Darth Plagueis

April 4, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

plagueisDarth Plagueis by James Luceno


You can tell that “Plagueis” is a name created when Lucas was the only one in charge of Star Wars, because it’s stunningly ridiculous. It doesn’t strike fear into someone the way “Vader” or “Sidious” or even “Bane” would; instead, it would make someone chuckle, as if to say, “Really? That’s the best you could do?” In Star Wars lore, the names are bestowed upon the apprentice by the master, and a name like “Plagueis” makes me envision the naming ceremony as something more suited to a fraternity than knighting. If it had remained just a name uttered in passing in Attack of the Clones, it would be fine, but they had to make it even more prominent by writing a whole book about the guy.

What’s interesting is that the book isn’t just about Plagueis. It is, but it’s mostly about Palpatine’s rise to power. On the one hand, it’s intriguing to see Palpatine’s backstory, to see why he became someone so obsessed with power that he would rise to become the Emperor of the Galactic Empire; on the other hand, we don’t really need to know why he desires the power. It’s enough to know that he craves the power, and that he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to obtain it. The details are immaterial.

With the release of The Force Awakens, I went back and rewatched the entire Star Wars saga, and found that the prequel movies were largely unnecessary. We don’t need to know who Vader was before he was seduced by the Dark Side, aside from the fact that he’s Luke’s father, nor do we need to know what motivated him to turn to the Dark Side. Furthermore, the prequels never convinced me that the events that happened to Anakin could turn him from the innocent, empathetic kid from The Phantom Menace to the man who would rather kill his own son that let him embrace the Light Side of the Force in The Empire Strikes Back. Like the prequels, Darth Plagueis couldn’t convince me to care about Palpatine, and neither did it explain to me why he was so evil. There’s a brief revelation at the end where Palpatine blames Plagueis for it, but it fell flat with me, not just because it wasn’t convincing, but also because if Palpatine really felt that way, why would he continue with Plagueis’ plan after he dies?

What Luceno does well is to create the sprawling history of events that lead up to the beginning of The Phantom Menace. This is the book where we start to see hints of the events that are covered in the movies, so there’s a ton of stuff that happens in this novel. Since Naboo starts out not as a primitive world, but as a world that’s new to the Galactic Senate, it has to grow to the point where it’s worthy of the Trade Federation’s notice, and become the starting point for Palpatine’s machinations. Luceno avoids info-dumps for conveying that information, but he’s still a bit ham-fisted in how he puts certain characters together. The way that Palpatine discovers Darth Maul is just ridiculous, and about as forced and throwaway as Chewbacca’s appearance in Revenge of the Sith. Speaking of which I had to roll my eyes whenever Luceno threw in the phrases “the phantom menace”, “attack of the clones”, and “revenge of the Sith”. He only did it once for each phrase but come on. And if that weren’t bad enough, he also references “a Muun of wealth and taste”. Puns don’t belong in Star Wars.

The end of the book glosses over the major events of The Phantom Menace, choosing to show what was happening behind the scenes with Palpatine and Plagueis. This was a good choice on Luceno’s part, but it made me realize that the broad strokes Luceno used to cover those details were the same strokes he used to explain most of the events of the novel. Like I said above, there’s a ton of stuff that happens in this book, but Luceno’s focus remains on Plagueis and Sidious, meaning we’re just told what happens. It was more like reading a history book than an actual novel.

I waffled over how to rate this book, because while the writing didn’t impress me, the details did. There are hidden details that are there to reward dedicated readers (C’baoth from the Thrawn series makes a brief appearance, and I’m sure there are others I would recognize had I read these books in publication order), and Luceno does his best to tie the story in with all the major points of the Extended Universe. I think it’s a worthy title for dedicated Star Wars fans, but I wouldn’t include it on a must-read list of books from the series.


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