21 May 2012

Large-Scale Star Wars

Trade paperback, 373 pages
Published 2011
Acquired March 2012
Read May 2012
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis
by James Luceno

Darth Plagueis was mentioned in a parable in Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith told by Chancellor Palpatine. Though not directly stated, it was implied that Plagueis was actually Palpatine's own Sith master, killed by his apprentice. In the wake of Episode III, a Plagueis novel by Luceno was announced-- and then cancelled.  I was thankful for this, because I had my doubts that any novel about young Palpatine and his master could be as cool as my imagination.

Well, it was uncancelled, and here it is.  Darth Plagueis begins with the death of Plagueis's own Sith master, and covers the next several decades, as Plagueis recruits an apprentice and plots the downfall of the Republic and the Jedi.  Palpatine is recruited to be Darth Sidious fairly early in the book, and it moves between the perspectives of the two Sith as they both learn about being a Sith Lord and manipulate galactic affairs.

Maybe I was set up for it by my own biases, but I was disappointed. Some of it is definitely Luceno making choices that I wouldn't make.  According to this take on events, Plagueis is active well beyond the point where I would have thought, meaning that Palpatine is but an apprentice during the vast majority of the time the groundwork for the prequel films is being laid.  As someone who considers Palpatine (at least as depicted in Episodes I, II, and VI and Dark Empire) one of the coolest villains of all time, this is completely lame!  Palpatine should be the top man, not some guy's lackey.

Furthermore, the book weaves in and out of established Star Wars events too much. We see Jedi Council: Acts of War, Darth Maul, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, Cloak of Deception, and much more told from the Sith point-of-view, but without seeing the actual events, meaning far too much of the action happens out-of-sight. Having the Sith say that cool things are happening somewhere else is not terribly interesting in and of itself. Also, Lucenopedia overload! Also, they're usually fighting mooks, which stops you from being impressed; outmanipulating Nute Gunray is not exactly the act of a genius, and even potentially intelligent characters like Chancellor Valroum come across as a bit thick.

Worst of all, though, is that the book doesn't really communicate what it is to be Darth Plagueis or Palpatine, at least not in a way that's really satisfying.   Luceno has never exactly had a gift for character, and though we see a lot of what the two Sith Lords think, we never get to experience what they feel for the most part... and when we do, it's kinda lame.  "Oh, I just hate the Jedi so much!" We see them make decisions, but I don't feel like I understand why they do what they do, or how it is for them to do it.  Even manipulating Dooku's fall, which should be completely fascinating (I love Dooku), turns out to be deadly dull.  Going by this book, being a Sith Lord is actually fairly blasé.

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