The premise of the first standalone in Jason Anspach and Nick Cole’s Galaxy’s Edge series is simple: what if Darth Vader went to Dagobah instead of Luke Skywalker?
But reducing IMPERATOR down to that single question does a disservice to the first glimpse beneath the hood of the Emperor, Goth Sullus. Here they lay bare his history, his motives, his rise to power, and even the secret of his name. Part character study and part secret history of Galaxy’s Edge, Anspach and Cole weave three plot lines together, his present, his past, and our near-future, into the action and mysteries readers have come to expect from Galaxy’s Edge and its inspiration, Star Wars.
There is a risk to revealing so much about Goth Sullus so soon, as the list of villains who lost their appeal alongside their air of mystery is long and distinguished. Fortunately, Anspach and Cole deliver. Not only do they portray Sullus as sympathetic even as his choices cause him to fall, the revelations about his long and near immortal history open up even more mysteries for readers to ponder and explore.
Clever Star Wars fans may recognize Sullus’s motivations in conquering the galaxy as similar to the Emperor’s in the Star Wars Extended Universe. And there are plenty of callbacks to a galaxy far, far away, taken from all eras, even Rogue One. Suitably repurposed, of course. Like a kaleidoscope tumbler, Galaxy’s Edge takes the old images, symbols, and stories from Star Wars and puts them together in new and novel forms. After all, Darth Vader never went to Dagobah to learn the Force. The shuffling or familiar elements creates that Star Wars but not-Star Wars taste that so many readers are craving.
That Imperator and Galaxy’s Edge never fall into fanfiction and pastiche is a credit to Anspach and Cole as writers. But its what else they did that’s more impressive. They expanded the palette of tropes, settings, and conventions used in Star Wars-style space operas. Take the military grit of Black Hawk Down, the horror of Event Horizon, the moral complexity of The Killer Angels, the post-apocalyptic setting of Book of Eli, and toss it all into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Did you expect to get Star Wars out of this mix? Because that’s what Jason Anspach and Nick Cole did in Imperator, and throughout all of Galaxy’s Edge with a kitchen sink of non-Star Wars tropes. And this mix of decidedly non-Star Wars tropes and conventions is somehow more Star Wars than the recent films that got to play with Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie.
But with the glowing praise comes a caveat: do not read Imperator before you finish Attack of Shadows, the fourth Galaxy’s Edge book. Goth Sullus’s story relies on and reveals many of the plot points and mysteries of that book.
For those who haven’t trusted dolphins since Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Larry Correia’s new audiobook, A MURDER OF MANATEES, is for you. Performed by Animal Mother himself, Adam Baldwin, the second adventure of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, places Tom and Jimmy the Intern in a race against the clock to find the missing Wendell T. Manatee before every Florida in every multiverse is destroyed in retaliation. (As Tom points out, manatees love to blow stuff up.) Plus Tom gives professional advice to Larry Correia–the writer, not the Interdimensional Lord of Hate and the inventor of the Combat Wombat. Apparently writing himself into his own story is a bad decision, and Larry should strive to be more professional, like Stephen King or Clive Cussler.
Like all humor, tastes vary, depending on whose sacred cows are getting gored. Or, more appropriately, whose cows just got hit by the Death Star. Larry Correia cuts loose on A Murder of Manatees, as he does in every Tom Stranger adventure, and all subtlety and restraint are gone. It’s open season on memes and news makers, wrapped up in exploding mechs, dimension hopping, bar fights, and evil dolphin mercenaries. Or pretty much the average day on Correia’s blog, where many of the jokes originated.
Following in the steps of Monster Hunter International, Correia doubled-down on the challenge to find the most boring occupation possible, and makes excellent customer service amusing. Straight-laced Tom Stranger is a droll badass who lives to provide exemplary customer service, while Jimmy is a parody of a college protester who used not just charisma, but all his stats, as a dump stat. And while Jimmy is the butt of some well-deserved jokes, he also gets a chance to shine every now and again, much to Tom’s confusion and wonder. This odd couple works well together with Tom navigating the perilous currents of interdimensional insurance while Jimmy blunders into usefulness.
An audiobook lives and dies on the performance of the narrator. Adam Baldwin is an inspired choice, forgoing the customary detached and dry delivery to gleefully revel in the madness. His rapid and forceful pacing adds to the intensity of Correia’s chaotic action scenes, while giving a touch of deadpan to the humor. Oh, and Baldwin’s attempts to speak the highly nuanced and melodic manatee language have to be heard to be believed.
Just not while drinking.