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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Book review: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

This is one I've been hankering for ever since news about it came out this past spring. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno is the first Star Wars novel to come out that's set in the time immediately following the events of Revenge of the Sith. It came out yesterday and I bought a copy after leaving work. It was a gripping enough read that I just finished it after plowing through it all this past evening. In Dark Lord, Luceno chronicles the first few weeks in the life of Darth Vader after he was "resurrected" on the slab in Darth Sidious' medical facility. And there's a certain grim humor that Luceno works into the story here, as we learn just how pathetic Vader really is, despite the fearsome countenance of his famous armor. Turns out that the medical droids did a p*ss-poor job in attaching the prosthetic limbs to the former Anakin Skywalker. His chest unit isn't working properly, the fabric of the outfit either catches on the cyborg parts or it bunches up where it's not supposed to, and the entire thing - especially when Vader walks or is kneeling in the presence of the Emperor - is just too uncomfortable to wear or move around in. Throughout the book Vader spends a lot of time not only acclimating himself to his new condition, but dealing with the vestiges of his former life that still linger. We see how a lot of the characters are faring post-Sith, such as Bail Organa: walking a tightrope between feigning loyalty to the Emperor and furthering the liberty of his people... while also hiding his adopted infant daughter and a certain pair of droids from the dark lord's attention. A ton of detail is given in this book about the power structure of the Empire, including the logistical demands that come with creating a military - virtually overnight - that is strong enough to keep subdued an entire galaxy. There is a subplot in this novel involving several Jedi who have somehow managed to escape the calamity of Order 66, and this is handled quite nicely and - somewhat like Forrest Gump - becomes the portal through which we witness what's happened to the more notable characters of the saga. But otherwise this novel is pure Empire, pure Sith... and pure Vader. I've been a huge fan of Luceno's work for some time now (I even wound up sitting right beside him during a panel discussion at Star Wars Celebration II a few years ago... why oh why didn't I ask for his autograph then?!), he probably ranks with Timothy Zahn as my favorite writer of Star Wars fiction, and in Dark Lord he definitely does not disappoint. Highly recommended whomping good read for any Star Wars fan.