This Article was originally published: June 30th 2009
Star Wars - The Force Unleashed: The novelisation by Sean Williams
Review written by Steve Ray
I will admit that even though I am a Star Wars fan through and through (I was there in the cinema in '77!) I had some trepidation when Mr. Postman delivered this book through my letterbox.
Now don't get me wrong... my home is filled with many Star Wars toys, comics, DVDs, VHS videos and books... But this is a novelisation of a video-game based on the characters, situations and films created by George Lucas (Try saying that ten times really fast).
Of course I'd have to do some "research" and play the aforementioned video-game first (it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it). The results of said "research" - while great fun - did little to calm my fears. I just couldn't get my head around what someone could fill almost 400 pages with on the basis of this game.
I've been wrong before.
The book tells the story of some of the events between the end of Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith and the start of the original trilogy in Episode IV. Darth Vader is training an apprentice of his own, behind the Emperor's back.
The characters in the book are quite well crafted, in partcular the female lead Juno Eclipse. She discovers early on that Vader and his apprentice are operating without Imperial sanction, and seem to be working against the Emperor himself. The conflict and relationship between her and Vader's apprentice is, to me, the book's greatest strength. Vader is Vader - while he is not the centre of the story, his is a very large presence in this book - but it is the apprentice who takes centre stage. He is already mid-way through his training at the start of the story, powerful, ruthless and determined; his mission to roam the galaxy, hunt down and destroy any remaining Jedi.
The whole premise of making a character who is clearly a villain the heroic lead is a nice touch and probably one of the author's main aims / objectives when putting the story together. His gradual growth and the way he sort of becomes a hero is not mushy or off-putting. The gradual way we learn of his true origin and why he is so powerful is neatly handled, as are some of the twists and turns along the way.
Being a Star Wars fan I got the "in-joke" of the apprentice being called Starkiller (In George Lucas' original outlines before the story was spread over six films, the original name for Luke Skywalker was Annakin Starkiller) and killer by name, killer by nature is what we see for a large part of the narrative.
The Star Wars fan in me lapped up the fake Jedi temple, the names of all the remaining Jedi Masters that Starkiller is sent to hack to pieces and all the alien races he encounters, maims and kills along the way - a veritable who's who of characters barely seen, and sometimes not even named in the films themselves.
Therein lies the main problem with this book. Yes the action is almost non-stop, the characters - while new - are grounded in an existing universe populated by wonderful aliens and androids most of us are familiar with... but not all of us. As a Star Wars fan I found all this easy to take in and visualise, but newcomers to the Star Wars universe - yes there are some out there - or youngsters more familiar with only the latest films in the series could be baffled by a lot of it. Hell... I know some long-time fans who still wouldn't know a Rodian from a Robin Reliant.
I liked the story and found it entertaining, but those not already fully immersed in Star Wars will still have a good, fun read. The story will make sense but some of the references can be ignored, or will go straight over their heads (not necessarily a bad thing). The books fits in very nicely as a sort of "Episode III.V" and shows a more satisfying resolution as to what happened to any remaining Jedi left alive at the end of the most recent film. Juno is GREAT and Starkiller himself a fairly well rounded three dimensional character.
So... If you're not a dyed in the wool Star Warrior the book is still worth a visit, though you could find that other galaxies are more to your liking.
For wannabe padawans - the Force is fairly strong in this one.
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