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Darth Plagueis Commentary: Prolouge – Chapter 3

Darth Plagueis Commentary
Prologue – Chapter 3

Darth Plagueis is the type of Star Wars Expanded Universe book that begs a deeper look.  Over the next month or so we will be taking the book in parts and doing an in-depth commentary.  Various members of the Star Wars Report staff will weigh in on the discussion and maybe even some other fans as well. For this first section we will talk about the prologue and the first three chapters of the book.  I was lucky enough to get two of the hosts of the Star Wars Report podcast, Mark and Bethany, to chat with me.
Feel free to add your own commentary in the comments section below.

Note: This commentary does not give away any major spoilers from beyond chapter 3 in the book.

Aaron: So before we dig into the book, let’s talk about the hype leading up to the book.  Were you guys excited when you heard about Darth Plagueis?

Mark: Ahh hype… good old hype; by hype are we referring to the many excerpts?  Or the many reviewers that seemed to REALLY enjoy this book?

Aaron: Any hype, created by Lucasfilm or fans.

Bethany: Not really, to be honest.  I was interested to hear of the back story of the Sith, to find out more about Darth Sidious, but beyond curiosity, I didn’t feel much for the book.  Knowing that James Luceno was writing it helped, as I really enjoyed Labyrinth of Evil, which he wrote.  I became more excited about it when I heard other fans speak of how much they were enjoying it.  Peter Morrison had some really great things to say, for instance, and the Jedi Journals podcast had an interview with James Luceno (about Darth Plagueis as well as other things) that I really enjoyed listening to!

Mark: Oh yes! I was shocked that they brought a book back to life. So many cancelled books seem to have a potential to return: Blood Oath, Imperial Commando 2 and so forth.

Bethany: I wasn’t even a part of the fan community back in 2007, when, I believe, the book was first scheduled to be released, and so didn’t have that sense of surprise that you express, Mark. I do wonder what causes books to be canceled though, and simultaneously what causes them to be resurrected.

Aaron:  Was a book like Darth Plagueis a good thing or were you hoping he would stay a mysterious character?

Mark:  I was hoping beyond hope that they would do something very similar to what they did- which was give us (the reader) a great deal of insight into the character. Learning about Sidious’ early apprenticeship was an added bonus. But I’m one of those fans who enjoys learning about the mysteries. The more I learn, the MORE questions I have.  Same with this book.  I was left wanting to know even more about the past due to Plagueis’ knowledge base.

Aaron: In the media materials sent out with the advanced copies of the book they included the statement “This book is canon” and that the book does not conflict with GL’s vision.  Do you think this is an important statement or should we just see it as advertising hype?  Is this book any more canon than other Star Wars Expanded Universe books?

Mark: It all hangs on the honesty of the statement. I mean, if George did have a hand it would be one thing. But if this book had no more or less involvement than any other Del Rey book well I’d say it was advertising hype. I mean I didn’t buy it, but I still recall the many who bought DLC content because they were told it was exclusive and couldn’t be bought anywhere else.
But that’s not to say that when I saw the comment I didn’t stop and take pause. For if it is true- as I hope and try to believe it is- then that means that this IS the direction George wants the back story to take. And that’s my issue with the mystery. Leave it a mystery until GL says ok play. Don’t spell out the mystery of something George is about to do himself. That would be a set up to failure. Which isn’t the case here. Darth Plagueis manages to make you once again unlearn what you have learned in a very CLASSIC Lucas style.

Bethany: Is this book any more canon than other books?  More canon, less canon, canons to the left and right of them…. Canon is always a tricky topic to address. I consider it to be “more canon” than some Star Wars books, like Splinter of the Minds Eye obviously. I’d consider Darth Plagueis to be of a higher canon in that it seems to fit more seamlessly with the movies. The advance review copy I have tells us that the book is canon, that even the Maker himself was involved to some degree, and I really like that fact. Not all Star Wars books feel like Star Wars, in the traditional sense; I feel Darth Plagueis did.

Aaron: Ok, let’s get into the book now.  We get a pretty crazy opening with Sidious reveling in the power of the Dark Side after killing Plagueis. They killed the title character in the prologue! What did you think of this opening?

Mark: Oh what a Tarintino feel to that opening!  I will say I immediately went to that chapter again when I DID get to the end of the book. And it was like reading it in a whole new way. But the prologue had a very Stover’s Traitor feel to the way it was written. I loved how Sidious’s point of view on the dark side was one like his Master’s to a degree, that it’s almost sentient.

Bethany: The prologue really captured my attention! I enjoy Luceno’s dramatic, almost flowery writing style in it, and felt drawn into the book, once I adjusted to his style.

Mark: “Once I adjusted to his style” key words here- the more I review Darth Plagueis the more I realized I had no issue with the Lucenopedia because I’d long ago tuned out the RIDICULOUSLY BIG words with illogicalRogue ones.

Bethany: I didn’t feel as if they were unnecessarily big words, more like an interesting choice of words.

Aaron: The opening reminded me of the recent Star Wars book Riptide which also had a situation thet reversed in time and revisited the situation at the end of the book.
The prologue doesn’t tell us exactly when Palpatine killed Plagueis which was a nice mystery.  We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when.

Aaron: So the book reverses in time and we are now at 67 BBY with Plagueis and his Bith master Tenebrous in a cave.

Mark: Or is it? Sure part one starts 67-65, but chapter one’s first words: “Forty-seven standard years before the harrowing Reign of Emperor Palpatine”

Aaron: That is kind of confusing.

Bethany: Perhaps a typo or continuity error?

Mark: I figured it was used to describe the planet, not a literal placement of the event itself.

Aaron: Did anyone else have a hard time imagining a Bith and a Muun as cool looking Sith?

Bethany: I did have a hard time picturing a Bith and a Muun as cool looking as, say, Darth Maul. I just couldn’t imagine them being a ‘phantom menace’ and striking fear into those that cross them. Eventually it was their, especially Plagueis’s, portrayal of personality and capability to do evil that had me respecting them as the Sith they truly are.

Mark: I admit a Bith Sith, the sound just rolls off the tongue. And knowing what I did about their species made me think it was a LOGICAL choice.  Very scary as we soon saw in the book.

Aaron: I agree Bethany, at the beginning I had a really hard time imagining Plagueis as an intimidating character because he was a Muun.  As the book went on though I found him very menacing no matter his species.

Mark: The Muun makes sense.  The finances the Sith would need to fund their Grand Plan.  It makes sense to have one on the Sith payroll in some fashion.

Aaron: Because of an accident, or was it sabotage, there is a cave collapse and Plagueis takes advantage of the situation and kills his master.  Was Tenebrous short changed? Did you wish he was in the book more or was the small portion we got with him enough for you guys?

Mark: Luceno in my opinion did a great job of keeping Tenebrous relevant to the story, most notably as Rugess Nome.

Bethany: I’m a very curious person, so I certainly wish we’d had the chance to learn more about Tenebrous, but at the same time wonder if the book could have handled delving into yet another Sith character. I’m not sure it could have.  The “accident” shows us just what Plagueis is capable of, very soon into the story.

Aaron: When Plagueis kills Tenebrous there was a lot of talk about midi-chlorians.  It kind of surprised me how much midi-chlorians were focused on in this book considering the negative feelings many fans have toward them.  I for one am happy they are embracing them and explaining them more.

Mark: Ditto. I do think though that Tenebrous and Plagueis got to a place where they weren’t communicating and all but replaced each other in a sense. Had they known about the others fascination with midi-chlorians imagine how things might have been!

Bethany: I actually liked hearing more about the midi-chlorians.  One reason I really liked reading this was learning so much! Like I said, I’m guilty of being curious. :) I like mystery and a sense of the divine and the supernatural in my stories, yes, but I feel the cards were played just right in the opening of Plagueis, things seemed balanced.

Mark: Did anyone else get the impression that Plagueis cared more for droids then sentients?  I felt he felt that droids at least knew their place as tools, unlike the beings of the Galaxy who were his Dejarik pieces.  His comment to the droid in chapter one got to me. “You’ve been useful droid.”

Aaron: It almost came across as an apology.  And 11-4D is basically his best friend throughout the book.

Mark:  Yes, 11-4D (well get to him later).  I found that a PROFOUND character in the EU in regards to the Sith cause, and what could be later Emperor Palpatine’s key to many things.

Aaron: With his ship destroyed, Plagueis needs to find a way off the planet.  He stows away on a ship called the Woebegone.  That poor crew had no idea what was coming.  We get introduced to a crew of varied species: a Togrutan, Kaleesh, Dresselian, Klatooinian… I had to look up what a Dresselian was.

Aaron: Anyone surprised to see a Kaleesh (Grievious’s species)?

Bethany: Not really.

Mark: Missed that the first time. I was focused on the captain and the use of words like Noob and Dumb***.  I was kind of giggling at how real the character felt.  I could see a freighter captain going on like that.

Bethany: As a person who enjoys the Star Wars EU, but hasn’t been reading it for very long, I haven’t read all that much of it. I was pleasantly surprised how seamlessly references to other species, planets, cultures, wars, civilizations, and histories were inserted.  Nothing felt all that forced to me, pun intended.  I didn’t feel a need to have a dictionary and Wookieepedia at hand as I was reading, though I do pull up Wookieepedia on occasion to look up something if it peaks my curiosity.

Aaron: I was actually really liking captain Ellin Lah. Was hoping she would survive.

Mark: I liked how Lah considered everyone on her ship equals.

Bethany: I found it interesting that Plagueis thought that the fate of the crew was a fixed destiny, once he boarded the ship. Kind of the opposite of “always in motion, the future is”.

Mark: Yes, I loved that too.  The Sith take control for sure.  They aren’t inclined to wait and see.

That is it for this first section of Darth Plagueis.  Keep an eye out for the next section of the commentary covering chapters 4-7 coming soon!
Check out these links for more opinions on the Darth Plagueis book.

Mark’s review over at EU Cantina
My review here at Star Wars Report
Pete’s review over at Lightsaber Rattling

- Aaron Goins

 

Book Review: Darth Plagueis

Darth Plagueis Review


Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers.

To be honest, when a Darth Plagueis novel was announced back in 2007 it didn’t really excite me.  When the book was then cancelled it didn’t bother me.  I had never really been that curious about Palpatine or his master.  I had always thought of Palpatine as this power hungry politician who happened to be a secret Sith.  Frankly, I didn’t like the guy.  He seemed cowardly and purely evil, and if Anakin hadn’t walked in when he did, Mace Windu would have finished him off.

Then the book received new lease on life and was put back on the schedule for a 2012 release.  I still wasn’t excited.  Review copies went out and I started to hear good things.  Very good things.  “Best Star Wars book I’ve read in a long time” kind of things.  I began to be interested.  George Lucas had input?  Howard Roffman helped shape the story?  This wasn’t just another Star Wars novel.  Here is some text found in the front of the review copy of the book.

THIS STORY IS CANON!: The back story of Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious was developed hand-in-glove with the highest authorities at Lucasfilm, to ensure that nothing contradicts George Lucas’s vision of his creations!

Now as a fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, I consider most of the books to be canon on some level, but the above statement seems to imply that this book is to be considered on par with The Clone Wars and the films.  Now I found I wasn’t only interested, but very excited to read this book.  So I got my hands on a copy!

Here is the text from the flap of the book.

Darth Plagueis: one of the most brilliant Sith Lords who ever lived. Possessing power is all he desires. Losing it is the only thing he fears. As an apprentice, he embraces the ruthless ways of the Sith. And when the time is right, he destroys his Master—but vows never to suffer the same fate. For like no other disciple of the dark side, Darth Plagueis learns to command the ultimate power . . . over life and death.

Darth Sidious: Plagueis’s chosen apprentice. Under the guidance of his Master, he secretly studies the ways of the Sith, while publicly rising to power in the galactic government, first as Senator, then as Chancellor, and eventually as Emperor.

Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, Master and acolyte, target the galaxy for domination—and the Jedi Order for annihilation. But can they defy the merciless Sith tradition? Or will the desire of one to rule supreme, and the dream of the other to live forever, sow the seeds of their destruction?”

In short, Darth Plagueis is the story of Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, his rise to power, and his selection and molding of Palpatine as his Sith apprentice.  The bulk of the story takes place in the 33 or so years leading up to the events of The Phantom Menace.  In many ways, the book can be seen as a direct prequel to The Phantom Menace, although the book Cloak of Deception already holds that distinction.

The book is written masterfully by James Luceno.  His writing is very intense and gritty, but not without humor.  Lines like “I assure you, Captain, I am a Muun of my word” made me smile and an in-joke about Jocasta Nu and her lack of knowledge of Kamino made me laugh out loud.  Since the book is a story of the Sith, it is expected that there will be a certain amount of darkness to it.  Just when you find yourself rooting for the main characters they do something so heinous there can be no redemption for it.  There is one scene in particular where the violence reaches levels not usually seen in Star Wars books.  Palpatine is not a Sith to be messed with.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book are the philosophies of Plagueis about the Sith.  Much of Sith history is talked about including many of the masters and apprentices in the Sith line from Bane to Sidious.  The beginning of the book especially reminded me of the first Darth Bane novel in that it was a Sith’s journey to reinvent the Sith.  It seems that Sith ideals change from master to master, and Plagueis is no exception.  His view on the dark side, rule of two, and midi-chlorians have a new twist and are compelling to read about.

All the talk about “canon” and “George’s vision” had me a little worried that other Expanded Universe sources would be ignored.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  Almost every character, planet, organization, and event in this book has significance elsewhere in the EU.  I know that sounds like overkill, but it really wasn’t.  Luceno wrote it in such a way that if you are in the know, you would get it, and if not, you would just see them as background characters in the book.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t an advantage to having read the other EU sources., as I felt like my enjoyment of the book was multiplied because of my familiarity of the other EU material.  Here is a list of some of the EU books and comics whose stories ran parallel to, and were weaved in seamlessly into, this book.

The novel Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
The short story Darth Maul: Saboteur
The novel Cloak of Deception
The comic series Darth Maul
The comic Republic #64 “Bloodlines
The comic The Stark Hyperspace War
The comic Jedi Council: Acts of War

There are cameos throughout from major and minor film characters from both trilogies.  Even fans of The Clone Wars TV series will get excited over a couple of character mentions!

Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend it to any Star Wars fan.  I would almost go as far as saying it is required reading for anyone who wants to fully understand the machinations and politics in the Prequels.  This book clearly lays out the overall Sith plan and makes connections you would have never expected.  It leads right up to the end of The Phantom Menace, and my guess is you will never see the movie the same after reading it!

Go buy this book.

Aaron Goins