Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction: A Novel of the Old Republic
Drew Karpyshyn 2006
324 pages

The Star Wars story is not limited to the two trilogies: books, video games, and other media create an Extended Universe deemed canon by LucasArts. People have been writing books and fleshing out the history of the Star Wars universe. This book is set -- according to Wookiepedia, a Star Wars wiki -- a thousand years before Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star in A New Hope. That action ("The Battle of Yavin") is the Star Wars universe's calendar's origin: events are labeled as being B- and A- BY, or "Before" and "After" the Battle of Yavin. In that time, according to the intro flap of the book, the Sith numbered in the thousands and they fought the Republic and its guardians, the Jedi, for control of the Galaxy.

The book is set during that battle, although for the first third of the book it is pure background. The first third of the book takes place on a small mining moon. Its lone settlement is the Star Wars equivalent of a Pullman town: the workers work all day for Pullman, they sleep in Pullman homes, they buy their supplies at the company store. The company uses its power to its advantage, and workers often become deeply indebted to the company and become literal wage-slaves. This is a man called Des' spot in life: thanks to his father's gambling debts, he works all day in abysmal conditions, with no hope of escape. Republic transports come through and ocassionally lure the miners into joining the Army of the Republic, but little do they know that their wages will be garnished to pay the SW-Pullman company. The Jedi are not concerned with the plight of the workers, and it is this that makes Des resentful and contemptuous of both the Republic and the Jedi.

Circumstances beyond his control turn Des into an outlaw, and he seeks refuge in the armies of the Sith, who are fighting a war against the Republic. His ability to use the Force is strong, and is quickly noticed by Sith lords, who reccommend him to the academy of the Sith Masters. There, he learns the ways of the Dark Side and begins to forge his own destiny. This book and the book that follows is his story. He adopts his father's contemptous name for him -- Bane -- as his own name. The story woven is rather captivating. This is a different universe, almost, than the one we see in the trilogies. The Sith here are not the sophisticated masters of evil that Palpatine and Darth Maul are: they're unrefined, crude almost. They struggle to recreate themselves in hopes of gaining more power.

The author shows Darth Bane's progession from a bitter, abused, but socially healthy miner to a Master of the Dark Side, capable of murdering whoever gets in his way. It took three movies to do this for Darth Vader, but here the author is limited to one book. He succeeds, though, and fairly well. The journey to the dark side is not a smoothly-running one: Bane will moralize with himself, attempting to figure out what is happening to him. The author does a fairly good job of building his character, but of course the readers know where it will lead. Along the way we meet interesting characters, which of whom are struggling with their own issues. The various personal and political struggles meet their climax in the Battle for Rusan, where an army of Jedi and an army of Sith fight a bitter battle to the end, where both sides are beginning to lose track of the ideologies that bring them there.

In sum, a captivating story that is well written and a worthy contribution to the Star Wars universe. I enjoyed it more than I have many other SW novels.

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