Audiobook short: Darth Bane Trilogy, pt. 2

Rule of Two is the second part of the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, written by Drew Karpyshyn. The audiobook version is narrated by Jonathan Davis and is 10 hrs and 12 mins long. In this Audiobook Short I’ll share my impressions.

For the spoken version of the below review go to Episode 461 of the Spirit Blade podcast, time stamp 22:00.

Publisher’s summary:

In the New York Times best-seller Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn painted a gripping portrait of a young man’s journey from innocence to evil. That man was Darth Bane, a twisted genius whose iron will, fierce ambition, and strength in the dark side of the Force made him a natural leader among the Sith – until his radical embrace of an all-but-forgotten wisdom drove him to destroy his own order…and create it anew from the ashes. As the last surviving Sith, Darth Bane promulgated a harsh new directive: the Rule of Two.

Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it.

Now Darth Bane is ready to put his policy into action, and he thinks he has found the key element that will make his triumph complete: a student to train in the ways of the dark side. Though she is young, Zannah possesses an instinctive link to the dark side that rivals his own. With his guidance, she will become essential in his quest to destroy the Jedi and dominate the galaxy.

But there is one who is determined to stop Darth Bane: Johun Othone, Padawan to Jedi Master Lord Hoth, who died at Bane’s hands in the last great Sith War. Though the rest of the Jedi scoff at him, Joshua’s belief that there are surviving Sith on the loose is unshakeable.

As Johun continues his dogged pursuit of the man who killed his master, Zannah, faced unexpectedly with a figure from her past, begins to question her embrace of the dark side. And Darth Bane is led by Force-induced visions to a moon where he will acquire astonishing new knowledge and power – power that will alter him in ways he could never have imagined….

©2012 Drew Karpyshyn (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Even better than Part 1!”

I started listening to this book right after I finished Path of Destruction, for that first part of the Darth Bane trilogy left me wanting for more. And ‘more’ is exactly what I got with Rule of Two!
I found it even more gripping, it was (even) better paced and narrator Jonathan Davis gives a truly masterful performance.

Following Darth Bane as a full-blown dark lord of the Sith was a thrilling ride. Especially since he now has an equally intriguing apprentice in Zannah, a young woman strong in the dark side, whom Bane teaches a lot but who also has a unique talent of her own: Dark Force magic!
Darth Bane continues to be the villain you root for inspite of yourself. Zannah is a strong female character with her own voice and her own gifts, strengths and ambitions. Together, they are too strong to defeat…

As with the first part of this Star Wars EU trilogy I was so completely wrapped-up in the story I could only sit on the couch listening, doing nothing else. Which kind of totally defeated the purpose of listening instead of reading (i.e. multi-tasking!). So, on the couch I stayed… again…!

Unfortunately I finished this novel far too soon and again found myself wanting still more…. Fortunately there’s a third part! 🙂

Highly recommend!

Audiobook short: Darth Bane Trilogy, pt. 1

This, my second Audiobook Short, is again about a Star Wars novel from the so-called Expanded Universe: Path of Destruction, which is part 1 of the Darth Bane trilogy, written by Drew Karpyshyn and narrated by Jonathan Davis. Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins.

By the way, the spoken version of the below review is part of Episode 457 of the Spirit Blade podcastgo to time stamp 18:26.

Publisher’s summary:

Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy – until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before.

Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape – a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man.

On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy – if he can prove himself truly worthy.

As an acolyte in the Sith academy, studying the secrets and skills of the dark side at the feet of its greatest masters, Dessel embraces his new Sith identity: Bane. However the true test is yet to come. In order to gain acceptance into the Brotherhood of Darkness, one must fully surrender to the dark side through a trial by fire that Bane, for all his unquenchable fury and lust for power, may not be strong enough to endure… especially since deception, treachery, and murder run rampant among the Sith disciples, and utter ruthlessness alone is the key to survival.

Only by defying the most sacred traditions, rejecting all he has been taught, and drawing upon the long-forgotten wisdom of the very first Sith can Bane hope to triumph – and forge from the ashes of that which he must destroy a new era of absolute dark power.

©2012 Drew Karpyshyn (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Hours on the couch doing nothing but listening!”

This is a gripping story about the rise of Darth Bane. The author allows the reader/listener far more than a mere glimpse of the dark side of the Force when telling the origin story of one of the great Dark Lords of the Sith.
Darth Bane is the one who will eventually instate the Rule of Two, which we know from the movies and which says that there can only be two Siths at one time. Which means that for most of this novel, the Rule of Two isn’t there yet, hence there are a multitude of Siths and dark side Force wielders!

The story is read brilliantly by Jonathan Davis, and of course enhanced with awesome Star Wars audio effects.

In conclusion, I literally couldn’t bring myself to do anything but sit on the couch and listen for hours on end – which is an absolute first for me for usually I do all kinds of stuff while listening to audio books.
If you like this book as much as I did, beware: for you’ll find it an absolute MUST to lay your hands on parts 2 and 3 of this trilogy as well!

Highly recommend!

Audiobook Short: Darth Plagueis

Hey all! It’s taken me a while to get back here, what can I say, life is busy and often beautiful 🙂 But, here I am and with a new habit of geeky content consumption: audiobooks. Audiobooks are the ideal way to combine reading a novel while doing other stuff (like living life, busy and beautiful) and ever since I discovered the sheer endless well of narrated titles I dove in and started swimming.

And to help you swim along, if so inclined, I’ll share my audiobook reviews with you. My intent is to keep them concise and mostly just about my experiences with the books, without doing a fullblown review. This will keep it easy to get a feel for what a book might bring you without having to spend too much time reading each post – hence the name of this category: Audiobook Shorts. I will start each review with the publisher’s summary so you get a feel for the story, then add my own thoughts. I’ll also rate them according to the Audible.com rating categories of Story, Performance and Overall, with 5 stars as the highest score.

As a bonus, and in the audio spirit of things 😉 , I’ll post a link to a spoken (by me) version of my Audiobook Shorts series whenever one is available on the Spiritblade podcast. Like this one, my first 🙂 :

Spiritblade podcast episode 455, go to timestamp 2:54.

My first Audiobook Short is about a Star Wars novel from the so-called Expanded Universe: Darth Plagueis, written by James Luceno and narrated by Daniel Davis. Length: 14 hrs and 49 mins.

Publisher’s summary

He was the most powerful Sith lord who ever lived… but could he be the only one who never died?

“Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” -Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Darth Plagueis: one of the most brilliant Sith Lords who ever lived. Possessing power is all he desires. Losing it is the only thing he fears. As an apprentice, he embraces the ruthless ways of the Sith. And when the time is right, he destroys his Master – but vows never to suffer the same fate. For like no other disciple of the dark side, Darth Plagueis learns to command the ultimate power… over life and death.

Darth Sidious: Plagueis’s chosen apprentice. Under the guidance of his Master, he secretly studies the ways of the Sith, while publicly rising to power in the galactic government, first as Senator, then as Chancellor, and eventually as Emperor.

Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, Master and acolyte, target the galaxy for domination – and the Jedi Order for annihilation. But can they defy the merciless Sith tradition? Or will the desire of one to rule supreme, and the dream of the other to live forever, sow the seeds of their destruction?

From the Hardcover edition.

©2012 James Luceno (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Fantastic Star Wars lore!”

Captivating story, brilliant reading performance by Daniel Davis, awesome audio effects & SW music. This is precisely why I love audio books so much!

The story clarifies a lot of Darth Sidious’s background and of course tells the story of Darth Plagueis, the main character. We also learn intriguing things about the Dark Side of the Force, and the order of the Sith.

To me this audiobook captured a real Star Wars atmosphere, it made me want to listen to it 24/7 and I wish the novel had lasted at least twice as long.
Because of it, I wanted to watch SW Episode I immediately following it, which to some would be a great feat in and of itself 😉
It also made me want to look into the Expanded Universe, which up until now I had always studiously avoided because – knowing myself – I would probably want to read everything, books, comics, audiobooks. Which would be 1. an enormous time hog and 2. frustrating since Marvel & Disney have declared the entire EU non-canonical, so, why bother. However, this first toe-dip left me wanting more and while still avoiding a full dive, I decided to go for a careful swim. So I bought the Darth Bane trilogy, about which you can read more in my next 😉

In short, I highly recommend Darth Plagueis and give it 5 stars for story, 5 stars for performance and 5 stars overall!

From OSX Lion to El Capitan (Clean Install)

goodbyeosxlion

Ever since I bought my iMac back in 2011 (16 Gb RAM, core i7 processor), I had been working with Mac OSX 10.7 – otherwise known as Lion. I never upgraded, for I firmly believed in the adagium “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

However, this also meant that more and more applications had reached their maximum update level, among which Safari – which meant that slowly but surely more and more websites no longer fully functioned. Sites like Youtube and Twitter, to name but a few. So the level of my user annoyance gradually increased, until I reached the point of feeling ready to move on from Lion after all.

When Apple announced their latest MacOS “Sierra” to be expected this Fall, I suspected I would not be able to make the jump from Lion. So if ever I planned to upgrade after all, I had to do it now.

Since I had to jump  four iterations of MacOS (from OSX 10.7 to OSX 10.11) in one fell swoop, I chose to take as little risk as possible and go with a clean install. After much reading and research I also chose to do this from a bootable flash drive/usb drive.

Since I had never undertaken such an adventure, and had to do lots of Googling and Trying of Things, I decided to write every step down for you all – but only the successful ones, so your path might be shorter and smoother. So here we go…

…but before you move on, please consider carefully that a clean install will erase everything, and I mean Every Thing, from your Mac’s hard drive. This not only includes your files and applications, but also your user accounts and network settings. Know that in most cases a so-called “over-the-top  install” (in which you simply install the new OS over the previous one, without erasing everything) works perfectly fine. I chose a clean install because as I said I had a pretty large “jump” between OSes to make, which also stood for a time leap of about 5 years. Years in which a lot of “baggage” had accumulated, like unused extensions, app support files, preferences etc. These could potentially pose security risks or app instability in the new system, or simply take up too much space. A clean install would be like setting up my l’ill ol’ Mac as if it came brand new out of the box – at least on the inside 😉 .

Please also make sure that all of your mission critical apps are all compatible with El Capitan, before you do the install… The safest way to ensure this is probably to visit the developer’s website. You can also checkout RoaringApps.com, although I’m not certain how reliable they are in all instances.

Okay, if you still want a clean install after all this, please read on for my own step-by-step process.

1. Clean up
Throw away files and applications that you no longer use or haven’t used in a long time. Use an app like AppCleaner to make sure every little file associated with an application is thrown out as well.

If you want to rearrange things and/or throw out garbage, do so now, before you make a cloned copy (steps 1-4).

2. Close all applications, update them, log them
Make a note which apps came from the Mac App store and can be readily recovered, and which apps require you to download a new installer from the developer’s website.

Also, you may want to have a log of all of your application licenses in a copyable format so that you can paste it in when reinstalling your apps (after the install of El Capitan).

3. Log off from cloudapps like Dropbox, Evernote, etc. Do this last and don’t edit anymore cloud files until after the clean install.

4. Disconnect any unnecessary peripherals such as printers, tablets, microphones, etc. Try to work with just attached drives and a wired mouse and keyboard.

5. Empty the trash. You can use the TrashIt app if necessary.

6. Repair boot drive permissions
Use Disk Utility to make sure your boot drive permissions are all repaired and that the disk directory is verified as good.

7. Back up
This may be the single most important action you should take. Back up, back up, backup! Use Time Machine, but if you really want to be safe, also make a complete cloned copy of your Mac. I used Carbon Copy Cloner for that, for it is able to make bootable backups. You can try it out for free, which is perfect for opportunities like this.

Note: you will need a second external harddrive for the cloned copy, do not try to cram it in next to your Time Machine backup, for Troubles might await you and you do not want to take risks with your backups…

8. Download El Capitan from the Mac AppStore
It will launch automatically but you need to quit (CMD-Q) out of the upgrade process.

9. Create a bootable installer flash drive
Click here for an explanation how to. Move the installer file from your Applications folder to your bootable flash drive. It’s about 6 gigabytes, so make sure your flash drive is at least 8 Gb, and doesn’t have any files on it.

10. Connect the bootable USB El Capitan install drive to the Mac and install El Capitan
Since this process has been described by many others, I’ll simply refer you to the one that I found most helpful and easiest to understand. Click here for those step by step instructions.

In my case this process took 40 minutes. Which I thought was pretty fast, but as stated above my Mac does have a Core i7 processor with 16 Gb RAM, so if you have a different setup it might take more – or even less – time than mine.

11. Restore your data
Right after you boot El Capitan the setup process will start. You can elect to restore user accounts and settings from Time Machine. I chose the following set of restore options: Users folder + Settings + Other files and folders: Yes; Applications: No.

By the way, when you sign into iCloud it will sync up anything you had previously selected in iCloud sync settings. This may include your mail (after you rebuild or log in to your account), calendar, contacts, reminders, Safari bookmarks, iCloud Keychain etc.

The same goes for your other cloud apps like Dropbox and Evernote (etc): as soon as you login to their desktop apps, your files will automatically reappear on your Mac.

12. Reinstall your apps
In step 2 you made a list of Mac App Store apps, and apps directly from a developer’s site. You can now use that list to restore your apps.

If you were using any cloud-based apps like Dropbox, Box, Evernote etc. you can simply download their desktop application installers, install the desktop apps, log in and you’re back in business.

In case anything goes wrong, or if it goes well but you’re not satisfied with the new system
Take the current Time Machine backup you made in step 7, you can boot from the recovery partition (CMD-R), do a complete erase (Disk Utility) and then restore from your Time Machine archive. You’ll be back where you were before you started.

Issues I encountered after the install

There were three major applications that no longer worked after I had installed El Capitan. Two of those I knew beforehand, but the biggest one took me by surprise and forced me to purchase a software update. They were:

  1. Parallels Desktop 7 – this version is not compatible with El Capitan, an issue of which I was aware before I started. If I want to continue to use Parallels, I cannot upgrade (the more affordable option) for the jump from 7 to 11 is simply to big. I’ll have to buy a new, full version.
  2. iMovie ’11 – it is still available in El Capitan but I could not get it to work the way I wanted it to, so I had to switch to the latest iMovie. Of this I was not particularly aware beforehand, I mean I did know there was a new iMovie but I had hopes the older version would still work satisfactorily. Which it didn’t and since a lot had changed between these versions, I actually had to sign up for an iMovie workshop in an Apple store to be able to work with it again. I still don’t really like the new version, but what can one do – I guess I’m going to have get over it.
  3. Microsoft Office 2011. Now this one not working surprised me, and I don’t mean in a positive way. I could not get Word, Excel or Powerpoint to work at all, they wouldn’t even start. (I don’t use Outlook). Searching on the internet taught me that many struggled with this problem. There had been some fixes from Microsoft, mainly aimed at Outlook, but for the other three there were no fixes at hand as of yet. Since Office to me is mission critical, I experienced a light panic. I tried Pages for a couple of days, and even the open sourced LibreOffice, but both did not function the way I needed them to, for my specific wants & needs (I create written tutorials with lots of pictures, and inserting these pictures the way I wanted them to was a complete train wreck in both of those programms). After a week of trying (and cursing) I gave in, for I had to move on with my work. So I purchased Microsoft Office 2016 – which works like a dream with El Capitan I have to say, but confronted me with an unexpected expense.

In conclusion

These were the steps I took to go from Mac OSX 10.7 Lion to 10.11 El Capitan with a clean install. It took me many hours to research the many options and possibilities and finally I settled on the above set of steps. They are of course based on my personal choices and preferences,  and given my particular hardware system setup. Nevertheless I feel quite confident that in most cases these steps will work, which is why I took the trouble of logging them here for you all, so as to spare you the same amount of hours of research (and doubts, and annoyances) I went through.

I hope this will be of help to at least some of you. I hope you feel encouraged by the fact that I, a simple user and not a software engineer nor any kind of other tech expert, have managed to sail through these steps successfully and have already enjoyed my new El Capitan OS for some weeks before I published this.

And when Sierra comes, I can now move confidently forward with a simple over-the-top install.

welcomeelcapitan

 

 

 

 

SW Clone Wars Animated Series: Anakin Skywalker pt. 2 – The Chosen One

Two blog posts ago I started a blog mini series reviewing the six seasons of Star Wars The Clone Wars – The Animated Series (TAS). In the first post I reviewed Seasons 1 and 2, recommending the series to you all with great enthusiasm (which to this day is still as great!). In the blog post that followed I decided to zoom in on Anakin Skywalker for the remaining four seasons of TAS, starting with Season 3.

Before moving on to Season 4 I’d like to linger with the third season a little longer, focussing exclusively on three episodes which together form the Mortis story arc. The rest of Season 3 consists of many adventures that are very entertaining and very Star Wars, but the Mortis story line is one of the key episodes not only of the series, but of the entire SW franchise as a whole. It establishes Anakin as the Chosen One, and it really swept me off of my feet.

This time I’ll give an extensive synopsis, which will not be objective at all by the way 😉 (other opinions are available…)

Season 3: Essential Force Mythology

Buried in the middle of the third seasonthe three-episode Mortis arc is a rare gem of Force mythology, stemming from George Lucas’s original ideas of what the Star Wars concept should be. Interesting? You bet! And exciting, thrilling, awesome! In fact, these are the only episodes I rewatched soon after I watched them the first time. Before you read on I have to warn you though, this blog post contains spoilers for the entire story arc, so please watch the episodes first if you don’t want to be spoiled… Continue reading

SW Clone Wars Animated Series: Anakin Skywalker – The Only Hope?

Star Wars The Clone Wars – The Animated Series tracks Anakin Skywalker’s slow descent towards the Dark Side of the Force, which as we all know eventually culminates in his becoming Darth Vader at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Of all the Star Wars movies, the third one, Revenge of the Sith, is my favorite. For Anakin’s passionate struggle to be a hero, to be a strong force for Good, and then failing in the most horrendous way possible, struck very close to home. As Christians, we too have a strong sense of good and evil, and we may even look at our world as a world at war – spiritually. But more importantly, as a Christian I know all too well what it’s like to have been given all these gifts and talents, to almost burst with the potential God has bestowed on me, on all of us – and then to fail. Fail miserably and horrendously, time and time again, because of my sinful nature. No one is good – except God alone, according to the Bible.

So I’m very happy and pleased – and thrilled and excited – that The Animated Series (TAS) not only caters to my general Star Wars fandom, but zooms in on the events and character journey that lead to my favorite movie of them all.
In my previous blog post I reviewed Seasons 1 and 2. In the third part of this blog mini series I’m zooming in on Anakin Skywalker, starting at Season 3.

So what about this Anakin? (warning: movie spoilers for SW III)

Of course there are some strong messianic overtones to Anakin’s character. The Force runs strongest in him and from the start he was meant to restore balance to the Force when the Dark Side started rising. In the end, in Star Wars VI, he actually does restore that balance, conquering death (but only for himself) as he does it. The animated series hints at this Destiny as well, for he’s regularly referred to (in his absence) as The Only Hope. Which of course is also a very nice prequel reference to Star Wars IV – A New Hope.

But that is where all messianic similarities seem to end – as the title of A New Hope already clearly demonstrates: Anakin failed at Continue reading

Star Wars Clone Wars Animated Series: Review Seasons 1+2

The Star Wars Clone Wars animated series is set in between SW II and III, and directly continuing from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie; with the exception of season 1 episode 16, which according to the series writers is actually a prequel to the Clone Wars movie. (Wait. What?!)

The series, six seasons in total, is a celebration of the Star Wars universe. I’ve recently watched seasons 1 and 2, and would like to share my thoughts with you all. Meanwhile, I’ll continue watching the following seasons of course, and will keep you posted.

The Clone Wars Animated Series lets us discover new worlds and peoples, but it also takes us back to well-known movie locations, like planets (Naboo, for one, and many more) and buildings on that planet (the Naboo palace, the hangar).

Clone Wars animated series: Approaching Naboo Palace Continue reading