Oh that Vader, he sure is a curmudgeonly fellow!
Cover Art By: David Stevenson
Written By: James Luceno
“If only the High Council Masters hadn’t been so set in their ways, so deceived by their own pride, they would have grasped that the Jedi needed to be brought down. Like the Republic itself, their order had grown stale, self-serving, corrupt.” – Sith Lord Darth Vader
There were some elements of Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader that left me in the cold. I was troubled by James Luceno’s insistence to continue the ridiculous “Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker” are two different people line of thinking. I understand it’s present because that’s what George Lucas wants, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid of a concept. It’s inclusion does hurt the novel, as when Mr. Luceno tries to broach the subject the novel loses all of its momentum amid the muck and mire created by the stupidity of the different person theory.
I was also troubled by the way the novel sugar coated the cowardice of the Jedi. This is a common problem I have in most Star Wars expanded universe, but it was overtly galling in Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader. It’s bad enough when authors try to sweep the Jedi as slave owners under the rug, or the Jedi as people who pick and choose who they will help based on class status beneath the table. When it gets to the point where the expanded universe is trying to somehow justify the inaction of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi and ignore the untold millions who will die because they prefer to sit and wait in the wings, that’s when the novel and I have some major problems. I know that there are people who agree with the inaction of Obi-Wan and Yoda, and certainly the fact that their actions bear fruit in the end does lend some credence to said inaction. I, however, take a look at the larger picture of a continued trend of Jedi inaction and the lives it costs while the expanded universe lauds them as heroes for their inaction. Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader is no different and it was difficult for me to get over the way that Mr. Luceno refused to deal with the Jedi as being the sniveling cowards that they are.
All the above being said, I did greatly enjoy the introspective moments with Vader as well as the character of Roan Shryne, and the early formation of the Galactic Empire. These aspects of the novel weren’t just handled well, they engaged me as a reader and kept me wanting to turn to the next page. Of the three I was most engaged by the time that Mr. Luceno spent with Vader. When he wasn’t busy being a fool with the “Anakin Skywalker is no more” nonsense I loved the way that Mr. Luceno handled him getting to know his suit, realize his new capabilities, and come to grips with his new relationship with the Force. These three elements were when Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader was at its best, and luckily most of the novel consisted of these three elements.
For some reason I’m not someone who freely associates James Luceno with well written action passages. I’m not sure why this is, but Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader proves that I am most likely wrong in my lack of association. There was a finality to the action sequences in Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader. I never got the sense that any of the duels or combat exchanges were light affairs. When an action passage began it was made very clear that there would be those who survived and those who died. The character of Vader is the perfect representation of the action in the novel. There’s little grace or flash to the way he fights, there is but a simple determination to win and to kill. That is the feeling that I took away from every action passage in Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader.
The positive aspects of Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader slightly outweigh the negative aspects of the novel. I was really upset at the elements that irked me, but I was highly engaged by the elements of the novel that worked for me. Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader is a mixed bag, but I enjoyed more than I disliked. This novel doesn’t represent the great heights that the expanded universe is capable of, but it’s still a worthwhile read for any Star Wars fan.