definitely feel they would've been more effective if they'd shown snippets from all three prequels to Luke and co.  Also, the excellent character of Admiral Bwua'tu doesn't show his face here - another disappointment.  The book's only great moment is when Luke leads a battalion of Bugcruncher droids in attacking the Killik flagship and confronting both Raynar Thul and Lomi Plo.  However, even that bit isn't as good as it could have been.  Ultimately, this book shows the Dark Nest trilogy up for what it really is; a device for setting the appropriate scene for the Legacy series (ie with Luke as the Jedi Grand Master, Leia as a full Jedi Knight, Jacen starting towards the dark side, etcetera).
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Tempest
The third book of the Legacy series focuses on events taking place in the Hapes Consortium.  Jacen's descent into the dark side (see, told you so) continues as he find the woman he loves, Tenel Ka, and their secret daughter, Allana, threatened.  This is made worse when Han and Leia are implicated in an assassination attempt against Tenel Ka.  Meanwhile, Luke and Mara discover that the Sith Lumiya is working with Jacen's Galactic Alliance Guard and fear her influence over Jacen and Ben.  There were elements of this book which really disappointed me, however, that disappointment mostly stemmed from the lack of resolution to many of the story lines.  This is understandable considering that this is just a third into the series, but I would still have liked something more conclusive than the scenes in which everyone knows Jacen's evil, but decide to ignore their instincts and not mention it.  What this book does have is not one, but three dark side enhanced femme fatales.  Lumiya is one, obviously, and we do get her first confrontation with Luke of the series.  We also see the return of the increasingly-dismembered Dark Jedi Alema Rar, last see in 'The Swarm War'.  Finally, and this I was particularly pleased to see, Denning brings about the return of the Jedi-hunting dark sider Aurra Sing (who appears as a background character in Episode I).  I was frustrated by the way everyone (particularly Jacen) is quick to condemn Han and Leia.  You'd think 40 years of saving the galaxy over and over would give them some credit.  However, that frustration was balanced by the monster of a battle scene that Denning delivers with his usual skill.  I really liked Ben's failure to understand why Han and Jaina should be so horrified that Jacen names his new Star Destroyer the Anakin Solo and the way it shows how Jacen has been subtly twisting Ben's perceptions.  Perhaps the best element of the book is just how Darth Vader Jacen is becoming, what with the black outfit, the Force-choking of disobedient officers and the personal Star Destroyer.  I'm looking forward to 5, where Jacen is supposed to take on his Sith name (ie Darth 'Whatever').
4 out of 5
'The object of her desire was walking down the opposite side of the skylane, moving along a pedwalk so choked with vines and yorik coral that even the zap gangs travelled in single-file.'
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Inferno
The sixth book of the series.  Having already taken control of the Galactic Alliance Jacen Solo (aka Darth Caedus) uses Luke Skywalker's grief over Mara Jade's murder in an attempt to exert control over the Jedi Order.  However, Jacen's despotic policies turn against him when former allies suddenly switch sides to oppose him.  I was so relieved to finally see the people of the Star Wars galaxy stop and think 'Hang on, this guy's a bastard!', as I'd become completely sick of the way all the character kept avoiding the issue.  There are also a few really good storylines within the book which make it more exciting, the foremost of which is the GAG holding the Jedi Academy hostage.  Denning has always been a little too enamoured of his character Alema Rar and I've found her largely annoying up until now, but in this book she undertakes a quest to locate the hidden Sith Order so that it can guide Jacen's development following the death of Lumiya.  However, what really made this book worth the money for me was seeing Luke finally showing Jacen which one of them is truly the Master.
5 out of 5
'The scream and roar of combat began to reverberate through the empty grashal, and wisps of battle smoke materialized in the green beams of their helmet lamps.'
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Invincible
The ninth and final book of the series focuses on Jaina Solo and her quest to hunt down and kill the monster that used to be her twin brother.  Sadly as the conclusion to what has been a very interesting series, 'Invincible' falls far short of expectations.  Don't get me wrong, Denning's writing remains as compelling as ever and this is one of the best Jaina-focused stories we've seen.  No, where this book falls short is what it doesn't feature.  The final book of a series like Legacy of the Force should tie the various story threads together, providing a complete and satisfying conclusion to what has gone before (much as James Luceno's 'The Unifying Force' did for the New Jedi Order series).  Here we get a chapter-long description of a boring chase through Coruscant traffic and later things like the conclusion to the war and the rise of a surprising new Chief of State are handled in (literally) a couple of pages.  Interesting elements from previous books of the series, such as the hidden Sith or Wedge's daughters, don't even get a passing mention.  Perhaps the most irritating thing in this book is the fact that, much as he did with Raynar Thul in 'Star By Star', Denning writes Zekk out of the story with little or no explanation.  I mean, there's opening up potential for future stories, and then there's just plain leaving loose ends.  Another problem was the fact that each chapter was prefaced by a really god-awful joke supposedly told by a young Jacen Solo, which was clearly supposed to make us think about how cute he used to be, but instead made the arrogant prick we've seen in this series seem like an improvement!  It's not all bad news, of course, as well as Jaina's enjoyable story I also really liked the interplay between Ben Skywalker and Tahiri Veila, Caedus' former apprentice and current one.  It's Ben's determination to save the latest Sith (who's become quite the evil seductress) because of how close he came to standing in her shoes that makes this so compelling.  Overall, however, this book seems rushed and shallow, making it the weakest of the Legacy novels and a poor way to end the series.
3 out of 5
'Jaina Solo sits alone in the cold, her knees drawn tight to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs to conserve body heat.'
- - - Guest Review by Elephanto - - -
Star Wars: The Dark Nest Trilogy ('The Joiner King', 'The Unseen Queen' and 'The Swarm War')
The Dark Nest Trilogy are the first novels set after the conclusion of the New Jedi Order series and find themselves in the difficult position of telling a story in their own right as well as being a bridge to the upcoming Legacy of The Force series. The trilogy revolves around the insect race of Killiks and their territorial war with the Chiss, which of course the Jedi Order becomes deeply involved with. The books also provide a chance to see how thing have progressed for the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, the Jedi and the galaxy at large in the five years since The Unifying Force.  The New Jedi Order was a great series and its conclusion was excellent, however it left the galaxy with a lot of rebuilding to do both for the government and the Jedi so it was very interesting to see how they would be dealt with. I was very pleased to see that the Jedi Order had rebuilt with a new Jedi Temple on Coruscant and the new Jedi Academy on Ossus and that it is a valuable part of protecting the galaxy. In fact one of my favorite chapters from the trilogy serves as a tour of the Jedi Academy on Ossus showing the Jedi students of different ages training. In addition we see that although the Jedi still have a place on the Galactic Alliance Advisory Council there are also less formal masters' councils which help run the Order, which I thought was a good idea. Now while these are not major plot points or events they were important elements to establish in the post NJO era and I was glad to see these were sorted out.  The Killik/Chiss crisis was an interesting conflict but I also enjoyed how it served as means for the trilogy to tackle some weighty issues affecting the Star Wars galaxy, for example the question of whether the Jedi serve the Force or the galactic government and how the Jedi use the Force. These both come into play as the Order is divided over their involvement in the Killik/Chiss situation and both these issues are nicely explored throughout the trilogy and are resolved in a way I was satisfied with, the Jedi realising that they serve the force best by helping the Galactic Alliance and a move instigated by Luke back towards the more traditional view on how the Jedi should use the force.  Another thing that I really liked about Dark Nest was the Killik hive mind and how, at least in my opinion, it worked as a fascinating parallel to the Force, with the way the divide between the Conscious/Unconscious divide of the Killik mind that came about when Raynar, Lomi Plo and Welk created the colony which mirrored the Light/Dark divide in the Force. I thought it was a good move by Denning as it gave me plenty to think about, plus it really made sure the Killiks had their own distinct feel and relevancy to the Star War universe, when they could have simply been yet another insect hive mind.  Denning has a very good handle on the main characters and I found that Han, Luke and Leia were spot on for me throughout the trilogy with Luke and Leia in particularly being developed very well. The characters of Denning's own creation both new in Dark Nest and from his previous books were also extremely enjoyable particularly the smugglers Jae Juun, Tarfang and the Barabel Jedi Master Saba Sebatyne. The depiction of Ben Skywalker was handled nicely in the first two books giving us the first real insight into what he is like as a character, although it was a pity he only got a couple of mentions in 'The Swarm War'. The young Jedi Knights had some good moments throughout the books especially the fascinating direction Jacen is taking however the conclusion of the Zekk and Jaina story was abrupt to say the least.  In conclusion the Dark Nest Trilogy was a good read, it was full of the setup and background information that I had hoped for, plus a plot that while not galaxy shattering in scale was compelling enough particularly in light of the clever use of the Killik hive mind. The action was sharp and engrossing and as usual the characters were written well especially as some were taken in bold new directions. This is not to say the trilogy was without fault as 'The Swarm War's ending certainly felt abrupt and some characters didn't get as much conclusion as I would have liked, mainly Jaina and Zekk. The books also did suffer from being a bridging story between the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force which I think may have limited what could be revealed at the end of 'The Swarm War' as much was being saved for use in LOTF.
4 out of 5

If you liked Denning:
Then, once again, James Luceno is more than worth a look.

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