Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Republic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss. This is a Star Wars book, so this may only be of interest to a few million (maybe few hundred million) people on the planet. I believe this book can also interest many people who are not fans of Star Wars. If you’ve never heard of Star Wars, please tell me which planet you hail from as I am interested in interstellar travel. I am recommending this book because: 1) I like it (surprise), and 2) this Friday is May 4th, which has been deemed Star Wars day.

Now, onto the details. This book follows the missions of a elite four-man squad of commandos during the Clone Wars era of this franchise. What makes it great, besides the spec ops side of the story, is the special look into the lives of these soldiers. They are clones bred for one purpose and trained excruciatingly to be the best. They are not considered human but rather government/army property. The names they are given are tied to their number designations or a reference to their specialty (i.e. the name of one demolitions expert is Scorch). When grown (they were grown not born), their genes were manipulated so they aged twice as fast as a normal human. This was done so the soldiers would be ready in half the time it would have normally taken. Because of this, almost all of these soldiers are literally ten-year-olds in twenty year old bodies. This accelerated aging becomes a point of interest later on in the series. Yes, it is a series of five books that starts during the Clone Wars and ends after the formation of the Empire.

This first book focuses on one squad of commandos, a Jedi, and the squad’s original Mandalorian trainer who is one of a handful who believes these men/boys deserve much better than what they were given and will fight to help them. I won’t go into the specifics of their mission in this book to stay away from spoilers. The second book brings in another four-man squad of commandos. This squad is actually the one you get to play as/with in the Republic Commando video game that came out in 2005 and was incredible. I still play it from time to time.

What I think is most interesting about this series are the conflicts that occur because these elite soldiers are clones. The way they are treated/viewed by the citizens of the galaxy they are fighting for is saddening and, I hate to say, realistic. The psychological and physical issues are staggering and can mirror many problems we face in our own, real world.

Karen Traviss (who has written books from several franchises) does a great job portraying this squad. She is an excellent writer of action/military/science fiction. If you don’t like Star Wars, try another one of her books.

I know even the fans of Star Wars are split on several issues including how the newest movies are altering the fictional world they know and not meeting some expectations (which happens). This franchise has changed the world several times over the last 40+ years. I was even a little upset when I found out that all of the books that take place after episode six were unceremoniously thrown aside and we are supposed to act like they never existed. Of course I hate that. There were many awesome stories in those books and I’m sure those authors worked hard to make those stories not only compelling but fit into the overall story of the franchise/universe. All that elaborate work seemingly no longer relevant or included. I haven’t read all of them (not even close, there are so many). I’ve only read a few. This series is by far my favorite of this franchise. Luckily it is still part of the Star Wars canon.

Happy Reading.

1440 Minutes

Everyone wondered where Matthew’s ideas came from. He always answered as if he didn’t know himself, and there was some truth in that answer. The part he always omitted was something he didn’t think anyone would believe. He never understood it well enough to explain it in detail.

Matthew only knew they came at night like spiders through the window climbing up to whisper in his ear. He would sit down at midnight, every night, and write the words as they came to him. The quicker the words came, the faster he would write, and every night the words would halt at 1:00am.

What Matthew didn’t know was his ideas originated in his blood. He didn’t know it takes one minute for blood to fully circulate throughout the body. He never knew that in his right femoral bone marrow, a new white blood cell was created every day, at 11:59pm.

Death of an Immortal

The world had grown quiet. For nearly three decades, the world had come to know a form of peace. Many attributed this to the deeds of the ubiquitous being known as Savoir. In a way, they are right, but the truth is the world grew quite from fear. No one dared perform a criminal act because Savoir would be there to confront them. He could stop over ten crimes simultaneously no matter where they were taking place. He once stopped a robbery in China while also preventing the sabotaging of an oil rig off the southern coast of Chile. It didn’t matter what the crime was, he would be there. Any malicious act, no matter how small, was met with the hulking figure of Savoir. Governments congratulated him, honored him, and would not dare condemn his actions, even if those actions fell outside of the laws they had created. Many people loved him. They called him a hero. Some worshiped him as a god. Many feared him.

Nobody knew who he was, where he came from, or what his abilities were. His form was human though many speculated he was not born on Earth. He first became known to the world when he prevented a skirmish between Russian, American and French soldiers in the area formerly known as Ukraine. His large figure, shrouded in thick layers of his poly-chromatic cloak stood between the opposing forces. Within an instant, he at the front lines of either side, crushing tanks and other vehicles, snapping rifles like straw, but never harming any soldier. He disarmed both armies before a single bullet was fired. Within two weeks, every firearm on the planet had been destroyed and every factory of weapons were shut down. Nuclear silos were found empty by inspection teams the world over. What became known as The Ceasefire was his first act upon the world.

Nations at first listed him as the greatest threat to mankind. They formed alliances to stop him, but nothing could be done. Any weapon made was promptly destroyed or disappeared. Any attempt to capture him failed. Governments poured resources together to figure out who this person was. In their efforts they theorized his movements were based on a form a teleportation. He seemed to possess super strength or an ability to levitate objects. His physical features were never seen. His cloak revealed nothing. No eyes, hair, or even skin could be seen beneath the ever-changing movement of the fabric seemingly made of cosmic dust.

It took eight years after his first appearance before governments stopped their public research into what he was. They of course continued behind closed doors but the research never progressed. No longer able to fight, governments turned to open negotiations for key resources. Some economies grew slowly despite flourishing trade. Others still collapsed, and many countries experienced famine and epidemics. Savoir either could not or would not assist in natural disasters or the choices of organizations to refuse aid to others. Humanity continued to grow disproportionately for another twenty years. Many of the world’s resources were collected by a small few. The rest of the world was left to fend for themselves…until Savoir met the small girl known as Zemora.

Zemora grew up in the once prosperous Botswana in the hallowed city of Mookane. Her family had been swept away as in a wave of diseases crossing the continent. She was left alone at the age of six surviving off of scraps left behind by those migrating south seeking safety. Home was a closet in an empty apartment closet. Despite knowing Savoir was out there to protect her from any physical harm, she locked herself away every night against both the cold and other peoples passing through.

For ten years she survived in the deserted city. Nearly thirty years after the appearance of Savoir, she found a pointed, sharp metal fragment no larger than the length of a finger. She turned hid it away for months. Then, one day, she locked herself in the closet. Light pierced the empty spaces around the door. She pulled the metal from her secret area beneath the loose floorboard and placed it across her wrist.

“What are you doing, child?”

She dropped the metal fragment and looked up to see the moving colors of Savoir’s cloak.

“I am going to see my family,” she said, picking up the metal sliver again.

“I cannot allow you to harm yourself,” the deep, phantom voice said.

“Why not? I am not causing harm to others. Not that you seem to care about human life.”

“I do not care for anything. I only live by a code that preserves life.”

“What about the disease that takes life? What about my family? Why didn’t you save them?”

“They were not in direct harm.”

“They died!”

“All living things die. I cannot change the fate of the universe. I only prevent your kind from unbalancing the life-stream.”

“Life-stream? What does that even mean? Everyone knew you weren’t human. Why are you here?”

“Many questions of which I’ve answered all but one. I am here to protect the balance of the life-stream. I follow where it flows and prevent obstructions.”

“Why don’t you tell this to everyone else? Why let us guess? We can help your cause if you teach us.”

“So many questions. Much like a…what is your word…infant,” he said, “I cannot interfere more than I have. You must learn and grow as you were meant to. I am here only to-”

“Balance the life-stream. Yeah, you’ve said that.” She still held the metal sliver. She knew he would prevent her from harming herself, but part of her believed she still had the ability to make any decision for herself. She knew, though, in the back of her mind, that this decision was already made for her. She sat in silence as Savoir hovered above her.

“Why do you stay?”

“The obstruction has not yet cleared. Once your kind has learned balance, then I shall follow the life-stream to the next obstruction.”

“How can we learn to have balance? Can’t you teach us and leave us alone?”

“Balance cannot be taught. Only learned. No,” he said, predicting her next question as he had for many others, “increasing the amount of life does not bring balance.”

“So you will let us die.”

“All living things d-”

“I know! You said that already.” Tears were welling in her eyes. She pressed the metal against her skin and it disappeared.

“I cannot allow you to inflict harm. You must continue.”

“Do you even know what it means to be here? To breath? To feel? Can you even comprehend what life-” her voice caught and she sobbed into the blankets that were her bed. Savoir hovered in silence above her until her sobs subsided and she once again found her voice. “Do you even know what it means to die?”

He had never been asked this question. In the thousands of years traversing the stars, he had believed he had heard every question life had for him. He was surprised to hear a question from death. A question he could not answer.

“Well?” she waited. “Do you know what death is, or are you immortal? Free from the chains of mortality.”

He left a physical body behind with Zemora and slipped into the life-stream to find his answer. He was within it for years searching and returned once he found it. Zemora did not notice his absence since he still hovered above her and his answer came mere seconds after her question.

“I was,” he said, “but now I must correct the imbalance caused by my own causality.”

“You’re leaving? But what will happen? No one cares about each other on this planet. They will return to killing each other once they know you are gone.”

“I will be gone, but you shall remain.” He offered his poly-chromatic cloak to her. His figure still hidden. She stood, hesitant to take it. “You have been chosen as the next Emissary. The cloak fell into her open hand and what had been Savoir, whatever he could have been, was gone.

Zemora drew the cloak around her and slipped into the life-stream. A minute passed on Earth before she emerged two thousand years wiser. She would build this world as it was meant to be. Then she would wade back into the life-stream until she uncovered the next obstruction.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd. Fair warning, there will be a few caveats in the recommendation, but know I am recommending this book because I like it. The story follows Isak who is a white-eye. White-eyes are born bigger, more charismatic, and more powerful than normal men. Basically chosen by the gods to be leaders and, theoretically, guide humanity to create a good world (because we have a hard time of doing this for ourselves). White-eyes are still technically human though, and they have their faults. Bad tempers being one of them, which makes it hard going when they are often outcasts. Isak is an outcast, but is given an opportunity when he is chosen as heir-elect by Lord Bahl, Lord of the Farlan. From here the adventure ramps up. Full of magic and epic fights, this book and its sequels are a great read, especially for fans of fantasy.

Now, the few limitations I have to reveal about this recommendation are: It has been some time since I’ve read this book, and I have only read the first three books of this series. I found this book as most people find books, in the bookstore (you can find it in libraries too of course). I read it, then the next, and the next….and then I found out the fourth book was not yet published. Of course it was a bummer because that meant waiting for the story to continue (damn authors not finishing their work to fit my schedule, I say hypocritically (and in jest) while still working on my first novel). I went on reading other books and didn’t know that the next two books came out, but I will be returning to this series. I’ll probably start over and read them all the way through, especially since the series is now completed.

If you’ve beaten me to finishing this series, please let me know how you liked it (spoiler free please). If I end up beating you to finishing the series, I’ll update this recommendation

Happy Reading.

A Gem Full of Living Things

She watched the horses prancing through the fields below and smiled. The sun’s rays warmed her while the breeze was barely cool enough to notice. Lunch had been a plate of carrots, potatoes, and chicken. Now, in the afternoon daylight, she let herself wonder the hills and take in the land.

The plains were beautiful and green and the mountains beyond them were a dreamlike backdrop she once imagined could only exist in movies.

She sighed and sat down, running a hand down her dress to prevent it from bundling beneath her. Days like these made her believe this whole world was made simply to exist. No higher meaning. No explanations. A place where she could simply sit in the sage grass and look at all the wonderful things and be happy. It was all peaceful. Even the storm crawling over the mountains was beautiful.