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.

Advertisements

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through- Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

darth-plagueis-luceno

Did I mention the cover is also really cool looking?

I have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more, and here I begin my quest with Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. There will be SPOILERS in this review.

Darth Plagueis is ostensibly the story of Emperor Palpatine’s Sith Master, but it is much more than that. It also provides extensive background into the person of Palpatine/Darth Sidious and his own rise to power. Moreover, there is much background provided herein to show the development of plot details behind the Prequel Movie trilogy.

The book begins by tracing Plagueis’ own overthrow of his master and his eliminating all Sith opposition in order to cover his tracks. He encounters Palpatine on Naboo and ultimately convinces him to join the path of the Sith. Plagueis wishes to overthrow Darth Bane’s “Rule of Two” which teaches, among other things, that apprentices should always be looking for a way to kill their Sith Masters in order to perpetuate strength in the order. He also seeks to destroy the Jedi and forge the Republic into a creation of the Sith.

As Plagueis and his apprentice, Sidious (Palpatine) work towards these ends, Luceno also traces developments in the wider galaxy, particularly in the growing conflict between the Trade Federation and Naboo. The details of this development actually serve to make more sense of various things found in the Prequel Trilogy such as why the Trade Federation would work with Sidious, how Amidala rose to the throne, and more.

One downside is Plagueis’ focus on “midi-chlorians,” a concept I’ve been trying to forget since Lucas brought it into Episode I. Another issue is that, past the first half of the book, it becomes almost entirely about Palpatine rather than Plagueis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it maintains a coherent story throughout, but I thought it worth mentioning.

The book therefore provides a decades-long development of the work of the Sith alongside the broader developments in the galaxy. This could be a recipe for disaster, but Luceno pulls it off remarkably well. He also interweaves questions of morality, political control, and other philosophical issues into the plot. The book is fantastic.

The Good

-Manages to fill in gaps in the story for the Prequel Trilogy in such a way as to make them only lesser atrocities
-Provides great background into Palpatine’s life
-Brings up a host of philosophical questions while maintaining its dark plot
-Gungans are mentioned but never get to speak

The Bad

-“Midi-Chlorians” featured prominently at some points in the plot, and this concept should never ever be acknowledged to exist in the EU
-The ending felt a little rushed
-Ultimately more about Palpatine than Plagueis

Best Droid Moment

114D immediately calling Sidious master after Sidious had killed Plagueis. Droid don’t care.

Grade: A+ “I wish I’d read it sooner.”

Conclusion

Darth Plagueis is a really awesome entry into the Star Wars universe; it is one which actually succeeds in deadening some of the awfulness of the Prequel Trilogy while also standing on its own two feet. It’s not a perfect book, which suggests an “A+” is too high, but any book that manages to accomplish the Prequel redemption and avoid the serious possible pitfalls gets mad bonus points. I’m excited that so many recommended it to me and that I finally got around to reading it. I would highly recommend a read-through for Star Wars fans. Please let me know if you have any ideas for categories I should include in these reviews going forward.

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!

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

SDG.

A Look at Each Upcoming Star Wars “New Canon” Book- The Sampler Review

canon-samplerThe new Star Wars canon books will start coming out in September. Recently, I discussed how a sampler was released (and it remains available free here) to survey four of these upcoming novels.  I read through the sampler in its entirety and I would like to offer a brief thought on each of these samples. Each section starts with the publisher’s blurb.

A NEW DAWN by John Jackson Miller

Set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV, A New Dawn tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths.

I found this one to be really quite intense. The story immediately grabbed me and the characters seemed really interesting. I liked the style and intensity. The blending of character development alongside immediate action was done well, and I think that can be quite hard to do. I really look forward to this one, which is surprising because I thought it would be the one I’d enjoy the least. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the “Rebels” show until it comes out on DVD so I hope the book does well as a stand-alone.

TARKIN by James Luceno

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

I expected to like this one the most because I think Tarkin is a character who could have a whole lot of awesome background development. However, I was surprised to find this one didn’t really grab me. I’ve enjoyed Luceno’s work in the Star Wars universe before so I’ll give some benefit of the doubt here and hope that Tarkin’s character carries the book more than he seemed to in this brief snippet. I think the main problem is the format, as I barely felt I had a chance to get the “feel” of Tarkin at all in the brief parts in which he was speaking apart from the action.

HEIR TO THE JEDI by Kevin Hearne

The author of The Iron Druid Chronicles tells a thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and-for the first time ever-written entirely from Luke Skywalker’s first-person point of view.

Oh boy… I don’t know what to say about that one. I love Luke Skywalker. He remained one of my favorite characters throughout all the Expanded Universe novels, so I have a bit of a bias for him. That said, I’m not sure that this format will work for a Star Wars book. I did quite enjoy the sample, but it seemed like Luke spent a bit too much time explaining who other people were and what they were doing. Moreover, it seemed consciously self-referential in a way that undermined the genuine feel that first-person narratives need. I remain cautiously hopeful for this one, though. I enjoyed it, but I was also perhaps overly critical in my reading due to my attachment to the character.

LORDS OF THE SITH by Paul S. Kemp

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to prevail.

Honestly this was probably the least memorable of all the samples. I expect this one to be awesome, because, after all, it is about Vader. But really I was barely impacted at all by this sample. Hopefully it was just a poor selection, but I barely even remember what happened. Admittedly, part of that may have been that I was sick while reading it and probably read it around 4-5AM as I was trying to get tired again. Maybe I should re-read it!

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I will probably pick up at least one of these in hardcover for posterity, so I look forward to engaging with this new go-round of the Star Wars universe. I really hope they’re good and although I remain really upset about the fall of the Expanded Universe, I think this will be a fun run.

Did you read the sampler? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear them.

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!

SDG.