Being stuck in a labyrinth is never any fun, let alone an evil one!
Cover Art By: Steven D. Anderson
Written By: James Luceno
“Qui-Gon had always criticized the Council for being too authoritative, and for cultivating inflexible methods of teaching. He saw the Temple as a place where candidates were programmed to become Jedi, instead of a place where beings were allowed to grow into Jedihood.” – Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi
Writing a review of James Luceno’s work is never an easy task. I feel that there are always two forces at play when it comes to the work of Mr. Luceno. On the one hand there is the actual narrative within the novel or short story. On the other hand there is the tendency for Mr. Luceno to become the prose version of Wookiepedia, affectionately dubbed Lucenopedia by Star Wars fans. The narrative or story is the easier of the two hands to talk about. Either the narrative/story is engaging, well written, etc., or it isn’t, it’s that simple. The Lucenopedia idea is much harder as it is very cool to read so many Expanded Universe references, but what do those references serve? I love when Mr. Luceno manages to tie so many disparate parts of the Star Wars universe together, but doing so does at times hurt the story he is trying to tell. These are the two hands of Mr. Luceno, working for and against one another.
When it comes down to the brass tacks of it all, I’d have to say that Labyrinth Of Evil does not suffer from the Lucenopedia effect. The story has an increasing momentum to it, and the factoids delivered by Mr. Luceno never distract from said momentum. There were times when he would go off on a tangent that didn’t truly serve any purpose other than to reference a short story from 1996, for example. However, those tangents never hurt the story, and that is what matters most to me when it comes to whether or not the Lucenopedia is detrimental to the novel. I enjoyed the references and facts provided by Mr. Luceno in Labyrinth Of Evil, they helped to make the universe seem that much more connected.
The story in Labyrinth Of Evil is a good one. It touches on a few different threads, and in small glimpses it digs deep beneath the surface of those threads. The intractability of the Jedi is a thread that the novel keeps returning to, and I felt that Mr. Luceno explored the Jedi in a quality way by pairing their rigidness with their valor. Labyrinth Of Evil gets into some political themes as well, with some minor touches on the military aspect of the political spectrum. I didn’t feel that Labyrinth Of Evil dug as deeply as it could have into General Grievous as a military tactician, or into Supreme Chancellor Palpatine as a great politician. The novel touches on these threads and they make for interesting reading, but those threads were lacking definition within the novel.
At its heart Labyrinth Of Evil is a novel about escalation. In this area the novel is a smashing success. The action within the story matches the theme of escalation rather nicely. This made for a suspenseful read, as well as a closer look at how things got so out of control for the Republic and the Jedi. Mr. Luceno puts the pieces in place and he deftly moves them to create a high level of suspense in chapter after chapter. There were plenty of cliffhanger chapters, but not for the usual reasons. It wasn’t that a character was in peril or some great revelation was at hand. Rather, each successive chapter built off of the previous through the “what’s around the corner,” and the, “how can things get worse,” approach.
I had a lot of fun reading Labyrinth Of Evil, and not just for Mr. Luceno inserting his Lucenopedia touch. I enjoyed that element of the novel, but most of all I thought Labyrinth Of Evil was a great adventure tale. As the events in the novel escalated so did the level of suspense I found within the text. By the time I had finished Labyrinth Of Evil my blood was running hot in anticipation of where the story would go next. For some reason I’ve always thought of James Luceno as a very dry writer. If Labyrinth Of Evil is any indication that is a thought I shall have to do away with post-haste.