Here is part two of our ongoing commentary of the Star Wars novel Darth Plagueis. If you missed part one, click here to check it out. For this section of the commentary Bethany and Mark of the Star Wars Report podcast return to discuss chapters 4 through 7 with me.
Note: This commentary does not contain any major spoilers from beyond chapter 7.
Aaron: At the end of chapter 3 Plagueis can’t come to terms with the captain so he has no choice but to kill her.
Bethany: Luceno is a talented writer, to be able to create a character that is given very little time to establish herself, and yet she’s competent, smart, but not unrealistically so, and makes mistakes that even an experienced captain would. I mean, dealing with a Sith Lord isn’t something a ship’s captain would expect to deal with! You liked her immediately, and hoped she and her crew wouldn’t die.
Aaron: And as likeable as they were, Plagueis literally slaughters the entire crew. In the battle he absorbs a blaster bolt in his hand. More and more Force users seem to be able to do this.
Mark: We see absorption of a great many things by the Sith. I find that more and more point of view is key to being able to do ANYTHING with the Force.
Bethany: For me it’s scenes like these that bring you back to the fact that you’re reading about Sith. Things aren’t pretty, or fair, and just when you find yourself reluctantly liking the main characters, they do something unforgiveable, though I won’t say irredeemable.
Mark: Indeed. You knew that something bad was on the horizon.
I found myself in the sway of the Dark Side in this book. I was constantly rooting for the bad guys to win.
The whole Woebegone part seemed to drag on in a sense though. We get introduced in Chapter 3, meet them in 3, and witness their deaths in Chapter 4. In many ways this book was a series of interlinked tales set up in parts that complemented each other while giving the reader chunks of the lives of Plagueis and Sidious.
And in the end I guess the Woebegone was all a great set up to 11-4D. He would turn into a treasure for the Sith.
Bethany: So far, the book takes a very different tone with storytelling, characters, and events. It feels more like a tale being told, or a biography, a lesson in history and politics, than your average epic fantasy novel. It’s brilliant in that it accomplishes both, though!
Aaron: About 11-4D, I thought it was kind of jarring how quickly he changed allegiances. I know he’s just a robot but I couldn’t see C3PO doing that if his master was killed.
Bethany: It was rather jarring for me. I view droids in much the same way I view Spock or Data in the Star Trek franchise. They really do have feelings, even if they’re well hidden or supposedly non-existent.
Mark: Well in that sense Bethany think of it as 11-4D looking after his own hiney. He knew he’d be slaughtered if he didn’t welcome his new master.
I felt it was perfect. R2 and 3PO both become Jabba’s property, while 3PO complains about the situation they do it willingly enough. It’s in their programing.
Aaron Goins: But wasn’t them (R2 and 3PO) becoming his property all part of a ruse?
Mark: Yes, but 3PO wasn’t in on it. R2 knew. But R2’s special
I loved how Plagueis made 11-4D watch the ship burn and record it. I got the feeling like he almost treated the droid like an apprentice. He gives him unlimited access to data he would even later withhold from Palpatine. The fact is he’s a droid and cannot summon the Force which makes him no threat to Plagueis.
Bethany: Not necessarily an apprentice, but it was interesting to see how he would go out of his way to teach 11-4D, even when it wasn’t needed for a specific task. Darth Plagueis seemed to have a fairly low opinion of the intelligence of sentients…. (more on that later)…. and always seemed to want beings to be smarter or more evolved than they were.
Aaron: Plagueis stops at a space station to have the ship destroyed and is revealed as “Magister Damask”. Very interesting name and it definitely has meaning.
Mark: I love “THE Mask.” And I loved the play up on the alter egos. While working on the Sith Grand Plan as their Titles, they were also doing the same as their public faces.
Aaron: And “damask” is a type of fabric that has a specific style of weaving. I think his name is a direct reference to this.
Bethany: Wikipedia tells us that: “Damask (Arabic: دمسق) is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving.”
I find that interesting, and certainly applicable
Mark: Well-placed word indeed, the way it has multiple patterns on it.
Bethany: Not just to the weaving and patterns, but damask is reversible, just like the two roles he has. One minute a Sith, the next a (somewhat) respectable business man.
Aaron: There is actually a reference to the weaving earlier in the book in a conversation between Plagueis and Tenebrous.
This from Wikipedia… “Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin”
This from a conversation between Plagueis and Tenebrous about Darth Bane… “We weave ourselves into the warp and weft of the tapestry he created”
Bethany: I must say, Luceno is a master at weaving a good story and various storylines together. The amount of research and time he spent on this book is very evident!
Aaron: Chapter 5 starts out on Muunilist, the home planet of Plagueis, where he is a well-respected businessman. Just coming off of killing an entire crew and stealing their ship and droid and then destroying their ship, this was a bit of a shift.
Bethany: It made for a good double take on the character of Plagueis.
Aaron: It was the perfect cover for a Muun. And are these bankers that different from Sith? They all seem pretty cutthroat.
Bethany: At first, as I mentioned before, he didn’t seem all that threatening, then he seemed like a force of darkness to be reckoned with, but now there’s a cunning deceitfulness in him that’s terrifying. His threat level just shot up. Not only is he a masterful Sith warrior, but also a powerful political figure, and a master of manipulation.
Mark: Aaron, good point about cutthroat. Whereas a Bith Sith makes perfect sense in the math and science realm, a Muun totally puts a lock down on finances as we see with Hego. He wants for NOTHING.
Bethany: You can certainly tell where Palpatine learns his cunning and trickery, his masterful deceptions of so many.
Mark: We’re also re-introduced to Larsh Hill who later factors into the story.
Aaron: And when you hear the name Hill you automatically make the connection to San Hill.
One of the things I found interesting was the info that the Jedi were the ones who helped pass an amendment that expanded trade routes in the Outer Rim. This is what gave the Trade Federation full voting rights in the Senate. The Jedi were responsible for empowering the Trade Federation! That’s quite a revelation.
Mark: Wasn’t that from one of the comics too? Acts of War or The Stark Hyperspace War? (That was the thing, Luceno did such a good job lacing in other EU plots and elements that you miss many of them. Or you get too caught up in searching for things and it might ruin it for you.)
Aaron: It may have been, but it was a surprise to me
Speaking of Acts of War the Yinchorri are mentioned which made me instantly think of that comic series.
Bethany: It’s obvious in this book, as in the later prequel movies, that the Jedi aren’t seeing clearly; their Order has problems that the Sith exploit, to the demise of many.
Mark: See I recall reading the Jedi Apprentice books followed by the Jedi Quest ones, and the sense that the Jedi were failing grew throughout those series, politically as well as physically. Seeing this illustrated in Plagueis’s point of view was fitting indeed.
Bethany: We’re looking at the Jedi from a Sith’s point of view, and frankly they appear to be rather inept sometimes, a threat, yes, but there’s a level of complacency in the Jedi that shows they still don’t know of the Sith, or the dangers that face their Order.
Aaron: Gardulla the Hutt and Jabba’s clan are also mentioned. So many connections to familiar characters in the Star Wars universe.
Bethany: Again with so many connections to other in universe material, the book gave us such an astoundingly in depth look at the history and machinations behind so many things, which had me immersed in the complex picture it painted. I know some I’ve spoken with some who didn’t enjoy the many references, but I did.
Mark: We also see that Hego Damask’s estate is awarded Rugness Nome’s estate publicly. I found the relationship of the Sith, both as Sith and as their alter egos, interesting. They find ways to be intertwined in both. As with Tenebrous’s death, Hego benifits from it as does Plagueis. You start to get a sense of the Dark Side personified in these beings through their Sith mantles.
Mark: Yes, in fact his library was the finest to be found anywhere outside Obroa-skai. This is where 11-4D plays a vital role in my opinion to the Sith plan. He in a sense BECOMES Plagueis’s library.
Aaron: The Dai Bendu are also a point of interest to him. I believe they will be playing a major part in the upcoming Dawn of the Jedi comic series.
Mark: Yes, a lot of old RPG materials came to life as off the cuff references by Plagueis. I loved it. Rakata, Vjun (which some may recall had issues with midi-chlorians), the Choas Academy, Sorcerers of Tund (Lando Clarission books) as well as Myrkr.
Bethany: When 11-4D told his new master that “I have experience in organ replacement surgery, telomere genotherapy, and carbonite suspension. But nothing beyond that.” Plagueis with upper lip curled said, “Then you’ve merely scratched the surface.” The implications of this, and Plagueis’ vast library and knowledge is rather intimidating, to say the least.
Aaron: We get a bit of a Sith history lesson here as well. Naga Sadow, Exar Kun, Bane, Zannah… I want to know more about the Sith Darth Gravid who apparently tried to go good and really set the Sith plan back.
Mark: I was glad they covered that one. So much of the early references I was worried were ‘one and dones’. Which a lot were, but then a lot of the rest would come back and be rehashed with greater detail. Darth Gravid being one of these.
Also the fact Plagueis gives 11-4D a Sith data crystal with the History of the Sith on it was impressive. The Sith are better scholars than the JEDI! The Jedi only study their own dogma. The Sith, the Galaxy. Best of all, Plagueis tells the droid his goal of extending life.
Bethany: It is always interesting to see the Sith react to their environment, and to see their inner workings. We don’t get to see that very much in the movies, beyond Vader’s and Sidious’ relationship.
Aaron: And then the big info at the end of Chapter 5…. “One hundred years earlier, Tenebrous’s Twilek Master (Darth Ramage?) had opened a small rend in the fabric of the Force, allowing the Dark Side of the Force to be felt by the Jedi Order for the first time in more than eight hundred years.”
Mark: Funny you say that Aaron. I, too, thought Ramage was Tenebrous’s master’s name. Yet I couldn’t find it ever actually said.
The whole rend into the Force plays hard core into Plagueis’s point of view on the Force and the dual nature of the Force. You get a sense that the Jedi created a bubble like the ysalamiri in a sense that kept the Dark Side out. Tenebrous’s Master burst the bubble.
Mark: Anyone catch Vectivus mentioned?! HE REALLY DID EXIST AND WAS A BANITE SITH! Wow!
Aaron: Yes I noticed him and Cognus mentioned as Sith that came after Bane. I would love to know the entire line of Sith from Bane to Sidious.
Mark: The chapter titles were fitting. I always enjoyed that about Karen Traviss’s books and Luceno did a great job telling the story through chapter titles as well as the chapters themselves.
Aaron: Yes, all Star Wars authors should do chapter titles like this.
Aaron: Let’s move on to Sojourn, a retreat for the elite. It was like an intergalactic hunter’s lodge.
Bethany: Yes, that’s exactly what it reminded me of! And it creeped me out.
Mark: Those poor crime lords and influential beings who don’t even know they are Dejarrik pieces.
Aaron: And all of his meetings on Sojourn are about gaining power. Plagueis is constantly making deals.
Mark: And these deals would play key parts later too. The Sith monitor the future in a sense.
It was interesting to learn Hego played a pivital role in Gardulla’s rise to power over Jabba on Tatooine. By making the deal to empower Gardulla on Tatooine and setting up podracing, we learn that this will later anger the Gran of Malastare whose own podracing will be hurt a little. All part of the plan.
Bethany: I like how Plagueis can be ruthless and brutal in the name of political and monetary power, and those around him expect it, but don’t realize the true menace beneath.
Aaron: In the process of him trying to find out who sabotaged the mining drill that he and Tenebrous were almost killed by, Plagueis comes across the info that there is an abundance of plasma on Naboo. This plays a major role in the rest of the book.
Mark: I won’t look at the Duel of Fates the same- those plasma beams. Who knew?!
Aaron: And then my favorite part of chapter 6. Tenebrous was training another apprentice! This completely caught me off guard. So much for the Rule of Two. The Sith seem to bend the rules by training multiple potential apprentices, and we see this in Clone Wars as well with Ventress and Opress.
Mark: I found the breaking of the Rule fitting. As most would see this breaking as insurance, in fact Venimis’s attack is what would have MADE him the apprentice with a Darth title. And he failed.
Bethany: It’s interesting to see that Sith seem to be tempted even to break their own rules, and they always tend to fall for some temptation or weekness. So many Sith have been killed by consequences, reactions if you will, to their own ambition or arrogance.
Aaron: And when Plagueis defeats Venamis (such creative Sith names) in battle, instead of killing him he keeps him alive for experimentation. Pure evil and kind of creepy.
Bethany: Um, how about VERY creepy. Like I said earlier, Plagueis becomes far more terrifying as one becomes more familiar with him.
Mark: Yes, using Venamis to perfect his exploitations of midi-Chlorians was a genius move by Luceno.
“The future of the Sith no longer hinges on physical prowess but on political cunning. The new Sith will rule less by brute force than by means of instilling fear.”
We learn the important differences in philosophy between Tenebrous and Plagueis in Plagueis’s eyes. Which is a good chapter to read before reading the Tenebrous Way.
Aaron: Chapter 7 fleshes out Plagueis’s origin story. He was the child of force sensitive parents who were keeping their powers a secret. Even as a child Hego was ruthless. He used force persuasion to have a classmate jump out a window!
Mark: The parent arc was creepy of Tenebrous.
Aaron: His birth was basically orchestrated by Tenebrous.
Mark: We learn that his parents were manipulated into having Plagueis born. His mother was all but teaching the young Hego for Tenebrous.
Bethany: It’s interesting to me how Plagueis’ background and childhood (if you could call it that) heavily influenced him, if not entirely dominated him and his personality. To grow up the way he did, and to almost naturally and without prodding fall do the Dark Side is horribly twisted, especially for a child.
Mark: I don’t know if we can say without prodding though. His mother was totally schooling him and grooming him in a sense.
Bethany: True, but was his mother schooling him specifically towards the dark side, or towards using the Force in general? Although she certainly never goes out of her way to control or teach him otherwise. She let him use the Force to make a playmate jump out of a window and die, and didn’t say anything negative about it, only commented on his “gift”.
Mark: Well young Hego noticed a power closer to his own in Rugess that he didn’t feel around Jedi. I found this interesting too.
Bethany: Yes, it was as if the Dark Side somehow touched him, as if his existence was of the Dark Side specifically.
Mark: I loved the flash backs to Plagueis’s training. And Tenebrous’s line about the Phantom Menace – “We Sith are an unseen opposition. A phantom menace. But the Force works through us all the more powerfully in our invisibility. For the present, the more covert we remain, the more influence we can have. Our revenge will be achieved not through subjugation but by contagion.”
Bethany: That was an incredible thought, very chilling and true. You can almost see it coming inevitably true.
Aaron: This book really implies that there is clear dark and light side.
Bethany: It does, and as if they both have clear wishes. It’s almost a creepy version of the Force, or way of viewing the Force perhaps. Instead of falling to the Dark Side being some sort of perverted way of using the Force, falling to the Dark Side seems more like choosing one path over another.
Mark: Yes, and Plagueis sees it almost as a sentient thing, especially in the way he approaches it. I liked though how the Sith see things like “the Force works through us all the more powerfully.”
Aaron: And who’s to say that Plagueis’s view on the Force is the correct one. His philosophy may differ from other Sith and Jedi.
Mark: Yes. That was a point in my opinion of the Sith stories. That there are more roads than one to the Force and it’s mastery. And ANYTHING is possible with the right knowledge, and will power. POOOOOOWWWER!!!
But even the Sith have the Force work through them, just like the Jedi. I mean if both sides see the Force at work through them, how does that work?
Bethany: I don’t think we really know the answer to that question. There’s always a bit of mystery surrounding the Force, even with the knowledge of midi-chlorians.
Mark: Would it be ONE sentience at work? Or two sentiences fighting each other? I mean I see the Force as one with dual sides. The sentience works on the whole Will of the Force, but it does make you stop and think.
Aaron: I think the way it has been presented to us lately is that it is two sides fighting against each other. I mean think of Mortis.
Mark: Indeed. Mortis is a good point. I had always thought that the two sides being separate was something Lucas didn’t want, but it’s starting to seem that this is ok as long as it’s hinted at or eluded to but never flat out spoken as fact.
One last thing on chapter 7- “With the wretched of the galaxy being converted to the cause, the powerful would now need to be brought together, with Darth Plagueis as their leader, manipulating the actions of an important few to control the behavior of countless trillions”
This paragraph captures many elements of the book. From the Sith’s strategy, to Hego Demask’s Gatherings of Sojorn, to how every interaction he (and later Sidious) has all work to the BENIFIT of the Sith.
Aaron: Yes that last sentence pretty much lays out the entire Sith Plan.
That concludes our discussion of chapters 4 through 7. Check back for our next commentary covering chapters 8 through 11.
And don’t be shy, leave your own thoughts on the book in the comments below!