On the books I read, and where I get them

2159

For the last several years, I’ve basically been boycotting Christmas.  With the single exception of my son, I’m done buying gifts for anyone at Christmastime and I don’t want anyone getting anything for me either.  I’m not a Christian.  I’m a grown man with his very own job and in general if I want something I can get it for myself.  The fact that the right wing has managed to make how I greet people during December into a shibboleth doesn’t help, either.  Fuck it, all of it.  I’m out.

My mother has had… some trouble with this concept.

I’ve tried to redirect her always-considerable Christmas energies (my list of “what I got” when I was a kid was regularly two or three times as long as anybody else’s, and we were never rich– Mom just really prioritized Christmas) away from my wife and I and toward my son, but “No, really, don’t get me anything” hasn’t sunk in.  She’s still getting me things, although I’ve gotten her to tone it down to one or two smaller gifts.  This year it was a Barnes and Noble gift card.  Just that.  And she practically begged me to use it.

I should not be surprised that my mother knows my weak spots.  Okay, fine, I’ll bend my principles and go get some free books, geez.

She also got my wife a card, and my son had some free-floating cash around, so we piled into the car yesterday to go to Barnes and Noble, and Christ if I wasn’t reminded yet again why I get every damn thing I read from Amazon now.  I used to shop at Barnes and Noble all the time and then they moved their store to the mall, and since then damn near every time I walk into the place it generates a blog post.  The mall is seven million miles away and the weather was absolute shit yesterday and the crowds and the parking lot and jesus why the hell am I doing this to myself and my family.  

A brief diversion: I have, for the last couple of years, been trying to aggressively diversify my reading, if not in subject matter than at least in terms of the authors I’m reading.  I’m always on the lookout for new authors, and in particular I’ve been trying to focus on women authors and authors of color for the last couple of years.  I wrote my top 10 books of the year post yesterday, and while part of me looked at it and went yeah, mission accomplished— eight of the eleven books were by women– another part of me noticed how blindingly white the list was.  Nine out of the ten authors.  In other words, white women, specifically, appear to be the beneficiary of this policy.

Okay, cool.  So this year I focus more on authors of color, right?(*)

Y’all have any idea how hard it is to find authors of color in the science fiction/fantasy section at Barnes and Noble?  Way harder than I thought it was going to be.  I started by going through my Amazon wish list and trying to find some of those books.  No luck on 90% of them.  I wanted to just scan through the new books, but they’ve gotten rid of that section in SF&F recently and everything is spine-out now.  Okay, start looking for authors with visibly ethnic-sounding names and/or using initials instead of first names, which is generally code for “woman author.”  No luck.  Hell, just finding books by women was difficult enough.

I mean, I eventually found three books, two from my wish list and one that I literally grabbed because I’ve heard of Wesley Chu and he’s Asian and I’ve never read anything by him.  But the whole process was unpleasant and took much longer than it ought to have.  Turns out discovery of new books is kinda complicated if all you have is the spine and the author’s name to go on.

And then we got up to the counter and the salesperson gave my wife her spiel about the membership card.  And we’re cool with that!  It’s your job, you go do it.  And then I got called over by the salesperson next to her and she did the same thing, and my son made it obvious that he was standing in between his parents and the first lady realized we were together.  And I didn’t have a card either, because the card costs $30 annually and I really don’t spend the $300+ every year it would take to make the card worth it at Barnes and Noble any more.  I’m not arbitrarily adding $30 to my sale so that I can save money $300 worth of purchases later.

So she leans over to me and snarks, again, in a really shitty sort of tone, “You’d have saved nearly half the cost of the card already if you joined up!”  And it’s at this point where you’re no longer just doing your job and you’re kind of being an asshole.  I already said I don’t want your card.  You’ve had the card for years.  I get it.  I have to spend $300 before I save any money and I’m not going to.

I opened my mouth, and alternate-universe me snapped “If I wanted to save money I’d have bought this shit from Amazon” back at her.  This-universe me, luckily, has a bit more sense and just said “No, thanks” again and we left, driving another seven million miles in snow and over ice to get back home, and I resolved to let the Goddamn post office do the driving for me from now on.  Because I’m in sales right now and I’ve worked a register plenty of times before and I try my very hardest to never be anything but perfectly nice to anyone on the other side of a register from me.

So quit making me work at it.

Also, lady?  Did you notice we were buying with gift cards?  Somebody else already spent that money.  I’m not getting your loyalty card today.  Between the two of us we got five or six books for like $10 and I don’t care about your card right now.

Ugh.

(*) Miss me with it if you have any plan to quibble with how I arrange my reading, okay? There are millions of books out there and I can’t read all of them, so I’ll use whatever the fuck criteria I want to decide which ones I spend my time on.  Thanks.

The Top 10 New(*) Books I Read in 2017

It’s that time of year again!  I am not a huge fan of the book I’m reading right now, and with three days left in the year it’s not likely that I’ll finish anything that merits addition to the list, so here are the 10 best new books I read this year, where “new” means “I never read it before,” and not “it came out this year.”  I read 89 books this year, a bit off my usual pace, which I blame on my job and the general “wouldn’t dying be easier?” tone that 2017 left all over absolutely every single thing in existence.  As always, once we get past the top 3 or so, don’t pay huge amounts of attention to the specific ranking.

(Also, are you my friend on Goodreads?  You should be my friend on Goodreads.)

Before we get started, though, the list from previous years:

9359808#10: THE DESERT OF SOULS, by Howard Andrew Jones.  I have a weakness for Conan books, and the sword and sorcery genre in general, and Howard Andrew Jones’ DESERT OF SOULS seriously scratched an itch for me.  I found it through Twitter, recommended by Saladin Ahmed, who tends to know his Arabian Nights-inspired prose pretty damn well.  There’s at least one more book in the series, which didn’t hit me quite as hard as the original, and some other pieces after that that I’m having some trouble tracking down for some reason.  The story is set in the real world– 8th century Baghdad, to be specific– but there’s magic and evil monsters and all sorts of fantasy fun to be had, and the voice of the main character is a pleasure to read.

07d#9: WHAT HAPPENED, by Hillary Clinton.  One thing that is sorely missing from this year’s list is nonfiction; I tend to swing back and forth on how much I’m reading (my book collection is probably at least 40% nonfiction) and this year definitely represented a marked swing away from nonfiction and toward escapist fiction.  WHAT HAPPENED was one of a very few examples to the contrary. I almost didn’t read it, as politics makes me ill enough on a daily basis without reading an entire book about the worst, stupidest election America ever had, but it turns out that Clinton is good at a lot of things, and one of those is writing books.  I would not have been strong enough to write this after going through what she did, and if I was strong enough, my book would have featured many times more uses of the word “motherfucker” than hers did.  It also would have been called “You Morons,” not “What Happened.”  There’s a good case to be made that everyone who voted for Clinton ought to read the book in the pure interest of history, but it’s still a good read on its own merits, especially if you’re able to temporarily disconnect yourself from the terrible consequences of the events it describes.

the-stars-are-legion-final-cover#8:  THE STARS ARE LEGION, by Kameron Hurley.  I keep seeing pictures of this book with LESBIANS IN SPACE as the title instead of the actual title, and I honest to God don’t know if they’re real or not.  I definitely want one if they are.  The hook of the book is pretty simple; there are no men, none at all, anywhere, and everything and everyone in the book identifies as female, but while that’s initially intriguing it’s not quite enough to hold an entire book together.  Luckily, it doesn’t need to be, as the story is typical Hurley Weird: dueling worldships hurtling through the void, decaying societies, rebirths and reincarnations, time loops, and genocide.  Y’know, YA stuff.  This book’s meaty as hell and is probably going to get a reread sometime this year.

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 1.45.39 PM#7: KILLING GRAVITY, by Corey J. White.  This year’s winner of the Warren Ellis I Want To Eat Your Brain And Steal Your Writing Powers award, KILLING GRAVITY is the book whose pure wordsmithery blew me away the most this year.  I am admittedly mostly a story guy; I can overlook workmanlike writing if the story is awesome, but it isn’t terribly often that beauty of language can overcome a bad story.  Luckily, this book has both; the tone and voice of the book are phenomenal, and the story itself, involving psychic assassins, cloned squirrel-thingies, and a shitton of just general badassery is absolutely enough to keep me enthralled.  This is somehow the only exemplar of Tor’s novella line on the list, which surprises me, as I liked their output a whole lot, and at 160 pages it’s probably the best pound-for-pound read on the list, if that phrase means anything.

71BbpPa_l8L#6: AUTONOMOUS, by Annalee Newitz.  I’ve read one of Annalee Newitz’ books previously, SCATTER, ADAPT AND REMEMBER: HOW HUMANS WILL SURVIVE A MASS EXTINCTION.  I bought this having forgotten I’d read that book, as once an author gets slotted in my head as a Nonfiction Person I don’t always remember they exist when and if they switch to fiction.  With respect to Ms. Newitz, I don’t want any more nonfiction from her, because AUTONOMOUS is so Goddamn good and I want lots more stuff like it instead.  I wouldn’t think that patent law and pharmaceuticals would really make for one of the best books of the year, but I guess that’s why I didn’t write it.  The main character is a pirate who lives in a submarine in the bottom of the ocean and produces illegal generic versions of patented drugs.  One of her drugs goes wrong and produces instant addiction, followed by unpleasant consequences, and we’re off to the races.  Throw in a romance between a human and a war robot and one of the more subtle takes on global warming I’ve seen in a book lately and I’m a happy reader.

51s465hRHsL#5: WAKE OF VULTURES, by Lila Bowen.  Lila Bowen, also known as Delilah Dawson, is an author who I’ve read several books by and had always bounced off of me.  She runs around with a crew of other writers whose work I like a lot but after four or five of her books falling flat I was ready to declare her work Not for Me and move on.  Well, okay, maybe Delilah Dawson is Not for Me, but Lila Bowen?  I’mma read the hell out of Lila Bowen’s next book.  WAKE OF VULTURES is basically urban fantasy, but transplanted into the Old West and with a former slave as the main character.  (So, uh, okay, maybe not so urban, but I hope you know what I mean.) I’m a hard sell for urban fantasy, but the setting change makes it work, and Nettie Lonesome’s voice as a character makes for a compulsively readable book.  I took way too long to get to this book– it sat on the shelf for forever, and there are now two more books out in the series.  I’ll be getting to them soon.

9780345548603#4: A PLAGUE OF GIANTS, by Kevin Hearne.  Speaking of the cool people that Lila Bowen hangs out with, Kevin Hearne’s been on my list of faves for a while, and when I heard that he’d started work on a proper Epic Fantasy Series as a follow-up to his excellent IRON DRUID series, I was insanely excited.  A PLAGUE OF GIANTS is different enough from his previous work that I’d have been hard-pressed to identify him as the author after reading the IRON DRUID books, but that versatility is a strength, and the framing device of the story– a bard basically giving a multi-day oral history lesson to a large crowd, by taking on the appearance and speech patterns of the people talking while performing, is unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  I’m chomping at the bit for the next installment on this one; it’s getting pre-ordered the second I find it available on Amazon.

33128934#3: STILLHOUSE LAKE, by Rachel Caine.  I read STILLHOUSE LAKE in two or three huge gulps, staying up much later than I wanted to to finish it because I couldn’t stand the idea of going to bed without knowing how it ended.  I’m a big fan of Caine’s, and this is her only series without even a whiff of the supernatural about it– it’s a very 2017 type of horror novel, where the main character is both the ex-wife of a serial killer and the target of an army of relentless internet assholes who have decided she was an accomplice in her husband’s crimes and deserves to be punished for her actions.  It’s a chillingly realistic type of horror and one of a very few books that genuinely scared me while I was reading it.  I just finished its sequel KILLMAN CREEK, and while it doesn’t quite stand out as strongly as STILLHOUSE did (and also lacks that amazingly evocative cover, which would have sold me the book all by itself) it’s a great follow-up.  There’s a third book coming soon but I think the series works well as a duology.  We’ll see where they go next.

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9f#2: THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas.  While not my favorite book of the year, I think THE HATE U GIVE is probably the most important book I read in 2017, and in particular I think this book needs to make its way into a whole lot of school libraries.  All of them, in fact.  The title is a Tupac reference; he once claimed that THUG LIFE stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody,” and… well, we’ll just say the book is well-named.  The story is about a young woman whose best friend is killed by a police officer, so it’s a bit triggery and, well, on point given the current fucked-up society we live in.  It’s a hell of a book and everyone should read it, or at least see the movie when it comes out sometime next year.

(SIDENOTE: I also read DEAR MARTIN, by Nic Stone, which is a very similar book in a lot of ways– in fact, the biggest difference is that DEAR MARTIN is about a male character and not a young woman.  I think DM suffered from having read THUG first, and while it’s absolutely worth your time it didn’t blow me away the way THUG did.  Read them both, but read THE HATE U GIVE first.)

30279514#1: DREADNOUGHT and SOVEREIGN, by April Daniels.  Here is the most impressive thing about DREADNOUGHT:  I read it in February, and it is still so much on my mind in December that there was no real competition for it being the best book of the year.  As much as I loved the other books on this list– and you don’t get on this list unless I loved your book– there was never anything this year that came close to how much I loved DREADNOUGHT… unless it was SOVEREIGN, the sequel, which also came out this year and was just as good.  That’s practically impossible.  Superhero prose is pretty rare in general; comic books have such a stranglehold on the genre that most people don’t even really consider superheroics as proper fodder for a prose novel.  Teen Danny Tozer accidentally inherits the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s premier superhero, and one of the first things Dreadnought’s powers do is reshape Danny’s body into his own personal ideal, which means Danny becomes Danielle.  It’s a great superhero book, a great teenage coming-of-age book, a great exploration of how society treats trans people (the main villain of the second book is a TERF) and all around a fantastic pair of novels and the best two books I read in 2017.  I finally got my wife to start reading DREADNOUGHT a couple of days ago, and she hasn’t been able to put it down much either.  Go buy this, guys.  You’ve got Christmas money lying around, I know it.

Honorable Mention, in no particular order:  DEFY THE STARS, by Claudia Gray; YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN INNOCENT, by James Duane, HAND TO MOUTH: LIVING IN BOOTSTRAP AMERICA, by Linda Tirado; FLYGIRL, by Sherri L. Smith; THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, by John Scalzi, THE TRESPASSER, by Tana French; A SONG FOR QUIET, by Cassandra Khaw, and DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES, by Seanan McGuire.

Worst book of the year: ORIGINS, by Dan Brown.  I literally don’t think he can write a worse book than this one.  Let’s all hope he never tries.

#2017 blogwanking

It’s that time of year again, where I pretend that people care about my site metrics even the teeniest little bit and waste time posting about them anyway!  You’re excited, right?

Okay, there’s a reason I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, nobody’s on the blog today anyway.  🙂 Onward!

Here’s overall traffic for the blog, organized by year:

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 1.50.03 PM

That’s… not super encouraging, obviously, and I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t written a monster post at the end of 2015 (more on that later) we’d be seeing a steady decline since 2014.  Now, a lot of this year is my fault– I’ve not been engaging with other bloggers and I haven’t been posting as often, so traffic was bound to be down.  That 575 comments number is definitely something I’d like to see go up in the future; that’s not even two a day.  But hey!  Sixty-one thousand pageviews ain’t bad.  It’s not like I’m a celebrity or anything; I’m an idiot with a website.

The top ten posts written in 2017 were:

  1. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: MINI FORCE, 6,413 pageviews.
  2. #REVIEW: SLEEPING BEAUTIES, by Stephen King & Owen King, 276 pageviews.
  3. Betsy DeVos is a fucking worthless hack and so is her scumbag boss, 249 pageviews.
  4. KOKOMO-CON: The Cosplay, 236 pageviews, plus hundreds on the pictures.
  5. RIP, Sonya Craig, 186 pageviews.
  6. On refugees and Christianity, again, 174 pageviews.
  7. On “assassination porn” and stupid, stupid people, 169 pageviews.
  8. #metoo and me, 149 pageviews.
  9. May as well tell the whole world, 123 pageviews.
  10. On letting idiots make decisions for me, 118 pageviews.

…so, yeah.  Nothing that really set the world on fire, other than that MINI FORCE piece, and… well, prepare for a pattern on that.  I have no idea who the hell is reading the Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews series, but holy shit are those posts popular, except when they’re not.  The one on Pokémon that I wrote this year got nowhere, the one on Mini Force got six thousand pageviews.  Hell if I know.

The top ten posts of the year, regardless of when they were written, are:

  1. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: MINI FORCE, 6,413 pageviews, 6,413 pageviews overall.
  2. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM, 5,262 pageviews, 15,799 pageviews overall.
  3. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: OCTONAUTS, 3,045 pageviews, 9,068 pageviews overall.
  4. SNOWPIERCER: I hated, hated, hated, hated, HATED this movie.,  3,013 pageviews, 27,152 pageviews overall.
  5. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: SARAH & DUCK, 2,791 pageviews, 3,206 pageviews overall.
  6. In which I tell you how your religion works, 2,118 pageviews, 109,692 pageviews overall.
  7. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: COLOR CREW, 1,958 pageviews, 6,977 pageviews overall.
  8. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: CURIOUS GEORGE, 1,423 pageviews, 5,781 pageviews overall.
  9. In which I am still a bad student (pt. 2 of 3), 1,243 pageviews, 2,014 pageviews overall.
  10. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: Peg + Cat, 958 pageviews, 3,694 pageviews overall.

…I assume you may have noticed a theme.  Be aware that the next six highest posts for the year are also CCPR posts.  I don’t understand any of this, really; that Goddamn Snowpiercer post should not be still getting views but still does every single day (and remains the #1 Google result for the words “Snowpiercer stupid,”) and I’ve never understood the popularity of specifically #2 in that “Bad Student” series.  For comparative purposes, part one got 59 views this year, and part 3 got 67.  I think it has something to do with being a high Google result for searches that include the image at the top of the page, but why the hell that led to twelve hundred pageviews?  I dunno.

Clearly I need to just review kids’ shows all the time.  That’s obviously my niche.

OH I ALMOST FORGOT EDIT:  Geography!  Geography is fun.  Here are countries that have visited my blog this year:

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 5.09.52 PM

And here is the lifetime-of-the-blog chart.  Both are clickable to make ’em a bit bigger if you care to do so:

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 5.10.34 PM

Still missing: North Korea, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Western Sahara, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Gabon, Svalbard Island, and… Kosovo.  I have always suspected that for some unclear technological reason whatever software WordPress is using interprets hits from Kosovo as being from the neighboring countries, as they’re fairly well-represented, and none of the rest are especially surprising, as they’re either Communist dictatorships, tremendously poor, have essentially no people, or some combination of the three.

It is very cool to say that my stupid little blog has had visits from damn near every country on Earth, guys.

Oh God He’s Still Talking: Part 2 of the Spoiler #review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

la-et-mn-star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer

PART EIGHT: FILIBUSTERING FOR THE FACEBOOK FOLKS

So, yeah, I’m going to try and finish this before I go to bed tonight, probably to pop tomorrow morning since I’ll be at work all day and why not.  In case it’s not obvious, there are probably going to be places where my memory of the film isn’t quite perfect (I saw it a week ago, after all) and chances are I’ll mix the order of some shit up every now and again.  If there’s anything especially egregious, let me know, or maybe I’ll fix it myself once I see the movie again, which is basically inevitable.

Okay.  Is that long enough to avoid accidentally spoiling something for the Facebook people, who get a little blurb from the first part of the post every time something gets shared?  Cool.  Onward!

PART NINE: THE OTHER PLAN

Item #2 in the I Know More than You About This Because I Read Books series is Amilyn Holdo.  This lady right here:

star-wars-admiral-amilyn-holdo-laura-dern

The remnants of the Resistance are meeting, with Leia incapacitated and Ackbar dead, and it turns out that now-Admiral Holdo is the new at-least-interim leader of the Resistance.  And she, it seems, is not Poe Dameron’s biggest fan.  Now, I know all about Holdo, because I read Claudia Grey’s excellent Leia: Princess of Alderaan, where she’s a major character.  You may not know anything about her.  That’s okay!  Just be aware that she and Poe ain’t gonna get along… which she basically makes clear immediately by reminding him that one of Leia’s last acts as a non-blown-up person was to demote his ass and that arrogant, order-ignoring flyboys are not going to be any part of her chain of command.

(Did you hear that?  It’s important.)

So Poe pisses off and this is one of the parts where I told this out of order, because it’s after he meets with Holdo that he and Finn and Rose come up with Plan #2.  Plan #1, as it turns out after a while, is to get everybody on the flagship (which, the internet tells me, is called the Raddus) before the other ships die and then use the remaining fuel on the Raddus to get everyone off of it and headed somewhere else, basically in escape pods, before the First Order blows the Raddus out of the sky.

Er.  Space.  Can you blow something out of space?  Before they blow it up, at any rate.  Escape pods are tiny, see, and hopefully the First Order won’t notice them since they’re focused on the Raddus.

Poe does not like this plan.  Poe does not like this plan one bit!  Not that he told anybody about his plan, mind you, because he’s the Arrogant Flyboy and his ideas are better.  But he gets super pissed about the idea that everyone’s abandoning the ship to fly off who-knows-where and he fights back by staging a goddamned mutiny while everybody else is trying to load the ships up.  He and a few others literally hold Holdo and her never-named, beak-nosed lieutenant at gunpoint and try to take over the ship to give Finn and Rose and Slicer Dude some more time to sabotage Snoke’s ship.

gallery-1507602843-sw6

This is a bad decision, as Holdo manages to break free of her captors pretty quickly and starts taking her damn ship back.

Oh, and Finn and Rose done got their asses captured and Benicio del Toro is busy pissing off with a couple of giant crates full of, presumably, First Order cash, with not a drop of regret upon his countenance, so pretty much everything Poe Dameron has done in this movie has turned out to be bad decisions..  Turns out dressing like a First Order officer and infiltrating the ship isn’t clever enough to get past BB-H8, BB-8’s no-I’m-not-kidding evil counterpart.  More on them later, but needless to say Dameron is practically trying to hotwire the ship when Leia, of all people, bandaged head and all, breaks into the command deck and shoots his simple ass with a stun blaster.

Yeah, turns out the plan isn’t to just, y’know, flee.  There’s an old Rebel base nearby on a planet called Crait.  That’s where everybody’s going.  Oh, we didn’t tell you that specifically, Poe?  Why the fuck would we have told you specifically?  Maybe your recently-demoted, face-slapped, stungun-stunned ass could, I dunno, follow fucking orders?

Nah.

But before I go any farther there, let’s go back to Rey.  And that Kylo Ren dude I’ve barely mentioned at all so far.

PART TEN: THE BIT WITH REY AND KYLO, OR: DANCE, FUCKER, DANCE

I happen to be listening to The Offspring at the moment, so please don’t assume that secondary subtitle has anything do do with the actual movie.

So, yeah.  This chick.  She’s been busy:

Brody-Star-Wars-The-Last-Jedi

What with Luke refusing to train her in any sort of proper fashion, Rey’s basically decided to pick up his lightsaber and train herdamnself.

I love this character, guys.  I love Rey.  She’s the best thing Star Wars ever did.  Luke doesn’t wanna train her?  Fine.  Fuck ‘im.  She’s off lightsabering and jumping directly into the Pit of Evil that Luke has warned her away from and shocking the hell out of him with the visions she’s having during the rare occasions when he deigns to show her something.

Oh, and occasionally she finds that she and Kylo Ren are sharing a mental link that neither of them can explain, and they can talk to each other and see each other as if they’re in the same room.  The movie even goes so far as to give us a shirtless Kylo scene just so that they can demonstrate that Rey can actually see him.  That scar?  Goes all the way down, if you know what I mean and I sure as hell don’t.

Anyway, Rey kinda hates him, and it’s unbelievable how good of a job these two actors do of “acting” in a “scene” “together” when they are in fact not even in the same solar system.  Over time, though, Rey’s frustration with Luke sort of boils through, and Kylo sort of gets into her head a little bit– at least to the point where she’s not trying to blow his spectral head off anymore, as she does the first time she “sees” him.  The frog-nuns who protect the island are super pissed about the hole she blows in the wall of her hovel.

This happens several times, and eventually– and I’ll admit I’m losing the chronology a bit here– the question of What Happened With Luke comes up.  Rey gets three versions of the story.  First, Luke tells her that he was worried about how Ben was clearly being tempted by the dark side, went to talk with him, and Ben attacked him and burned down his Jedi school and fled.  Rey confronts Kylo Ren with this information.

And Kylo tells her point-blank that Luke had his lightsaber ignited when he went to see him, and when Kylo woke up, his master was standing over him preparing to kill him.

And then Luke’s version of the story changes when Rey confronts him about it, and it’s another one of those moments where Mark Hamill being an outstanding actor all the sudden is critical, because Luke describes igniting his lightsaber as a brief, terrible personal failure: that he’d had a vision of Ben Solo’s future as galactic supervillain Kylo Ren and, just for a moment, contemplated killing his apprentice, his own nephew, to prevent that terrible future from coming to pass– and, in doing so, destroyed everything he had ever worked for and guaranteed that future.

the-last-jedi-teaser-11

PART ELEVEN:  SOME BITS I FORGOT TO MENTION

There are a couple of good Luke moments that I haven’t mentioned yet, and we’re chronologically past them in the movie now, so lemme just throw them in real quick: Luke initially basically hides from Rey, who goes and gets Chewbacca to literally knock in the wall of Luke’s hut.  Luke takes one look at Chewbacca and immediately asks him where Han is.  It’s the first hint we get of how he’s isolated himself from the Force; I don’t believe for a second that Jedi Master Luke wouldn’t have felt Han die.  They cut away after the question and we don’t see his reaction to the answer.

Also, the brief, involuntary smile on his face when he sees R2-D2 for the first time– one of only maybe aa couple of times he smiles in the movie– is wonderful.

PART TWELVE: THERE IS GOOD IN HIM, I CAN FEEL IT, OR MAYBE THOSE ARE HIS ABS

So, speaking of Kylo Ren:  he’s not wearing his mask anymore.  He only gets one really good Get Mad and Wreck Shit scene in this movie after several in FORCE AWAKENS, and it’s after being summoned up to Supreme Leader Snoke’s very, very red throne room and basically mocked roundly for not being the evilest evil dude who ever eviled evilly enough.  Snoke, who I briefly thought might be a reincarnated Darth Vader because of the scar on his head but it turns out is actually a gold-bathrobed Undead Hugh Hefner, makes fun of him for wearing the mask and he smashes the shit out of the thing in the lift on the way down from the throne room and we never see it again.

As he and Rey are Force-talking back and forth, she eventually gets the idea that she can win him back to the light side of the Force– that, much like his grandfather, there is good in him as well.  And eventually she decides that if Luke isn’t going to help her, or the Resistance, she’s going to take shit into her own hands.  In fact, she and Luke have a brief fight scene that starts off with her going after him with her staff and ends up with her using his blue lightsaber again.  He throws her off the island (“You can’t fire me, I quit!”) and she steals the Jedi books that I haven’t mentioned yet– there are Jedi books– and splits, planning on going to Kylo Ren and confronting him, either killing him or turning him in the process.

(Oh, and in a Moment!  Of!  Foreshadowing!, Kylo comments that projecting himself across the galaxy in the manner that either he or Rey appear to be doing really ought to require enough power to kill one of them.)

landscape-1509612767-the-last-jedi-snoke
That is a very red throne room.

PART THIRTEEN: I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS

Luke is alone and abandoned and furious, and he storms off to the Jedi Tree, which never really got explained but was where he kept the Jedi books, intending to destroy the entire thing.  And then… Yoda.

Force Ghost Yoda.

I didn’t know Yoda was gonna be in this movie.  I kinda had some feelings, seeing Yoda in this movie.  And Yoda stops Luke from destroying the Tree, by hitting it with Force lightning and doing it himself.  He’s very much the impish Yoda from ESB here, taunting Luke with the idea that old Jedi books and old Jedi trees are really something important that needs to be preserved.  I really wanted a callback to the line Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter, and didn’t get it.  And it is entirely possible that I wiped a tear or two away during their conversation.  I ain’t saying.  But Yoda kinda gets Luke’s head back on straight, and they sit and watch the Tree burn together.

PART FOURTEEN: HAVE I MENTIONED THIS IS THE LONGEST STAR WARS MOVIE EVER?  BECAUSE MY WRISTS ARE STARTING TO HURT, GUYS.

xZZY5biibobwdoDcuxsLqi-480-80

Rey isn’t subtle about landing on Snoke’s ship, and Kylo Ren grabs her almost immediately, taking her up to the Red Room to meet the boss.  Snoke is insanely powerful in the Force, slapping her around whenever he likes, including one fun part where he lets her snatch her lightsaber from him, then Force-pushes it past her boomerang-style and clocks her on the back of the head on the way back to him.  She not only can’t hurt him, she can’t get close to him, and he’s pretty clear that killing her is how Kylo completes his training.  He lets her try and grab her lightsaber from him a couple more times, and then sets it next to him on his throne while he sits back and emotes evilly at Kylo Ren to kill her.

At which point Kylo ignites Rey’s lightsaber, still sitting on the throne next to Snoke, and cuts him the fuck in half.

Despicable-Me-Minion-Saying-What

No, seriously.  Cuts him the fuck in half.  Darth Maul-style.  And his top half slides off the lower half, and he is dead as hell, guys, they aren’t screwing around with this at all, and it’s at least the third time this movie has blown my fucking mind.

And then Snoke’s eight guards, the dudes in red armor who, as it turns out, probably should have been standing closer to their boss if they wanted to be useful, all attack Kylo and Rey, and the fight is amazing, and it ends with one of them getting sucked into some sort of… mechanical thing?  Which isn’t really very good for the ship?  And everything’s on fire, and blowing up, at least partially because of stuff going on in the A and B plots, and then there’s a brief and very intense fight and conversation between Kylo and Rey, which includes him forcing her to admit that her parents were nobodies, that they were poor scavenger trash who probably sold her for beer money, and she says it out loud, which clearly kinda kills her soul.  The fight ends with an amazing Force battle over Luke’s lightsaber, which gets stuck in between them and then explodes, knocking Ren unconscious.  Rey gets away, stealing Snoke’s personal shuttle and meeting back up with Chewie on the Falcon.

A lot of people are taking this revelation more seriously than I would think they should.  I mean, okay, my Rey is Luke’s Daughter theory is pretty much shot out of the water, but there’s no reason to believe that Ren actually knows anything here or that he’s doing anything other than screwing with her head here.  Dude has not exactly shown himself to be trustworthy, right?

1511220578Kylo_Ren_and_Rey_Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi_png

PART FIFTEEN: WHY’S THE SHIP ON FIRE, ANYWAY?

Because Amilyn Holdo, in a last-ditch attempt to save the Resistance, has turned the Raddus around and rammed Snoke’s ship while entering lightspeed.  Let’s back up: Finn and Rose are captured, and Benicio del Toro has not only betrayed them but has dropped a dime on Poe’s stupid plan, and the First Order is picking escape pods out of the sky.  The Resistance, by this point, is down to just a few dozen people at most, and they’re on their way down to Crait.  Finn and Rose were seconds away from being executed– oh, Phasma’s alive, by the way– when all the ‘sploding happened, and Finn and Phasma fight, and for a brief second they let us think that Phasma’s dropped him into some sort of pit, because Star Wars still doesn’t have OSHA, but then he clocks her upside the face with the butt of a rifle or something and actually breaks her mask open, and then the ground opens up beneath her and she falls to her death.

OR DOES SHE???

I don’t care, she’s Boba Fett II.  Anyway, Rose and Finn get away and head for Crait.  Rey gets away and heads for Crait.  And Commander Hux finds Kylo Ren unconscious right next to Snoke’s bisected body, surrounded by some very messily lightsabered dead guard bodies.  Hux’s hand, very slowly, drifts to his blaster, but before he can make the decision to kill Ren, Ren wakes up.  I don’t remember Hux’s exact line– it might just be “What HAPPENED here?”, but oh God it’s totally this .gif:

eg01DJX

Hux doesn’t believe Ren’s story about how Rey killed everybody and overpowered him for a single second, but there’s more important shit to do and the ship’s busy blowing up around him, so it’s time for the endgame.  To Crait!

PART SIXTEEN: ENDGAME

star-wars-the-last-jedi-creature-1036567
Crystal foxes are awesome.

And now, the last stand of Leia Organa and her immortals: holed up in an abandoned Rebel base on the salt-encrusted planet of Crait, with thirteen rickety speeders and some heavy weaponry against this bullshit:

StarWarsMilitary-FINAL

If you look carefully, you can see some regular AT-ATs mixed in with these new school gorilla-knuckle-walkin’ heavy bastards.  Point is, they’re huge.  And they’ve detached the cannon from some big ship bastard and are planning on using it to melt the giant metal door that is the only think in between the Resistance and certain death.

Leia sends out a distress signal.  No one responds.

Finn tries to sacrifice himself to take the gun out, and Rose stops him.  There’s a brief declaration of love on her part, but she’s damn near unconscious when she says it and I’m going to choose to pretend it’s not real, because… nah.  I like Rose too much to believe she fell in love with Finn’s dumb ass over the course of their trip to Canto Bight.  Call it headcanon if you have to.

Point is, the Resistance is screwed.

(I’m passing over some stuff.  There’s shooting, guys, this is at 3000 words again.)

And then Luke is there.  And he’s apparently had time to have a haircut.  And I swear to God he’s deliberately dressed like Anakin:

kylo-ren-rey-luke-skywalker-in-star-wars-the-last-jedi-8d-2560x1700

He meets Leia, and kisses her on the forehead, and gives her Han’s dice from the Falcon.  And then he goes out to meet his destiny, buying the Resistance soldiers time to follow the crystal foxes (roll with it) out of the hidden back entrance to the base.

Kylo and Hux are in the cockpit of his shuttle, commanding the battle.  And Kylo loses his mind when he sees Luke, standing alone in front of the base, his feet leaving no footprints in the salt, bare-handed.  He orders every First Order vehicle to open fire on him, and lets the shooting go on for probably a full minute.  Hux tries to stop him and is unceremoniously Force-slammed into a bulkhead for his trouble, not to be seen in the film again.

When the shooting stops, Luke is unscathed, waiting.  It’s an outstanding moment.

Kylo Ren meets him on the ground, alone.  Luke ignites his lightsaber– his blue lightsaber.  And there is a brief exchange of lightsaber blows, and I can’t honestly say I remember for sure but I’m pretty certain the blades clash at at least a couple of points.

And then Kylo Ren charges Luke, and whips his blade through his midsection… with no effect at all.  Because Luke is still on Ach-To, which he’s sworn to never leave, and where he’s sworn to die, and Ren is fighting a Force projection.  And Rey, who Luke proclaims as the last of the Jedi, is freeing the remnants of the Resistance through the back exit of the base, moving tons of rock aside to do so.

They are the spark that will ignite the hope of the galaxy, Luke’s specter tells Kylo Ren.  And then, on Ach-To, he disappears, joining the Force, his robes fluttering to the ground around him.

Elsewhere, at Canto Bight, a young slave boy is entertaining several other children, telling the story of a battle between good and evil, using straw dolls as toys.  His master comes in angry, and the boy flees.  In the faithier stables, he looks at the ring on his finger, a ring that bears the symbol of the New Republic.

And then he calls his broom to his hand and begins to sweep the stable.

Roll credits.

I loved this fucking movie, guys.  I almost don’t want Episode Nine now, because it’s JJ again, and JJ’s going to fuck everything up.  Rian Johnson gets his own Star Wars trilogy all to himself that he can do whatever he wants with.  I am so, so, so in.

And now I’m going to go ice my wrists for a while.