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.
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”
“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