Darth Plagueis Co-review
“Somewhere a fan shouted ‘Give us more politics!’ and James Luceno listened.”
Synlah: The above joking aside made to me by a friend and fellow Star Wars devotee pretty much sums up Darth Plagueis. If you just haven’t had enough politics in your Star Wars fandom, this book is the book for you. I don’t think there’s a single group mentioned that doesn’t get a political angle in this book. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I was left wondering, between Darth Plagueis and the Iowa Caucus, if I was going to OD on politics.
Political overload not withstanding, the book is interesting if a little low on action. But Luceno is confined by a lot of canon here. He can’t have Plagueis or any other Sith do much of anything out in the open because the entire book is a buildup to the movie canon of The Phantom Menace. Luceno manages it well; Nevertheless, two of my favorite scenes are when Palpatine/Sidious cuts loose and kills. He is one seriously dangerous fellow.
Skuldren: It can’t be over emphasized enough that there is a lot of politics in this book. If Shadow Games was the mystery thriller of the EU, then Darth Plagueis is the political thriller. Never before have I read a Star Wars book that focused so much on politics. When Synlah says nearly every group gets a political angle, she means it. Darth Plagueis includes Gran politics, Hutt politics, Muun politics, Naboo politics, Trade Federation politics, Senate politics, Outer Rim politics, Core politics, Jedi politics, and of course Sith politics. The book covers the time from Plagueis’ rise to Sith mastery all the way to the last scene in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In between those points is a long build up of political maneuvering to place the Sith’s Grand Plan into its final stages.
In between chapters of politics, there are a few moments of action in the book. Darth Plagueis and his apprentice Darth Sidious did not ascend to power without a few hiccups that required some slaughtering here and there. Yet these moments are like islands in a sea.
Synlah: I have a sneaking suspicion that Leland Chee might actually go to Luceno for lore verification. Luceno’s depth of Star Wars knowledge is really that awesome. He’s peppered the novel with aliens, lore, and thoroughly tied it in to both the EU, movie, and The Clone Wars canon. In fact, I had the feeling while reading the book that Luceno was reinforcing G Canon. For the uninitiated, G canon stands for George canon. It’s the highest canon in Star Wars and if there’s a conflict with book (C) canon, G canon supersedes it. The canon of the current animated The Clone Wars is T (for television) canon and just below G canon.
His portrayal of Maul is a prime example. Maul is definitely the Maul of The Phantom Menace. Basically he’s an enforcer, and that’s exactly the vibe The Phantom Menace gave us regarding Maul. Ditto with the glimpses of Dooku we get. Poor Dooku; he was always nothing more than a place holder, and it’s the same thing in Darth Plagueis. But the really interesting bit of reinforced G canon is in regards to Anakin Skywalker’s origins. Luceno finally answers that question, and the “created by a Sith” theorists are probably not going to be happy about the revelation.
Of course, there is still some original stuff added to the novel by Luceno. Most intriguing is the tear in the Force created by Plagueis and Sidious. It’s intriguing because it helps explain the Jedi blindness, but also because Luceno kept it very vague — on purpose I’m thinking.
Skuldren: Spoiler territory, but actually, in a way, the Sith indirectly, accidentally, made Anakin.
But yeah, Luceno put in a ton of lore into the book. There are probably more aliens in this book than any other Star Wars novel. From Cereans to Ryns, there are dozens and dozens of species throughout the entire book. In fact, there are more aliens than humans, be it named characters or just mentioned characters. The lore itself goes a long way in reinforcing G-canon, as well as tying into The Clone Wars TV show, plus various nods to comics.
One flaw with the book, though, is just how much time is spent on lore and politics. It all comes at an expense of action and there is a serious lack of exciting or even dramatic scenes. Small things like Sith powers don’t get much attention. Plagueis and Sidious do exhibit their Force powers in a few scenes, but it was a bit underwhelming. For Maul fans who saw the back cover, don’t expect to see him in action showing off how awesome he is. For fans who are expecting to see Plagueis in all his mythic glory, be prepared to see only a few moments of that glory, and a whole lot of mundane events. Sidious gets the same treatment. They each have their moments, and they each get overwhelmed in a lot of plotting.
Synlah: Okay I’m just going to have to protest here because you really shouldn’t give false hope to certain segments of fandom, Skuldren ;). The Sith did not make Anakin, not even accidentally. Their actions did, however, result in the Force moving to restore balance by creating Anakin. And it all has to do with that tear in the Force, which we really don’t know much about.
But yes the one flaw with the book is a lot of time spent on politics (sorry to keep beating that drum, but I didn’t write the book). Still, I think it’s more to Luceno’s credit that he turned out such a book amidst such confinement. One interesting twist Luceno does present is that the Rule of Two is finished when it comes to Sidious and even Plagueis recognizes that. To further the twist, after 1,000 years of secret machinations, it’s Plagueis who finally realizes — just a bit too late, that the Force isn’t going to allow it. Plagueis may view things from a very Sith perspective, but he is Plagueis the Wise and he does realize that the Force will find a way to achieve balance. Unfortunately, as he realizes this and is set to act, his apprentice does what Sith apprentices do. It is a bit of neat circular plotting because in killing his master, Sidious has helped to engineer his own eventual downfall.
Skuldren: Here’s my thoughts on Darth Plagueis: it did a great job at filling in a huge gap leading up to The Phantom Menace. It filled in a ton of lore for the Expanded Universe. It would make a great ‘Essential Guide’ type book due to the huge amount of info in the novel. However, it doesn’t have the level of excitement, thrill, or drama to entertain a reader from cover to cover.
Synlah: I enjoyed this book as much for what Luceno achieved within such confining parameters as I did the excellent lore-filled writing, but if you’re looking for a thrilling Star Wars novel, this isn’t the book you’re looking for.