Darth Vader Rise of the Dark Lord Novel

[inspic=105,leftclear,fullscreen,thumb]Reading the new(?) Star Wars novel Dark Lord – The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno and thought I’d put up a quick revue. The first 3 chapters or so were really good, no complaints at all. Only problem is that Vader wasn’t in those chapters. Vader finally shows up but he’s still doing the whiny act. I get the feeling the author is trying to/going to try to show the shift from whiny anakin/Vader to badass Vader, but so far he’s still just kind of whiny. Kind of like emo-Vader, “boo hoo my body is all messed up, boohoo my wife is dead” etc., which could be pulled off well but I am not really enjoying the way it is done in the novel because it’s coming off just like it did in the movies, superficial and with no depth or ability to generate sympathy for the character.

Other things I have disliked so far are the fact that midichlorians are mentioned, and not only is the Vader “nooooooo” mentioned, but repeated… Now I am not sure when this novel was written or if Mr. Luceno was aware of the fan backlash/cheesiness of these two items (unless the novel was written before the movie release, it could be argued that he should have been aware) but they both really need to go. The midichlorian thing is one sentence in a thought by Palpatine, but it’s there and it made me stop in mid-read and groan out loud (“Nooooo!”). It’s completely unnecessary. The line could easily be deleted and there isn’t much of a change. It just seems gratuitous and makes it stand out even more than the whole midichlorians things being a horribly bad idea in the first place that shouldn’t have ever made it into star wars, let alone been put in by its creator.

The “noooo” thing is just dumb. In the movie it was horribly done. In what should have been a really gut wrenching emotional scene it was pathetic and so out of place that I really don’t have words to sufficiently describe it. It would have been better if Vader had just started wrecking the place in silence even. The extra “cry of anguish” in the book is bad too. It sort of comes out of nowhere, with Vader realizing he can’t go to Tatooine or Naboo ever again because they will get him too emotionally excited (in itself a stupid concept).
If this stuff was put in after the fan backlash occurred, and with knowledge of it, I can only assume that either the writer was intentionally trying to piss off fans, or was trying to prove he could take these cheesy elements and make them into something good, thus proving his writing “skillz”. Either way, bad idea. Did/will piss off fans, definitely weren’t made any better. I can’t imagine that he was specifically ordered to include these two fan-hated items (although who knows, maybe Lucas did call him or something, “you put the midichlorians in there! Don’t care how, where or why, but you make sure they show up, that’ll really put them fanboy panties in a bunch!”) and since other than these few (although somewhat major) bones of contention I think the book is well-written so I am not calling Mr. Luceno’s writing skills into question (although this is the first of his work I have read). The beginning of the book was genuinely interesting and well written and I am enjoying other aspects of it, just unfortunately not the stuff related to Vader so far (and I’m halfway through the book at this point in my review here).

Again this isn’t all the author’s fault, because he is obviously working on a somewhat flawed (by the prequels) character with a less than fantastic background, and in this novel he is undertaking the mammoth task of turning prequel whiny Anakin into original trilogy kick-ass Vader, which can’t be easy. But at this point I have to think it could have been done better. We’ll see how the rest of the book turns out. It’s not bad enough to stop reading.

So far there is only one line in the book that really bothers me and strikes me bad writing or at least poorly thought out and it’s really, really minor (i.e. I’m being really anal about it, but for some reason it really bothers me), which is:

“Sith lightning hurling an astonished Mace Windu through what had been a window…”

Now this bothers me for a couple of reasons. One is that Windu and Window really shouldn’t be in the same sentence, or should at least be further apart in the sentence. It just sounds really silly for some reason. Try reading the sentence out loud. Just me? Windu window! It’s like a tongue twister. My brain sees that sentence and for some reason reads it as, “hurling an astonished Mace Windu through what had been a window“, for some reason.

This may actually be the reason for my second qualm with this sentence, which is “what had been a window”. Had been a window? It wasn’t a window anymore? Does the glass define the window? I know I’m being anal and pedantic here, but isn’t it still a window? I’m really not usually very pedantic about books, I really like being caught up in the books I read and I want to gloss over the little flaws and stuff and be completely enmeshed in the fantasy the book is setting out, that’s why I read books, but this line just really irked me. It’s quite possible my attention was more focused on it because of the “Windu window” but I must have reread that sentence three times because it struck me as odd, and let me tell you there is nothing like yanking me out of the immersive feeling one should have when reading a fiction novel like forcing me to reread a funky sentence 3 times (except maybe the word “midichlorians”). Now to be fair I kind of wonder if the whole “what had been a window” wasn’t added in to try and put some space between “Windu window”, but it just made things worse. The whole sentence just seem really unnatural and… irks me, is probably the best way to put it. Minor, minor point, completely pointless and not at all important to the overall narrative, but I think it could have been easily avoided.
I may seriously just black out those two lines from my copy of the book so I don’t need to see them again if I ever re-read it.

Hopefully the book will pick up and Vader will be less whiny through the second half. I’ll finish this review once I’m done.
Okay, so I finished the book and my overall opinion is… meh. I liked most of the ending (except for the last few pages involving Obi-Wan), but we’re not talking a brilliant work here. If you are expecting something to redeem the prequels (like I was) you’re probably not going to be satisfied with this book.

Overall is strikes me more as a book that was written because there was a gap in the timeline that should at some point be filled, rather than a book that was written because there was a really good story waiting to be told. It’s worth a read just to learn about the events and it’s not a terrible book or a terribly written book, but it’s not what I was expecting or hoping for.

The book carries on the same somewhat lame storytelling of the prequels. Vader’s final progression to the Vader of the original trilogy is sudden and for the most part unexplained. What is explained is unsatisfactory. Just like Vader’s original fall to the dark side in the prequels. In both cases, seeing it happen just kind of left me thinking “that’s it?” and feeling mostly unimpressed by the backstory of what is supposed to be the most feared Star Wars universe character.
I actually saw episode III with my wife and after the movie she remarked something along the lines (translated from Japanese), “What the hell? He’s unhappy with things so he just all of the sudden kills his seniors, a bunch of children and tries to kill his wife and his best friend?”.

I think a large part of the problem is that Anakin is never really likable in first place. They take him from being an annoying kid, to a whiny, annoying 20 something who starts slaughtering people over almost no provocation at all. There wasn’t really any tragedy in his fall. It wasn’t as if a good, promising young Jedi had fallen to the dark side. In the movies an annoying, whiny, self-centered and constantly problematic powerful Jedi fell to the dark side, and in this novel that same annoying, whiny, self-centered former Jedi all of the sudden goes from boo-hooing to himself in dark corners to being the super bad-ass we were all impressed with from the original movies.

There’s no real introspection, it’s all “waah everybody was so unfair to me, well I showed them good hur hur”, there are no real moments of him struggling with regret over what he did, or the horrors he perpetrated, and turning further to the dark side as a means of escaping those regrets etc. Between the prequels and this book we end up with Anakin turning to the dark side because 1. his mother dies and 2. he doesn’t get the recognition/treatment he feels he deserves and his sense of self-entitlement is unfilled. Nothing epic or amazingly tragic, no delving into how the Jedi took him from his mother and left her as a slave and if they had free her as well she wouldn’t be dead. No detail on him feeling betrayed by the Jedi, or frustrated that their ways aren’t helping the galaxy, and there is a better way to end the wars and bring peace, etc.

Fans: “Mr. Lucas, why did Anakin fall to the dark side, how did it happen, tell us in the prequels, we want to know.”

Mr. Lucas: “Oh that, he fell to the dark side because.”

Fans: “Because? Because why?”

Mr. Lucas: “Hmm, oh, no just because. Now go buy some merchandise.”
The book itself, as I said above, isn’t bad, but it doesn’t contribute much to the character’s development in the sense of his growth from Anakin to Vader. It does fill in some interesting bits about Vader’s early years, but the progression from Anakin to Vader is, again as I said above, mostly unexplained and nearly instantaneous. The book’s not bad, but it could have been done better, and instead of getting something that finally makes us understand Anakin’s fall, and maybe even finally imparts a little bit of a tragic feeling, thus improving upon the prequels’ handling of the story, we end up with something that is pretty much par for the course as far as the prequels go and far below the standards set by the original trilogy.

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