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An illustrated novel by William C. Dietz and Dean Williams (1998, Dark Horse Comics)
Dark Forces, book 1
Just before Star Wars: A New Hope

Kyle Katarn graduates from the Imperial Academy, but then deserts to the Rebel Alliance.




Read 5th to 6th, 2000  
    I was wondering how they would turn a game into a series of novels.  Since this one represents the backstory to the game, I'm still hoping.  But based on the last chapter, which is the first level of Dark Forces, I have my doubts. 

  The story also started out weak.  It felt stilted, when dealing with Jerec and Kyle's father.  That, of course, is back story for a later book, probably Jedi Knight.  It seems that Kyle's father has force abilities, but is afraid to use them.  Jerec is a Dark Jedi, and wants Katarn alive.  But when he is captured as a Rebel leader on a raid, Jerec ends up killing him.

  His son, Kyle, is about to graduate from the Imperial Academy, on Carida.  We really get inside his head as he performs his first command mission, against a Rebel communications outpost.  There, he kills his first person, and learns to master the fear inside him.  He performs extremely well, but the mission is a failure anyway.  A third of his company is killed while breaking into the facility.  And he fails to kill all the Rebels when he gets the chance, feeling that there has been enough killing for one day.  But then the Rebel backup arrives, and only seven Imperials survive. 

  Kyle graduates with honours, then, even though he doesn't feel that he did anything honourable.  He receives word that his father was killed during a Rebel raid, and suddenly feels anger that he saved the lives of the Rebels on the communications base. 

  He goes off on a starliner (for time off for grief, I presume), and meets a fellow graduate, whose father is a Governor.  Lando Calrissian makes an appearance then, but it's nothing more than a cameo.  Kyle spots the Rebel woman, and gets ambushed while following her.  She is Jan Ors, the woman who will end up helping him on several missions. (I know, because I've played the first game!)  She lets him loose, but he asks her why the Rebels would kill an innocent craftsman like his father.  She shows him a video report of the actual raid, which was pulled off by Imperial soldiers.  To his credit, he doesn't go into a rage, but after a little thinking, he asks her if he can join the Alliance.  After a little escapade concerning a bounty hunter, she takes him to see Mon Mothma, who sends him on a dangerous mission. 

  But she also sends Jan to keep an eye on him, and kill him if necessary.  The mission is to retrieve a set of the Death Star plans.  And here is where the book becomes rather dull.  Kyle looks left, then goes through the door, is blocked, shoots some guys, goes up a lift, down a corridor, shoots some more troopers, and grabs a red key.  Down again, through more doors and corridors, and eventually gets the plans.  It was exactly like the game.  I played that level enough that I pretty much know it by heart. 

  But it was neat to see him bring in a former roommate to arrange for the chance to get into the complex.  That never concerned me while playing the game, but then, I never wondered too much about Kyle getting the Death Star plans, either.  Based on what Mon Mothma says, the Rebels are going after two sets of plans; the other ones are being stolen by Bria (from the Han Solo Trilogy), and beamed to Princess Leia's ship.  That sort of reduces the effect of Leia and the droids' sacrifice, but I guess it needed some explaining.

  I did really enjoy Kyle's frustrations during the attack on the Rebel communications centre, and his amazement during the graduation ceremony, and his nerve during the mission for the Rebels.  Not much traveling around, not too complex, this was a fun story to read. 

  It was nice to get into the mind of the character in the video game.  It gives it more depth.  And it gives the missions a nice sense of urgency, when it can be seen that there is more to the story than just shooting people to get to the goal.  I hope the trend continues in the second volume.  I expect to come face to face with the Dark Trooper, again.


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