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.
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.