||Much of the book reads like a video
game, which of course was its original form. The main characters go from
obstacle to obstacle, but they also grow in the process, and it's nice
to see them react to things at the end of the book that would have
seemed routine to them at the beginning. Loyalties shift, every one of
them betrays somebody. The nice thing is that the author managed to do
all of it while keeping plausible the real birth of the Rebellion and
the final confrontation with the Emperor and Darth Vader.
I often have trouble separating the
book from the Star Wars universe. It is entirely possible to have a good
book, even a great one, that deviates from the stuff that came before
it, yet still be entertaining enough to be very enjoyable. Often some
implausibility can ruin a book, and I'm hoping to stop that right now.
This book is another novelization of a
video game. Although I enjoyed the first
Dark Forces book, it only dealt
with the video game (which I played and completed when it was new) in
the last chapter. The other ones I felt were nonsense.
I've always disagreed with the idea
that Vader had any apprentices, or that the Emperor kept Force-sensitive
humans around to do his secret bidding. There is nothing in the original
trilogy to even cause us to suspect that. I even feel that Obi-Wan's
discussion with Luke on Dagobah in Return of the Jedi is a case
the two Sith taking on more apprentices -surely Ben would have warned
Luke about other Dark Siders that he might meet, or have Luke try to
recruit them! But the use of secret Force-sensitive apprentices in the
service of the Empire is there from the very beginning of the Expanded
Universe, and it might be time to finally accept it. After all, I always
enjoyed Mara Jade.
I had to get over my prejudice right
from the beginning of this book, as we learn that Darth Vader kept a
Force-sensitive boy for more than a decade without the Emperor knowing.
"The apprentice", as he is known, is powerful in the Dark Side, and is
given his greatest mission, to hunt down one of the few remaining Jedi,
General Rahm Kota, on Nar Shadda.
His new pilot is Captain Juno Eclipse,
former head of an elite Imperial squadron, brought to the secret base by
Vader himself. She is already disillusioned about the Empire, though she
doesn't really know it yet. On her previous mission, Vader ordered her
to destroy an entire planet, rendering it uninhabitable by blowing up a
nuclear reactor, which fed into the water supply. I suppose even the
largest nuclear reactor couldn't single-handedly destroy the ecosystem
of an entire planet, but this one contaminated all of the inhabited
areas, at least.
As Juno flies the apprentice to Nar
Shadda to dispense of Kota, then to the garbage planet of Raxus Prime to
dispatch another Jedi, she grows to care for him. He also unknowingly
grows fond of her, giving her reassuring pats on the shoulder, and
calling to let her know he's okay, or asking if she is safe. The first
thing that went through my mind was that this is not really Sith-like
behavior. The author was conscious enough of this that he was able to
make it grow through the book, so that even during his missions, he was
thinking of the time he would spend with Juno after it was over.
So while it wasn't a complete surprise
that the Emperor found out about him, it was quite a shock to have him
killed by Vader a third of the way through the book! Of course, he was
revived in the next chapter, completely healed (six months later) and
even better than new. In the spirit of leaving no witnesses, his droid
PROXY sends the medical space station careening into its sun, giving the
apprentice barely enough time to get off -but he takes time to get Juno
out of the torture chamber and into the ship, too.
The apprentice received a new mission
from Vader, which he kept secret from Juno, and while together they sought
out people who could start forming a rebellion, with which to destroy
the Emperor, so that Vader could take his place, and the apprentice
would take Vader's place. They find Kota, who was seriously wounded from
survived blind, wandering around Cloud City as a drunkard, and the
wheels are set in motion.
It is Juno who makes life worth living
for the apprentice, who wonders about the lonely life of a Sith. She
repeatedly tells him that he is only a slave to Vader, and always will
be, just as Vader is a slave to the Emperor. This allows him to reach a
turning point in his mission to Kashyyyk, where he is drawn to the hut
where he used to live with his father as a boy, the son of a Jedi
Knight, whom Vader struck down. This is where Vader took him from, all
those years ago. And the person the apprentice is supposed to rescue?
None other than Princess Leia. It's interesting to note that the Emperor
knew of her nature and didn't have her killed. Instead, he ensured that
she was placed in locations where she would have no influence, like the
slave-world of the Wookies.
It's funny to see Leia tell him she
doesn't need rescuing, but offers him a target instead -the skyhook
where Wookies are being ferried so they can be shipped out to work on a
secret project. Kota brings Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis
into the rebellion, which I found hard to believe. Mon Mothma and Bail
Organa were part of the Rebellion long before there was an Empire to
rebel against. They were cautious, more so even than Padmé, during the Clone
Wars animated series. And maybe this is where they were led astray. I
still have a lot of trouble believing it, though.
It is stated that the three senators (Organa
is active, the others are former senators) were working at
cross-purposes, and I can believe that -but not for 17 years! It is my
belief, completely unfounded in the literature, yet more logical, that
the Rebellion sprung up immediately, and it was ineffective for that
long, as maybe it could not do more than strike at small targets.
To prove his worth, the apprentice goes
back to Raxus Prime in order to destroy a shipyard that has sprung up in
the six months since he last visited, when he was Jedi-hunting. Here he
does more than that -in the process, an uncompleted Star Destroyer
somehow dislodges from the factory and comes straight for him (unlikely
given the orbital mechanics of the gun-station emplacement). He uses the
accelerator gun to shoot giant gobs of metal at the factory instead of
into orbit for use as raw materials, and has to take control of the Star
Destroyer with the Force, redirecting it into the particle gun in a
Throughout the book, the apprentice
uses exceptional Force abilities. This is entirely consistent with video
games and even the comics (remember that Luke did something similar in
Dark Empire, yet never again). The apprentice is very much larger than
life. But it doesn't really matter, because he is human inside, and
still falls in love with a woman, who despite what he represents, falls
in love with him because he cares for her. And her love for him changes
At this stage of the book, PROXY is
taken over by the central computer of Raxus Prime, and is kidnapped to
one of its main locations. The apprentice is forced to duel with the
computer in the form of his only real friend (at least before Juno came
along). He does win the battle, and PROXY is changed forever by this
Strange to say, but my favorite part of
the book was probably the part I was dreading the most. After the
apprentice is betrayed by Darth Vader on Corellia and left for dead,
taking the three senators and the former Jedi prisoner, the apprentice
follows them to the secret construction site of the Death Star. It's an
area where most video games want to go, but I really thought it would
wreck the continuity of the Star Wars expanded universe.
My first thought was that Bail Organa
should not have seen the super-weapon, but having him there makes
perfect sense. Nothing suggests that Leia was surprised at the Death
Star, and maybe this was her first exposure to that, through her father.
No wonder Tarkin wanted to make an example of Alderaan in
A New Hope. A
rebel attack on the space station is even described in
though it is pitiful and seems desperate -the kind of attack a fledgling
Rebellion might cobble together after their three leaders found out
about it and barely escaped with their lives.
The apprentice, who learned his name was
Galen in his vision on Kashyyyk, is dropped off in the equatorial
trench, and defeats walkers and scout walkers, stormtroopers and
turbo-laser emplacements, teams of stormtroopers, and more, all the
while freeing Wookie slaves (he solves the mystery of where the Wookies
were being transported) and making his way to the place where Organa,
Mothma and Bel Iblis were being held. The main weak spot was the fact
that the Wookies knew where this location was. I would have guessed the
detention level, and it only serves the plot to have it in an
observation bubble nearly open to space on the edge of the laser dish.
The apprentice, fully devoted to
serving no master but himself now, climbs up one of the laser shafts to
the bubble, where he cuts his way in and distracts not just Darth Vader,
but the Emperor himself! And it remains completely plausible. He fights
Vader and is completely surprised at how strong the Sith Lord is, nearly
falling to his lightsaber, which was very nice to see -confidence can
help, but he was arrogant, too! But drawing on the light side of the Force,
thinking about how he loves Juno, he actually defeats Vader, but refuses
to kill him (after a reminder by Kota about the path murder would lead
to). I loved the Emperor's glee, which is echoed from
Revenge of the
Sith and Return of the Jedi, where he is willing to sacrifice everything
to bring about his ultimate goal for power -even his apprentice and
possibly his own life.
In the end, Galen gets into a power
struggle with the Emperor with Sith lightning, to allow the others to
escape as Juno arrives in their starship -good thing the observation
bubble wasn't deep within the station. Galen's body literally dissolves,
and his spirit departs it. He sees the others get away in spirit form,
and is finally happy.
Juno, of course, is distraught, and
PROXY was sliced in half by Vader. The others meet on Kashyyyk, which
seems like a dangerous place to land, as it is still under Imperial
control. They meet in the old hut from which Galen was kidnapped, and
decide to use his family crest as the symbol for the Rebel Alliance,
which is a really cool origin story for the symbol we've taken for
granted all these years.
There is a second book to this series,
and I would have hoped it would deal more with Juno. If the cover is any
indication, I fully expect Galen to return to his body somehow, which
would cheapen his sacrifice. Hopefully I'm completely wrong, however,
and it is a different character on that cover!