Topic: A Practical Man: Review

Hope this is the right forum. I wanted to post a review of Karen Travis's short story, A Practical Man. Hope other folks will post their impressions as well.
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Before I begin the review, let me level set. I approach every book I read with a set of expectations based on a host of things, from the type of book, the genre, the author, the subject matter. Some tales don’t need to work very hard for me, the bar isn’t set too high. Other tales have an impossible task, face insurmountable odds, unrealistic expectations. Those works surrounding Boba Fett are the ones that, like the hunter himself, have the toughest of tasks set before them. I’m pleased to say that A Practical Man, like it’s subject matter, Boba Fett, delivers the merchandise and scores a direct hit.

The short story is a difficult format to master. You have limited space to convey ample information. Retconning is a more daunting task. Doing both in the same narrow gauntlet is certainly a challenge and one well met. Karen Travis succeeds in bringing together many disparate elements into a cohesive whole that imparts unity to the story line of the Mandalorians and Fett, joining them with the larger back story cannon of the rest of the Star Wars novel universe.

The story is told mainly through the eyes of  Boba Fett as Mandalore, and another Mando warrior, Goran Beviin, as they deal with the Yuuzhan Vong. Fett, though Mandalore, is not in touch with the culture, while Beviin represents for them. You learn the culture because it influences everything Beviin does, how he acts and reacts.  You also see this through the actions of the other Mando warriors, including a young girl of thirteen. She’s gone through the right of passage and is out to fight with the adults. In a way, reading Beviin and Fett made me wonder, had Jango been different, had Fett been adopted into the culture, would he have become more like Beviin? It seemed an interesting contrast, both hard core warriors, but temperament and emotional  / cultural connection seemed the thing that set them apart.

The Yuuzhan Vong are first making entry in to the galaxy, and luckily, first contact comes with the Mandalorians. Fett quickly realizes the devastating menace of this enemy, and in the guts of their ship, he begins to see himself as connected to the Mandalorians, if only to protect them as part of his role in Mandalore.  Later in the story another turning point occurs, drawing him to make a connection with his past that joins him to his future and what is to come. Fett bears witness to the perverse idolization of pain and suffering unique to these grotesque invaders, and in doing so, uncovers his own humanity. All of this is done with a deft hand, organically woven into the story, so you feel it happening as the character feels it happen. Very powerful stuff.

The action is well written, the information subtly, artfully communicated. Strange to say, I liked the Mando Commandos (*wink*) more than Fett in this story, though Boba does have solid portrayal. The action was spot on, and there was just the right balance of dialogue, description and introspection. The moments of instrospection that are Fett’s and Fett’s alone are character shaping. The amount of growth he undergoes in this compressed moment in time is phenomenal.

I particularly liked the way the Mando women were handled. They were portrayed as tough, rather than bitchy. A lot of writers attempt to do tough and wind up creating whiny prima donnas. They especially fall flat when they try a hand at women in the military. As a former female soldier I can appreciate the way Ms. Travis handled them. They had both martial and feminine concerns, and maintained a level of professionalism at all times. I’m very much looking forward to reading more about Mandos in general, and the women warriors in particular.

The other interesting thing was the incorporation of Mando’a , in phrases, that are then explained, but not in a pedantic way.

While I would love nothing better than to go on about so many of the high points, and there are many, I couldn’t do that without spoiling the enjoyment other readers will get from making the discoveries themselves during the first read. The download contains extras, as well, including a very interesting interview with Karen Travis. This was an intense, enjoyable, well written, thoughtful tale.

For the die hards, worry not: Boba Fett is in excellent hands with Karen Travis. And you know me, you know what a hard *** I am about such things. I’m playing you straight on this one. A Practical Man is a must read for Fett fans, and well worth the time. It’s also a great set up for Bloodlines.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Are the Mandalorians cold, ruthless beings as they should be, or Jango-esque "warriors?"

take it easy baby take it as it comes

3 (edited by Ursula Sunday, August 27, 2006 5:57 pm)

Re: A Practical Man: Review

draco fett wrote:

Are the Mandalorians cold, ruthless beings as they should be, or Jango-esque "warriors?"

At first I thought neither. But I think they are a little closer to Jango, though he is different from them, and from Boba. They're more than professional warriors. Soldiering, fighting, are such a part of their culture it's who they are. Each of the Mandos is very different in the story, yet they are all united not only in professionalism, but approach to war. There is one scene in the end where this comes acress clearly: they face an enemy and learn from the confrontation, hatch a plan then and there that shapes the war to come. The way it's done is very natural, an after action report right after the conflict so to speak.

They are also human, shown in how they handle celebrations, risk, threat to family, and death of family.

But they're not sappy. They are used to the frailty of life, fate and fortune, and they are used to combat and war. They really are a breed apart.

Jango sort of falls short of them: he is more isolationist.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Spotlighting this.

aaron@bobafettfanclub.com

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Thanks so much for the review Ursula.  Awesome stuff.  Maybe there's some way we can put this up among the main page tabs?  Aaron, any ideas?

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Never mind the question, then, Aaron.  That's what I get for taking so long to read this.

:-p

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Thanks Ursula i have to get that book. It sounds really good.

I'm smiling because they havn't found the bodies yet. :)
I think, therfore i am I destroy, therfore i endure - IG-88 tales of the bounty hunters

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Yes, thank you for the review!  I'm very much looking forward to reading this, and was not planning on downloading it, but waiting for a print.  However, after reading your review, Ursula, I think I do want to read this as soon as possible! That, and I'm really looking forward to see more use of Mando'a.  I'm glad female Mandos are righteously handled---Traviss is an excellent author to handle the Mandalorians, I agree!

"Train your sons to be strong, but your daughters to be stronger."--Karen Traviss, Bloodlines

Re: A Practical Man: Review

I forwarded the link of the review on to Karen through her Yahoo Groups, Ursula, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I was asking her about it possibly being put into print, or maybe being added to one of her newer books, the way her Star Wars Insider short stories were added to Triple Zero, but she said it was up to the publisher if they were to do that or not.  I would personally like a copy of it in print, just because I like being able to read it wherever or whenever I want, and not have to have the computer for it, you know?  We can only cross our fingers, I guess.

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

I believe it will only be an e-book, and therefore not in print.

aaron@bobafettfanclub.com

Re: A Practical Man: Review

That's kind of the gist I was getting, too.  Kind of disappointing.  I'm going to just have to force myself to sit down for an hour or so and read the thing on the computer this weekend.  Funny how it's so easy to waste so much time messing around on the internet for a couple of hourse, but when it comes to reading a really long document or book on the pc, it's just not as fun, you know?

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Sadriel_Fett wrote:

I forwarded the link of the review on to Karen through her Yahoo Groups, Ursula, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I was asking her about it possibly being put into print, or maybe being added to one of her newer books, the way her Star Wars Insider short stories were added to Triple Zero, but she said it was up to the publisher if they were to do that or not.  I would personally like a copy of it in print, just because I like being able to read it wherever or whenever I want, and not have to have the computer for it, you know?  We can only cross our fingers, I guess.

Thanks !  I'm glad she enjoyed it. I absolutely loved the story.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Guys, I just finished Bloodlines. HOLY MOLY! It will knock your helms clear off your heads!
Get the keleenex. There's some messy stuff in the book.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

.......Ahhhhh i dont like the sound of that ..........

I'm smiling because they havn't found the bodies yet. :)
I think, therfore i am I destroy, therfore i endure - IG-88 tales of the bounty hunters

15 (edited by Ursula Tuesday, August 29, 2006 2:20 pm)

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Worry not!

It was just a really really really intense read. Not just the Fett stuff, though that hit very hard. I was really surprised by some of the frank brutality and evil portrayed in the story, it's usually candy coated, but not this time.


Fett, by the way, still kicks *** and takes names, but in this, you get inside the bucket head well and good, and it's quite a ride when it happens. You also get the low down on his past, how he feels about his present, and what happens when things don't go as planned. Best, you get a hint at quite an epic future laid out.  I'm hoping to get a review up tonight or tomorrow.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Ursula wrote:

Guys, I just finished Bloodlines. HOLY MOLY! It will knock your helms clear off your heads!
Get the keleenex. There's some messy stuff in the book.

Man, that didn't take long.  Did you read it straight through?  It just came out yesterday or today, didn't it?

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Sadriel_Fett wrote:
Ursula wrote:

Guys, I just finished Bloodlines. HOLY MOLY! It will knock your helms clear off your heads!
Get the keleenex. There's some messy stuff in the book.

Man, that didn't take long.  Did you read it straight through?  It just came out yesterday or today, didn't it?

Yes, read it straight through. I was home today: my staff was passing around the creeping crud last week and they finally passed it my way. The Old Man brought it home this morning(he left work early), and I read it cover to cover. Before becoming an RN, I was a history major, so I learned to read very very fast. I'm also an obsessive reader, and when I get something I like, I can't put it down. The old man told me once I treated reading like a full contact sport. He may be right.

I also finished it today because I had a target for reading 5K pages in the month of August and what better way to  cross the finish line than with Fett and company? wink

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

Re: A Practical Man: Review

((Man, look at what I miss being gone for week. I have a lot of catching up to do.))

I am so glad Traviss didn't make the women warriors seem bitchy, that was something I was worried about. Seems like she knows what she's doing from what you said Ursula. I'm also glad that she gives some insight on how the average Mandalorian thinks, I've been winging it for awhile.

This Goran Beviin guy sounds very intersting, does he actually "teach" Fett about all the innerworkings of the Mandalorian culture or what?

They say that dreamers are an extinct breed. I say they're wrong.

19 (edited by Ursula Wednesday, August 30, 2006 6:18 pm)

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Atinvod wrote:

((Man, look at what I miss being gone for week. I have a lot of catching up to do.))

I am so glad Traviss didn't make the women warriors seem bitchy, that was something I was worried about. Seems like she knows what she's doing from what you said Ursula. I'm also glad that she gives some insight on how the average Mandalorian thinks, I've been winging it for awhile.

This Goran Beviin guy sounds very intersting, does he actually "teach" Fett about all the innerworkings of the Mandalorian culture or what?

He gives Fett a basis for comparison. More of that comes in to play in Bloodlines, and something that Beviin says sticks with Fett and contributes to a big character shift in the end (along with other key events).  The two really are an amazing package. You learn more about Mandos and I expect the next few books she writes will be the big reveal. It's insane how much Fett grows in the two books, it blew my mind. It's also scary to see the major nasty turns some of the other characters take.

I was really pleased with the female thing, though. Too many writers try to bitch out tough, and that's not how it really plays. Strong women who are real and comfortable with their strength and power (which if you're raised from birth in that mindset) do not bitch. That negative display is power whining, and it comes from lack of confidence displayed as feminine bravado and manipulation technique. Too many authors don't get it, which is sad. But it's like female authors who try to write tough alpha males and make them macho dorks: the same applies. A strong man is comfortable in his skin, knows who he is, and doesn't need to bench 350 and woof like a mutt to prove it.

I think Travis might have served in reserves or something. Very good handling. Wait till you read Bloodlines, it will be a total trip.

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[url]http://museunplugged.blogspot.com/[/url]

20 (edited by FettFan79 Saturday, September 2, 2006 12:47 pm)

Re: A Practical Man: Review

I know I can't wait to read it!!!  WOW!! you read it already?? dang!  For me, it's kinda like a hunger---I need the story and I will crave it until I get to read it.

I'm just happy I got to add 6 more books to my collection, including Hard Merchandise so I can FINALLY finish the Bounty Hunter wars!

OMG---I need to read for myself what happens to Fett in Bloodlines--I've heard/read bits and pieces, so now I'm seriously craving that!  And  Practical Man---is this going to be available for a long time?  Are there any sites selling it that take PayPal?  That story is on my plate too!  It would be nice if it came out in print, I was kinda hoping for that...

Ursula!  Great that Karen Traviss read and enjoyed your review! How cool is that!!??? smile and I hope that cold goes away quickly...

"Train your sons to be strong, but your daughters to be stronger."--Karen Traviss, Bloodlines

Re: A Practical Man: Review

As much as I dislike Karen Traviss as an author...
Thanks for the review Ursula.  smile

"If you don't want me to eat you.....SAY SOMETHING." 
-Captian Murphy

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Why do you dislike Karen Traviss, as an author?

--Sadriel Fett (BFFC Moderator)
"I'm just a simple Fan, trying to make my way in the universe."

Re: A Practical Man: Review

Alrighty...I'm going to post a new topic for this, because I'd need to discuss my opinion of Star Wars authors in general.  Particullarly Karen Traviss and Troy Denning.

"If you don't want me to eat you.....SAY SOMETHING." 
-Captian Murphy

Re: A Practical Man: Review

I'm actually liking Traviss more with every book---I like her way with military jargin.  I'm about even into Triple Zero and Bloodlines now.

"Train your sons to be strong, but your daughters to be stronger."--Karen Traviss, Bloodlines