Most people associate C.S. Lewis with The Chronicles of Narnia but his body of work encompases far more, including a science fiction trilogy that is available for the first time in ebook format. Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the trilogy, tells the tale of a man kidnapped, taken aboard a spaceship, and transported to Malacandra or, as we know it, Mars.
Dr. Ransom is not a man of action and adventure, but an academic, and he is ill-prepared to deal with his captors. They plan to turn him over to the creatures of Malacandra as a form of sacrifice, hoping it will allow them to eventually loot the planet and return to Earth as wealthy men. On landing, Ransom manages to escape and there his real adventure begins. As he explores Malacandra and meets the aliens who call it home, he begins to understand them, and himself, in an entirely new way.
Reading this feels like reading classic science fiction, and really, it doesn’t get much more classic. This was originally published in 1938, long before we sent men into space or walked on the moon, but Out of the Silent Planet still captures the wonder and danger of discovering a new world in a way that resonates today. Malacandra is a beautiful and vivid world, but you’ll find that exploring it along with Ransom will turn into an exploration of the human spirit at it’s best and worst.
You might call me a Star Wars fan. You’d be right. Of all the franchises out there, this is the one that stole my heart first and never let it go. I was seven when I saw the movie in theaters and it single-handedly ignited my love for the genre.
Without Luke and Leia and Han, I might never have discovered all the wondrous worlds of science fiction. I’d be a very different person without Star Wars, as so much of what I’ve come to love and identify with has been a result of that one movie. And since the day I saw Luke trying to wield a lightsaber aboard the Millenium Falcon I have wanted to step into that universe. A Star Wars-based MMO seemed like a dream come true, but I’ve never stuck with one in the past. Would this be any different?
There have been countless Star Wars games and I’ve played most of them, but I am by no means an expert gamer. I don’t play to up my gamer score or increase my character level or reach some hard and fast achievement that will give me bragging rights. That’s just not how I game. I play for fun.
There are lots of gamers out there who are all about the achievements, the boasting, the “I can kick your butt!” aspect of gaming, and there’s not a thing wrong with that attitude. They’re still having fun, but there’s a seriousness, a focus, that is completely different from how I game.
I don’t care if my levels increase at a snail’s pace. I don’t care if I’m the weakest person in the party and get fragged the most. I do care about the story. That’s what makes or breaks a game, any game, in my eyes.
I want to feel like I’m part of an elite unit of troops when I play Halo. Sure, I’m the worst shot in all of history, but I’m there for the story, not the achievements. I want to imagine that I can, in fact, hit a rusty tin can perched on a fence when I’m playing Red Dead Redemption. And I wanted to feel like a Jedi Knight, trying to make all the right choices, when I playedStar Wars: The Old Republic.
My biggest worry was that no MMO had ever sucked me in to becoming a devoted player. There’s never been one that made me want to return to it again and again. Sure, for a few days they’re fine, but I don’t have any desire to spend hours wandering through their worlds. I wish I did, because I feel left out of some secret club. Alas, not being a fantasy person, WoW is not appealing so no guildies for me. But maybe, I thought, Star Wars: The Old Republic could be the one.
I have been looking forward to this for months, talking about it and hoping beyond hope that it would finally be the MMO that grabbed me. If ever there was a game that could change things for me, this was the one. It was officially released on Tuesday, December 2oth, but has been out for those of us who pre-ordered for about a week now. Did it live up to my expectations? Did it make me feel like I’d just survived the assault on the Death Star, or that I’d fallen into the Sarlacc pit with Boba Fett?
If my current bleary-eyed state is any indication, I not only survived the Death Star, I’m ready to go back and do it again. There were two things this game needed to do for me. It needed to make me feel like I was living in the world of Star Wars and it needed to not be so ridiculously complex out of the gate that I couldn’t figure out what I was doing, got frustrated, and threw my laptop off the roof.
It is straight-forward enough that even a complete noob like myself can figure things out as the game progresses. I’m able to easily navigate, shoot the baddies, and manage my inventory. I have already tricked out my Jedi Knight in new clothes and I am rocking the Padawan look. Really, I am so ready to kick the Empire’s butt, but in a non-vengeful, completely unemotional, Jedi-like manner.
More importantly, the game feels like Star Wars. It’s not just another MMO with Jedi and Sith and Smugglers. The music, the scenery, the story, the characters you create and the ones you meet, even the challenges you face all “feel” right. Those who’ve played MMO’s will find a lot of familiar techniques and a vast amount of detail that will let you build your character and increase levels. I have only scratched that surface, but I can see it, and I am genuinely looking forward to exploring and expanding how I play.
But as a noob, as that person who doesn’t have thirty expert friends who’ve been playing other games for years, this is still a fantastic game. If you are a fan of the Star Wars universe, give it a try. There are a surprisingly large number of players just like me, who aren’t expert, who don’t know how it all works and who are learning as they go. Sure, I may not have the immediate appreciation, or criticisms, of the more technical aspects of the game, but that’s not why I’m playing.
I’m playing to feel like I’m in a world where Luke goes from whiny kid to hero, where Han charms us all and where no odds are too great when you’ve got determination and The Force. This is the MMO I’ve been looking for….
Want to hear more about my experiences playing and learning all about Star Wars: The Old Republic? Check out the brand new Sith Heads podcast with me and MMO veteran Michael Gaines.
I love Spock. He is my favorite Star Trek character ever. Across every series, every movie, every everything, he is my favorite. I had a ridiculous crush on Wesley Crusher and swoon every time I see Wil Wheaton at a con, but it’s not the same thing because, well, Wesley was a bit annoying. Even the cuteness of Wheaton could not overcome that hurdle. Spock, on the other hand, was wonderful. The one raised eyebrow. The pointy ears. The Vulcan greeting. And of course, the words that belong to him more than any other Vulcan, “Live long and prosper.” Sadly, Leonard Nimoy is retiring and made his final convention appearance last weekend in Rosemont, Illinois.
He has been attending conventions for nearly fifty years, so he is more than entitled to take a break. Nimoy has always embraced and respected Spock rather than looking back and cringing at the character that made him famous. It always saddens me when actors write off the characters that made them, treating them with disdain as they reflect on their thriving careers, but not Nimoy. He has always had an appreciation for Star Trek, for Spock, and for his fans.
I never had the chance to meet him in person despite how frequently Star Trek conventions came my way at one time. They were constantly advertised on TV and although I had the best intentions, I never made it to the convention floor. I guess I always thought there would be a next time. Even though it’s likely that next time will never come now, I am happily falling in love with Spock all over again thanks to my kids and Netflix.
We’ve been making our way through from the beginning, just like I made my way through reruns of the original series with my Dad. We’d just gotten into The Next Generation and I asked my daughters how they liked it compared to the original series. They said it was fine, but I could tell they weren’t as excited. I mentioned this, and the littlest asked “Where’s Spock?” so I told her he wasn’t in this one. She gave me a little pouty face and said “Oh, I wanted Spock.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Even the youngest among us know a good thing when they see it. Thank you for bringing Spock to life, Mr. Nimoy, and enjoy your much deserved retirement. LLAP