Saturday, August 15, 2009

Star Wars: the Force Unleashed

Star Wars: the Force Unleashed
© 2008 LucasFilm & Sean Williams
319 pages

Jar Jar Binks: Where wesa goin?
Qui-Gon Jinn: Don't worry. The Force will guide us.
Jar Jar Binks: Ohh, maxi big 'da Force'. Well, dat smells stinkowiff. (The Phantom Menace)

When I saw this in the library catalogue, I blinked -- wasn't The Force Unleashed a video game? Indeed it is, but it's also a book. LucasFilm decided to do something they've done before, which is to present a story told across multiple mediums. I'm assuming Williams took a general plot from one of LucasFilm's creative types and turned it into a book.

Star Wars legend has it that Luke Skywalker's original last name was Starkiller, but Lucas changed it to prevent damage being done to his hero's "feel". That our main character here - a young apprentice who has been raised as a child to be Darth Vader's protege -- has the name "Starkiller" is no accident. I wonder if this is the story that would have been told had Luke Skywalker been not hidden away on Tatooine, but raised by Vader in secret. Our protagonist is being raised to help Vader overthrow the Emperor, which Anakin was already thinking about on Mustafar, when he told Padme that they could rule as an imperial couple and "make things the way [they] want them to be".

When the book begins, Starkiller is nearing the end of his training. To test him, Vader dispatches him on a number of assassination missions in which he is to fulfill Order 66 by killing a few Jedi masters who have been hiding in the ten or fifteen years that have apparently passed since Revenge of the Sith. He is joined by a young pilot named Juno Eclipse (Darth Vader evidently forgetting the effect spending a lot of time in dangerous situations has on young people who are attracted to one another) and a droid named PROXY who is able to project holographic images of various dead Jedi and mimic their fighting styles. PROXY has been Starkiller's nursemaid and friend, although his primary programming is to test Starkiller's saberfighting by attempting to kill him periodically.

The first 77 pages or so are a bit tedious: they remind me most of a video game in that Darth Vader shows up only to say "Go here, kill him" and the main characters fly off to dispatch their foes within a few pages. Things pick up once the Emperor discovers Vader's secret apprentice and Starkiller is thrown out of an airlock. I haven't read very many novels in which the main character is killed within eighty pages, but this is one of them. That's not the end of it, as you might imagine, but I won't spoil anything. After this, the novel picks up strength and becomes a fairly enjoyable read for Star Wars fans. Additionally, the book feeds into A New Hope: the Alliance to Restore the Republic, hinted at very strongly in Revenge of the Sith's deleted scenes, will feature in the plot.

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