BOOK REVIEW: The Currents of Space, by Isaac Asimov

spoilers for the entire Foundation universe

Publisher: Grafton

Genre: Space Opera

Series: Galactic Empire (#2)

Pages: 205

Publication Date: 1955

Verdict: 3/5

Rik doesn’t remember much. Not his real name, not his old job, and certainly not his past. But he does one importnat fact: that the world is going to be destroyed within a year. he knows he must warn people, but who would belive the world of a simpleton like Rik . . ?

The second Galactic Empire novel is stronger than the first, albeit not by much. As a rereader, I find that the strengths and weakness of these two books are actually reversed. The Currents of Space is, in all brutal honesty, a medicore book, but it does provide a tantalising glimpse at the begins of a recognisable Foundation universe.

As a single book, The Currents of Space is surprisingly formulaic. It’s a formula that will be familiar to anyone who has read the Robot novels. A mystery is set up and investigated, with revelations that it has potentially Galaxy-altering consequences. Several false conclusions are reached along the way, until at the last moment the truth is revealed and the matter resolved. But while the formula worked in Asimov’s other works, here it falls flat. This is largely due to the characters. Rik is no Elijah Baley. In fact, Rik is no anything really. He’s a curiously blank individual. Once a genius scientist, he is subjected to the fearsome Psychic Probe, which renders him an imbecile. The closest comparison I can think of is Lenny from Of Mice and Men. The unfortunate truth is that these ‘imbeciles’ for want of a better word, is that they’re not very interesting to read about.

Where The Currents of Space shines is in its depiction of a settled Galaxy. here is where we get our first mention of Trantor, which is at this point still expanding across the Galaxy. The off-hand references to Trantor in the first half of the book lead nicely into Trantor’s larger role in the second half. The way the growing Empire manipulates surrounding star systems and plays them against each other is wonderfully done. It’s a rare book that has this much of the action taking place off the page, but Asimov makes it work. The shadowy influence of trantor is undoubtedly the strongest point of the novel, even if it’s not quite strong enough to eleveate the book further in my estimation.

In many ways, this is an awkward hybrid of the science-driven mystery of the first half of this reread with the more space operatic social SF that is still to come. It’s not the best at being either, and the two sides don’t fit as neatly together as they do in other Asimov works. That being said, there is a lot to like about The Currents of Space. Aside from the rise of Trantor, we have the appearance of the Psychic Probe. A lot of Asimov’s signatures are at work here, not least of which is the triumph of intellect over force. This is a theme we’ll be seeing a lot more of as we come into the Foundation series proper.

In conclusion, this is far from Asimov’s best work. All the right elements are there, but it’s not quite sticking togther yet.

TV REVIEW: Star Trek: Picard, Season 1

-minor spoilers-

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway, Evan Evagora, Peyton List, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner

Episodes: 10

Genre: Social SF, Space Opera

Broadcaster: Amazon Prime (UK)

First Aired: 23/01/2020

Verdict: 5/5

Star Trek: Picard set itself an almost impossible task right from the start. Take one of the most beloved characters in all of SF, and tell a new story in an established universe. How do you take a classic like Star Trek and make it appeal to modern viewers. Discovery proved controversial enough, but with picard there was always going to be more scrutiny. Now, it may not always be smooth sailing, but Picard is easily the best Star Trek since Enterprise. And for reference, I am not an Enterprise hater. I loves that show, and I love Picard.

Picard is simulatenously the least and most Star Trek of Star Treks in a long while. It deviates more from the established pattern even more than Deep Space Nine, and to great effect. I don’t think anyone expected Picard to still be commanding an exploration vessel at this stage in his life, and he isn’t. Even when he eventually musters together a ship and a crew, they’re not Starfleet personnel. It’s a rougher, scrappier side to trek, both in characterisation and aesthetic. people wear a lot of black leather. Fights have a real weight to them. There’s more blood than ever before. It is at times gory, but never overwhelmingly so. The violence can be shocking, but it’s never out of place. And anyone who says this is too violent for Star Trek clearly hasn’t seen Picard shooting a man in the face until his head explodes. yes. that ahppened. Next GenerationConspiracy. It’s an experience.

But while the looks may have changed, the heart is all Star Trek. Picard shows a Federation that has slipped in its ethics, turning inward, with paranoia rife and robotics banned. So when the retired Admiral picard learns of a young android in danger, he can’t help but try to save her. The galaxy may be a dark place, but Picard is a gleaming beacon of hope. Even with the violence and darkness, Picard remains optimistic, and that is exactly what Star Trek should be.

There is an argument that Picard relies too hevaily on nostalgia, and it’s a reasonable one. There are dozens of references and callbacks. Cameo appearances and full-blown reappearances. None of it gets in the way of the story, but you have to wonder what a viewer unfamiliar with Trek history would make of it all. At the end of the day though, this is a celebration of Star Trek, and even with it’s long history, it is very much looking to the future.

There are a few niggles here and there. The pacing is slow, even glacial in the opening episodes. the middle act is rather overburdened with side plots. No amount of CGI and dream-sequence lighting can make Brent Spiner look thirty yeras younger. But really, who cares? This is Star Trek as it should be. We’ve waited long enough for this day, so let’s enjoy it while it’s here. Picard shows that there is life in the franhcise yet, and that not every SF drama has to be unrelenting doom and gloom.

Star Trek is back, and it’s as bold and brave as ever. With an increasing number of series in development, let’s hope they follow Picard’s example.

BOOK REVIEW: Storm from the Shadows, by David Weber

-Major spoilers abound for previous books in the Honorverse. Click here for a full index of reviews-

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Saganami Island (#2)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 1050

Publication Date: 2009

Verdict: 2/5

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for Michelle Henke. Captured by Haven, forced into a  diplomatic role and then promoted to Vice Admiral. Now she finds herself sent to the Talbott Cluster. It should be an easy assignment, but it could well end up plunging Manticore into yet another war . . .

Here it is then. The fat of the Honorverse. Everything that was trimmed from the excellent At All Costs has landed here, where it has congealed into a novel. It’s fitting, and perhaps inevitable, that the best Honorverse book in an age would be immediately followed by the nadir of the series. Like Shadow of SaganamiStorm from the Shadows insists on doubling down on all the aspects of Weber’s work that don’t work for me. The villains are increasingly cartoonish, and evil now walks hand in hand with stupid. Nothing can be done without long and rambling discourse over the political fallout. It may be realistic, and you have to applaud Weber for his commitment, but it doesn’t make for a very entertaining novel. This book’s crime is not that it is long, it’s that it is long-winded.

The first two hundred pages do not need to be there. They recount, almost directly, scenes from At All Costs. I’m not averse to a little overlap. indeed, showing a different side to affairs can be rewarding. But there is nothing new here It’s a retread of very familiar ground that could easily have been glossed over. The next four hundred pages are little better, showing events in the Talbott Cluster during the cataclysmic events of the main Honor Harrington series. the problem here is that these events are not terribly interesting. We already know much of the outcome from the main series, and we know too that it is Honor, not Henke, who will be dealing with the truly important matters.

The second half of this very long book do pick up, but by then the damage has been done. I like Michelle Henke as a character, and am glad she’s getting more page time. But at the same time, it’s odd to see the swarm of new characters introduced in Shadow of Saganami already relegated to supporting role sin their own series. There are far too many elements in this book, and not enough actual plot to support them all. Perhaps worst of all, there is no resolution at the end of it. A cliffhanger that asks not so much ‘what next?’ as it does ‘so what?’

Despite this, there are a few spots of light in the darkness. The looming threat of the Solarian League becomes ever more apparent. The growth of the Star Kingdom of Manticore into a Star Empire is a crucial development, as is the Mesan Alignment’s harsh summary of the Honorverse thus far. For all their obvious evilness, it’s easy to see that the Alignment has a point. To a neutral observer, Manticore does indeed start to look like the villain of the piece. there are a few other hints of forward momentum, but all of these are promises for future books, with nothing delivered in this one.

As a book, Storm from the Shadows has very little to commend it. But with any luck, the seeds planted here may yet bear fruit.

AUDIO REVIEW: Space Ninjas From Hell, by Victorius

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Label: Napalm Records

Genre: Speed Metal/Science Fantasy

Tracks: 12

Runtime: 45 minutes

Release Date: 17/01/2020

Verdict: 4/5

I don’t like anime. In fact, I hate it. The jarring visual style, the over the top storytelling, the incomprehensible plotlines, the absolute black hole of a fandom. Yes, these are all ungenerous generalisations, but everything I’ve encountered regarding the form has put me off. Yet somehow, everything I dislike about it as a visual media works amazingly as a heavy metal concept album. I mean, come on, just look at that cover art.

If the title Space Ninjas From Hell didn’t make it obvious, this is not a terribly serious album. Victorius may dress and present as the most hardcore edgelords you could imagine, but this album is sheer cheesy fun, and not embarassed about the fact. I never thought I’d find a band who made Gloryhammer look serious, but here they are. When they’re screaming at the top of the lungs about human sacrifice and the end of the world, it’s clear they’re having fun. And even the relatively serious Wrath of the Dragongod is immediately balanced by the sheer lunacy of the brilliant Astral Assassin Shark Attack. For some unknown reason there’s also a surprise appearance from the Annoying Orange meme. Don’t ask me why, because I haven’t a clue.

Musically, a lot of the songs are rather similar. All in on the drums and guitar in an unrelenting assault from start to finish. If you don’t like metal, this may not be for you. I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, and this is about as close to thrash as I can get without my ears starting to bleed. The repeaed rhythms give a sense of cohension to an otherwise scatterbrained album, but it does mean that the songs start to blur into one after a few listens, and the intros are sometimes indistinguishable from one another.

Lyrically, Victorius are on another level. They make rhymes and verses out of things that just shouldn’t work. Nippon Knight, for example, begins as an ode to the way of the saurai, but by the end has become a song about different makes of car. few bands can get away with this level of insanity, and Victorius are in that exclusive club. Their sheer enthusiasm and earnest love of what they do is undeniable. After a few listens, I can all but guarantee you’ll be singing along to the surprisingly and infectiously catchy lyrics. I know I was.

A quick look at their back catalogue shows that Victorius are a band constantly reinventing themselves, from the bland if proficient Dreamchaser to the oddity of Dinosaur Warfare – Legend of the Power Saurus. Now that they are signed to Napalm records, a label who seemingly say yes to anything a band suggests, I can only imagine what they’re going to come up with next. Whether it’s a return for the Space Ninjas or something entirely different, I know for certain I’ll be giving it a listen.

If you like anime, metal, or just plain fun, then this is definitely worth a look. Even if you don’t like it, it’s an experience that few things can replicate.

BOOK REVIEW: At All Costs, by David Weber

-Major spoilers for all previous books in the Honorverse. Click here for a full index of reviews-

costs.jpg

Publisher: Baen

Series: Honor Harrington (#11)

Genre: Military SF/Space Opera

Pages: 852

Publication Date: 2005

Verdict: 4/5

The war with the republic of Haven has resumed, and the tide has turned against Manticore. Fighting a losing battle against seemingly impossible odds, this is the Star Kingdom’s darkest hour. But it has an ace up its sleeve. An ace called Honor Harrington . . .

Against the odds, Weber has done it. With the Honorverse spiralling into and below mediocrity with the past few novels, this is the exact novel that needed to be written. For the first time in months, I can happily say that I actively enjoyed reading an Honorverse book.  While the others have been entertaining despite their flaws, At All Costs is thrilling throughout, and has absolutely restored my faith not only in the series, but in Weber as an author.

What makes this book different to those that came before? Well in a way nothing. The formula hasn’t changed. It’s still Honor and Manticore fighting against the Havenites as they have been for a dozen books now. But for the first time since the earlier works, there’s a real sense of momentum in this book.  A feeling that the Honorverse is finally emerging from the stalemate that has stagnated over the preceeding instalments. For once, the last stand of Manticore genuinely is climactic. Even if not everything is resolved, this is a major turning point for the series, and hopefully the start of an upward trajectory.

At All Costs also begins the unenviable task of tying together the various plot strands introduced in to the two spin-offs, Saganami Island and Crown of Slaves. It’s great to see the universe coming together like this, even if the somewhat confusing timeline does lead to a few minor plot points being spoiled on either side in this chronological readthrough of mine. In particular, At All Costs fully introduces the Mesan Alignment to the Honor Harrington novels, as well as the looming conflict with the Solarian League. This two elements are going to be very important going further into the series, and are set up nicely here.

There are of course a few problems. The new villains are perhaps a little too villainous. Caricatures a far cry from the more fully realised Rob Pierre of the Honorverse’s early days. It’s easy to imagine the Mesan Alignment twirling moustaches and kicking puppies, but honestly, if less developed villains are the price to pay for a renewal of the Honorverse, it’s a price I am more than willing to pay. The other problem is Weber’s ongoing struggle with brevity. There are many space combats in this book (hooray!) but it seems nothing can be done without a hundred pages of discussing the political ramifications of these actions (boo!). This book could have been considerably shorter, and perhaps better for it. There is also a development regarding Honor’s love life which I find implausible, but I’m willing to see how it pans out before critiquing in detail. These are all fairly minor things, however, and it’s good to see that much of the fat has been cut out to leave an impressive novel behind.

At the end of the day, At All Costs is the best Honorverse book in a long while, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lesser Devil, by Christopher Ruocchio

-minor spoilers for Empire of Silence

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Publisher: Self Published

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 171

Publication Date: 25/02/2020

Verdict: 5/5

Hadrian Marlowe, the Sun Eater, is famous throughout the Sollan Empire and beyond. But what of his family? What of the brother he left behind? When Crispin Marlowe is the target of an assassination attempt, he must strike unlikely alliances and use everything at his disposal to protect his family . . .

One of the things I most enjoy about Christopher Ruocchio’s Sun Eater series is that is was clear right from the outset that there was a universe beyond what was shown on the page, stories to be told beyond Hadrian’s. In addition to the two main novels (of a planned five), there are several short stories, each just enough to whet the appetite in the yearly gaps between novels. The self published novel The Lesser Devil brings the longest side trek yet. A self professed ‘lite novel’, it’s only a third as long as one of Hadrian’s memoires, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on either the storytelling or the worldbuilding, and the end result is every bit as enjoyable as the main series itself.

Taking place at around the same time as Empire of SilenceThe Lesser Devil picks up with Crispin thirty years after Hadrian’s departure from the Marlowe home. With Hadrian’s story jumping decades into the future, it’s nice to back with somewhat familiar faces. Crispin is a rather more sympathetic figure here than he was in Empire of Silence, and a more mature one to boot. that being said, he’s clearly the same man he was then. Less erudite and far less brooding than Hadrian, he feels a more grounded protagonist than his near-mythical brother.  He may be more firmly rooted in the traditions of the Sollan Empire, for better and worse, and I dare he he’s perhaps more likable than his brother is turning out to be. or maybe he just has fewer opportunities to show his darker side.

Also making a triumphant return from Empire of Silence is Kara. the young pilot who Hadrian may have once loved is now an embittered soldier, and it’s in her that we get one of the most fascinating aspects of the series. The Marlowes are genetically engineered to have a lifespan measured in centuries, which is incredibly sueful, but this gift is not shared with those around them. Devoting her entire life to a family whose individual members will likely outlive her entire family, Kara cuts a tragic figure, lending a heavy does of pathos to the proceedings. She may have changed a great deal since we last saw her, but I’m glad Ruocchio has given us more time in her company.

As well as being a gripping adventure in the vein of The Seven Samurai (IN SPACE!) as Crispin allies with a remote town to repel his attackers, The Lesser Devil continues to add detail to the worlds of the Sollan Empire. In particular, we get a look at religion. Various religions have popped up already, from the cults of Cid Arthur to the politically-motivated Chantry, but here get a look at something a little more familiar: Catholicism. Crispin’s new allies are Catholic. Specifically French Catholics. It’s refreshing to see religion in SF being handled in a way that is respectful without being reverential, fun without making fun. Faith plays a key role without dominating the story, and as always there are layers upon layers to be peeled back when looking for answers.

The Lesser Devil is a fine interlude for one of the best ongoing Space Operas, and hopefully there are plenty more side treks yet to come.

BOOK REVIEW: The Stars Like Dust, by Isaac Asimov

-spoilers for the entire Foundation universe-

Publisher: Panther

Genre: Space Opera

Series: Galactic Empire (1)

Pages: 189

Publication Date: 1958

Verdict: 3/5

The Tyranni are taking over the once-free worlds of the Galaxy. With a powerful fleet and superior resources, all seem destined to fall before them. Unless, that is, one Biron Farrill can turn the tide of the war. If only he knew who he could trust . . .

It is with some trepidation that I enter the third phase of my Foundation reread. The early standalone novels hold up fairly well, even if the technology they show is dated. The Robot series is just as great now as it was when first written, and is possibly Asmiov’s strongest single series. Now we arrive at the weak point in the future history. The Galactic Empire trilogy. three standalone novels written early in Asimov’s career that bridge the gap between Robot and Foundation. From memory, these three novels were the weakest of Asmiov’s works, and unfortunately that is proving to still be the case.

As a book written early on but set far later, The Stars Like Dust is where the inevitable cracks in the Foundation universe start to show. Earth is an irradiated wasteland, but this is stated to be the result of an atomic war rather than anything R. Giskard might have had a hand in. It’s difficut to fault the novel for this, and it does not affect the story in its own right, but as a rereader it’s a glaring contradiction, no matter how you may try and reconcile it.There’s not a single mention of robotics in the entire novel, which is odd given their significance to human history. Knowing what lies ahead, it’s odd to think how little of the events of this novel affect the larger timeline. The book ends with the suggestion that democarcy will replace empires, yet we know from the existence of the Galactic Empire itself that this is not the case. Whatever governmental systems Asimov shows in his novels, they are certainly not based on the United States’ Constitution. The Stars Like Dust could easily be removed from the Foundation setting and do little harm to it.

In fact, taken out of that retroactively imposed context, the book is rather different. As a standalone, it’s a fun little adventure, if not up there with the classics that Asimov often delivered. It’s quick-paced, far more so than a lot of his work, and has a nice planet-hopping thriller at its core. The detailed description of spaceflight and the workings of hyperdrives are a real high point. And even if the climax does fall flat on closer examination, on the faces of it it wraps up the events of the novel rather well. It may not be the best of Asmiov’s works, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s a romp, pure and simple, free of the weighty thematic content that appears in the rest of this reread.

Read it as part of a larger canon, and this book will feel weak. But take it as it was written, and you’ll find there are worse ways to spend your time.

BOOK REVIEW: The Supernova Era, by Cixin Liu

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Translator: Joel Martinsen

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Genre: Social SF

Pages: 442

Publication Date: 22/10/2019 (this translation)

Rating: 5/5

Eight light years away, a star has gone supernova. The radiation burns across the Earth, giving every human being a lethal dose. Every human, that is, over the age of thirteen. It is these children who will inherit the earth, but what will this new era look like . .?

Head of Zeus is rapidly rising through the ranks to become one of my favourite publishers, and this book is a prime example of why. Just a quick glance at their back catalogue will reveal a hint of how much amazing science fiction China has to offer, and Head of Zeus are championing those translators who bring these wonders to the English-speaking world. With translators like Joel Martinsen and Ken Liu at the helm, it’s rare they go wrong, and The Supernova Era may just be my favourite translated work this side of The Dark Forest.

The Supernova Era starts off with billions of people dying of radiation poisoning, so it’s no surprise that this can be a very bleak book. The opening acts chronicling the desperate attempts of adults to train their children are rather depressing to read, yet also inspiring in the united approach the world takes to its fate. It’s not until the adults are out of the picture that old divisions raise their heads. The darkest part of the book is unquestionably the children’s efforts to bring back the Olympic Games. These scenes are bloody, brutal and at times downright horrific. But it’s impossible to look away, because Liu’s slow and measured chronicling of this future history is never anything less than absolutely gripping.

Once you look past the darkness on the surface, though you have to do some digging, this is ultimately a book about hope. Even when things fall apart, it’s clear that the world is not going to end. At the end of every tunnel, there is a light, and the world of the children is slowly approaching it. Scattered throughout the narrative are snippets of memoir and interviews, looking back on the events of the book and hinting at the world still to come. These snippets never spoil, but boy do they tease. This optimism is, fittingly, filled with childish charm, from the heart-tugging early struggles to the genius of the National Assembly and Candytown.

There are characters in this book, and they go through the same struggles and journeys that you’d expect of any protagonist. really though, this is not a character-driven story. Indeed, it’s not so much a story in the traditional sense as a thought experiment writ large. This is a wonderful thing, and exactly what I like my SF to be. Like the Golden Age of American SF, Chinese science fiction is in a very good place right now, with a bit of something for everyone.

Much as I love Ken Liu’s writing, I think Martinsen has him beaten as a translator. Having read Cixin Liu translated by both men, I have to say that Martinsen’s prose is more page-turning. Flawlessly readable to an English reader while losing none of the simple elegance of Liu’s original writing. The few footnotes throughout are as helpful and informative as ever, without interrupting the main body of the story.

If you only have the chance to read one translated work this year, make it this one.The Supernova Era is an experience you will neither forget nor regret.

BOOK REVIEW: Road to Redemption, by Mike Brooks

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Publisher: Black Library

Genre: Dystopian SF

Pages: 302

Publication Date: 02/04/2020

Verdict: 4/5

Zeke of House Cawdor has lost everything in a fire. When it becomes clear that the fire was no accident, and that his loved ones may still be alive, he is left with no choice but to strap on his guns once more. But in Necromunda, the most dangerous enemy may just be his own past . . .

Necromunda exists as an odd subsetting within the larger Warhammer 40,000 universe. A single Dredd-style megopolis, offering a different perspective to the superhuman soldiers and planet-threatening wars that Black Library usually deals with. It’s a city of gangs and murderers, no less gritty than the rest of the grim, dark future, and possibly a little more grounded. I have to say, it’s not my favourite part of the setting, but it has made something of a comeback in the past year or so. Mike Brooks has form when it comes to Necromunda, having contributed to the Underhive anthology and written a short story which ties in his excellent Navigators novel, Rites of Passage, to the festering hive. This pedigree alone was enough to pique my interest in Road to Redemption, and while it’s not on the same level as his previous novel, I’m glad I picked it up.

Road to Redemption is a spaghetti western through and through. You’ve got the gunslinger with a dark past, kidnapped children, villages troubled by raiders, and long treks through hostile terrain. It just happens to take place in a sprawling urban dystopia rather than the wilds of California. The mix of genres works as well here as did in Firefly, and it’s clear that Brooks is having fun with the tropes. Having far less fun, is literally anyone who lives in this novel. Brooks captures the bleakness of the forty-first millennium as few others have, bringing pain and despair to every page. Even when there’s a victory for our protagonists, it comes at a staggering price.

While it is focused on the every-men and women of the Galaxy, Road to Redemption takes time to examine the role of faith in the 40,000 setting. Zeke has faith in the Emperor, and is even seen as a saint by some, a title with rather different conotations that Christianity might suggest, but religion is also a weapon used both by and against him in his quest. For such a short book, there are many valid points made on both sides of the argument. Having it be regular humans rather than Inquisitors or Sisters of Battle making these arguments gives Brooks’ characters for more weight and significance.

With it’s relatively simple plotting and city-spanning narrative, Road to redemption can at times feel more like a travel guide to Necromunda than a story in its own right. There is also a certain repetitive element to the communities Zeke and his allies encounter. While Brooks is one of the authors bringing diversity to the characters of the 40,000 universe, the setting itself remains oddly static. Though I must say, the grinding nature of it all is a perfect analogy for the Imperium itself, so perhaps this was a conscious choice on Brooks’ part.

Though not on a par with the greats of the universe,  Road to Redemption is a thrilling and quick read. One that won’t disappoint.

TV REVIEW: The Mandalorian, Season 1

Starring: Pedro Pascal

Episodes: 8

Genre: Space Opera

Broadcaster: Disney+

First Aired: 2020(UK), 2019(US)

Verdict: 5/5

It took a long time to get here, but at long last we have a live-action Star Wars TV show. If nothing else, we can thank Disney for that. The sequel trilogy may have been controversial, but there are no such problems here. Solo and Rogue One went some way to showing a universe beyond the Skywalker family, but The Mandalorian goes even further. There is almost nothing to tie this series into the main narrative, and that is its greatest strength. For the first time since the abolition of the old Expanded Universe, the Star Wars galaxy feels like a big and unexplored place.

Taking place a few years after the end of Return of the JediThe Mandalorian shows how the Galaxy is faring under the rule of the New Republic. But the Empire is still very much in play. In this it harks back to the glory days of the old EU. It’s easy to see how a Wedge Antilles or Kyle Katarn might slide easily into the lawless fringes of the Galaxy. But there are no returning characters. There is only one main character, Pedro Pascal in the title role, and we are not permitted to see his face or even know his name. Like all the best Star Wars characters, he remains hidden beneath a helmet at all times.

I’m not going to spoil any of the plot, even if those pesky Americans have been free to chat and theorise for several months now. In short, our Mando – as he is known – is a bounty hunter who finds himself at a crossroads when he takes on an unusual job for a deadly client. For someone who never shows his face, Pascal does a phenomenal job of expressing his character. This probably the most mature series that is likely to be on Disney+, and it balances gentle humour with some dark and terrible moments. Pascal carries it all effortlessly.

There are of course side characters, many in recurring roles. Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog bring the gravitas of those burdened by command, while Gina Carano pulls a stellar turn as a former Rebel. Continuing a recent trend of having droids being voiced by comic actors are Richard Ayoade and Taika Waititi. A special mention must also be made of Jason Sudeikis bringing the most banal scout trooper ever known to life. It doesn’t matte rif they’re recurring guest stars or one-off appearances, every piece of casting is spot-on.

The only real stumbling block of the first season is that it’s clearly all set-up for whatever is to come next. There’s exploration of background, introduction of characters, and there is of course a conflict. But it’s impossible feel satisfied with just this one outing. Don’t come to this show expecting a complete story, because it’s only the first act. or maybe even just a prologue. What is undeniable, however, is that this is a Star Wars that will appeal to fans both old and new, those who only know the Disney era and those who were invested in the old EU.

It’s a genuinely new story set in a familiar universe. What more could you ask for than that?