Tag Archives: James Luceno

Casting Legends – SWBW #23

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Big movie and book news has been released since our last episode and we need to talk about it! We put together this special episode to briefly talk the Episode VII casting and to dig into the big Star Wars Expanded Universe news.

  • As our guest this episode we have Megan from Blog Full of Words and Den of Geek.
  • Episode VII casting. We give our thoughts on the return of the original actors and the fresh faces.
  • Finally! We get official word from Lucasfilm on the future of the EU.
  • What did Timothy Zahn have to say about the announcement and is he way off base?
  • Will new books and comics be bland? We discuss the possibility that the publishers will play it safe in order to keep things clear for future movies.
  • We give our initial thoughts on the four (now official canon) books announced.

A New Dawn

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Top 10 Standalone Star Wars Novels

Lately I have been hearing concern from fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They say the universe is too big and bogged down in continuity for new fans to jump in.

I disagree.

Yes, there are A LOT of novels and many of them are a part of a LONG series, but there are many standalone novels as well. When a new fan comes to me and asks me where to start in the EU I don’t point them to the Thrawn Trilogy (gasp!) or the New Jedi Order. I instead point them to one of the many standalone novels. A single story with a defined beginning and end that is not directly connected to a series. When you are new to the EU even a three book series can be intimidating. Starting someone out with a single novel gives them a chance to test the waters of the Expanded Universe to see if it’s for them. If they come back to you after finishing the novel excited for more, then it might be time to move them onto the Thrawn Trilogy.

Here is a list of 10 standalone Star Wars novels that could be a jumping on point for someone new to the EU. If you have seen the movies you can pick up any one of these novels and enjoy it.

10. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Author: Dave Wolverton
Release Year: 1994
It’s eight years after the Battle of Yavin and Han Solo still hasn’t married Princess Leia?? Thus begins the story of The Courtship of Princess Leia.  A story where Han kidnaps Leia to prevent her from marrying another man.  Han is such a romantic.  Original Trilogy fans will be happy to hear that this story features Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca.  It is also the book that introduces the Witches of Dathomir who have recently been spotlighted in The Clone Wars TV series.  Released early in the EU revival, this book is still trying to find its footing with Luke’s Force powers and such, but it is a fun read and introduces many elements that are core to the future of the Expanded Universe.

9. Shadows of the Empire
Author: Steve Perry
Release Year: 1996
Ever wonder what happened in the time between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?  Then Shadows of the Empire is the book for you.  This book introduces one of the great EU villains in Xizor, the Falleen leader of the Black Sun criminal organization.  Rumor has it that we may even see his species in the upcoming season of The Clone Wars.  With Han in carbonite at this time we are also introduced to his replacement character, Dash Rendar, who also just happens to be a Corellian smuggler with a cool ship.  The rest of the usual OT cast is here as well including Vader, Luke, Leia, Chewie, and even Lando Calrrisian.

8. X-wing: Mercy Kill
Author: Aaron Allston
Release Year: 2012
Although this book is a continuation of the X-wing book series it is for the most part a standalone story.  Fan-favorite author Aaron Allston brings back the Wraith Squadron for another adventure.  This is a good book to read if you are interested in a story that is set in the Star Wars universe but is not about the principle characters that you are used to.  In fact, with the exception of a quick cameo, I don’t think any character in this book has been in a Star Wars film.  It is a fun book about a secret group which is trying to uncover a conspiracy in the Galactic Alliance military.  It is kind of a mix between Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven.  Expect great characterization and a lot of humor.
Read my full review of X-wing: Mercy Kill here.

7. Outbound Flight
Author: Timothy Zahn
Release Year: 2006
Timothy Zahn is considered by many to be the father of the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe because he brought us the great Thrawn Trilogy which continued the story of Star Wars after Return of the Jedi.  Mr. Zahn has written a number of standalone Star Wars novels as well, one of them being Outbound Flight.  Don’t let the boring title fool you.  This is an exciting novel featuring Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the time between Episode I and Episode II.  It is a novel that shows us some of the machinations of Palpatine as well as what can happen when a powerful Jedi loses his way.  It also features popular EU character Thrawn before he was part of the Empire.

6. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book would eventually be bundled with Labyrinth of Evil (see below) and the Revenge of the Sith novelization and sold as The Dark Lord Trilogy, but it is a standalone story.  It ,maybe better than any other story, captures what it was like to be Anakin Skywalker trapped inside the suit of Darth Vader.  The novel is set directly after the events of Revenge of the Sith.  It tells the story of a group of Jedi who escape Order 66 and their fight to survive.  The Jedi Purge has begun and it’s probably best to stay out of Vader’s way.

5. Shatterpoint
Author: Matthew Stover
Release Year: 2003
If you thought Mace Windu was cool in the movies but you just didn’t get enough of him, read this book.  Windu is sent to his home planet to rescue his former Padawan Depa Billaba.  There he confronts war and turmoil all around him as well as inside of him.  This is one of the more dark and gritty of the Star Wars novels which is fitting considering it is set at the height of the Clone Wars.  It is a story that really highlights the differences in philosophy among the Jedi.  What is more dangerous than a Jedi who has gone astray?

4. Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Author: Michael Reaves
Release Year: 2001
Darth Maul has recently been thrust back into our Star Wars consciousness with his appearance in The Clone Wars TV series, and we are promised even more of him in the upcoming season.  But can you ever really have too much Darth Maul?  Back in 2001 Darth Maul was still surrounded by mystery and we just did not know that much about him.  Shadow Hunter gave us the chance to see things from his perspective.  This is a book set right before Episode I and is about Maul’s hunt to kill a man and his Jedi protector before the man can deliver vital information to the Jedi Counsel.  You will find yourself on the edge of your seat and at times even rooting for the bad guy.  And of course with Palpatine involved there will always be some unexpected twists.

3. Labyrinth of Evil
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book is really a thing of fanboy dreams.  As we were patiently waiting for the release of Revenge of the Sith this book came out to give us the perfect lead-in story.  It had everything you could want in a prequel era novel including clones, General Grievous, Mace Windu, Shaak Ti, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Dooku, Kit Fisto, Yoda, and Darth Sidious.  The Jedi are tired of these Sith messing everything up and have decided to hunt them down.  We all know that Sidious can’t be revealed, but Luceno does a great job of weaving a story that keeps you guessing even though you already know the outcome.

2. I, Jedi
Author: Michael Stackpole
Release Year: 1998
I was never really interested in reading the X-wing novels.  Not enough Jedi.  And then the author of the X-wing series went and wrote a book about an X-wing pilot becoming a Jedi and I was sold.  This novel, told entirely from the first person perspective, tells the story of Rouge Squadron pilot Corran Horn and his attempt to find and rescue his kidnapped wife.  The novel actually takes place at the same time as Kevin Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy and covers some of the same story.  If you have already read that trilogy this book is a great view from a different perspective.  Corran Horn and his family have become central characters in some of the latest Star Wars novels and he is one of my personal favorite characters.

1. Darth Plagueis
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2012
This is a book that had been in development since 2007.  It was well worth the wait.  Luceno brings us an intriguing tale about Palpatine and his rise to power under the tutelage of the mysterious Darth Plagueis.  All we had known about this character before was a few lines from Revenge of the Sith. “Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?” This novel reveals all.  It takes an interesting look into Sith philosophy and sheds light on many of the mysteries of the Prequel Era.  Once you read this novel you will never see the Prequels, especially The Phantom Menace, the same again.
Read my full book review of Darth Plagueis here.

So there are ten books that you can pick up with no prior knowledge of the Expanded Universe.  That should keep your reading schedule pretty busy.  And if you enjoy them maybe you will enjoy more of the EU.  Maybe a trilogy or a nine book series or maybe even a 19 book series…  Baby steps.

- Aaron Goins

 

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 8-11

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 8-11

Who is still talking about the Darth Plagueis novel? We are!

Here is our discussion of chapters 8-11.  For this part of the discussion Mark Hurliman of the Star Wars Report and Star Wars Beyond the Films podcasts joins me.  We also have a special guest, Mark’s father (Mark E) who himself is an avid reader of the Star Wars novels.

If you missed the first two parts of our discussion here are the links.

Prologue - Chapter 3
Chapter 4 – Chapter 7

 

Mark: So we’re on Chapter 8, Victims of Their Own Demise

Aaron: Plagueis decides to track down some “Forceful” beings that Venamis had his eye on.  “Forceful”, still can’t get used to that word.  So the first one he tracks down is a gambler.  I guess it’s not really gambling when you are using the Force.

Mark: Breaking Muun tradition no less by being seen in places no Muun would go.  The fact that the first one was a shape-shifter of all things blew me away.  I love the idea of a Sith shape-shifter.

Mark E: A shape shifting gambler who was giving his winnings to Kerred Santhe of Santhe/Seinar.

Mark: Yeah the tie in to Santhe was cool.  Plagueis himself assassinated Kerred Santhe’s father which made a nice twist and kept things going with more details that linked the Sith to older works.

Aaron: I’ve never actually liked the idea of shape-shifters in Star Wars.  I’ve always thought it was more of a Star Trek thing.

Mark E: But shape-shifters are way cool, and pretty hard to hunt.

Aaron: Exactly why I don’t like them. Too easy of a plot device.  Now was he the same species as Zam Wesell from Attack of the Clones?

Mark: No, at first Plagueis thinks so, but turned out it was a Shi’ido like Uncle Hoole in Galaxy of Fear ;)

Aaron: Galaxy of Fear. Oh, everyone read those books…

Mark: I’m only missing #9 and #10.  I was surprised though that Plagueis left the Shi’ido alive.

Aaron: Yes, if you can call the way he left him alive

Mark E: He let him go but basically told him to get his winnings and get out, he was done!

Mark: 11-4D blasts him in the brain, but do we think this was a permanent disabling of his shifting?  Or would he heal up?

Aaron: “You can’t leave me like this” the Shi’ido begged.

Mark: It was left kind of vague there.  But still I loved it. I found myself falling to the dark side in this book.

Aaron: Let me quote the book here.  I think it implies he was permanently disfigured…

“You have one last chance to use your Force talents to win big before your horrid image becomes the centerpiece of the cheaters database on every gambling world.”

Mark E: I didn’t get permanently disfigured as Plagueis was going to allow him to continue fleecing casinos.

Mark: I guess when I was reading it I was figuring Plagueis thought Shi’idos were ugly/ hidious in general.  But it does make sense that the Shi’ido would have one shot in the form it’s in now and that would be the same as any person who can’t shift having one shot, or as many shots as they took before getting caught.

Aaron: So Plagueis moves on to Saleucami to meet somewhat of a cult leader.  It was kind of a gathering of hippies.

Mark E: Really spacey hippies!  Selected hippies.

Mark: And hasn’t The Clone Wars gone there a couple times?  Or mentioned it?

Aaron: This was the planet where Rex got shot and meets the clone deserter Cut Lawquane.  It is also one of the planets in the Order 66 montage in Revenge of the Sith.

Mark: The planet Saleucami has shown up a few times in the EU correct?  Republic comics for one.

Aaron: You can’t spell Saleucami without “eu”.  It is a very important planet in this era.  The Iktochi woman seemed like she knew what she was talking about with her professions.  “On the horizon looms a galaxy spanning war.”

Mark: Yeah she all but calls the future and Plagueis can’t have that.  You had this sense of something very bad was about to happen

Aaron: And once she realizes what he is she basically begs him to take her as an apprentice. “Let me do your bidding.”

Mark: It was a cool throw back to Vader’s “what is thy bidding my master” line.  When he touches her and fries her I thought of a well-executed assassination.

Aaron: The hand holding of death.

Mark E: He did nothing… “she fainted”.

Aaron: And then Plagueis moves on to the third unwitting victim.

Mark E: Naat Lare had broken out of the Bedlam Institution for the Criminally Insane.  Sounds like a fun place!

Mark: I couldn’t help but think of Arkham Asylum.

Aaron: And Venamis helped him escape. He must have had a lot of interest in this guy.

Mark: Plus if Naat had survived he would have made a darn good Apprentice. Venamis picked potentials well, you gotta hand him that.
Venamis might have been a very real threat- he being a Bith after all. We never saw the depths of HIS genius. And from the small bit we got in the Tenebrous Way; I fear Bith Sith!
By this point, I was starting to feel the chapter was more a filler chapter, but it did have a certain EU real feel to it. With every Sith potential even having potentials. As with the EU you can never get rid of the Sith, or Sith wannabe’s.

Aaron: Yes I agree, it did seem like filler but it was cool.  I always like to see Force users who are not affiliated with the Jedi or Sith.

Mark E: What did you think of how quickly Plagueis snapped back when he heard “Jedi”?

Aaron: I think he was excited that the Jedi were involved. Like he was hoping for a confrontation.

Mark E: I liked the fact they tracked him to Barab.

Mark: Barab- I loved it’s use- we know the Barbel have a deep respect for Jedi, and how would they even know a Sith from a Jedi at this point in time?

Aaron: This was happening on Abraxin right, not Barab?

Mark: Hmmm this bears closer inspection… Oh it looks as though it was a Barabel settlement. Which makes more sense come to think of it.

Aaron: I personally got very excited to see Jedi at this point.  I was hoping they would be more involved in the story.

Mark: I agree Aaron- I had hoped they would play a bigger part, but the part they played was diabolically clever.

Mark E: I liked how he had 11-4D watch the Jedi for reaction when he called on the Force.

Mark: Shadow Games give us some minor insight into what it must have been like to be Naat or even Kit Fisto, a Force sensitive Nautolan.

Aaron: I loved the end of this chapter. Plagueis meets Naat and tells him to prove himself by defeating the Jedi.

Mark E: But then Plagueis has the Jedi Ni-Cada do the dirty work for him.

Mark: Yeah, suckering the Jedi to do his dirty work was perfect- had Naat proved worthy, well, things would have been different to say the least.

Aaron: I feel like Naat would have been more of an enforcer and not fit well with Plagueis.  Like Maul was to Palpatine.

Mark: Maul…. Oh poor poor Maul (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Mark E: Naat was truly criminally insane.  Plagueis had no use for him, whether he was Forceful or not.

Mark: I got the distinct impression that it was the Padawan who did the killing though.  With his Master screaming “Don’t Don’t.”

Aaron: When he said “Stand aside Padawan” I figured the Master handled it from there.

Mark E: Padawan questions “Master?”  Someone else presumeably Master, says “its done, he’s dead.”

Mark: I like how some authors assign nothing to dialog. Karen Traviss would do this and I could get so confused at times.  To me it was more the Padawan excited by the battle “Master!” The Master tries to intervene “Stand aside Padawan.”

Aaron: Based on the last two lines of the chapter it seems clear that the Master did the killing.

Mark: It’s all about point of view.  I’m not saying I’m right- just how I read it was different.

Aaron: Moving on…

Mark: Going back to Hego Damask, and more of the public side of his Sithy self.

Aaron: Chapter 9. Our intro to Palpatine in this book!

Aaron: What did you guys think about the fact that they still kept his first name a mystery?

Mark E: I thought it was explained that he was just rebelling against the norm and he chose to go only by his last name.

Mark: I found the lack of his first name interesting to be sure. I’ve seen some say his name was the same as his fathers but I felt it was way too wide open to lock down. It was some rebelling- I mean the fact that the Palpatine name is a ROYAL line on Naboo. That took me back.

Mark E: The untapped plasma of Naboo, one of the more memorable aspects of The Phantom Menace.

Mark: Oh man the plasma- that totally changed how I looked at the purple beams flowing up in The Phantom Menace during the Duel of Fates!

Aaron: And the value of the plasma made you realize just how important Naboo is in the overall plan of the Sith.

Mark: Yes- the plasma made Naboo more relevant then it was in the films IMO. Or at least it made it have more of an allure.  I liked how the Naboo and Gungans would recall Plagueis’ trip as Damask as the coldest winter they ever had.  We also learn where the Royal Fleet comes from- Hint Hint R2!

Aaron: I liked this line…
“In human hands…rested the profane future of the galaxy.”
He didn’t like humans but knew their importance.

Mark: As if Plagueis knew this and worked all his Sithly plans in that fashion.  He was ready to set Naboo up for life to get his hands on the plasma… or better- to USE the plasma to further the Sith Grand Plan.  Everything seemed to factor into this plan.

Aaron: And he uses Palpatine to help determine who will be the next king.  The Sith don’t leave anything to chance.

Mark E: The meeting between Plagueis and Palpatine was kind of drawn out, but Plagueis did a pretty thorough job of interviewing for an apprentice.  What about Palpatine being a speeder racer?

Mark: Learning Palpatine; like Anakin has a need for speed was great! I never would have taken Palpatine for a thrill junkie!

Aaron: I actually thought that bit of information was out of place.  It never really factored into the rest of the story.  Did we really need to know Palpatine had a sweet ride?

Mark: And yet it too fits with his ole EU self- the playboy.

Mark E: Need for speed plays to the rich kid persona.
And then Hedo hires palpatine as a spy for Damask holdings at the end of the interview! Then Palpatine says he will only work for Hego if he can report directly to him.

Mark: You have to wonder if the amulet Plagueis gives Palpatine was under any spells.

Aaron: Or a tracking device?

Aaron: Moving onto Chapter 10: The Cycle of Violence.  Palpatine gives Plagueis the tour of Theed and they are fast friends.

Mark E: Fast friends, but Plageis “knows he can own him”

Mark: I liked how Palpatine knew the speeder was a bribe from his father, but took it anyway.  Already showing a Sith-like way of thinking.  I’ll use you using me to my own advantage.

Aaron: We learn Palpatine has blood on his hands at an early age, being responsible for the deaths of 2 pedestrians.  He doesn’t seem to care that much about it.

Mark: He has his own moral code.  That seemed to be of great interest to Plagueis.

Mark E: He learned his lesson, wear down pops and you can drive the speeder again.  No accountability for the rich kid.

Mark: Palpatine also has his own opinions of the Jedi and the state of galactic affairs

Aaron: Palpatine is so political minded but tries to act like he isn’t interested in politics. Plagueis could see right through him.

Mark: Like he was a closet politician.

Mark E: Palpatine is certainly racist against the Gungans, “I don’t mind them as long as they keep to their submerged cities and waterways.”

Aaron: Fits with the mostly human Empire when he is in charge.

Mark: Yes I kept expecting to see Plagueis do something SO TERRIBLE that Palpatine would hate all aliens from then on out- but it would appear his prejudices were already in place.

Aaron: I kept forgetting how young he was here. He was only like 17, right?

Mark: I believe so.

Mark: You knew Palpatine didn’t have a chance in the 9 Hells when Plagueis thinks to himself, “Before long, I will own this human.” And then proceeds to manipulate the holy Sith out of him.

Mark E: He’d respect the Jedi more if they’d only impose their will on the entire galaxy.  Sounds like the future!

Aaron: The funny thing is, at this point, Plagueis still can’t tell if he has the Force.

Mark: I loved this- the way it was explained made so many other EU works make sense- like Zekk- how he wasn’t noticed at first, and other Jedi who were missed at a young age.  The fact that it was a defense mechanism in Force strong beings also makes sense why Anakin didn’t just JUMP OUT WITH A NEON SIGN.  It took his blood sample to floor Qui-gon, not his mere presence.  And the way Luceno explained it made so many things work!  I love it when a book does this!

Aaron: It seems the will of the midi-chlorians can be used to explain anything about the power or lack of power of a Force user at any given moment.  Like, Obi wan couldn’t run faster at the end of Ep 1 because the midi-chlorians didn’t let him.

Mark: Which is EPIC! Because the midi-chlorians follow the Will of the Force- so in a sense the mystery is still there while they made it quantifiable at the same time.

Mark: So in this chapter the miners who were marooned in chapter 2- we discover their fate, that of being murdered and left on their employers front door.  Also the book once more jumps ahead a few months.  That’s something I really enjoy about the Sith books- they cover lifetimes, not just events.

Aaron: And then we get Palpatine’s dad basically telling Plagueis “stay away from my son”.

Mark: Yeah that was exactly what Plagueis was waiting for- grooming the moment as it were to set father against son.

Aaron: This was a war of wills that Cosigna had no chance of winning.  Moving on to Chapter 11.

Mark: Avatar of Morality

Aaron: Plagueis meets with Palpatine and tells him a story about how he orchestrated the deaths of his siblings after his father’s death so he could inherit the fortune.

Mark: Plagueis sets the bait that will later ensnare Palpatine and leave him little choice but to join Plagueis.

Aaron: And we are led to believe the story may not be completely true.

Mark: This too plays into the moment that arrived last chapter- now he paints Palpatine the picture of betrayal, and gaining the uperhand over an oppressive family.

Aaron: So Palpatine’s father makes the big mistake of trying to assert his will on Palpatine right after his head has been filled with Plagueis’s ideas

Mark: Bad timing pops.

Mark E: big mistake…

Mark: Plus he gets the whole family onto the ship together.  I mean it IS the perfect opportunity

Aaron: This was almost a little too convenient. We also learn that Palpatine’s dad always had a bad feeling about him. Knew he was trouble.
“You’re an animal at heart”
“King of the Beasts, father”

Mark: Plus…
“if the Force birthed you then I curse it”
“As I do” says Palpatine.

Aaron: He says all the wrong things and Palpatine in all his teenage, untrained Force rage brutally kills his father.

Mark E: Mom, dad and siblings too!

Aaron: I have to say although I saw the death of his dad coming, I was surprised he killed everyone else on the ship.

Mark: Very much Anakin and the Tusken Raider village all over again.  And Palpatine reaches out to his new mentor- and Plagueis goes to efforts to cover up the murders. “Congratulations on becoming an emancipated being.”  Great set up- and you could say that in a sense Palpatine starts to really share the limelight.  One other thing I loved about this book is that it could just as easily be a prequel for a Darth Sidious book to come later.

Aaron: In a way this was a Darth Sidious book.

Mark: Very much so.  This is also when Plagueis himself discovers just how POWERFUL Palpatine is in the Force.  The murders have broken down the barriers protecting him.

Aaron: So now Plagueis knows he picked the right guy, reveals himself as a Sith and tells Palpatine he has a new name.  A lot for Palpatine to take in but he goes right along with it.

Mark: This was the money chapter. The moment when things shift into a higher gear.

Aaron: Once Palpatine was introduced the book really picked up for me.

Mark E: “From this day forward, the truth of you, now and forever more, will be Sidious.”

Aaron: Seeing exactly how he became Sidious was a thing of fanboy dreams.

Mark E: I thought the book really took off from here.  I finished the rest in like a day and a half.

Mark: I loved when Palpatine mentions that he could have joined the Jedi Order and Plagueis comes back “and of what possible use do you think a person of your nature would be to the Jedi Order? You’re heartless, ambitious, arrogant, insidious, and without shame or empathy. More you’re a murderer.” (cue Gollem talking to Smeagol)
You totally had the sense that Palpatine was about to make his deal with the devil. The classic Sith christening. I had the same feeling when Anakin dons the title in the Episode 3 novelization. I love how Plagueis tells him there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“In time you will come to understand that you are one with the dark side of the Force, and that your power is beyond contradiction. But just now, and until I tell you differently, abiding submission is your only road to salvation.”

Boy these were some great chapters.  This was when the book got hard to put down.

 

That is all for our discussion of chapters 8-11.  Check back for chapters 12-15 next time.

- Aaron Goins

 

Award Winning Action! – SWR #32

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Hello everyone! Welcome back to the latest episode of the Star Wars Report!

On this episode of the Star Wars Report, Bethany, Riley and Mark are joined by Nathan Butler for a special fan audio awards segment. Listen in to all those who won awards, including yours truly!

Also, will we see more of Mortis in The Clone Wars? Considering what Star Wars author James Luceno had to say in a Facebook chat he had a while ago, perhaps so!

Also, on this episode of the Star Trek Report we discuss time travel…..

Do you think it’s likely that Star Wars Underworld will have time travel in it, or would you rather time travel stay in such franchises as Star Trek and Doctor Who?

This episode of the Star Wars Report is sponsored by Toy Hutt, your source for great toys and action figures, games and trinkets from that galaxy far, far away!

Bethany admired a Power of the Force Luke Skywalker figure, and a Star Wars Sideshow Rebel Commando!

We had sad news to bring to you: actor Ian Abercrombie, voice of Palpatine in The Clone Wars, and an actor with a career that spanned many other prestigious roles, passed away. His talent and personality will be missed.

Hope you enjoy this week’s episode!

Email:         starwarsreport@gmail.com

Facebook facebook.com/starwarsreport

Twitter:      twitter.com/starwarsreport

Forum:       www.eucantina.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1233

 

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