Saturday, January 28, 2006

Star Wars - Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, by James Luceno

Couldn't resist the title and the cover - I bought this book soon after I returned from my trip to India. The story starts just after Episode III ends. Overall, its just about a decent book. Revenge of the Sith (the book) has seriously raised both the writing standards of Star Wars Literature as well as the community expectations, and Dark Lord is certainly not what I'd call a worthy sequel.

The plot is centered around a group of Jedi who survive Palpatine's order sixty-six (ordering the clones to kill all Jedi). The story unfolds as they make their choices and both Vader and Palpatine go after them. In the background, the development of Palpatine's increasingly dictatorial and fear-based Empire is shown. The book also sheds light on a little-discussed but important facet of the Force - the training in the ways of the Sith of Darth Vader. The dissenters of Palpatine - mostly Senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma also figure in the plot, and the options for opposing the Empire are discussed.

The strength of the book, of course, lies in the fact that the story is spun around almost all the important events after Episode III, and overall its a good story, pretty much a page turner for me. Where the book failed (for me) was that I felt that every issue could have been handled so much better - especially the parts that deal with the Force - the response and thoughts of the scattered Jedi, as well as the dark side training of Vader. James Luceno does talk about the Force in detail - but in my opinion, lacks the depth that Matthew Stover and Timothy Zahn have repeatedly shown in their books.

The only distinguished Jedi character in the book is Obi-Wan and he too is only mentioned in the epilogue. What's more, he is shown to panic as soon as he realizes that Anakin (Vader) is alive and may come to Tatooine and recognize his son, Luke. It takes Qui-Gonn from the netherworld to calm his fears down. Doesn't sound like the unruffled Master Obi-Wan we all know and love, does it? It's the presence of many small things like this that make the book - for a Star Wars fan - slightly ridiculous. The rest of the stuff - lightsaber and space battle descriptions, political maneuvering, some humour - is good; but I really think the basics could have been done much better.

On a related note - lately, Star Wars books of the Clone Wars era have always released only in hardcover at first, and paperback editions always come a few months later. I see this is as pure exploitation of the fans - but I guess now that the movies are over, this is one way for Lucas to make his money. I really didn't mind shelling out the money for a classic like Revenge of the Sith, but spending 40 bucks on this book seems a sheer waste of money. Next book, I might just sit in Borders and read without buying.

On a happier note - Timothy Zahn's Outbound Flight is due to release soon - and given his previous record (Thrawn trilogy, Hand of Thrawn duo, Survivor's Quest) - I have high expectations from this book. Hopefully, next week will find me at Borders.