Friday, July 31, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: Darksaber

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson. 

The story opens with Luke and Han on Tatooine. Luke has used his Force abilities to allow them to infiltrate a Tusken group travelling towards Jabba’s palace. After learning a little about Tusken culture, it is revealed that some of Han’s old smuggling buddies have passed along rumors that there are Hutts poking around Jabba’s palace, which had been part of a monastery originally, and had been reclaimed by the monks by force after Jabba died. Most of the monks have their brains removed and put into life-support jars with droid bodies at the height of their knowledge to free themselves of concerns of the flesh. 

Inside they meet a monk who was an enemy of Jabba’s and forced to undergo the brain transplant early. The monk explains that Jabba somehow had access to the most highly secret sections of the Empire’s archives and the other Hutts are seeking his means of access for some unknown purpose. 

The scene then shifts to the Hoth asteroid field where Durga the Hutt is overseeing mining efforts to gather resources for some new weapon designed by Bevel Lemeiisk, the chief designer of the Death Stars. After a comedy of errors, where the two largest mining machines the Hutts have, rip each other apart after seeing each other as pure metal to be processed, things shift to Coruscant where Han and Leia are preparing for a diplomatic reception for Durga. Durga brings along an entourage including a number of small hairy beings known as the Taurill. Durga claims that these four-armed and two- legged beings are pets, but soon an incident occurs and one Taurill dies leading to the others panicking. 

However, the Taurill are a hive mind and the distraction caused by the panic allows a small team to claim Durga’s true goal: namely a copy of the blueprints for the Death Star. The story then jumps briefly to Yavin IV where the first graduation ceremony of students from Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy is taking place. 

Then we shift to the Deep Core where Admiral Daala is struggling to unite the Imperial warlords against the New Republic. But while she is meeting with the self-declared Supreme Warlord Harrsk on his base, High Admiral Teradoc, a rival warlord, launches an attack which destroys Harrsk’s flagship and kills Daala’s second-in-command who was a guest on board. Daala agrees to lead a counterattack, but betrays Harrsk mid-battle while calling for the fleets to cease fighting each other. 

This gains her the loyalty of Vice-Admiral Palleon, who is field commander of Teradoc’s fleet. After a peace conference between the many of the warlords goes badly, Daala kills them and seizes their forces for herself, including the stealth armored Executor-class Star Destroyer Night Hammer, soon renamed Knight Hammer. Meanwhile, Han and Leia use a diplomatic mission to the Hutt capital as a cover to try to discover Durga’s plans with a New Republic fleet conducting war games and training exercises nearby as protection. Durga is thus called away from overseeing the construction of the Darksaber, basically a Superlaser with engines which looks like a giant lightsaber. 

Meanwhile, Daala is planning to send a fleet to attack unguarded sections of New Republic space while she and Palleon lead a fleet, including the newly renamed super star destroyer to attack the Jedi Academy. However a recon team is closing in on Darksaber, while a pair of the new Jedi discover Daala’s plans. But with Daala’s diversionary force wreaking havoc, and time running out, can the New Republic rally the forces need to both defend the Jedi Academy and stop the Darksaber before it comes online?
I give this book a 1.5 out of 10. Really the only thing saving it from a 1 out of 10 is my enjoyment of the war game scene near Nul Hutta. The Hutt plotline seems like it is primarily a very bad comedy other than one scene where a minor character from the movies, and high ranking New Republic officer, dies. And for some reason, the Hutt story will sometimes shift to flashbacks of the punishments Lemeiisk suffered when Emperor Palpatine felt that he had failed, flashbacks which have only the loosest connection to the main story due to a couple of lines near the end which could have been removed or used without the flashbacks at no cost. 

Daala’s ability to beat the New Republic in a tactical battle is about the same as it was in the earlier Jedi Academy trilogy, and I can’t decide if this is incompetence or sexism on the author’s part. And while I understand that in a franchise as big as Star Wars, sometimes authors will make mistakes and write things which clash with other works in the setting, in one scene Anderson not only writes something which contradicts books published before Darksaber he somehow manages to write a line which contradicts something said in Return of the Jedi by claiming that before Night Hammer was built the Executor was one of a kind. He then follows this with an utterly absurd claim that building Executor almost bankrupted the Empire. Are we supposed to believe a 8 kilometer to 19 kilometer long--the official length has changed a few times depending on the source--star destroyer almost bankrupted the Empire but the pair of Death Stars, each around 150 kilometers in diameter, didn’t? And how did the editor miss these screw-ups? In short, unless you feel the need to read every Star Wars novel I strongly recommend readers stay far, far away from Darksaber.

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