Review: The Rise of Darth Vader
by James Luceno.
This Sunday is more of an anti-spotlight. I’m only telling you about this book to make you promise you will never, ever try to read it; I suffered quite enough for everybody! First of all, in no sense of the words is this horrible book a “must-read” (as the cover boldly states). Second of all, I bought this book years ago off the $2 rack at Half Price Books; I assume that price had more to do with its missing dust jacket and less to do with its wretched contents–if I’d been paying by content, I would’ve been overcharged. For two dollars, I could’ve bought some trash from a vending machine that would’ve tasted good while it lasted and been instantly forgotten when it was gone, but instead, I bought a terrible book that has left a sour taste long after I was done reading.
James Luceno is the bar-none, absolute worst Star Wars writer to come on the scene of Star Wars novels since 1992. There have been other bad ones, but if I were composing a list of Bottom 5, he would be the bottomest. If one hundred monkeys had gotten into a food fight with a hundred boxes of Alphabet Cereal and a hundred cans of Alphabet Soup, the resulting mess could have been scraped into a better book than this trash. Do not read this book. Pace many of the comments from Goodreads (where this book enjoys a 3.94 star rating explicable only by the fact that Star Wars attracts young people willing to highly rate anything with the words Star Wars tattooed on it), this is not a necessary chapter in the history of Darth Vader, nor is it exciting or even terribly interesting. A Goodreads user named Michael summed it up best by observing that 1/3rd of the way through the book, all it has going for it are a “variety of uninteresting characters,” guaranteed to be dead by the end. Chad, another sensible reader, astutely sums up: “A waste of time. It adds almost nothing to the Star Wars saga, and with the exception of a few pages, tells the story of a group of Jedi I’d never heard of. The character development is so poor that I could barely keep track of who was who, and I certainly didn’t care about them. ”
There are many elements, strung together loosely and called a plot, and this stringing is done by Luceno without much regard to plausibility or possibility. The fact that he didn’t even bother to do any research before starting the project is evidenced in the book’s many errors (most glaringly, but certainly not alone, a bald statement that KDY did not make Venerator-class Destroyers). Enormous chunks of the book are dedicated to Darth Vader thinking about how horrible his prosthetic suit is. While it makes sense that Vader would have considered it uncomfortable (and see the epilogue to Stover’s E3 novelization for a truly uncomfortable take on the breathing apparatus), I found it completely inappropriate that the omniscient voice of the “narrator” was constantly leveling charges against the suit as being poorly, improperly, or inefficiently made; this just makes no sense.
This book is basically nothing but nonsense with a few insignificant details thrown in about what takes place between E3 and ANH. The epilogue between Obi-Wan and Ghost Qui-Gon was so badly done, it was all I could do to finish it without flinging the book away in frustration. I urge you not to waste your time, because that’s all this is . . . an inflated 336 pages full of short, abrupt chapters (some not more than two paragraphs long), wide margins, shoddy character development, and a bunch of lifeless puppets for characters who mill around aimlessly wondering what crimes they committed to get them sentenced to spend eternity in this ridiculous book. Avoid.