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Book Review

Book Cover

Star Wars
The Force Unleashed


Author: Sean Williams
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, Cdn $10.95
ISBN: 978 1 8485 6337 7
Available 24 July 2009

The Jedi order has been crushed under the devious hand of Emperor Palpatine. A new order has risen, one that seeks to dominate the galaxy using the iron first of Darth Vader But Vader cannot control an entire galaxy alone. He has selected his own apprentice from among those gifted with Force-sensitive abilities. As the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, this new apprentice must choose their own destiny...

The Force Unleashed is the latest instalment in the ongoing Star Wars franchise. The main event is the video game, launched upon the galaxy on the 19 September 2008. This will be fanfared with a multi-million pound budget and complimented with a variety of consumables for the undiscerning collector. These include posable dolls, a comic and a novelisation of the events explored in the game.

The story is set within the ‘Dark Times’, dark for the Rebels and Jedis and anyone opposed to authority, and bridges the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

Darth Vader, finding himself with a bit of power but still answerable to Emperor Palpatine, decides to get himself a secret apprentice with whom he can imbibe the dark side of the force and eventually usurp the Emperor. He calls this mysterious b*stard without a past Starkiller (a reference to the Skywalker clan’s original early draft surname) and sets him out on a series of tasks to purge the few remaining Jedis who avoided the original Jedi Purge. On the way Starkiller gains a love interest and a conscience along with finding out he wasn’t a b*stard after all.

I’ll insult your intelligence by assuming you can’t guess the plot and keep Spoiler free, suffice to say the ending is cheesy enough to taint the enjoyment of A New Hope.

Difficult to see the appeal of this book, it’s a novelisation based on a comic, based on a video game. Anyone wanting to play the game wouldn’t wish to know the plot beforehand and on the page a comic (or graphic novel to poltroons) is a more suitable format for conveying action. The fact it’s written by an author considered amongst Star Wars aficionados to have written the worst of the New Jedi Order sequels doesn’t help. It’s clearly just part of the marketing strategy for the game and is devoid of anything approaching a soul.

Where the original trilogy of films had a humour and a sense of warmth in the characterisation, which the sequels somehow lacked, this drains them completely to the point of being unlovable androids, empty vessels to carry the action. This seems a trait of the media saturated times we are currently living in, but rather than be simply of the times or a reflection of them, Star Wars should be guiding the way to the future. Clearly George Lucas never really was the one to do it and now the corpse of his creation should be allowed to rest.

The novel reads a lot like a video game with each chapter corresponding to what would be playable levels and the obvious cut-scenes punctuating the action. The description of inter-level hack n slashing (with light sabers) is kept to a bare minimum and this will be where the game’s core mechanic will fit in. Reading the book the game sounds rather derivative and not up to the serpentine plot twists of the Knights of the Old Republic games, this is borne out in the current wave of pre-release reviews.

If you have a games console and are interested in the story of Darth Vader’s apprentice then I would recommend playing the game first and if you don’t like games or comics you are probably better off not knowing this version of the Dark Times’ events.

The cover's pretty good though.


Richard A. Bennet

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