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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams (Based on a story 
by Haden Blackman)
Cover Artist: Front: Petrol Advertising with LucasArts,
Back: Amy Beth Christenson
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345499028
Date: 19 August 2008 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

It is a time of darkness. Emperor Palpatine has crushed the Jedi Order, painting them as traitors and conspirators, and his henchman Darth Vader is sweeping up the remnants. But Vader is not alone in this task.

Vader's protégé, a nameless Sith, is poised to carve a bloody path for his master, but only if he has truly mastered the Dark Side of the Force. However, following the Force offers many twists and turns; no one setting down that path knows where it may end, no matter how powerful they may be.

Such is the situation in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams, based on the videogame story by Haden Blackman. Vader's apprentice, who is nameless for much of the story (apart from his callsign Starkiller), begins the story in a very dangerous position: the Emperor would kill him at once upon learning of his existence, while Vader sends him on missions that cannot help attracting that attention. He is sent to track down and kill renegade Jedi, but he must not be seen, so he ends up destroying lots of Imperial stormtroopers as well.

The apprentice voyages from world to world, piloted by Capt. Juno Eclipse-—once of Vader's elite squadron but now disgraced and hoping to redeem herself—-and accompanied by PROXY, a droid whose job is keeping the apprentice fighting-fit in a novel fashion.

When a mission goes awry, it appears that the game is over for the apprentice… but he learns the hard way that the Sith play to win and the apprentice is a very useful piece indeed. Yet as he proceeds, the game changes abruptly and the apprentice must adapt or die.

The bones of the underlying videogame are evident: the apprentice goes to a new level (planet, space station, empty space), fights cannon fodder (droids, stormtroopers, etc.), works his way across the terrain in the course of a mission, and fights a "boss" (or extra-tough) opponent to end the level/mission, earning or learning new Force skills in the process. Fortunately, Williams proves skillful in building a multi-textured story atop this foundation. He focuses on the relationships that define the apprentice, from PROXY to Juno to those who become his allies in the story. With them as a mirror, the apprentice is forced to consider who he is… and his search for answers becomes first a parallel mission and then an overriding concern, shaping (and redefining) his goals in interesting ways. Little turns out the way the reader might expect.

Williams also makes clever use of some key early players in the Star Wars saga, setting the stage for a very unexpected turn of events as critical moments in history are revealed. If this story is canon (as the novels are meant to be), Star Wars fans will have a great deal to discuss online very soon.

Fans of Star Wars (and the videogame in particular) will enjoy this story, though casual readers might need a bit more background to appreciate it fully. Still, the interplay of heavy duty action with the struggle for self-knowledge and growth offer plenty for the discriminating reader.

Recommended.

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