The Force Unleashed

September 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

forceThe Force Unleashed by Sean Williams


I’ve only read one other novelization of a video game: The Dig by Alan Dean Foster. It made sense that it could be translated to a novel easily enough, since it was a graphic adventure game that had its own plot. The Force Unleashed is another novelization of a video game, and it’s less than impressive.

The story is about Starkiller, a powerful Force user trained by Darth Vader himself as an apprentice so the two of them can kill the Emperor and rule the galaxy together. Starkiller isn’t even his real name, either; oftentimes he’s just referred to as “the apprentice”, which was distracting and somewhat annoying. Amid missions, Starkiller is also searching for his identity, while he jets around the galaxy with his training droid and a pilot.

The main problem is that the game is a series of missions where the player has to achieve a particular goal in each one. Williams approaches the novel in the same way, giving us sections of missions, each part of a larger story, but the larger story seems inconsequential compared to the individual missions. The missions themselves are fine — they each have a distinct beginning and end — but the overall book feels lackluster because we shift focus so often.

In addition, the characters don’t make a lot of sense. Starkiller is a powerful Force user, clearly serving the dark side, but the story wants to show some redemption. I might be misremembering parts of the story, but it seems like his saving grace is that he hasn’t killed anyone yet, and it’s that act that will truly take him to the dark side. For him to have been trained by Vader, though (and for how long? In this point in the chronology, it seems like Vader has only been ruling for a few years, but this is our first time seeing Starkiller, who’s been apprenticed to him since he was an infant), it’s hard to believe that the opportunity hasn’t come up yet.

The ending of the story also contradicts the canon (even outside of Legends versus Canon), in that the entire story has been a plot for Starkiller to find and reveal the key players in the Rebellion, Bail Organa among them. By comparison, it seems odd that Vader plays a cat-and-mouse game with Leia in Star Wars when he already knows her role in the Rebellion, according to this book. I get that the movie came first, but I wonder why the story tried to shoehorn such a major character into the canon, especially when it didn’t jive with what already existed. None of this is Williams’ fault, either, since he was writing a novel using someone else’s story.

Maybe the game is interesting, but as a novel, The Force Unleashed is disappointing. There’s another book down the line, which is the novelization of the sequel to this game, and I’m hoping it will improve, but if the author is going to have to follow the game script, I imagine it will be more of the same. We’ll see.

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