The Stolen Data Tapes
Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger MacBride Allen (1995, Bantam)
In The Corellian Trilogy’s conclusion, author Roger MacBride Allen provides the answers to some nagging questions from the previous two books, your standard-issue climactic space battle, and a somewhat surprising character death.



The novel’s plot—and really, the plot of all three books—hinges on Centerpoint Station, an ancient and massive space station designed by the mysterious alien architects of the Correllian star system. Corellians have been living inside of the station for generations, but, as the protagonists discover, it was originally an unimaginably powerful tractor beam, designed to pull planets through hyperspace and into the Corellian System.

This is a really wild premise, and it’s likely to automatically rub you the wrong way if you’re one of those Star Wars fans who dislike over-the-top elements in their stories about wizards with laser swords. The existence of Centerpoint Station bothers me, too, but the implausibility of a planetary tractor beam isn’t the reason. The problem with Centerpoint is its size. It’s explicitly mentioned in the previous book, Assault at Selonia, that Centerpoint Station is larger than the first Death Star. One would think, then, that Han Solo would’ve remembered Centerpoint—a pretty big landmark in his own home system—when he was telling Obi-Wan Kenobi that the Death Star was “too big to be a space station.”

It turns out that the masterminds behind the Corellian Insurrection have been pointing Centerpoint’s tractor beam at stars, causing them to go nova. I’ll grant Allen that this is a slight twist on the extremely tired superweapon plot device. The execution of this story is better than those in which the Galaxy Gun, the Sun Crusher, or especially the Darksaber appear, but when one takes those other books into account, Showdown at Centerpoint’s big reveal can’t help but elicit a big groan from me. The threat of planetary or system-wide annihilation should be special, is all I’m trying to say.

Despite my bellyaching, Showdown at Centerpoint is a pretty fun book. Its climax is especially effective. There’s an exciting large-scale space battle, Gaeriel Captison meets her end in self-sacrifice, and Anakin Solo ultimately saves the day in a passage that evokes Luke’s Skywalker’s final victory in A New Hope.

The Corellian Trilogy gets off to a fine start, but some serious flaws in plausibility, the neglect of some great opportunities for character development, and the reliance on yet another doomsday weapon scenario to drive the plot create problems for it as a whole. Good characterizations all around and a lot of unorthodox, creative ideas keep these books readable and provide a reasonably entertaining experience, but the net result remains very uneven. I wouldn’t actively discourage the casual Star Wars reader from checking out the Corellian Trilogy, but it wouldn’t be on my short list of recommendations.

Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger MacBride Allen (1995, Bantam)

In The Corellian Trilogy’s conclusion, author Roger MacBride Allen provides the answers to some nagging questions from the previous two books, your standard-issue climactic space battle, and a somewhat surprising character death.

The novel’s plot—and really, the plot of all three books—hinges on Centerpoint Station, an ancient and massive space station designed by the mysterious alien architects of the Correllian star system. Corellians have been living inside of the station for generations, but, as the protagonists discover, it was originally an unimaginably powerful tractor beam, designed to pull planets through hyperspace and into the Corellian System.

This is a really wild premise, and it’s likely to automatically rub you the wrong way if you’re one of those Star Wars fans who dislike over-the-top elements in their stories about wizards with laser swords. The existence of Centerpoint Station bothers me, too, but the implausibility of a planetary tractor beam isn’t the reason. The problem with Centerpoint is its size. It’s explicitly mentioned in the previous book, Assault at Selonia, that Centerpoint Station is larger than the first Death Star. One would think, then, that Han Solo would’ve remembered Centerpoint—a pretty big landmark in his own home system—when he was telling Obi-Wan Kenobi that the Death Star was “too big to be a space station.”

It turns out that the masterminds behind the Corellian Insurrection have been pointing Centerpoint’s tractor beam at stars, causing them to go nova. I’ll grant Allen that this is a slight twist on the extremely tired superweapon plot device. The execution of this story is better than those in which the Galaxy Gun, the Sun Crusher, or especially the Darksaber appear, but when one takes those other books into account, Showdown at Centerpoint’s big reveal can’t help but elicit a big groan from me. The threat of planetary or system-wide annihilation should be special, is all I’m trying to say.

Despite my bellyaching, Showdown at Centerpoint is a pretty fun book. Its climax is especially effective. There’s an exciting large-scale space battle, Gaeriel Captison meets her end in self-sacrifice, and Anakin Solo ultimately saves the day in a passage that evokes Luke’s Skywalker’s final victory in A New Hope.

The Corellian Trilogy gets off to a fine start, but some serious flaws in plausibility, the neglect of some great opportunities for character development, and the reliance on yet another doomsday weapon scenario to drive the plot create problems for it as a whole. Good characterizations all around and a lot of unorthodox, creative ideas keep these books readable and provide a reasonably entertaining experience, but the net result remains very uneven. I wouldn’t actively discourage the casual Star Wars reader from checking out the Corellian Trilogy, but it wouldn’t be on my short list of recommendations.

Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)
“Oh no, not another superweapon!”
      -Han Solo, Darksaber, page 18 (paperback edition)

My thoughts exactly, Han! This acknowledgement of the fact that Kevin J. Anderson is writing another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device does not excuse the fact that Kevin J. Anderson has written another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device.  Between the World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun (Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire), the Death Star prototype and the Sun Crusher (Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy), and the Eye of Palpatine (Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi), we are being asked to believe that, within a span of three years, the New Republic faced five weapons with at least the power to raze an entire planet.

Ugh.

This time, it’s not the Empire behind the weapon.



Instead, we have Durga the Hutt ordering the construction of his own Death Star superlaser. Nobody in the book ever points out the silliness of a crime lord destroying planets and all of their monetary resources.



The weapon consists only of a Death Star’s planet-obliterating superlaser, without the accompanying battle station. This makes for a more maneuverable weapon that can be fired more rapidly. As you can see, the weapon is cylindrical and a beam of light is emitted from the end of it. The weapon’s designer, Bevel Lemelisk (one of the bazillion and one expanded universe characters credited with designing the Death Star), notices these vague similarities to a lightsaber and chooses to name the weapon… Darksaber.

Again, I say: Ugh.

Thankfully, this is not all there is to Darksaber’s plot. Admiral Daala (who has once again escaped certain death) heads to the Core Systems and begins an effort to consolidate the Empire’s squabbling warlords in an effort to finally destroy the New Republic. Passages dealing with this are easily the best in the novel. In one chapter, Daala gasses a conference room full of warlords who can’t come to a consensus. Her characterization here is much better than in the Jedi Academy Trilogy. Here, we can see her competence, as opposed to being told how good she is at her job as we follow her from one ill-conceived plan to the next.

Unfortunately, apart from Daala, characters are rather thinly drawn in Darksaber. Kyp Durron is featured prominently, but there isn’t a single mention of the fact that the young Jedi blew up an inhabited star system the previous year, almost as if Anderson decided that having Kyp do that in the first place had been a mistake and didn’t wish to discuss it again. I’m all for redemption, but to not even mention the guilt a repentant mass-murderer must be feeling a mere year after his crime is ludicrous.

The novel also suffers from a lot of plotting and pacing problems. An important subplot of Darksaber involves Luke’s current girlfriend Callista attempting to regain her ability to use the Force. In this quest, Luke takes her all over the galaxy, providing a very, very thin excuse for the two of them to go to Hoth, fight a bunch of wampas (including the one whose arm Luke cut off in Empire), and then leave pretty much immediately.

As for the Darksaber superweapon… (spoilers, if you honestly care)… it is unceremoniously crushed between two asteroids when its laser fails to discharge. Hurray.

Long story short, Darksaber is every bit as lame as its title. Skip this one.

Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)

“Oh no, not another superweapon!”

      -Han Solo, Darksaber, page 18 (paperback edition)

My thoughts exactly, Han! This acknowledgement of the fact that Kevin J. Anderson is writing another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device does not excuse the fact that Kevin J. Anderson has written another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device.  Between the World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun (Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire), the Death Star prototype and the Sun Crusher (Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy), and the Eye of Palpatine (Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi), we are being asked to believe that, within a span of three years, the New Republic faced five weapons with at least the power to raze an entire planet.

Ugh.

This time, it’s not the Empire behind the weapon.

Instead, we have Durga the Hutt ordering the construction of his own Death Star superlaser. Nobody in the book ever points out the silliness of a crime lord destroying planets and all of their monetary resources.

The weapon consists only of a Death Star’s planet-obliterating superlaser, without the accompanying battle station. This makes for a more maneuverable weapon that can be fired more rapidly. As you can see, the weapon is cylindrical and a beam of light is emitted from the end of it. The weapon’s designer, Bevel Lemelisk (one of the bazillion and one expanded universe characters credited with designing the Death Star), notices these vague similarities to a lightsaber and chooses to name the weapon… Darksaber.

Again, I say: Ugh.

Thankfully, this is not all there is to Darksaber’s plot. Admiral Daala (who has once again escaped certain death) heads to the Core Systems and begins an effort to consolidate the Empire’s squabbling warlords in an effort to finally destroy the New Republic. Passages dealing with this are easily the best in the novel. In one chapter, Daala gasses a conference room full of warlords who can’t come to a consensus. Her characterization here is much better than in the Jedi Academy Trilogy. Here, we can see her competence, as opposed to being told how good she is at her job as we follow her from one ill-conceived plan to the next.

Unfortunately, apart from Daala, characters are rather thinly drawn in Darksaber. Kyp Durron is featured prominently, but there isn’t a single mention of the fact that the young Jedi blew up an inhabited star system the previous year, almost as if Anderson decided that having Kyp do that in the first place had been a mistake and didn’t wish to discuss it again. I’m all for redemption, but to not even mention the guilt a repentant mass-murderer must be feeling a mere year after his crime is ludicrous.

The novel also suffers from a lot of plotting and pacing problems. An important subplot of Darksaber involves Luke’s current girlfriend Callista attempting to regain her ability to use the Force. In this quest, Luke takes her all over the galaxy, providing a very, very thin excuse for the two of them to go to Hoth, fight a bunch of wampas (including the one whose arm Luke cut off in Empire), and then leave pretty much immediately.

As for the Darksaber superweapon… (spoilers, if you honestly care)… it is unceremoniously crushed between two asteroids when its laser fails to discharge. Hurray.

Long story short, Darksaber is every bit as lame as its title. Skip this one.

Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)
Champions of the Force is the final installment of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The previous book, Dark Apprentice, ended on a decidedly gloomy note. Kyp Durron, fallen student of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Praxeum, has made off with the Sun Crusher, an indestructible superweapon that can blow up stars, thereby incinerating entire star systems. The first chapter of Champions of the Force has Kyp annihilating the Imperial-controlled Carida system in a failed attempt to reunite himself with his brother.
Kyp had also put Luke in a coma, who spends a good chunk of this book as a disembodied spirit, unable to communicate with his Jedi students and having to rely on them to fend off countless attacks against his body engineered by the evil spirit of the ancient Sith lord, Exar Kun.
Surprisingly, all of this is resolved less than half-way through the novel, when Luke’s Jedi students manage to beat Exar Kun through… the power of teamwork? Despite the dismissive wording there, I actually found this to be a satisfying victory for the new Jedi, albeit a little cheesy.
With Exar Kun’s second death and Han Solo’s encouragement, Kyp Durron is able to shake his influence and turn from the dark side before continuing his rampage. Mon Mothma, who’s failing health is one of this novel’s primary concerns, defers to Luke Skywalker for judgment of the fallen Jedi. In a decision that appears to be just as divisive for fans as it is for various characters in the Star Wars universe, Luke accepts Kyp’s repentance and welcomes him back into the fold.
I’ve mentioned here before that I feel redemption is one of the central themes of the Star Wars saga, and allowing it even of a mass murderer (which, let’s not forget, is also what Darth Vader was) is consistent with that theme. The argument, of course, can be made that Kyp should have received some punishment, but regardless of what you think, I think it’s hard to argue that this decision isn’t one Luke would have made.
All that said, though, I don’t think that Anderson spends nearly enough time dealing with the fallout of Luke’s decision in this novel. Readers learned nothing of how the other Jedi students felt about this until four years later, in Michael Stackpole’s far superior treatment of the events of this trilogy in I, Jedi.
Champions of the Force reaches its climax with a battle over Maw Installation, the Imperial weapons development laboratory that created the Sun Crusher. New Republic forces tangle with Admiral Daala’s last Star Destroyer and… the Maw Installation’s Death Star prototype.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Kevin J. Anderson is obsessed with doomsday weapons. It’s not enough to have a weapon capable of wiping out entire solar systems. Let’s get another Death Star in on the action, too. Anderson’s next Star Wars novel, the unfortunately titled Darksaber, also deals with a weapon cobbled together from old Death Star plans.
In this novel’s about the author page, Anderson makes it clear that he used to work at a government research lab as a technical writer, and his Maw Installation is obviously a venting of dissatisfaction with either the job itself or the work that was done there. I can definitely get behind the idea of a writer sticking it to the Man, and this is enjoyable to an extent, especially as manifested by the Maw scientists’ cartoonish adherence to procedure and interminable meetings to discuss their next move—even in the midst of battle. But the overabundance of superweapons and the reliance on them as plot devices left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.
The entire Jedi Academy Trilogy suffers from forced references to the Star Wars films and some pretty egregious expository dialogue. Take this winner of a line from Mon Mothma, as she describes her improving condition:
“…My body is healing itself with a vengeance. The bacta tanks are working overtime, effective again now that Cilghal removed the nano-destroyers.”
…Yikes.
The biggest failing of this book in particular, however, is scattered plotting, clearly intended to be purely linear, that leaves the reader to piece together the novel’s proper chronology. “Now, wait, before that happened, this happened!” or “No, no, all of that happened at the same time as this. Never mind that it’s been nearly a hundred pages!” It’s not difficult to follow, but it definitely feels sloppy.
In case I haven’t made myself clear by this point, Anderson’s writing leaves much to be desired here. However, he obviously loves Star Wars and its characters, and that comes through in all three of these novels. This, along with some interesting ideas, makes these books quick, mostly-pleasant reads. They’re worth reading for completionists like myself, and they cover some important events in the post-Return of the Jedi chronology—though you could probably get all the highlights if you just read I, Jedi instead.

Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)

Champions of the Force is the final installment of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The previous book, Dark Apprentice, ended on a decidedly gloomy note. Kyp Durron, fallen student of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Praxeum, has made off with the Sun Crusher, an indestructible superweapon that can blow up stars, thereby incinerating entire star systems. The first chapter of Champions of the Force has Kyp annihilating the Imperial-controlled Carida system in a failed attempt to reunite himself with his brother.

Kyp had also put Luke in a coma, who spends a good chunk of this book as a disembodied spirit, unable to communicate with his Jedi students and having to rely on them to fend off countless attacks against his body engineered by the evil spirit of the ancient Sith lord, Exar Kun.

Surprisingly, all of this is resolved less than half-way through the novel, when Luke’s Jedi students manage to beat Exar Kun through… the power of teamwork? Despite the dismissive wording there, I actually found this to be a satisfying victory for the new Jedi, albeit a little cheesy.

With Exar Kun’s second death and Han Solo’s encouragement, Kyp Durron is able to shake his influence and turn from the dark side before continuing his rampage. Mon Mothma, who’s failing health is one of this novel’s primary concerns, defers to Luke Skywalker for judgment of the fallen Jedi. In a decision that appears to be just as divisive for fans as it is for various characters in the Star Wars universe, Luke accepts Kyp’s repentance and welcomes him back into the fold.

I’ve mentioned here before that I feel redemption is one of the central themes of the Star Wars saga, and allowing it even of a mass murderer (which, let’s not forget, is also what Darth Vader was) is consistent with that theme. The argument, of course, can be made that Kyp should have received some punishment, but regardless of what you think, I think it’s hard to argue that this decision isn’t one Luke would have made.

All that said, though, I don’t think that Anderson spends nearly enough time dealing with the fallout of Luke’s decision in this novel. Readers learned nothing of how the other Jedi students felt about this until four years later, in Michael Stackpole’s far superior treatment of the events of this trilogy in I, Jedi.

Champions of the Force reaches its climax with a battle over Maw Installation, the Imperial weapons development laboratory that created the Sun Crusher. New Republic forces tangle with Admiral Daala’s last Star Destroyer and… the Maw Installation’s Death Star prototype.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Kevin J. Anderson is obsessed with doomsday weapons. It’s not enough to have a weapon capable of wiping out entire solar systems. Let’s get another Death Star in on the action, too. Anderson’s next Star Wars novel, the unfortunately titled Darksaber, also deals with a weapon cobbled together from old Death Star plans.

In this novel’s about the author page, Anderson makes it clear that he used to work at a government research lab as a technical writer, and his Maw Installation is obviously a venting of dissatisfaction with either the job itself or the work that was done there. I can definitely get behind the idea of a writer sticking it to the Man, and this is enjoyable to an extent, especially as manifested by the Maw scientists’ cartoonish adherence to procedure and interminable meetings to discuss their next move—even in the midst of battle. But the overabundance of superweapons and the reliance on them as plot devices left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.

The entire Jedi Academy Trilogy suffers from forced references to the Star Wars films and some pretty egregious expository dialogue. Take this winner of a line from Mon Mothma, as she describes her improving condition:

“…My body is healing itself with a vengeance. The bacta tanks are working overtime, effective again now that Cilghal removed the nano-destroyers.”

…Yikes.

The biggest failing of this book in particular, however, is scattered plotting, clearly intended to be purely linear, that leaves the reader to piece together the novel’s proper chronology. “Now, wait, before that happened, this happened!” or “No, no, all of that happened at the same time as this. Never mind that it’s been nearly a hundred pages!” It’s not difficult to follow, but it definitely feels sloppy.

In case I haven’t made myself clear by this point, Anderson’s writing leaves much to be desired here. However, he obviously loves Star Wars and its characters, and that comes through in all three of these novels. This, along with some interesting ideas, makes these books quick, mostly-pleasant reads. They’re worth reading for completionists like myself, and they cover some important events in the post-Return of the Jedi chronology—though you could probably get all the highlights if you just read I, Jedi instead.

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Alan Dean Foster [as George Lucas] (1976, Del Rey)
I started The Stolen Data Tapes too late for the “official” Star Wars day, May 4th (as in “May the Fourth be with you.” Ugh). If you’re a true fan like me, every day is Star Wars day. If you need a special calendar date, though, why choose an all but arbitrary one based on an abysmal pun when you could celebrate May 25th, the anniversary of the release of Star Wars in 1977?
That’s what I’m doing. Today, I’ll be watching all six films with my brother and a few friends. For the purposes of this blog, however, I thought I’d read the novelization of the film that, as it has become trite to say in Star Wars novel dedications, “started it all.”
As you may have noticed at the top of this post, this novel was published in 1976, a year before the film’s release. The practice of putting out a novelization first was more common back then, but it is still done occasionally now. The idea, of course, is to create hype for the film before its premier date, and to lend the film some sort of nebulous “based on a novel” credence.
You’ll also notice that the book is written by “George Lucas.” This is true in the sense that it is faithful to Lucas’s screenplay, at least in terms of the sequence of events. However, the novel was in fact ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who would go on to write the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, two years later.
It’s interesting to note differences between this novel and the film I’ve seen countless times. The book includes a scene between Luke and Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, as well as the later-included dialogue between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut [sic], who is only vaguely described, but seems to be based on the likeness of the actor who played Jabba when the scene was shot.

Well, at least it wasn’t this joker:

While they don’t have a profound impact on the story, the biggest changes make Darth Vader one of presumably several Dark Lords and Palpatine an ineffectual figurehead manipulated by Vader, Tarkin, and others.
Foster’s prose, particularly in the first half of the novel, captures the wistful spirit of Luke Skywalker gazing out over the dunes at Tatooine’s dual sunset. The inclusion of Luke’s conversation with Biggs underscores Luke’s naiveté and his subsequent transition to experience.
There are several places, however, where less in the movie would also have been more in the novel. Vader, in particular, is much more verbose than he needs to be, but many lines of dialogue suffer from being a sentence or two too long. The Death Star battle maintains that David and Goliath sense of overwhelming odds present in the film, but lacks the momentum of that iconic sequence.
Foster nevertheless proves himself a good fit for Star Wars through a firm grasp on the thoughts and feelings of the characters that first captured our imaginations.

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Alan Dean Foster [as George Lucas] (1976, Del Rey)

I started The Stolen Data Tapes too late for the “official” Star Wars day, May 4th (as in “May the Fourth be with you.” Ugh). If you’re a true fan like me, every day is Star Wars day. If you need a special calendar date, though, why choose an all but arbitrary one based on an abysmal pun when you could celebrate May 25th, the anniversary of the release of Star Wars in 1977?

That’s what I’m doing. Today, I’ll be watching all six films with my brother and a few friends. For the purposes of this blog, however, I thought I’d read the novelization of the film that, as it has become trite to say in Star Wars novel dedications, “started it all.”

As you may have noticed at the top of this post, this novel was published in 1976, a year before the film’s release. The practice of putting out a novelization first was more common back then, but it is still done occasionally now. The idea, of course, is to create hype for the film before its premier date, and to lend the film some sort of nebulous “based on a novel” credence.

You’ll also notice that the book is written by “George Lucas.” This is true in the sense that it is faithful to Lucas’s screenplay, at least in terms of the sequence of events. However, the novel was in fact ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who would go on to write the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, two years later.

It’s interesting to note differences between this novel and the film I’ve seen countless times. The book includes a scene between Luke and Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, as well as the later-included dialogue between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut [sic], who is only vaguely described, but seems to be based on the likeness of the actor who played Jabba when the scene was shot.

Well, at least it wasn’t this joker:

While they don’t have a profound impact on the story, the biggest changes make Darth Vader one of presumably several Dark Lords and Palpatine an ineffectual figurehead manipulated by Vader, Tarkin, and others.

Foster’s prose, particularly in the first half of the novel, captures the wistful spirit of Luke Skywalker gazing out over the dunes at Tatooine’s dual sunset. The inclusion of Luke’s conversation with Biggs underscores Luke’s naiveté and his subsequent transition to experience.

There are several places, however, where less in the movie would also have been more in the novel. Vader, in particular, is much more verbose than he needs to be, but many lines of dialogue suffer from being a sentence or two too long. The Death Star battle maintains that David and Goliath sense of overwhelming odds present in the film, but lacks the momentum of that iconic sequence.

Foster nevertheless proves himself a good fit for Star Wars through a firm grasp on the thoughts and feelings of the characters that first captured our imaginations.

Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry (2007, Del Rey)

“In order to get it built quickly and quietly, they’d hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average stormtrooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.”
                             -Randal Graves, Clerks.
Randal was, of course, talking about the thorny ethical issues surrounding the construction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, but I couldn’t help but think of that conversation from Clerks as I read this novel about the construction (and destruction) of the first Death Star.

One of the characters, Teela Kaarz, actually is an architect who has been given a temporary reprieve from her sentence on the prison planet of Despayre (really?) to work on the Death Star. The novel follows her and a host of other characters: a TIE fighter pilot, a doctor, a librarian, a bartender, and the head of the Death Star’s superlaser crew, among others. With the exception of Vil Dance (the TIE pilot) and Tenn Graneet (the gunner), none of them are Imperials.

The first portion of the book deals entirely with its characters and their reactions to working on this deadly space station. Much of the interaction takes place in the Hard Heart Cantina, a bar run by Memah Roothes, a Twi’lek bar tender who was offered the job by the Empire after the “accidental” fire that destroyed her establishment on Coruscant.

It makes sense that the Death Star, being the size of a small moon, might have bars and eating establishments. I had to draw a line, however, when one character avoided detection by ducking into a clothing store—and one carrying lingerie, at that. I don’t imagine that too many stormtroopers are wearing push-up bras under that armor. I can’t blame Reaves and Perry entirely for this, as they were drawing from existing supplementary material, but it really doesn’t jive for me.

We also get a healthy dose of development for Imperial characters like Grand Moff Tarkin and Conan Antonio Motti (he’s the guy Vader chokes; the one with the disturbing lack of faith). Tarkin, we discover, is engaged in an affair with one Admiral Daala, who you’ll be hearing much more about later, as she makes several appearances in (chronologically) later novels. While this adds a human-like element to Tarkin’s character, he is also portrayed as having a pragmatic disregard for the human lives he orders extinguished, serving to make him a believable villain in a way that I feel is true to Peter Cushing’s performance.

The general theme of the novel is that of the dilemma placed before ordinary people living under immoral authority. Each character must choose if he or she will continue to work on the Death Star and support—explicitly or tacitly—an Empire that commits planetary genocide twice: first destroying the prison planet Despayre as a test, and then, of course, Alderaan.  For most of the primary characters, the answer is “no,” and they plan to escape the Death Star. They are successful, and leave just in time to escape the station’s explosion.

Tenn Graneet, the lever-puller in the destruction of both Despayre and Alderaan, is not so brave or so lucky. Although severely tormented by his conscience, his desire to follow orders wins out time and again as he destroys the two aforementioned worlds. In the last moments, he waffles on whether or not he will send the planet of Yavin IV and its Rebel inhabitants to their demise, but we never find out if he would have finally made a stand.

All in all, I think that Reaves and Perry have written a fairly entertaining story about the courage to follow one’s conscience regardless of consequence.

One last note, though: I “fripping” hate make-believe expletives, and this book is absolutely “milking” full of them. I can handle it to a point, and I actually enjoy imaginary oaths (i.e. “Minions of Xendor!” from The Han Solo Trilogy), but an over-saturation of stuff like that gets very distracting and can pull me right out of the story. I’m not suggesting that characters in the Star Wars universe tell each other to go fuck a bantha when they’re upset, but real, albeit mild, profanity appears in the Star Wars films, and extremely coarse language can easily be written around without the use of obvious and ridiculous analogs like “feke.” So, they should knock that poodoo off, but otherwise, well done. 

Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry (2007, Del Rey)

“In order to get it built quickly and quietly, they’d hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average stormtrooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.”

                             -Randal Graves, Clerks.

Randal was, of course, talking about the thorny ethical issues surrounding the construction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, but I couldn’t help but think of that conversation from Clerks as I read this novel about the construction (and destruction) of the first Death Star.

One of the characters, Teela Kaarz, actually is an architect who has been given a temporary reprieve from her sentence on the prison planet of Despayre (really?) to work on the Death Star. The novel follows her and a host of other characters: a TIE fighter pilot, a doctor, a librarian, a bartender, and the head of the Death Star’s superlaser crew, among others. With the exception of Vil Dance (the TIE pilot) and Tenn Graneet (the gunner), none of them are Imperials.

The first portion of the book deals entirely with its characters and their reactions to working on this deadly space station. Much of the interaction takes place in the Hard Heart Cantina, a bar run by Memah Roothes, a Twi’lek bar tender who was offered the job by the Empire after the “accidental” fire that destroyed her establishment on Coruscant.

It makes sense that the Death Star, being the size of a small moon, might have bars and eating establishments. I had to draw a line, however, when one character avoided detection by ducking into a clothing store—and one carrying lingerie, at that. I don’t imagine that too many stormtroopers are wearing push-up bras under that armor. I can’t blame Reaves and Perry entirely for this, as they were drawing from existing supplementary material, but it really doesn’t jive for me.

We also get a healthy dose of development for Imperial characters like Grand Moff Tarkin and Conan Antonio Motti (he’s the guy Vader chokes; the one with the disturbing lack of faith). Tarkin, we discover, is engaged in an affair with one Admiral Daala, who you’ll be hearing much more about later, as she makes several appearances in (chronologically) later novels. While this adds a human-like element to Tarkin’s character, he is also portrayed as having a pragmatic disregard for the human lives he orders extinguished, serving to make him a believable villain in a way that I feel is true to Peter Cushing’s performance.

The general theme of the novel is that of the dilemma placed before ordinary people living under immoral authority. Each character must choose if he or she will continue to work on the Death Star and support—explicitly or tacitly—an Empire that commits planetary genocide twice: first destroying the prison planet Despayre as a test, and then, of course, Alderaan.  For most of the primary characters, the answer is “no,” and they plan to escape the Death Star. They are successful, and leave just in time to escape the station’s explosion.

Tenn Graneet, the lever-puller in the destruction of both Despayre and Alderaan, is not so brave or so lucky. Although severely tormented by his conscience, his desire to follow orders wins out time and again as he destroys the two aforementioned worlds. In the last moments, he waffles on whether or not he will send the planet of Yavin IV and its Rebel inhabitants to their demise, but we never find out if he would have finally made a stand.

All in all, I think that Reaves and Perry have written a fairly entertaining story about the courage to follow one’s conscience regardless of consequence.

One last note, though: I “fripping” hate make-believe expletives, and this book is absolutely “milking” full of them. I can handle it to a point, and I actually enjoy imaginary oaths (i.e. “Minions of Xendor!” from The Han Solo Trilogy), but an over-saturation of stuff like that gets very distracting and can pull me right out of the story. I’m not suggesting that characters in the Star Wars universe tell each other to go fuck a bantha when they’re upset, but real, albeit mild, profanity appears in the Star Wars films, and extremely coarse language can easily be written around without the use of obvious and ridiculous analogs like “feke.” So, they should knock that poodoo off, but otherwise, well done.