Sunday, April 24, 2011

Can James Luceno's Darth Plagueis Novel Meet Fan Expectation?


Chancellor Palpatine: The fear of losing power is a weakness of both the Jedi and the Sith. Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?
Anakin Skywalker: No.
Chancellor Palpatine: I thought not. It's not a story the Jedi would tell you. It's a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise, that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create... life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side that he could even keep the ones he cared about... from dying.
Anakin Skywalker: He could actually... save people from death?
Chancellor Palpatine: The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.
Anakin Skywalker: What happened to him?
Chancellor Palpatine: He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power... which, eventually of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew. And then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Plagueis never saw it coming. Ironic. He could save others from death... but not himself.
Anakin Skywalker: Is it possible to learn this power?
Chancellor Palpatine: Not from a Jedi.
With this brief scene Darth Plagueis entered Star Wars film canon and fan speculation about this Sith Lord exploded.    With this interest came the announcement that James Luceno would be writing a book about the Sith Lord who was Palpatine/Sidious' Master.  Then the announcement in 2007 that the book was cancelled.  But like many things in the Star Wars universe, ideas once abandoned are often revisted and in 2010 it was revealed that the Darth Plagueis novel was again in the works with James Luceno set to pen the tale. 

Among Expanded Universe fans, news that the  novel was back on was met with very positive reviews.  I like many of my fellow fans was and still am very excited about it.  But I have some concerns that are leading me to temper my expectations of the book somewhat. 

Luceno has been around the Star Wars universe for a long time now.  He has written seven novels, one e-book novella, and two reference books.  Of his two most recent books, Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2005) and Millennium Falcon (2008) we got one book that I really enjoyed and one book that is one of my least favorite EU novels.  Dark Lord wasn't really what I was expecting, in that it was much more about Jedi Roan Shryne and his companions then it was about Vader.  But I still enjoyed the story a great deal.  Millennium Falcon on the other hand started off well enough, and I like the general idea of following the history of the ship, but the entire Maltese Falcon-esque "Republic Treasure" subplot fell flat for me.  The story that Millennium Falcon was built upon didn't feel significant enough in terms of story telling value for its subject (i.e. one of the most iconic ships in all of science fiction).  Of course the novels timing, coming on the heels of the Legacy of the Force series, was a pretty significant emotional let down and rather unsatisfying.

So its with a rather mixed recent track record with regards to Luceno's writing that I go into this book.

The second thing that scares me about this book is the purported length as listed by Random House as only 224 pages.  For comparisons sake some of the smallest recent novels, Deathtroopers (288), Red Harvest (272), and FotJ: Omen (272).  Hopefully the page count listed by Random House and Amazon (224) is inaccurate and the novel comes in a little longer, however if this is accurate Darth Plagueis will be a pretty short stand alone novel.  Page count isn't everything, the story dictates how long the book ends up being, but it makes me wonder if there was enough story for Luceno to work with, and this leads me to my third concern.

Readers of this site will no that I am not a George Lucas hater as some misguided EU "fans" are.  Growing so attached to the continuity of "their" EU that when Lucas changes something, they feel like it has destroyed "their" universe.  That being said, Plagueis is G-level canon.  He is a character that Lucas created and introduced in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith as part of Darth Sidious' seduction of Anakin Skywalker.  I can't help but wonder if there is some limitation on what Luceno can do with the character that Lucas may want to reference or expand upon in some form himself in the future.  I think this played into the books cancellation the first time and I fear that we may see a less in depth and interesting story as we are expecting given what appears to be the rather brief length of the novel. 

I hope that my concerns are unfounded, but I can't help thinking that this book will never be able to live up to fans expectations...

SOURCES: Random House, WikiQuote

4 comments:

  1. 224 pages! They better not screw this up. Hopefully they will put some more effort into this, assuming they, as u say, are not restricted by Lucas's future ambitions, as this is the most anticipated novel in quite some time. It would be most unwise to take this lightly.

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  2. 224 pages, wait, according to ur source, it is exactly double that. Do they count the number of physical pages or the number of printed word pages?

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  3. I'm looking forward to this book, but I agree the 224 pages that Amazon lists is disappointing. I believe this would make for a great trilogy, honestly. I was hoping for more than just the 1 title.

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  4. Looking again just now, the Amazon page shows the Hardcover to be 416 pages.

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