Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through “Labyrinth of Evil” by James Luceno

Broody Anakin is broody.

I have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Labyrinth of Evil , the beginning of The Dark Lord Trilogy, which tells the story of the rise of Darth Vader. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Labyrinth of Evil

Labyrinth of Evil  came to me highly recommended as part of another trilogy which, like the Darth Bane trilogy, showed the dark side of the Force in an interesting way. I had been looking forward to reading it for a while and finally picked up the book from the library.

One thing I’ll immediately say in its favor is that it presents a broader picture of how Anakin Skywalker went from a hero to a Sith Lord. There are more gaps filled in about how his reasoning behind several decisions made sense at the time, as well as his growing frustration with his position within the Jedi. It makes Episode III seem more plausible in the fall of Vader. I also quite enjoyed the development of Count Dooku, who I believe could have been a much bigger deal in the movies than he was. Plus, he has the coolest lightsaber, so there’s that. Anyway, the book makes him seem more of an interesting character than a man who was just easily duped by the Emperor.

There are a number of problems with the book, however. For one, Obi-Wan Kenobi is portrayed as very whiny. Rather than guiding Anakin, it seems he’s always just complaining about things he does–many times without merit. Perhaps this is a stylistic way to show Anakin’s perspective on how Obi-Wan is obnoxious, but it struck me as pretty out of character. Of course, Kenobi is also portrayed in a similar fashion in the Clone Wars TV show, which is apparently canon, so maybe it’s just my feelings about what Kenobi should be played like that I’m going by. Still, it annoyed me. The dialogue is part of the problem, and that persists throughout the book for all the characters. Conversations seem stilted and forced. Another problem is that the galaxy is made, again, to be too small. When there are so many people and droids in the universe, how is it that the same 10 people keep making everything happen? It seems to stretch credulity and make Star Wars seem much smaller than it should.

Labyrinth of Evil  shows Anakin as a selfish, increasingly insular individual and makes the fall he experiences in Episode III feel more plausible than it does with just the film. However, it suffers from some of the same difficulties the entire prequel trilogy suffered from. It’s a decent read, but not a fantastic one.

The Good

+Provides background for the fall of Anakin Skywalker
+Some good development of Count Dooku

The Bad

-Obi-Wan Kenobi is incredibly obnoxious, which seems pretty out of character
-The dialogue is not great
-Many key points seem rushed
-Again makes the galaxy seem tiny

Best Droid Moment

When Anakin decides that he could have done whatever he wanted because he thinks of C-3PO and his construction of that protocol droid. Kind of a strange aside but it shows Anakin’s arrogance.

Grade: C+ “It sets the table to understand more of the fall of Anakin Skywalker, though it doesn’t do so in a particularly compelling or unexpected way.”

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 2 “The Crossover” and “The Collaborator”

Bajorans have issues, yo.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Crossover”

Synopsis

Kira and Bashir experience a strange glitch in the Wormhole and end up in an alternate reality with copies of everyone on Deep Space Nine. In this alternate reality, however, the Cardassians, Klingons, and Bajorans have formed a kind of alliance and conquered humanity. Sisko gets special treatment as a kind of rogue trader. Bashir is thrown to slavery, with Odo as the overlord. He manages to convince the O’Brien copy that there may be more to life than drudgery even as Garak threatens to kill Bashir if Kira doesn’t take her copy’s place. O’Brien and Bashir are captured in an attempt to escape but Bashir’s words about a world in which humans aren’t all slaves inspires Sisko to take up the fight. He aids Bashir and Kira in getting back to their own reality and copy Sisko and O’Brien stay to continue the fight.

Commentary

Now we’ve had two episodes in a row that don’t do anything to move the plot forward. I’d like to reflect on some perspective here. In “The Next Generation,” it barely mattered if an episode happened wherein nothing that happened impacted the broader world because that’s often the premise of the show. It’s just a spaceship flying around running into things and occasionally dealing with much wider-scale problems. But DS9 has set itself up, for better or worse, as a show built on strong continuing narratives. Because of this, it’s really frustrating to get episodes where there’s not any continuation of the broader narratives, and this episode suffers from those expectations.

Anyway, the episode is also problematic in that it has established characters acting completely abnormally. That goes along with the premise, but instead of creating an aura of weirdness, there is a sense of impossibility. Bajorans… working with Cardassians? And Klingons partnering with others for conquest? Sisko as a marauder? Yeah, these things are weird, but they also go against basically everything that has been established about these races and people groups.

All of that said, the episode was kind of fun in a campy, cheesy way. It’s silly, it’s impossible, and it takes itself all too seriously. But it somehow still manages to kind of have a sense of fun. Not a good episode, but not a terrible one, either.

Grade: C- “Another episode where actually nothing that happened mattered.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “I don’t know. It was just weird.”

“The Collaborator”

Synopsis

Bajor is gearing up to select a new Kai. Bareil seems like the logical choice, as he was hand-picked by Kai Opaka. However, when an exiled Bajoran informant returns, Vedek Winn, Bareil’s opponent and an able conspirator, grants him permission to return to Bajor. She begins to use the exile as evidence of a collaborator elsewhere on Bajor, namely, Bareil. Kira is given the chance to prove Bareil is innocent, and attempts to do so with the help of Odo, and a dash of Quark’s hacking skill, seems to implicate Bareil even more. However, when Kira confonts Bareil, he argues the collaboration was necessary to save Bajoran lives. Kira can’t accept this, but continues her investigation and discovers that Kai Opaka herself was the collaborator, not Bareil. Opaka sacrificed the life of her son to save 1200 other lives. Bareil sacrificed his career to preserve Opaka’s prestige. Vedek Winn is made Kai.

Commentary

Here’s an episode full of twists and turns. It’s clear almost from the outset that Bareil is hiding something, though I didn’t expect he’d be covering up for Opaka. That was a big reveal, and one that asked questions about what is important in life–and death. Did Opaka do the right thing? Should such a decision that she made be paraded out in front of all of Bajor for analysis? Was Bareil’s sacrifice valiant or foolish because it allowed Winn to become Kai?

None of those questions have easy answers, but they do promise for more intrigue on Bajor, which is an exciting prospect.

Another great aspect of this episode is it doesn’t try to hard. There’s no overly dramatic shots or scenes. The plot is dramatic enough, and it relies on its own drama rather than tricks of camera or overdone lines to draw viewers in.

Grade: A “It had enough twists that it was exciting all the way through, but not so many that it became unbelievable.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I always enjoy a good, sleuthy detective story.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “The Maquis, Part II” and “The Wire”

Hope you’ve got that uniform insured, bud.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Maquis, Part II”

Synopsis

Hudson accuses Sisko with siding with the Cardassians over his longtime friend and all of humanity, but ultimately frees him and his officers. Admiral Nechayev remains fairly oblivious to the realities beyond her office (as she was in a few situations in TNG) and, when Sisko asks her for help, simply orders him to deal with the “nuisance” that is the Maquis. Quark reveals more about his selling of weapons and that he believes the Maquis will be making an attack on a Cardassian base soon. The Cardassians have clearly set Dukat up as a scapegoat for their illegal smuggling of weapons into the colonies. After rescuing Dukat, Sisko goes to intercept the Maquis attack. He leads a couple runabouts, who succeed in routing the Maquis, but, much to the rage of Dukat, allows Hudson to escape unharmed. Sisko believes the situation may continue to escalate, but couldn’t bring himself to kill his friend.

Commentary

The Maquis are here to stay. Though Sisko managed to thwart the immediate danger, it seems clear from this episode that the conflict may only escalate. That’s something that is kind of refreshing for a Star Trek episode, because so often everything is tied up neatly with a bow and handed off. Very rarely do conflicts continue, especially when those conflicts involve Starfleet. This episode shows that DS9, again, is going to be grittier than the previous iterations of Star Trek.

I particularly enjoyed the ending. For a moment, I thought Sisko might indeed destroy his friend’s ship, but it makes sense for him as a character not to have done so–after all, among other things, they share loss together. But Sisko lets Hudson go in the full knowledge that he is likely prolonging the conflict. That’s the kind of thing that challenges the standard Star Trek scenarios where the leader basically always does what is right, in the end. Here we don’t know if what Sisko did was the right choice, nor will we… though maybe later if the Maquis show up again we can get a bigger picture.

The main problem with this episode is that people frequently act in sort of strange ways. In the summary I already noted how the Admiral once again misjudges the situation. But there is more: like why do the Maquis just let Sisko go when he could be a valuable asset? Or why do the Cardassians move so swiftly to throw Dukat under the bus… only to, apparently, easily accept him back later? Some of these threads just don’t make sense.

I particularly enjoyed that they didn’t 100% close off all the plot threads here. It is clear the Maquis can continue to be a political plotline going forward. It was a well-done conclusion to the two-parter.

Grade: A- “A good conclusion that leaves open the possibility for future conflict.

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good, but it wasn’t outstanding in any way.”

“The Wire”

Synopsis

Garak is having headaches and Bashir wants to help him, but the Cardassian doesn’t want help. This is a really convoluted mess of lies and half-truths so it may be more prudent to just read the summary on Wikipedia.

Commentary

Garak is a lying sack of crap. That’s what I learned in this episode. I have always thought there is something weird about him, and maybe even nefarious (the latter coming out more in “Profit and Loss”), but didn’t really decide he’s a massive liarface until this one. It kind of took away some of my liking for the character. But maybe that’s a good thing, because it challenges ignorant acceptance of everything Garak says. We knew he was a loyal Cardassian in some way, possibly even a spy, but this episode reveals even more how strange his past is.

I was left after this episode with confusion on my brain. I just don’t really know what is true or what really happened with Garak’s past any more than I did at the beginning. I’m sure that was intentional, but it was also kind of annoying. It gives all the reveals throughout the episode a kind of “who cares” aftertaste, because we don’t know what was true or what was a lie. Overall, it makes the whole thing feel unsatisfying.

All my complaining aside, I did enjoy watching the episode, mostly because the actor who plays Garak dons the role so well.

Grade: C+ “What the what? I don’t really know what to think, but I did still enjoy it.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I’m torn because, on the one hand, there was really great acting; on the other hand, actually nothing happened except Garak having a weird device.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.