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An illustrated novel by William C. Dietz and Ezra Tucker (1999, Dark Horse Comics)
Dark Forces, book 2
5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Kyle chases after a message from his father to learn a little about his heritage.



2 stars

Read February 23rd to 25th, 2001  
    Strangely unaffecting, not terrifically written, and I didn't like the art. However, it did advance the plot, and I think it did justice to the game, as well.

I worried at the end of Soldier for the Empire that the game missions might be poorly written. I was also highly anticipating the encounters with the Dark Trooper. Unfortunately, I have not played the second Dark Forces game, Jedi Knight. I assumed the third book would take care of that game. I was wrong on all counts. 

The authors decided not to pursue the Dark Trooper thread. I admit that there might not have been enough story to write a book about that mission. But it could have been fun. This book was pure setup for the third book. There was no firm conclusion. Since I haven't played the game Jedi Knight, I don't know if it followed the levels accurately or not. But from what I could tell, Kyle Katarn went from place to place, and secured some items, which he used either immediately or later, just like in a video game. But they were written so that they were just faintly reminiscent of a game, not like at the end of the last book. 

The book starts off by fleshing out some details of Kyle's father's life, before he was murdered in the last book. Morgan helped transport some people to a new colony, but was called by the desert and discovered the Valley of the Jedi. A Jedi discovered him, and gained knowledge of the place, and a Dark Jedi also discovered it. Jerec, the villain from the last book, then killed Morgan and the Jedi, but still didn't have a map. 

They ransacked Morgan's house, and discovered some data disks, but could not read them because of the encryption. The droid 8t88 was dispatched to obtain the decryption from Kyle, but Kyle gets away, shooting the droid's arm off at the shoulder. Unfortunately, the arm falls off a ledge on Nar Shadda, and Kyle has to make his way down to the ground level, fend off some bounty hunters, and make his way to the rooftops again, where Jan awaits him. He barely makes it, and nearly dies trying, when Jan rescues him. 

While Kyle is in the bacta tank, Jan "borrows" the disk and gets it partially decrypted, enough to show Luke, Leia and Mon Mothma, who still doesn't trust Kyle. Around this point I would have liked to have heard some mention of the Dark Troopers, because she seemed to trust him then. 

Luke recommends watching Kyle, but letting him search for the Valley. This is uncharacteristic, but maybe it's a better Luke than the one who is constantly running into danger without thinking. I would have liked to know if this was just before Jedi, after it, or after Bakura, or where exactly this book fits in. The approximate era is not in doubt, but I would have liked more references. 

I also can't figure out why Jan returned the disk after visiting Mon Mothma, instead of right after it was decrypted. That's obvious, though, so that he can get mad at Jan later, because he sees her replacing the disk. But the anger of betrayal lasts only about ten seconds at the end of the book. So what's the point?

Kyle and Jan go back to his home planet, scout out his home, and Kyle finds the map on the ceiling of their garage. But it's already been removed! Kyle's droid, which the Imperials obviously overlooked, gives Kyle the message from his father, as well as a lightsaber. Trying to escape, Kyle steals a ship, and races along a highway. This was annoying in that I had to keep changing my idea of what kind of vehicle this was. One minute Kyle is destroying some imported Tuskin Raiders (!) and the next they've somehow boarded his ship. At the same time, it seems that Kyle is protected from enemy fire, but is outside, in the ship's slipstream. 

This is also a problem after they escape, weaving through a canyon in Jan's ship. I know what Jan's ship looks like, and can't figure out how Kyle could fire his blaster at pursuing TIE fighters while riding in it. The way he destroys the TIE is also pretty pathetic. His blaster creates a smudge on the cockpit, so the TIE pilot has to bend around to see properly, and crashes. The pilot has never encountered insects before? Or other obstacles?

Later, Kyle infiltrates the suite where 8t88 is staying while piecing together Morgan's map. He has already sent a copy up to Jerec, so we know the droid is expendable. How did he decrypt the message telling Kyle where the map was?  Was it the untrustworthy hacker that Jan used?  

Kyle fights a young Dark Jedi student, but doesn't kill him. The question is whether the young one will now turn to the light at the end, or will he still back up Jerec? 

8t88 escapes with his canine "monster", but Kyle follows him to a fuel tanking station, where the droid has already been killed by two Dark Jedi. Kyle faces off against the two, killing both as well as the monster, and takes 8t88's head, thus obtaining a copy of the map. 

They return to Morgan's home, which has been abandoned because of the giant conflagration caused as the fuel depot blew up, just before Kyle was rescued, once again, by Jan. Luke finds them there, making up (and making out) after their needless argument.

When the Jedi Knight game came out, I disliked it already because it introduced so many Dark Jedi. I've always disagreed with the idea that the Emperor kept any other Jedi but Vader. In fact, in Star Wars Tarkin says that Vader is the last of the Jedi. And I believe him. Here, the Dark side users are one-dimensional caricatures, with one syllable names that sound really silly. They are pretty inept, too. I think they would have killed themselves much sooner than this. Apparently they've been training for years, and along comes Kyle, who has become an expert with the lightsaber and fighting with the Force in a few hours, at most. 

I also dislike the way the description of people was made. When a man is encountered, he's described as being possibly well dressed, or in tatters. When the characters see women, they say "she was pretty" or she "could have been pretty". What kind of world are we living in? It wouldn't have bothered me so much if Jan made those kinds of comments, too. But all a man in this book wants to see is if the women are nice looking, so they can perhaps be trophies? And would they call a woman ugly or fat if they saw one? Or would she go completely unnoticed? Mon Mothma is actually described as wearing her hair like a boy! Just once I'd like to see a woman who is not physically described, except perhaps as a side note, in that maybe she could not squeeze through a certain opening, just like it was said that Kyle could not do the same in one of his father's underground tunnels, since he wasn't a kid.

Rann, the good Jedi, was actually described in such a way. Never was his physical appearance described, but the illustration we are shown lets us know that he had brown skin. Bravo!

Speaking of the illustrations, I was not impressed with them this time around. They were mostly blurry renditions, with very little detail. I am not a judge of quality when it comes to drawings, but these did not appeal to my tastes. In terms of writing quality, I was not impressed with the short sentences, either.  It made the story seem clipped, instead of tense, as I'm sure it was supposed to do.

So there was some development. There will obviously be conflict in the next book, and Kyle has already taken a step towards the light side of the Force, by not killing the young dark apprentice. That's a good step, and we'll have to see what happens next.


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