Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review - Darth Plagueius

Darth Plagueis – James Luceno


As a rule I am not a fan of the Star Wars novels and the EU. I am such a massive fan of the films - where was the announcement on this site Rob? I hear you ask – Chillax, I reply, it was old news within seconds and the world had already spoken about it to the nth degree – anyway, I digress, I am such a massive fan of the films that anything in the EU that even slightly doesn’t ring true irks me. I often spend pages of the novel thinking, “Han would never have said that,” and get too distracted by the whole thing.

The novels I have read all seem to be stories told with an attempt to fit the characters in and make it “Star Warsy,” rather than a good story where the characters slot in effortlessly. I have yet to read a SW novel that does not borrow a few lines of dialogue from the films to make them sound authentic.

Darth Plagueis captured my interest though. A figure only mentioned in passing in the films, captured my imagination completely. Who was the Sith Lord that trained Sidious? When the reviews of the book were strong I was curious enough to give the book a whirl in celebration of the announcement of the new trilogy.

The Blurb:

He was the most powerful Sith lord who ever lived.
But could he be the only one who never died?

Darth Plagueis: one of the most brilliant Sith Lords who ever lived. Possessing power is all he desires. Losing it is the only thing he fears. As an apprentice, he embraces the ruthless ways of the Sith. And when the time is right, he destroys his Master - but vows never to suffer the same fate. For like no other disciple of the dark side, Darth Plagueis learns to command the ultimate power . . . over life and death.

Darth Sidious: Plagueis's chosen apprentice. Under the guidance of his Master, he secretly studies the ways of the Sith, while publicly rising to power in the galactic government, first as Senator, then as Chancellor, and eventually as Emperor.

Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, Master and acolyte, target the galaxy for domination - and the Jedi Order for annihilation. But can they defy the merciless Sith tradition? Or will the desire of one to rule supreme, and the dream of the other to live forever, sow the seeds of their destruction?

I was disappointed. I wanted to enjoy the book and in parts I did but at no point did I revise my above opinion on Star Wars books. Luceno is an accomplished writer and his knowledge of the Phantom Menace is vast. However, I found the book to be a bit all over the place if I am honest.

Darth Plageuis is interesting enough to begin with, but his character gradually fades away to be replaced by Palpatine. I was disappointed by this as I wanted to read about the Sith that trained Palpatine and not the senator of Naboo himself. By the end of the novel I am still struggling to think of anything interesting to write about Plagueis as a character.

Palpatine is not anything different from what we see in the films (I know this should be a good thing given my earlier comments) but there is no development of his character as his path to the darkside is generally skipped over. Although, there is an interesting segment of the book when we first meet him, scenes like this were few and far between. There is also a horrendous gloating speech at the end of the novel that had more in keeping with a “Scoopy-Doo” cartoon than a Star Wars piece of fiction.

What we get as a result is a history type text book of the events as they unfold. Dare I say it but it feels more like a fleshed out timeline, especially the latter parts where the plot shadows that of the Phantom Menace.

Others have praised the master manipulations of Plagueis and Sidious but I found it all rather bland and boring. Characters enter the story and then depart without getting any real sense of who they are and as a result I didn’t really care.

In keeping with the textbook theme, the ending of the novel felt more like a footnote to the Phantom Menace than a climax to a riveting story. James Luceno attempts to fill in the blanks and answer some questions not resolved in the films.

Maybe, I suffered from not having read any of the other EU books which I am told introduced a lot of the characters that I did not identify with. James Luceno is clearly a skilled writer and I can see how other regular readers of the EU have enjoyed this book but as a standalone novel I was not convinced.

My rating: 6.5