Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Summer 2020-21 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top releases that they are looking forward to reading this winter (or summer for us down here in Australia).  This is a fun exercise that I have done for each of the preceding seasons, and it is always interesting to highlight the various cool-sounding books and comics that are coming out in the next few months.

For this list I have come up with 10 of the best novels that are coming out between 1 December 2020 and 28 February 2021.  I have decided to exclude novels that I have already read, or I am currently reading, so that took a couple of key books off the list.  Still, this left me with a rather substantial pool of cool upcoming novels that I am excited for, which I was eventually able to whittle down into a great Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have previously discussed a number of these books before a number of my Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads.


Honourable Mentions:


Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 1 – Fortune and Fate
by Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta – 26/01/2021

DoctorAphra2020-1

 

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – 1/02/2021

Daughters of Night

 

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – 2/02/2021

Serpentine Cover

 

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop – 9/02/2021

City of Vengeance Cover

 

Top Ten List:

A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle – 3/12/2020

A Fool's Hope Cover

The first entry on this list is A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle, the sequel to Shackle’s epic debut, We are the Dead.  I have been hearing some great things about his book already and I am really looking forward to checking it out.  The trade paperback version of this novel is apparently not available down here in Australia until February 2021, but the audiobook version is already out, so I might grab that instead.


Colonyside
by Michael Mammay – 29/12/2020

Colonyside Cover

Colonyside is the third book in the amazing Planetside series by impressive science fiction author Michael Mammay.  I have really enjoyed the first two novels in this series, Planetside and Spaceside, both of which were among my favourite books of 2018 and 2019 respectfully, and I cannot wait to see how the third entry in this excellent science fiction thriller series turns out.

Star Trek: Picard: The Dark Veil by James Swallow – 5/01/2021

Star Trek Picard The Dark Veil Cover

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to read the first Star Trek: Picard novel, The Last Best Hope, which did an awesome job of bridging the gap between The Next Generation and Picard television series.  Now acclaimed tie-in fiction author James Swallow presents the second Picard book, The Dark Veil, which will follow Captain William Riker and his crew as he gets drawn into the chaotic events the precede the Picard series.  I had an amazing time reading the previous Picard novel and I have high hopes that this new upcoming book is going to be just as enjoyable.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule – 5/01/2021

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

Now what would a Top Ten List on this book be without a Star Wars tie-in novel featured somewhere.  Luckily there are several great upcoming Star Wars novels set for release in the next three months that I am quite excited to check out.  Most of these novels are part of The High Republic range of Star Wars novels and comics, which are going to be set 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace.  Of these, the one I am most interested in reading is Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule.  Light of the Jedi is set to be the main introductory novel to this new range of Star Wars fiction, and I am very curious to see what happens in this new period of the expanded universe.  This new novel is written by one of the top authors of Star Wars fiction, Charles Soule, whose work on Star Wars comics such as the Dark Lord of the Sith comics (check out my review for Volume 2: Legacy’s End and Volume 3: The Burning Seas), has been rather incredible, and I am very excited to see what happens in this new book.

A Prince and a Spy by Rory Clements – 21/01/2021

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The fifth book in Clement’s exciting Tom Wilde historical thriller series, A Prince and A Spy looks set to be an excellent novel to start off 2021 with.  I have really enjoyed the previous entries in the Tom Wilde series, including Nucleus, Nemesis and Hitler’s Secret, and this upcoming book sounds particularly exciting as it contains a conspiracy set around the death of the Queen’s uncle during World War II.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz – 2/02/2021

Prodigal Son Cover

I am particularly looking forward to checking out Prodigal Son, the upcoming sixth book in Hurwitz’s Orphan X series.  The Orphan X book are an awesome and wildly thrilling series that sets an elite and incredibly deadly former government assassin go up against a series of dangerous opponents across America.  I have really enjoyed the last two novels in the series, Out of the Dark and Into the Fire, and I cannot wait to see how Prodigal Son turns out.

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick – 27/01/2021

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

The Mask of Mirrors is an intriguing upcoming fantasy debut that I think has a lot of potential and should make for a compelling and entertaining read.

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri – 1/02/2021

The Three Paradises Cover

One of my favourite historical fiction authors, Robert Fabbri, returns with the second entry in his Alexander’s Legacy series, The Three Paradises.  The first book in this series, To the Strongest, was a lot of fun and I am very keen to see where this crazy historical story goes next.

Relentless by Mark Greaney – 23/02/2021

Relentless Mark Greaney Cover

Top thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the 10th novel in his Gray Man series, Relentless, that sees his protagonist, assassin Court Gentry, investigate a new conspiracy around the world.  Greaney has been killing it over the last couple of years, especially with the previous two entries in the Gray Man series, Mission Critical and One Minute Out, and this upcoming book looks set to be another fantastic and captivating novel.

The Kaiser’s Web by Steve Berry – 23/02/2021

The Kaiser's Web Cover

The final entry on this list is The Kaiser’s Web, the 16th upcoming entry in the long-running Cotton Malone series.  The Cotton Malone books are an exciting and interesting collection of novels that feature a series of fascinating history-based conspiracies.  I have been really getting into this series over the last couple of years, and the last two novels, The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol, have contains some excellent and intriguing adventures.  The Kaiser’s Web features another cool sounding plot and I cannot wait to dive into this latest adventure.

 

Well that is the end of my Top Ten list.  I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months.  All of the above books should be pretty epic, and I cannot wait to read them soon.  Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books for a Holiday Road trip

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have a Holiday/Seasonal Freebie, meaning that we can do whatever topic we want, preferably with a seasonable twist to it.  Well, down here in Australia, summer has just rocked up and this usually means long drives to family homes for Christmas or to some magnificent stretch of beach for a well-deserved break.  While I myself do not have any upcoming travel planned, this topic did get me thinking about trips and I had the idea to try and help those people with upcoming road trips, or any form of extended travel, choose an audiobook to keep you and any potential passengers entertained.

People familiar with my blog will know that I am a big fan of audiobooks; in many ways, they are some of the best way to enjoy a book from a talented author.  However, not all good audiobooks make for great entertainment on a road trip.  With that in mind, I have scrolled through some of my favourite audiobooks to find the ones I think would be the best for anyone taking a long trip.  To make this list, the audiobooks I chose had to not only be amazing novels but also had to have an excellent narration and the ability to keep a driver or passengers’ attention on a long trip.  While I know that some people are going to be experiencing particularly long trips in the coming weeks, I tried to feature audiobooks with shorter runtimes so that those who are taking shorter excursions (say a roundtrip of eight or nine hours) can get through an entire book without trying to make time at home to finish it off.  That being said a few longer novels did end up making the cut, but all of these are great for longer trips.  I also tried to avoid any novels that would require a great deal of prior knowledge or hard-to-obtain background information so that everyone in the car could enjoy the book without any need for explanation or lectures from those people more familiar with the series.  To that end, I have tried to avoid any novels that are later entries in a series or which require some form of assumed knowledge about a franchise.  While I have included a couple of tie-in novels, I tried to use those books that require only a smidge of familiarity with their respective franchise to enjoy, and I am confident anyone can easily enjoy any book I ended up featuring.

While I did have quite a few criteria to meet, I was eventually able to come up with a good list for this topic, including several honourable mentions.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out and I have personally really enjoyed each of the below audiobooks.  I honestly believe that all of them would make for a great listen during an extended bit of travel or a road trip and each of them comes highly recommended.

Honourable Mentions:


The Black Hawks
, written by David Wragg and narrated by Colin Mace – 12 hours and 9 minutes

The Black Hawks Cover

Those in a mood for an exciting time of their road trip could do worse than check out this excellent and entertaining debut from last year, The Black Hawks by David Wragg.  The Black Hawks is a great read that takes several compelling characters on an action-packed adventure across a dangerous landscape.  Filled with betrayal, battle and clever twists, listeners will be well entertained with is book.

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope, written by Una McCormack and narrated by Robert Petkoff – 11 hours and 40 minutes

Star Trek - Picard Cover

While there are several cool Star Trek novels that could make for great road-trip listening, I would personally suggest this fantastic tie-in to the recent Picard television show.  Serving as an introduction to the darker Star Trek world Picard encounters in his new television series, there is a lot to love about this book and it is well worth checking out.

Star Wars: Ahsoka, written by E. K. Johnston and narrated by Ashley Eckstein – 7 hours and 4 minutes

Ahsoka Cover

After recent developments in the phenomenon that is The Mandalorian, one of the Star Wars audiobooks I would strongly recommend is Star Wars: Ahsoka.  The Ahsoka audiobook helps to expand on the character and presents listeners with a compelling and personal adventure.  Narrated by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka in the animated television series, this is a fantastic and timely audiobook to check out on the road this holiday.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, and narrated by Kristen Bell – 8 hours and 43 minutes

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Cover

Speaking of audiobooks that feature iconic characters being voiced by their actors, listeners will have an awesome time with this Veronica Mars tie-in novel, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line.  Written by series creator Rob Thomas and narrated by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell, this is an outstanding tie-in to the clever television show that also contains a compelling crime fiction story and people will be able to quickly power through this on the way to their destination.

Top Ten List (maybe add listening times):


The Salvage Crew
, written by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and narrated by Nathan Fillion – 8 hours and 21 minutes

The Salvage Crew Cover

The first entry on this top ten list is The Salvage Crew, a very clever and intense science fiction novel that is guaranteed to keep everyone entertained on your trip.  Featuring the silky voice of the one and only Nathan Fillion, you will find yourself entranced with this audiobook, especially as the author backs up the awesome narration with a top-notch science fiction adventure story.

Race the Sands, written by Sarah Beth Durst and narrated by Emily Ellet – 15 hours and 45 minutes

Race the Sands Cover

Those readers with a particularly long drive in their future and who are in the mood for an excellent standalone fantasy novel would do well to check out Race the Sands by the always impressive Sarah Beth Durst.  Race the Sands is an extremely exciting and compelling novel that features great characters, political intrigue and clever worldbuilding, all set around people racing monsters in the desert.  This is a very easy book to listen to and the miles will fly away as you listen to Race the Sands.  Just don’t let the race scenes inspire you too much on the road; I don’t want to be responsible for you getting a speeding ticket!

Redshirts, written by John Scalzi and narrated by Wil Wheaton – 7 hours and 41 minutes

Redshirts Cover

If you want to laugh your way through an entire road trip you should definitely check out Redshirts by acclaimed science fiction author John Scalzi.  Redshirts is a very entertaining parody of Star Trek and is essentially one big sendup of all the tropes, bad writing and over-the-top characters The Original Series is known for.  Despite being a parody, Scalzi comes up with an incredibly clever story that gets extremely meta in places, while also introducing the listener to some very interesting characters who you become surprisingly attached to.  Top that off with the narration of Wil Wheaton (who else would you want narrating a Star Trek parody), and you have yourself an exceptionally fun audiobook to listen to.  My wife and I recently listened to this on a road trip ourselves and we were absolutely cracking up the entire time, and this comes highly recommended as a result.

The Holdout, written by Graham Moore and narrated by Abby Craden – 10 hours and 15 minutes

The Holdout Cover

Those drivers who would prefer a crime fiction novel should think about checking out The Holdout by Graham Moore.  The Holdout is a standalone crime fiction novel that follows an infamous jury who found a notorious murderer not guilty and who must now find out who killed one of their members years later at a reunion.  This is an extremely captivating book that features an amazing split-timeline narrative, showing the original trial and the murder investigation set in the present.  This is a great novel and listeners will be on the edge of their seat for the entire trip.

Legend, written by David Gemell and narrated by Sean Barrett – 13 hours and 13 minutes

Legend

Now if I had a particularly lengthy road-trip on the horizon one of the books I know I would be loading up Legend by David Gemell.  While this might not be too practical for shorter trips, I would gladly do a trip twice if it meant I could finish this epic book in one go.  Featuring an extended and desperate siege, Legend is one of the better fantasy novels I have had the pleasure of listening to and it does not take long for readers to get utterly enthralled with its impressive and thrilling story.

Star Wars: Scoundrels, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson – 13 hours and 57 minutes

Star Wars Scoundrels Cover

While there are a number of awesome Star Wars tie-in novels I could have included on this list, I decided in the end to go with Star Wars: ScoundrelsScoundrels is an exceptional novel from one of the top authors of Star Wars fiction in the world today, Timothy Zahn.  This is an excellent book that features fan favourite characters Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando engaging in an elaborate heist with a team of rogues and thieves.  This is a perfect read for a longer car trip, and it is filled with several fantastic characters engaged in some good-old fashioned thievery in the middle of the Star Wars universe.  Requiring very little knowledge about the Star Wars extended universe, this audiobook can be enjoyed by anyone even vaguely familiar with the series and is really worth a listen to.

Tomorrow, When the War Began, written by John Marsden and narrated by Suzi Dougherty – 7 hours and 20 minutes

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Those looking for a new series to get obsessed about should use any upcoming road trips as an opportunity to try out the first book in the acclaimed Tomorrow series, Tomorrow, When the war Began.  Essentially Australia’s answer to Red Dawn, this book follows a group of teenagers as they try to survive a sudden invasion of Australia by a foreign power.  This is one of my absolute favourite series of all times and is probably some of the best Australian young adult fiction ever written.  It is extremely easy to power through these audiobooks in a short amount of timer and they would be among some of my first choices if I had a long trip planned.

Any Discworld novel, by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic Cover

I am kind of cheating by including an entire series here, but I could honestly listen to any of these books again and would not hesitate to recommend the entire Discworld series to anyone in the mood for a book that is wacky, clever, compelling and wildly entertaining.  Practically any of these books would make for excellent entertainment during a car ride and I find it hard to believe that anyone would be bored while listening to them.  While I love each of these books, I would probably recommend either Moving Pictures or Guards! Guards! (both with a runtime of 10 hours and 8 minutes) as they are great entry points to the series for new readers.  An incredibly series to get into, you will not regret listening to them these holidays.

Planetside, written by Michael Mammay and narrated by R. C. Bray – 8 hours and 38 minutes

Planetside Cover 2

Another great read with a shorter runtime is Planetside by Michael Mammay.  Planetside is an incredible novel and it is probably one of my favourite debut novels of all time.  Mammay packs an intense and addictive story into this shorter audiobook, and listeners are treated to an outstanding and clever science fiction mystery novel, which sees an old veteran attempt to find a missing soldier on an occupied alien planet and instead uncovers a massive conspiracy.  Listeners are guaranteed to be transfixed from start to epic finish with Planetside and it would be an exceptional novel to listen to while on a long drive.

The Anomaly, written by Michael Rutger and narrated by Brandon Williams – 9 hours and 41 minutes

The Anomaly Cover

For the final entry on my list, I have included The Anomaly by Michael Rutger.  The Anomaly is a great horror novel that follows the makers of a web series as they explore an ancient cave in the Grand Canyon, only to find it filled with ancient terrors.  This is a great novel for those who are in the mood for a scary book to listen to on their way home and readers will really love this amazing audiobook.  I was particularly impressed with the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere that this audiobook produced and horror buffs will have an amazing time listening to this.  That being said, maybe turn it off if you have to drive at night.

Well that’s my latest Top Ten Tuesday list.  I think it turned out extremely well, and if you have some upcoming travel planned (or even just some time to kill in lockdown), you would do well to try any of the above books.  Let me know which of the featured novels you enjoyed the most, as well as what audiobooks you would recommend for a car trip in the comments below and makes sure you drive safe these holidays.

WWW Wednesday – 4 March 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

A Testament of Character, One Minute Out Covers

A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill (Trade Paperback)

I started reading this one today, and I am really enjoying it so far.  This is the 10th book in the Rowland Sinclair historical murder mystery series, and it takes the book’s Australian protagonists to America in the 1930’s to investigate a suspicious death.  I am looking forward to seeing how this one turns out and this should prove to be a fantastic read.

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

I’m around halfway through this book at the moment and it is pretty incredible.  Containing a rather dark and heavy story about human trafficking, this new book from Greaney is an excellent and captivating thriller.

 

What did you recently finish reading?

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch (Trade Paperback)

False Value Cover
Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack (Audiobook)

Star Trek - Picard Cover
The Holdout by Graham Moore (Audiobook)

The Holdout Cover


Amnesty
by Aravind Adiga (Trade Paperback)

Amnesty Cover
Black Leviathan by Bernd Perplies (Trade Paperback)

Black Leviathan Cover
What do you think you’ll read next?

Where Fortune Lies by Mary-Anne O’Connor (Trade Paperback)

Where Fortune Lies
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack

Star Trek - Picard Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (Audiobook – 11 February 2020)

Series: Star Trek: Picard – Book One

Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Get ready to dive back into the Star Trek universe with Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack, the latest Star Trek novel which ties into the events of the Picard television show. The Last Best Hope is an outstanding novel that serves as a bridge between Star Trek: The Next Generation show and the current Picard series.

Nearly 20 years before the events of Picard, both the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire faced an unprecedented calamity. Scientists have just discovered that the Romulan sun is in the process of going supernova, turning into a destructive force that will devastate the Romulan home system and have significant negative follow-on effects on the remaining planets within Romulan Space. In order to ensure the evacuation of their people, the Romulans grudgingly request aid from the Federation, who assign Jean-Luc Picard to the mission.

Picard, promoted to the rank of admiral, quickly finds himself in charge of the largest and most difficult operation in Starfleet history. The evacuation mission is a vast undertaking, requiring Starfleet to relocate hundreds of millions of Romulans to distant planets in only a few short years. Lacking resources and manpower, Picard begins the evacuation process as best he can, with the invaluable help of his new first officer, Rafaella “Raffi” Muskier. Meanwhile, back in the Federation, Geordi La Forge attempts to come up with new ways to increase Starfleet ship production on Mars. The best solution is the creation of a new, synthetic workforce, and La Forge calls in an old colleague, the brilliant scientist Bruce Maddox, who reluctantly halts his lifelong work on artificial life to help build these new synthetics.

As the evacuation progresses, Picard takes solace in every small victory his team can achieve, but this mission seems doomed to fail. Debates from ambitious Federation politicians, distrust and fear from the Romulans they are trying to help, and interference from the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police, all hinder the mission. However, Picard is not one to give up easily and is determined to save every Romulan he can from the impending disaster. But even the great Jean-Luc Picard is unprepared for how his mission will end. Everything is about to change, and Picard and the galaxy will never be the same again.

Star Trek is one of those popular franchises that always produces a ton of extra content each year in the forms of novels and comics, so it was no surprise that material related to Picard would eventually be released. The Last Best Hope is the very first Picard tie-in novel, although I expect that additional books will come out in the future. Indeed, IDW has already released a Picard tie-in comic, Countdown, which I will probably check out at some point. This first Picard novel was written by veteran tie-in author Una McCormack, who has previously delivered several great Star Trek books, including last year’s Star Trek: Discovery tie-in, The Way to the Stars. McCormack does an amazing job with The Last Best Hope, producing a captivating and incredible read that expertly leads into the new show.

Before I dive too deep into this review, I think that it is necessary to point out that this book was released on the 11th of February, between the third and fourth episodes of Picard. That means that this book contains quite a few mentions of events and reveals that occur in the initial episodes of the show, especially as McCormack clearly had early access to the show’s scripts. While this ensures The Last Best Hope a much more complete and in-depth tie-in novel, it does mean that this book contains some spoilers for the television series. In addition, as I have been religiously watching Picard every week, my review is influenced by the events of the first six episodes and it also contains some spoilers from the show.

The Last Best Hope is a wide-ranging Star Trek canon novel, set across several years of Star Trek history (2381 to 2385) that explores one of the biggest prequel events mentioned within Picard, the explosion of the Romulan sun and the attempts by Picard to evacuate them. This leads into a powerful and clever novel which shows all the trials and tribulations associated with this exercise, as well as several other events that lead into the show. McCormack makes excellent use of a number of different character perspectives to create a full and rich narrative around this plot, which also explores some major Picard characters. While I did think that parts of the story ended rather suddenly, with no real lead-in to the disaster on Mars that changes everything, this book is a first-rate novel which I powered through in extremely short order.

One of the major appeals of this book is the fact that it serves as a prequel to the events of Picard and provides readers with additional background and context to the adventures currently happening in the show. This is done in a number of ways, from providing the reader with greater background about certain characters, showing the origins of a number of the storylines from the show and serving as a bridge between the events of Picard and The Next Generation. The Last Best Hope features an excellent introduction to several of the newer characters in the show, such as Agnes Jurati, Raffi, Elnor and the Qowat Milat nuns, and it was intriguing to see how these characters slotted into the pre-history of the show. At the same time, McCormack also examines what happened to several established characters from The Next Generation after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, including Picard, Bruce Maddox, Geordi La Forge and even a little bit about Worf (he becomes captain of the Enterprise!). McCormack also provides an explanation about several key occurrences and storylines that are touched on within the show, such as the creation of the synthetic workers that destroyed Mars, Picard’s resignation from Starfleet and the extent of several key relationships. There are also some potential hints at where the show might go in the future, and I will be interested in seeing if those pan out at all. I was pleasantly surprised with how much background that McCormack was able to fit into The Last Best Hope, and the different revelations and expansions on the information provided in the show make this a fantastic read for those currently watching Picard.

The Last Best Hope features some very impressive character work, and I feel that McCormack did an excellent job capturing the personalities and histories of several key characters from the new show. I really appreciated her portrayal of Picard, and this book featured several key aspects of his character, such as his dark moods, his determination and his ability to inspire absolute loyalty in his subordinates. I liked how the reader gets to see how Picard deals with the seemingly impossible task assigned to him, especially as his emotions throughout the book range from hope to absolute despair, as multiple obstacles and problems seem to dog everything he does. One of the major parts of his character explored in this book is the way that Picard’s ideals and beliefs seem a little out of touch with the world he lives in. This is something that is shown throughout the Picard television show, as the old-school captain is now living in a much darker and more desperate world. I am really glad that McCormack tried to capture this in her novel, and it was really compelling to see Picard being completely oblivious about the darker realities of the galaxy. All of this is really compelling to see, and I think that it serves as a good basis for some of the ways Picard acts in the current show.

Aside from Picard, a number of other characters are featured throughout the book, many of whom have some really interesting and compelling stories. I personally found the tale of Raffi, Picard’s new first officer, to be particularly good, as the reader gets to see how she became so messed up and obsessed with proving that the Romulans where behind the destruction of Mars. You also get a better understanding of why she was so mad that Picard quit on her and the mission, especially after she sacrifices everything for him, thanks to the way he inspired her. McCormack also spends significant time exploring the character of Bruce Maddox, and it was especially intriguing to see this character between his appearances in The Next Generation and Picard. You also got to see the origins of his relationship with Agnes Jurati (indeed, based on release dates you learn about this relationship in this book before it is mentioned in the show), and it was great to see how it unfolded and how close the two of them were. Of course, this also has a more sinister and heartbreaking edge to it if you look back at this relationship after the events of the fifth episode of Picard. I also liked the Geordi La Forge storyline; it was interesting to see his struggle to increase Starfleet ship production. However, the best part of this portrayal occurs at the end of the book, and I will be curious to see how they show off his survivor’s guilt if the character ever appears in Picard.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the way McCormack slowly starts to alter the tone of the novel to represent the change between the lighter The Next Generation and the darker Picard shows. At the start of the book, the story is more in line with the tone of The Next Generation, with Picard embarking on a humanitarian mission with his idealism and belief in the greater good intact. However, as the mission progresses, things start to get darker, as the various obstacles to the Romulan relief mission become more apparent. The dark and callous manipulation of the Romulan leaders and Tal Shiar as well as the xenophobic politics of certain Federation politicians becomes more and more apparent, resulting in a darker tone. McCormack also attempts to replicate the more adult tone of the current show with a greater reliance on swearing (never have I seen so many F-bombs dropped in a Star Trek novel, oh the humanity!) and hints of mass murder, genocide and extinction-level events. All of this makes for a slightly different Star Trek tie-in novel experience, and I personally enjoyed some of the subtle changes McCormack made to the tone.

I personally really enjoyed seeing the entirety of Picard’s attempts to evacuate the Romulans from their soon to be exploding sun. This has been one of the most fascinating events mentioned in the show, with several parts shown or alluded to in Picard. McCormack really dived into this event, showing many of the various aspects of such an operation, including the science, politics and diplomacy associated with it. From the start, this whole mission is painted as a near impossibility, not just because of the scale of calamity and the number of people affected but because of the mindset and suspicion of the Romulans they are trying to save. To put it into context, this operation would be like the United States trying to evacuate a similar sized country that had North Korean levels of state led secrecy and distrust towards the organisation trying to save them. The sheer scale and difficultly of this mission are constantly raised, and yet Picard and his team seem to find a solution to many of the problems presented to them. Of course, anyone who has seen the first episode of the show knows how this is going to end, so seeing the characters getting so invested in their mission is a bit of an emotional blow. That being said, this book contains a lot more context for some of the Federation’s decisions, and in particular the character of Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Starfleet’s CNC in the second episode of Picard), comes across as a whole lot more sympathetic. Overall, I felt that this was an amazing expansion on the events mentioned in the show, and it was really cool to see how the whole operation unfolded.

Another great facet of The Last Best Hope which made it such an intriguing book was its compelling examination of the Romulan people. McCormack really dives into Romulan culture and society in this book, presenting some intriguing details about this race. In particular, she examines the Romulans’ deep-seated need for privacy and secrecy, which is a defining part of their species. McCormack does an excellent job highlighting how this desire for secrecy impacts them as a race and a culture (secret multi-room Romulan music for the win!), and how they barely trust other members of their own species, let alone members of the demonised Federation. Seeing how this obsession with lies, secrecy and the appearance of saving face with the Federation impacted the species’ chance for survival is a compelling and intriguing part of the book. McCormack also dives into other parts of Romulan culture and society, mainly the role of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police, who have long been a shadowy force within Star Trek lore. Seeing the fear and apprehension that this organisation causes amongst ordinary Romulan citizens, as well as the lengths they will go to maintain secrecy and security, is pretty crazy and it certainly enhances an established Star Trek antagonist species. I also enjoyed seeing more of the Qowat Milat, the Romulan warrior nuns who Picard befriends and helps evacuate from Romulan space. The Last Best Hope contains several encounters with the Qowat Milat, and we get to learn a bit more about them, the role they play in Romulan society and how they interact with the Tal Shiar, with whom they have an adversarial relationship. All of this is deeply, deeply fascinating, especially for those readers who love learning about Star Trek lore, and I really enjoyed seeing all the Romulan inclusions featured in this book.

I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Last Best Hope, which is narrated by Robert Petkoff. This new Star Trek audiobook runs for 11 hours and 40 minutes, which can be listened to fairly quickly, especially once you get stuck into the compelling story. I really enjoyed listening to The Last Best Hope, mostly thanks to the incredible voice work of Robert Petkoff. Petkoff seems to be the go-to narrator for all things Star Trek these days, as he has lent his superb vocal talents to a huge number of other Star Trek audiobook adaptions in recent years. I have previously enjoyed his work on such books as The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox, The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett and Available Light by Dayton Ward. In each of these previous books, I have been greatly impressed by Petkoff’s ability to recreate the voices of key characters from the Star Trek television shows, including most of the characters in The Original Series and The Next Generation. He continues this amazing voice work in The Last Best Hope, providing near-perfect impressions of characters like Picard and La Forge, which really helps the reader immerse themselves into the story. While his impressions of some of the newer characters from Picard are not as accurate (keep in mind Petkoff would have recorded this book before Picard aired), he does provide clear and distinctive voices for each of the characters utilised in the books. I also love the accents he provides to the various alien races and nationalities in this book, and I especially enjoy hearing him attempt to replicate the speech patterns of certain aliens, like the Vulcans. Thanks to this incredible voice work, I absolutely loved listening to the audiobook for The Last Best Hope, and I would strongly recommend this format to anyone interested in this latest Star Trek novel.

Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack is an excellent and deeply captivating read which serves as a perfect prequel tie-in novel to the current Picard show. There is so much information and detail about the Star Trek universe prior to the events of the current television series contained within in this novel, and I loved seeing the author expand on the intriguing new universe that has been hinted at in the show. This is a must-read book for all Star Trek fans, especially those who have been loving Picard, and even non-Star Trek fans will enjoy this book’s powerful story and the fantastic plot device of the Romulan rescue mission. The Last Best Hope is probably the best Star Trek novel I have had the pleasure of reading so far, and I am extremely excited to see what other tie-in novels they release around the awesome new Picard series.

WWW Wednesday – 19 February 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

False Value, Picard Cover

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch (Trade Paperback)

The latest book in the acclaimed Rivers of London urban fantasy series, False Value is an amazing novel that I am having a great time reading.  Aaronovitch has created another excellent story, which has some really unique and compelling elements to it. I just over halfway through False Value at the moment, and I reckon this is going to turn into a five star read.

Star Trek: Picard – The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack (Audiobook)

I have been really enjoying the new Star Trek: Picard television show, so when I saw that they had released an official tie-in novel I had to check it out.  The Last Best Hope is an outstanding prequel novel that acts as a bridge between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Picard.  I am really enjoying this fantastic book, and I am hoping to finish it off in the next day or so.

What did you recently finish reading?
God Game, Warsaw Protocol
The God Game by Danny Tobey (Trade Paperback)

The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

What do you think you’ll read next?

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga

Amnesty Cover


That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten List – What Upcoming Television Shows could Replace Game of Thrones?

Like many people, I spent last night watching the Game of Thrones finale. While many are currently debating the quality of the final season, and will probably keep debating it for many years to come (I think I’ll keep my own opinion about this final season secret for my own safety), you cannot deny the impact that this show has had on worldwide television.

We are living in a moment of time where there are some incredible television shows out there, and the cultural impact and popularity of Game of Thrones is partially responsible for it. Not only did the show introduce the world to a whole new group of actors, many of whom are going to be major stars for years to come; it also showed world that television can be just as big, if not bigger than movies. Game of Thrones contained a huge amount of CGI, drama, dialogue and action sequences that put many major films to shame, and the quality of the CGI and action improved when the show’s budget ballooned out. I would argue that the popularity of shows such as Game of Thrones has encouraged more actors who gained fame in movies to jump back into television shows, often to great effect. It is also interesting to note that the success of Game of Thrones has allowed for more fantasy shows to be made, as studios were more eager to back fantasy series, such as American Gods, after seeing how many people were interested in Game of Thrones. Now, with Game of Thrones gone, there is a substantial void in the television line-up that many networks are working to fill.

That’s where this article comes in. Ever since the end of the show has been announced, I have been wondering what television show is going to step up and be the next big epic television show. What is going to be the next Game of Thrones? As it happens, there are quite a few big and intriguing television shows on the horizon and this is a Top Ten List that I came up with that talks about which series I think have the most potential to fill the void left by Game of Thrones.

This sort of an article is a bit of a departure from what I usually write about; however, I’m going to justify it by saying that most of the shows I will be talking about are adaptations of books or comic books. I will be excluding shows that have already been airing for a while, although I did consider some of the sequels, prequels of spin-offs that have been announced. I am not saying that future seasons of shows such as Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods or The Walking Dead are not epic; it’s just that I am more interested in what new stuff is coming out. I admit, this is also a bit of a list of shows I am probably going to watch in the future, but I think they could all have the potential to emerge from Game of Throne’s significant shadow.

  1. Upcoming The Lord of the Rings Television Show

For the No. 1 position, I put the show that many people think has the most potential to outshine Game of Thrones, the new planned television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Without a doubt, The Lord of the Rings has to be the most iconic and popular fantasy book series of all time. The book series have already produced some incredibly epic movies, as well as the somewhat enjoyable The Hobbit movies. Naturally, any television show based on The Lord of the Rings books is going to be massive, and there is so much potential for massive battles and elaborate sequences, especially if the series is done right. Added in to that is the fact that the various production companies (mostly Amazon) are pouring some serious money into the show, and it will apparently be the most expensive television show ever made, taking the spot currently held by Game of Thrones.

There are not too many details about the show at the moment. A press release indicates that the show will look at “previously unexplored stories based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s original writings”, which indicates that they will be looking at stuff set way before the events of The Hobbit. Many people believe that this could mean that the series will cover Sauron’s first attempt to take over Middle Earth in the Second Age, as well as the forging of the One Ring, and you have to admit there are some amazing storylines that could be explored there. There is currently no release date for the show, nor has anyone been officially cast, but I think that no matter what happens, the sheer potential and appeal of The Lord of the Rings, as well the massive production budget, will turn this into a show really worth watching, and one which will prove to be the biggest challenger to Game of Throne’s reign as biggest television show of all time.

  1. The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian.jpg

Now, this may be because I am a massive Star Wars fan, but oh boy, oh boy, am I keen for The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian is an upcoming live-action Star Wars television show, set to be released on 12 November 2019 as one of the starring shows of the new Disney+ streaming service. Set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the show will be set in the outer reaches of the galaxy and focus on the criminals and bounty hunters living out there. The show will primarily focus on the Mandalorian, a lone gunslinger with the iconic Mandalorian amour and weapons that Bobba Fett made famous.

While some of the latest Star Wars movies have been less than stellar, there have been some outstanding television shows, books and comics set in the Star Wars extended universe (check out my reviews of some of these here). The Mandalorian will be the first Star Wars live-action television show and has a huge amount of potential. Not only is Disney pumping in $100 million for the first 10 episodes but the show is being written and produced by showrunner Jon Favreau, whose previous production credits include Iron Man, The Jungle Book and The Lion King. They are also bringing in some significant talent to act and direct the various episodes. Favreau is directing an episode, but so is Takia Waititi (whom I worship after Thor: Ragnarok), Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Crow.

Let’s also talk about the cast: you have Game of Thrones and Narcos star Pedro Pascal as the titular Mandalorian, which is going to be pretty awesome, even if he’s wearing a helmet for most of the show. You also have Gina Carano, from Deadpool, as the female lead; Nick Nolte; Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito; Apollo Creed himself, Carl Weathers; as well as a bunch of other great actors, including Taika Waititi voicing a murderous droid, which should be fun.

All of these add up to one hell of a show, and the recently leaked trailer and footage look pretty damn awesome. Expect movie quality graphics here, as well as some top-level acting and direction. I was extremely tempted to put this as my No. 1 show, and I am so very keen to check this out.

  1. Watchmen

Watchmen

Watchmen, by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, is considered by many to be one of the greatest comic book series of all times, and HBO is pinning their post-Game of Thrones future on a television adaptation of the series. Most people would already be familiar with Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of the series (which is a bit mixed, but I liked it), and this upcoming television adaptation has some real potential as well.

Set to be released in late 2019, the new Watchmen adaptation already has a large and impressive cast put together, including Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson and Jeremy Irons. Not a lot of plot details have been revealed, although I believe it is going to be set after the events of the comic series and movie, especially as Jeremy Irons is playing an older version of Ozymandias. The first trailer showed a group of people dressed up like Rorschach, and it is possible they want to reveal the truth told in Rorschach’s journal that was sent to the New Frontiersman. I also believe that part of the plot will be pulled from the current series, Doomsday Clock, minus all the DC characters.

If done right, this Watchmen show can easily become one of the top shows of 2019, and the showrunners can take the series pretty much anywhere they want to. With the huge comic book fanbase already interested in this show, expect Watchmen to attract a huge audience.

  1. Upcoming MCU series

Quite honestly, nothing is hotter at the moment than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Avengers: Endgame only just recently blowing everyone’s mind and getting closer and closer to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, fans are eager to see where the story goes from here. For many of the characters, their story will be continued not in a movie but in a television show on Disney+, which I am jointly making my No. 4 choice. I admit I am cheating a little here, but as it is likely that these series will be somewhat connected (I am sure there will be crossovers and the like) and Marvel are creating a massive television universe, I am going to look at them together.

There are currently four planned live-action shows set to be released in 2020 and 2021, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki and a currently untitled Hawkeye series. There is also an animated Marvel’s What If…? series that will air on Disney+ but will not be connected to the other series.

With cast members from the movies leading each of these shows, there is no way that this will not be an amazing bit of television. By themselves, each of these shows has more potential than any other comic book television show currently out there thanks to their connection to the MCU, but when considered together these shows will be incredibly awesome. Expect Disney to spring for all manner of cameos from the MCU for the series, as well as some other impressive casting decisions (what big-name actor isn’t going to want to get involved in this?). I am also looking forward to seeing where all of these characters go after the events of Endgame, and there should be some awesome storylines happening here.

It looks like my Marvel comics/MCU addiction is going to be well taken care of in the next few years, and I am really looking forward to each of these shows, although I have some slight concerns about how much I’ll enjoy WandaVision. I think I am looking forward to Loki the most, mainly because Tom Hiddleston is just outstanding as the character. The Hawkeye series and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will also be great, and I am especially keen to see how Falcon and Bucky go without Cap holding them together (hoping for a bunch of Chris Evans cameos there).

  1. The Witcher

MV5BMjUyNjUzNDg1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODczOTU2NjM@._V1_UY268_CR110,0,182,268_AL_.jpg

You can bet your bottom dollar that Netflix is more than keen to get in on the fantasy game, especially after losing all their Marvel series. They actually appear to be set to have one of the first series to fill the hole that Game of Thrones leaves in the fantasy genre with their adaptation of The Witcher. Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher books are a well-loved series, especially in Europe, but their adaptation into the outstanding videogame series of the same name has also made them an extremely popular series in America.

The Witcher series follows Geralt of Rivia, a magically empowered monster hunter who wanders the land by himself, shunned by most other people. He encounters all manner of people on his journey, including a mysterious princess and a powerful sorceress, and he is constantly fighting for his own survival. As a result, this is a television series that can take its story practically anywhere and can adapt stuff from the books and games, as well as making new storylines as required.

The series is set to be released later this year, and the lead role has already been filled by Superman himself, Henry Cavill (who rocks the character’s trademark silver hair fairly well). I am a fan of this series (check out my review for the last The Witcher book here), and I have a feeling that this could be a massive series. It’s definitely going to have a huge and varied audience, with casual viewers, fantasy fans and gamers all keen to see this. I have not seen any footage of this show yet, but if the creators can get some good storylines and graphics going with this show, it could easily become one of the best fantasy television series on the market.

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live Action)

OK, before I talk about this, let us just agree that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation, The Last Airbender, never happened. OK? Good!

In my opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is easily one of the best animated shows of the last 20 years. Featuring some first-rate storylines and a style heavily inspired by Japanese anime, Avatar is set in a world where certain people, known as benders, have the ability to control the various elements: earth, fire, air and water. Only one person, the Avatar, has the ability to control all four elements, and they take up a peacekeeper role for the various nations. But when the Avatar, a young airbender called Aang, disappears, the ruler of the Fire Nation engages in a genocidal war against the other nations, wiping out the Air Nomads and all the airbenders. After being trapped for 100 years, the still young Aang emerges and, with the help of his new friends, must train in the remaining three elements in order to become powerful enough to oppose the Fire Nation.

Netflix announced they were doing a live-action remake of this series last year, and fans were excited to finally get the live-action version of the show they deserved. Both of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are set to be executive producers and showrunners, and if anyone can produce a great Avatar live action series, it is those two. They have already announced that they will be casting a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast, which is already a huge step ahead of Shyamalan’s movie.

The series is currently set to be released in 2020, and I think it will be one of the best shows of next year. I absolutely loved the animated show and cannot wait to see where DiMartino and Konietzko take this series. This is one that will appeal to a younger audience than the other shows on this list, although all those people who are already fans of the animated series are bound to watch this as well. I think this new Avatar adaptation will be an easy hit, and if the creators can replicate the magic of their animated series, then this could be massive.

  1. Game of Thrones spin-off series

I cannot talk about potential successors to Game of Thrones without mentioning the various Game of Thrones spin-off shows that are currently being planned by HBO. I know some people might not be keen on these after the last season of the main show, but there are a huge number of spinoff shows out there that proved to be very successful, and if any series is capable of producing an iconic spin-off series, it is Game of Thrones.

There are currently three Game of Thrones series in early production at the moment. Two are currently being written, although their setting is yet to be confirmed. George R. R. Martin has suggested that some of these new series would be based on stories from his companion book, Fire and Blood, which chronicles various stories about the Targaryen dynasty. Readers can possibly expect stories about their initial conquest of Westeros, their fight to maintain it, the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, or perhaps an adaptation of the Tales of Dunk and Egg.

There is also one series that is currently being filmed. This series is going to be a prequel series set around 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, in the Age of Heroes, and is likely to focus on some of the major events that occurred during this time, such as the foundation of some of the great houses and the first time the White Walkers attacked Westeros. This series has already pulled together a massive cast, with Naomi Watts as the lead. A huge range of up-and-coming British talent has also been cast, as well as a few veterans like Miranda Richardson and John Simm (Queen Mab and the Master in Westeros, should be interesting). I’m not sure when this series will be released, but if they are filming at the moment, expect a 2020 release.

I honestly do not see why these series could not be just as awesome as Game of Thrones, and I am sure that many fans will be keen to see different periods of this fantasy world’s history. I think that the writers of this series will really have to up their game in the face of the criticism of Game of Thrones season 8, and it remains to be seen whether there is a certain fatigue from Game of Thrones fans that affects viewer numbers for this show.

  1. Snowpiercer

For the eighth show on my list, I am looking at the upcoming television adaptation of Snowpiercer. This show might be a tad too niche and out there to fill the Game of Thrones gap, but I think it has the potential to appeal to a certain audience. Snowpiercer is an adaptation of a 1982 French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, which was previously adapted into the 2013 movie Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans. This show will be a fresh adaptation, unrelated to the movie, aside from the overarching premise of humanity escaping frozen conditions on a giant moving train. There will also be similar themes of class warfare, social injustice and the examination of politics aboard the train, as well as certain secrets coming to the surface.

Snowpiercer has already put together a pretty massive and impressive cast, including Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, and the various character descriptions that have provided sound like a lot of fun. The show is set to premier in 2020, and I think that Snowpiercer could turn into quite an entertaining and popular series.

  1. Star Trek: Picard

There has been a bit of a Star Trek television revival in the last few years, with Star Trek: Discovery coming out in late 2017, and several additional series planned for the horizon. While Discovery has had a pretty solid run, the show that many Star Trek fans have been looking forward to is Star Trek: Picard, which sees the return of Patrick Stewart in his most famous role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Picard is set to be released later this year and will be set 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Plot details about this series are still a bit vague at this point, but it sounds like in the intervening years Picard has left Starfleet, possibly under controversial circumstances. However, events such as the destruction of Romulus (as shown in the 2009 Star Trek film) have forced him back to Star Fleet. Not only will this story focus on Picard’s present but it will also act as a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation, showing why Picard is no longer the captain of the Enterprise. It also sounds like this will be a much darker story, with more morally ambiguous supporting characters and a much more different Picard.

Out of all the upcoming Star Trek series, this has to be the most interesting one, and the one most likely to attract a massive following. Having Patrick Stewart return is a real coup for the Star Trek creators, and I am really interested in seeing how much the character has changed. This one promises to be a really good show, and I think it has some real potential to be one of the best Star Trek shows of all time.

  1. The Kingkiller Chronicle.

I finish my list off with a show that I think could be as popular as Game of Thrones if it gets off the ground. I previously mentioned how much I loved Patrick Rothfuss’s epic book series The Kingkiller Chronicle, which is probably one of the best fantasy book series out there at the moment.

A planned television adaptation has been in the works for some time, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda attached as an executive producer and composer. Unfortunately, like the third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, an adaptation of this series has yet to appear, and no real details about it are available at the moment. I’m a little uncertain if this one will actually happen, and if there were some more details this would be way higher up on this list. Still, if it does eventuate, I think it could be absolutely amazing and could be exactly what those fantasy fans waiting for the next Game of Thrones are looking for.

 

Honourable mentions:

Y

Based on the amazing series, Y: The Last Man by comic legend Brian K. Vaughan, Y is set to be released in 2020. I loved the comic, which features a post-apocalyptic world where every male mammal, with the exception of one human and his monkey, suddenly died. The comic it is based on was pretty epic, but a promised adaptation of this series has been in development hell for years. If this one does get released next year, it should prove to be very good and attract a large fanbase.

Good Omens

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Out in a few days, and featuring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, this one should be really fun, but it might have a much more limited audience than most of the other shows on this list.

Star Wars: Cassian Andor series

Another upcoming Star Wars series, this planned series which will appear next year on Disney+ will act as a prequel to Rogue One and fill focus on the character Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna. A spy thriller with the complex character of Cassian Andor sounds incredibly awesome, especially as Alan Tudyk is set to return as the voice of K-2SO. I think The Mandalorian will be bigger at this point, but I am sure this will also be incredibly fun and pick up a lot of viewers, provided we are not saturated by Disney live-action series at that point.

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. What shows do think could be the next Game of Thrones. Let me know if the comments below.