Wednesday, October 28, 2009

David: Rancor Spotting #11 (Legends)

Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force by Ryder Windham, pages 198-200
Rancors pop up in this book in the section titled Other Force-Using Organizations as part of a summary of Force Wtches. These witches lived in enclaves on various planets and drew their power directly from the light side of the Force. On the other side were the Nightsisters, a group of witches that had embraced the dark side and were exiled to form their own clan. The most noteworthy of the Force Witches were the ones on the planet Dathomir. See Rancor Spotting #9 for more information about Dathomir.
The book points out that a banished Jedi Knight named Allya tamed the rancors on Dathomir to do her bidding and instituted a symbiotic relationship between rancors and Force Witches that continues to this day. It also informs us that a rancor named Tosh, herd leader of the Singing Mountain Clan’s rancors, provided the following narrative, which had been passed down over many generations.
Listen, children, to the story of how our ancestors first met the Witches.
A sickly female rancor met a Witch who healed her, and the Witch rode on the rancor’s back, and learned to speak the rancor’s tongue. By riding the rancor’s back, the Witch was able to spot food better with her sharp eyes that see well even in the daylight, and the rancor thrived and became huge. In time, she became a herd mother, and her herds prospered while others died out.
Back then, the rancors did not know how to make fine weapons like spears or nets. They did not know how to protect themselves with armor. Because the Witches have taught them such great things, the rancors must always love the Witches and serve them, even when they make unreasonable demands to give them rides through the wilderness or ask us to fight the Nightsisters.
Never serve the Nightsisters, children. They’ll treat you badly, as if you were mere slaves. Their taste is foul, so it is best to crush them. If you cannot crush them, then escape from them, for then you can continue to serve the good Witches, and hope to crush the Nightsisters another day.
Try to imagine a rancor covered in armor and brandishing a spear. Whew!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

David: Rancor Spotting #10 (Legends)

--> Return of the Jedi by James Kahn
Star Wars fans were first introduced to the Rancor in the film of Return of the Jedi. We all remember when Luke dropped into the pit in Jabba’s throne room, what he faced there, and how he dealt with the situation. An unforgettable moment. Clearly, this should have been Rancor Spotting #1, but such is not the case in this blog. Sorry.
Here is how Mr. Kahn sets the scene in the book.
In the pit below, Luke picked himself up off the floor. He found he was now in a large cavelike dungeon, the walls formed of craggy boulders pocked with lightless crevices. The half-chewed bones on countless animals were strewn over the floor, smelling of decayed flesh and twisted fear.
Twenty-five feet above him, in the ceiling, he saw the iron grating through which Jabba’s repugnant courtiers peered.
The guard beside him suddenly began to scream uncontrollably, as a door in the side of the cave slowly rumbled open. With infinite calm, Luke surveyed his surroundings, as he removed his long robe down to his Jedi tunic, to give him more freedom of movement. He backed quickly to the wall and crouched there, watching.
Out of the side passage emerged the giant Rancor. The size of an elephant, it was somehow reptilian, somehow as unformed as a nightmare. Its huge screeching mouth was asymmetrical in its head, its fangs and claws set all out of proportion. It was clearly a mutant, and wild as all unreason.

As we all know, Luke’s battle with the Rancor continues from this point and ends several pages later with the Rancor keeper weeping openly. Truly a classic moment in the Star Wars saga.

Friday, October 23, 2009

David: Rancor Spotting #9 (Legends)

--> Star Wars: The Essential Atlas by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry, page 56
The Essential Atlas is beautifully done and is an excellent reference book for those who want to know where the events of Star Wars actually take place. With particular emphasis on our rancor spotting efforts, the atlas points out that the planet of Dathomir is well known as a home for rancors. Here are the key references.
“Dathomir is notorious among spacers for its two primary exports – rancors and witches. Though the planet boasts stunning natural beauty, nothing can overcome its reputation as a place of animal savagery and dark magic.”
“Two warm-blooded reptilian species have developed intelligence on Dathomir. The first, the Kwa, built a pre-Republic empire before their reversion into primitivism as the Kwi. The second species are the famed rancors, whose complex familial bonds have led researchers to classify them as semi-sentient.”
“In 600 BBY Allya, an exiled Jedi Knight, took command of Dathomir’s Paecian descendants and established a matriarchal society with a genetic Force component on Dathomir. Thus began the legend of Dathomir’s witches – female rancor tamers who used totems and incantations as props to work their Force-triggered wonders.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

David: Rancor Spotting #8 (Legends)

Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species by Ann Margaret Lewis / Helen Keier (text) and Chris Trevas / William O’Connor (illustrations), pages 136-137

These two pages offer the most detailed summary of rancors in all of the Star Wars literature. Home world – Dathomir / Ottethan. Average height – 5+ meters. They are described as huge, mostly vicious reptilian creatures with huge saliva-dripping fangs and long, sharp claws. They are fearsome fighters and prefer fresh, raw meat. The influence of rancors goes beyond their own environment. Rancor Rising is a sequence of movements in the teras kasi martial arts tradition. Rancor hide is used in leather consumer goods such as boots. Items carved from rancor teeth are often valuable.

These items are just teasers. There is much more. Check out The New Essential Guide to Alien Species for good information on rancors as well as many other Star Wars creatures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

David's Review of The New Rebellion (Legends)

5/5 Rancors - The New Rebellion is the first book written by Kristine Kathryn Rusch that I have read. I thought she did an excellent job in describing the characters’ actions and in establishing the appropriate Star Wars atmosphere. Plus, the book was just fun to read.

The tale she weaves has the New Republic in serious trouble. Some mysterious force in the galaxy has caused the deaths of millions of beings marked by the associated result of a major disruption in the Force felt by Luke at his Jedi Academy and by Leia on Coruscant. Then a bomb explodes in the Senate Hall causing death and destruction. Allegations soon surface that Han Solo was involved. The mysterious force turns out to be a former student of Luke’s who has assumed the name of Kueller. He has strong powers in the Force and is bent on the destruction of Luke, Leia, and Leia’s Force-sensitive kids.

Ms Rusch tells a good story. We have Han going back to Smuggler’s Run in an attempt to obtain information from some of his old smuggler associates. Han gets in trouble and Lando comes along in a rescue effort. Then Lando gets into serious trouble and Han mounts a rescue effort. Chewie is involved being his usual self. Luke is caught up in a personal battle with Kueller. Leia resigns her office as Chief of State and goes to help Luke. The book has a lot going on.

The New Rebellion also has one of my favorite scenes from the entire Star Wars saga. Artoo and Threepio are on their own for a while on a planet that is primarily a droid factory. Droids of all types are built there, most of them from used parts. The factory has room after room of droids, and our heroes end up in a room full of dormant astomech droids. R2 manages to spur the droids into action and mobilizes them in a flight to freedom. While R2 leads the astromechs, Threepio follows along constantly lamenting their fate but actually lending a hand in the fighting once in a while. I loved reading it.

The New Rebellion is an outstanding Star Wars tale.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

David's Review of The Black Fleet Crisis Book 3: Tyrant's Test (Legends)

4/5 Rancors - Tyrant’s Test is the third book in The Black Fleet Crisis, a trilogy by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. It picks up where Shield of Lies left off. The New Republic is in a tough situation. The Yevethan have turned out to be a real threat. They have continued their campaign of genocide, and now they have Han Solo as a hostage. As Chief of State, Leia has to convince the Senate to approve a war against the Yevethan. At the same time, as a wife and mother, she has to deal with having her husband being brutally tortured by Nil Spaar, the leader of the Yevethan. None of the solutions that are open to her appear to be ideal.

As was true in the first two books, we have three main stories going on. Lando, Lobot, R2, and Threepio are aboard the Teljkon vagabond and are trying to understand why such a mysterious craft is just moving aimlessly through space. Luke continues his mystical journey with Akanah in search of the Fallanassi. This section remains by far the weakest of the storylines in the trilogy, even though Luke and his new friends do play a major role in the conclusion of the book. It was refreshing to see that he finally got something useful to do, and his story does tie in with Leia’s. Leia continues to have the best storyline. All of the political maneuvering is interesting, and her efforts to defeat the Yevethan and save her husband are strong.

One new storyline in this third book brings Chewbacca into the action, and he is a welcome addition. Chewie learns of Han’s capture by the Yevethan, and he immediately springs into action. Chewie, his son Lumpawarrump, and some other Wookies head for the Koornacht Cluster to rescue Han. Nothing seems to hamper their efforts and they have a wonderful sequence on the Yevethan flagship as they work their way to Han.

Mr. Kube-McDowell is capable of writing an interesting story. He loves to introduce new alien species, and his descriptions of political maneuvering are excellent. However, he may have spread himself a little thin in making The Black Fleet Crisis a trilogy. He could have omitted a lot of Luke’s story throughout the three books and obtained a stronger result. The Black Fleet Crisis is fun to read, but it is not a top-notch effort.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

David: Rancor Spotting #7 (Legends)

The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, page 383
In The New Rebellion, everybody is in trouble. Han and Chewie went to Smuggler’s Run on a mysterious quest. Lando then went after them to warn Han that he was being set up. R2 and Threepio are basically trying to save the New Republic on their own. Luke is battling a mysterious villain who seems to have overwhelming powers. Leia has resigned her office as Chief of State to go help Luke. Whew!

The following quote describes Luke’s state of mind as he fights a Thernbee:
“But he had to move. This thing couldn’t beat him. It would be a horrible way for a Jedi Knight to die. He’d fought rancors and Tusken Raiders all by himself. He could survive anything.”

Once you have defeated a rancor, you feel as if you can do anything.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clone Wars Season 2 Premiere (Legends)

What a great start to Season 2 we just witnessed. Tonally we appear to be headed in new directions this year. Two dead Jedi in two episodes, dubious "victories" at best for our heroes, and even the lighting and animation have kicked things up a notch. The scene of Bane and Sidious negotiating on Coruscant was pure noir goodness, down to the beautiful slanted light coming in through the blinds. There were many moments in Holocron Heist where dialogue and space between the action beats took center stage, moments where the show could breathe for a minute and we had time to invest more fully in the narrative. Todo 360 was a choice piece of comic relief and I was sorry to see him go so soon, although sometimes comedy like that is better as a brief flame than an overstaying-its-welcome source of humor.

Cad Bane continues to impress. Kudos to the scriptwriters for letting him be so talkative but remain so aloof and mysterious. I think Lucasfilm may have very well found their next Darth Maul in Bane, difference being that Bane has already had more screen time to his credit! I welcome seeing the Jedi face a credible threat and am glad to move away from Separatists a bit.

Nicely done second episode as well, particularly the Anakin-Bane showdown at the end. Bane got very lucky in getting the one Jedi with the biggest attachment issues in the Order, one who couldn't bear looking his Padawan in the eye and then sacrificing her for the good of the order. Can't wait to see next week's ep - looks like Anakin's choice to open the holocron will have some rather severe repercussions.

I am so HAPPY to have Star Wars back on TV!

David's Bonus Review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Visual Guide (Legends)

5/5 Rancors - What could be more appropriate than to talk about The Clone Wars Visual Guide on the day that the second season of the animated series of The Clone Wars opens on TV? The Visual Guide offers the reader an excellent look at the first season. The book is packed with shots from the series and explanations of what you are looking at. We learn about individuals such as the Jedi, clone troopers, Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, Jabba the Hutt, etc. The various types of ships and weapons are covered, and brief scenes from some of the episodes are included.
This book is far from heavy reading as it lives up to its name by being predominately visual. The idea is to look at and study at your leisure many of the things you enjoyed watching in the TV series. The presentation of the material in the book is excellent, and the quality is first-rate.
I recommend that any fan of The Clone Wars take a look at The Visual Guide. I am confident that you will enjoy it, and I believe you may find reasons to go back and look at it again numerous times.