This month's SF & Fantasy page is dominated by Star Wars...

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Timothy Zahn: Thrawn

Published by Century 6th April 2017

In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power―uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire, through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power―and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Anakin Skywalker; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again―even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat, leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral―and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy―and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendency.


The Star Wars books keep coming, filling our universe with tales of their galaxy, far, far away... Thrawn is a character from Star Wars fiction rather than from the Star Wars movie, but this doesn't detract from the concept at all, as Star Wars favourite Timothy Zahn turns in a spectacular novel which also features characters from the movies. Enthralling stuff!



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Gary Gerani: Star Wars Widevision

Published by Abrams Comicart 18th April 2017

Following the successful release of multi-series trading cards based on the original Star Wars the bestselling Star Wars Widevision trading card series from Toops are collected for the first time in one deluxe volume, just in time for the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie...


Back in 1968 when I was working in the British space industry, a colleague and I suggested that the future of television would be widescreen. We had already started to prepare 35mm slides in widescreen format by masking the tops and bottoms with PVC tape, and we were fascinated by the possibility of actually shooting pictures with anamorphic lenses attached to an SLR camera... It took a good few years for our idea to come to fruition, but the cinema took off very quickly, of course, and by 1977, the year the original Star Wars movie came out, most big films were presented in widescreen format. When the first home videos of such films became available, they showed in letterbox format on our TV screens until, eventually, our prediction of widescreen TVs came true. Topps Trading Cards have taken this opportunity to publish their collectors' cards from the first Star Wars movie in widescreen format for the first time and the result is astounding. The quality of the pictures reproduced in this book is absolutely superb, and I recommend it to any Star Wars and motion picture aficionado unreservedly!


Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book

Published by Abrams 4th April 2017

Star Wars became a worldwide phenomenon the moment it exploded into theaters on May 25, 1977. That same year, Lucasfilm teamed with the Topps Company, Inc. to create the very first tie-in collectibles a series of trading cards and stickers that have since become iconic. The cards and stickers were so popular that Topps released trading card sets to coincide with The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983. In 2015, Topps released a set of 18 stickers as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens promotion, which features a mix of classic characters from the original films, as well as new characters from The Force Awakens in the vintage style of the original stickers. Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book is the first sticker book to collect a selection of these iconic stickers many of which are reproduced in their original size making this the perfect memento for fans of all ages to enjoy.


This marvellous book is obviously intended for collectors - children will love helping, of course, and what you could end up with, if you do it right, is a collection of A2 posters with Star Wars stickers - brilliant!

Star Wars: A New Hope Notebook Collection

Published by Abrams 11th April 2017

Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, this distinctive notebook collection showcases gorgeous vintage posters and promotional artwork from the movie that started it all. Each notebook features lightly ruled interiors with quotations from the film, plus additional artwork on the inside and back covers.


Again intended mainly for Star Wars enthusiasts, these are blank notebooks for your own note-takig, featuring iconic covers from the first film. A brilliant idea, and makes the perfect gift for Star Wars collectors!

Holly J Williams: Ley Ryders

Published by Matador 28th March 2017

Ley Ryders is a fast-paced young adult fantasy with multiple, interwoven plots including characters with physical challenges and a rich, original mythology. From the birth of the world, the mystical force known as the Ley has flowed, bringing life to all beings and creatures. Only a select group of women, the Ley Ryders, can sense Its power, devoting their lives to its influence, bringing help and protection to those in need. But unseen evil threatens to darken the might of the Ley. Petronia is the daughter of a simple blacksmith yet she feels she is destined for something more. Mysteriously mute from birth, she believes her fate is to become a Ryder. Her protective brother Hayden, however, isn't so sure. Pet has abilities more acute than any Ryder but will her skills bring peace or unimaginable darkness? Under the watchful protection of the Ryders and accompanied by Aarold, a bookish but frail prince denied his throne by the deceitful manipulation of his aunt, they set out on a perilous quest to discover the truth of Petronia's destiny. Ideal for readers aged 16 and over, this is a thrilling fantasy novel from the mind of the creator of the 'Jersey Demon Trilogy' about the paths we must take to find our own voice. Ley Ryders gives prominence to those who have physical impairments through the unique characters included and will be enjoyed by fans of Ilona Andrews and J R R Martin.


Any fantasy adventure book featuring a group of young women as the prime characters is OK by me! Thoroughly enjoyable fantasy intended for young adults but perfectly suitable for readers of any age. Superb.


Geoff Gaywood: Omnipotence

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Against a backdrop of relentless global warming and deepening social conflict on Earth, an expedition sets out to secure a foothold on a distant planet thought suitable for human habitation. Almost immediately, the crew are sorely tested by a violent internal conspiracy, alien aggression and simmering emotional tensions. They complete a spectacular transition to a remote solar system where they find that their goal, as dangerous as it is exotic, already has the ominous attention of another civilisation. Moreover, a series of perplexing events suggest that their mission may be subordinate to a much greater power with its own strategic agenda. 

Essentially an adventure story, spiced with the conflicts, sex and humour typical of mankind as we know it, Omnipotence raises the scientific, philosophical and moral issues that will arise in such a venture. It is the story of how people like us might cope and how the values of human civilisation may evolve in our fast-approaching future.


Rather over-arching concepts of problems facing mankind, you have to wait for the adventure to take over, but it does, eventually, and what you're left with is a great story...


V S Nelson: The Keeper of Portals

Published by Matador 28th February 2017

After the death of his dad, Martin and his mum move into an enormous stately home where they encounter a mysterious being called the Keeper of Portals, who claims to control every portal on the planet, except for the door at the end of Martin’s bedroom, which has been sealed for 400 years. 

One morning, Martin wakes to discover the Keeper of Portals is missing and the door at the end of his bedroom has been opened. Martin steps through the door to find himself in the 17th century where he meets Isabel, the house’s maid. Martin and Isabel quickly learn that everything on earth, from time and causality, to pleasantries and buttons, is controlled by its own keeper. After discovering two imprisoned keepers, Martin and Isabel receive the ability to jump between doorways and change their time, but they soon become entangled in a battle against the master of the house, the Keeper of Questions. 

The Keeper of Portals follows Martin and Isabel as they alternate between the present day and the 17th century, often returning to a time they have already been to and nearly running into past versions of themselves. They fight hordes of murderous villagers, escape from the Keeper of Questions by hiding in a sea cave for 400 years and confront the powerful Keeper of Causality. But there is something wrong with time itself as items from the present day begin to bleed into Isabel’s time. After driving an off-road 4x4 through the peaceful countryside of the 17th century, Martin and Isabel confront the Keeper of Questions in the city of London. But when they arrive they find it deserted – the Keeper of Questions has control of everyone in London and it won’t be long until Martin and Isabel are next.


Owes quite a lot to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for its origins, but again, what you actually get is a decent adventure story with some cross-overs between worlds whilst retaining some of the author's favourite things from our own world. Very enjoyable.


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.