Here we are. At last, we’ve arrived at the book I’ve been dreading because it is just that good. (Thanks for that, Matt Stover.) In 2005, Del Rey published the novelization of Revenge of the Sith and two novels that take place on either side of it, forming an unofficial trilogy. I’m also including another book in this post just because it needed a place to go. This is also the review where I finally did post some reaction pictures so I could properly express my anguish. (Enjoy the spam of my face.) However, if you’re going to take nothing else away from this and the past few posts, take away that I would positively love to see both Stover and Luceno write more books in this era. Please. (Editor’s Note: Del Rey sorta listened to me? A few years later, Luceno wrote Tarkin. Not that I actually think DR listens to me, haha.)
Labyrinth of Evil
This is by far the prequel lead-in book that has the most to do with its film. (So, in retrospect, my decision to go to the bookstore and read through this hardcover I couldn’t afford the day before the movie was released was a good one but then again 15 year old me probably should’ve had the good sense to get it from the library weeks before.) Because it goes directly into the film, it ends up being one of the most worthwhile of the lead-in books to read. Even though it’s a lead up, the book still has its own story to tell and that tale never really drags. Luceno’s action sequences are well done and he has an excellent grasp of all the characters.
Speaking of which, no one writes Palpatine like James Luceno and no one has the ability to make the Prequels make more sense like him either. He drops in some references (like the one to Plagueis that apparently went right over my head when I originally read that book) but had me nodding and going “ohhhhh” as I read it this time. He also references tons of things from the rest of the Prequel books without it being heavy handed. What’s even more impressive to me is that he manages to write the best Palpatine in a book that was still under the ‘LOLZ DON’T TELL ANYONE THAT SIDIOUS IS PALPS’ gag order. That writing accolade obviously extends to how he writes Sidious. Luceno keeps up the ruse for those who live under a rock and weren’t aware of Palpatine’s secret identity but he doesn’t sacrifice characterization to do so. Applause all around really.
Luceno also writes a pretty good Anakin and Obi-Wan. I love that Obi-Wan’s plan of attack to find this pilot is to go drink in every bar until they can find her. Best plan ever, Boozy-Wan. This era is absolutely Luceno’s forte. Actually, I’d love to see him write a political Amidala book or even an early days of the Rebellion book based purely on how he handled those characters in this book. Actually, I don’t have any complaints with how he handled any of the characters, even the ill-fated Captain Dyne.
Overall, it’s actually a pretty good read. It tells the story that it needs to tell and never lets the reader get too bored. It’s a nice mix of action and politics and the hunt for Sidious. If you skipped this, it’s one of the Prequel books I would recommend going back and giving a shot. Honestly, I’m thrilled to have rediscovered this book.
Revenge of the Sith
No book has ever just killed my emotions like this one and I’m still in shock that it was a film novelization. If any of you have yet to read this book, I strongly urge you to go out and pick up a copy right now. This book is basically flawless and I don’t get how there are Star Wars fans who haven’t read it.
Perhaps the most infuriating part of this book is that no matter how often you shout ‘DON’T DO IT, ANAKIN’ at it? There is nothing you can do to change what’s happening because “This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.” That’s how Stover starts the book, by the way. Just in case you thought you could get through this without any tears. The introduction makes it even worse. He makes you believe as the children of the galaxy do: Obi-Wan and Anakin will save the day no matter what because they are the invincible team. It doesn’t matter that the adults don’t believe because “Two is enough because the adults are wrong and their younglings are right. Though this is the end of the age of heroes, it has saved the best for last.”
One of the running themes of the book is Stover’s use of “This is _____” and “This is what it feels like to be _______”. The insight he gives into each character every time he uses these is remarkable. He creates an understanding of who each character is in that precise moment in time. No one else has ever delved into the psyche of these characters quite like this before. By the end of the book, you know what it’s like to be Dooku as he dies and Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, and Anakin Skywalker forever. Actually, the level of characterization that Stover achieves goes beyond these little windows and permeates the entire book. This is something that the films just simply can’t do and is one of the magical aspects of books.
Also, no other writer can devote six sentences to an internal monologue by Obi-Wan about whether or not he is indeed looking at Anakin’s butt without it sounding ridiculous. It makes me laugh every time. It’s also probably the only time I laugh during this book. Usually because he follows it up with a line like “Anakin and Obi-Wan would never fight each other. They couldn’t. They’re a team. They’re the team. And both of them are sure they always will be.” Which makes my face go more like this:
Frequently. Way to not play fair, Mr. Stover.
Somehow, Stover manages to make the entire chain of events from when Palpatine first reveals his Sith identity to Anakin through Order 66 even more heartbreaking than in the film. And that’s even with him removing the scene where Anakin kills the younglings. (Seriously, I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle reading that scene.) It never fails to be anything short of frustrating every time Anakin is swayed by Palpatine and falls to the dark side because he was SO CLOSE TO SAVING THE GALAXY. BUT NOPE. He failed. And Order 66 happened. Actually, after reading this book, I feel that Anakin’s fall had less to do with him taking stupid pills and Palpatine being the Master of all manipulators. I mean, he knows exactly what to say to bring Anakin over to his side. On top of that, there are his acting skills. I take back what I said before about laughing only once because I definitely giggled when he has the gall to wink when the Jedi come to arrest him but then I go back to all but crying once everyone starts dying and then slamming the book shut and trying to pretend that it’s not happening.
(Editor’s note: Don’t ask why my hair color changes mid-book. Actually, the red was a wig but don’t ask why I had one on before. I don’t remember.)
The final “You were the Chosen One” speech always makes me tear up a bit. Actually, the entire last twenty or so pages of the book are so wonderfully written. Action sequences like that can be difficult especially when you’ve seen them on the big screen in all their glorious CGIness but Stover pulls it off. While obviously the written word lacks all the raw emotion behind Ewan McGregor’s performance, it’s still that final emotional punch to the gut.
Basically, this is an amazing book and I would read it every month if it didn’t punch me in the feels. Aside from the writing, I also really love that Stover kept in Padmé’s political plot line because it really adds to the overall story. (George Lucas, if you want to add it back into the film in a director’s cut, I will happily give you my money.) Other stand out parts of this book for me included the insight about how Mace really loves the Republic, any scene with Bail Organa, and how the most offensive condemnation that Obi-Wan can think of is ‘uncivilized’. The only “flaw” with the book is that it’s not long enough or maybe that the balance of action is skewed since the opening battle with Grievous and Dooku takes up the first third of the book. On the other hand, it’s so well written that I can’t really object.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader:
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this book has the cheesiest title ever.
Aside from that, it’s actually a decent enough read and kept me engaged. Luceno splits the book between a small group of Jedi who managed to escape the Purge and Vader as he tries to figure out how to be Darth Vader. I never found myself particularly attached to this new group of Jedi but neither did I find myself bored when reading the sections about them. I do rather like reading about the adjustment period that Vader goes through. New body, new fighting technique, new Master, new responsibilities. In short, it really sucks to be Vader right now. Shocker. (Guess you shouldn’t have listened to Palps.) I do really appreciate what Luceno was able to do as a writer though and help bridge Anakin to Vader because there is definitely a disconnect between the two. Well done there with helping fill in that gap.
Actually, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I thoroughly enjoyed the Bail Organa parts too. Can we all just appreciate him a little more? The man risked his own life to try and help the Jedi after Order 66 and now he’s raising Padmé and Anakin’s daughter as his own… all while having to keep his own hide intact and not let anyone know about Leia’s true parentage. Oh. And he’s gets to subtly start the Rebellion too. Mad respect, man. (Editor’s Note: Appreciate Bail Organa More will be the cornerstone of my political platform.)
I particularly like how the book ends with Obi-Wan on Tatooine. He’s chilling at Tosche Station just like all the cool kids. Can we have that Obi-Wan book yet? Please? (Editor’s Note: Two for two with this post because OH HAI JJM’s KENOBI HAIIII.)
I think that out of the “trilogy”, this is my least favorite book but that’s almost unfair to say because, like I said, it is a decent enough read. Plus, it stood up well enough despite being read directly after Stover’s novelization. That’s got to count for something, right?
Imperial Commando: 501st
I’m including this book here because I honestly don’t know where else to put it and I don’t have enough to say about it to warrant its own post. If you’ve been following this retrospective, you’ll already know that I loved the Republic Commando books and therefore, I was really looking forward to this book when it first came out. Instead, I was really disappointed. It felt like fanfic and I do not mean that in a derogatory way whatsoever. I’ve been a writer and reader of fanfic for almost a decade and would never use ‘fanfic’ as a slur. However there are some types of stories and plot lines that really don’t need to be an official novel. This book feels like one of those. I would’ve honestly been fine with Traviss wrapping things up in either Order 66 or an e-book/story. On a similar note, there does not need to be another Imperial Commando book. It’s really not necessary. This book wasn’t necessary. It’s a nice enough read but it didn’t need to be an official book.
Hold on wait. I lied. I do have things to say about this book and they’re about Darman. (Editor’s Note: Shocking, I know. I have things to say about Star Wars.) I get that the poor man went through the wringer the past couple of books but his attitude starting at page 255 when he refuses to be extracted by the Nulls is just stupid. Put your kriffing bucket back on and go be a father to your son and stop taking your kriffing stupid pills. Or Niner could’ve just bashed him over the head and dragged him to the ship. BOOK COULD’VE ENDED RIGHT THERE. Well, maybe give it another twenty or fifty pages to wrap things up. But nope. We needed to have a sequel potential. It’s just beyond frustrating to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to know everything about the lives of these characters I’ve come to love (more on that once we get to the Legacy of the Force books) but dragging things out like this is just… dumb. I will never understand the fandom’s obsession with having these books be continued especially with Traviss out of the picture. Not. Necessary. At. All.
The one thing I did really like was the introduction of Scout into these books even if she doesn’t get to do much. I got incredibly attached to her and had resigned myself to believing she had died thanks to Order 66. I’m just glad that at least one of my favorites made it out alive. It’s the small things, folks. (Editor’s Note: So many of my favs die.) Bottom line for me about this book though is that you should read it if you liked the Republic Commando books and cared about the characters but it lacks the driving galaxy altering plot line of the previous books and therefore suffers for it.
Whew. That was an emotional roller coaster. Time for an emotions break. And no more pictures of my face doing weird things for awhile, promise. Next up are the Coruscant Night books as I continue this breakneck speed marathon to finish A New Hope before New Year. (Editor’s Note: I was trying to read fast enough so Scoundrels (released 1/1/13) would be available right when I needed it and not before. Yeah, I’m crazy.)
Originally published on December 20, 2012.