Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Author: Sean Williams
Published By: Ballantine Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had heard about the amazing video game featuring a new Sith apprentice...to Darth Vader...and my brow raised. Hmmm...interesting...never thought that Darth Vader might have taken an apprentice. I thought this would be an interesting storyline for the game. Although I should have, given events from the past, I never expected that the powers that be would enlist someone to write a novel based on the video game...much less two. I decided to start in the obvious place with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams.
The events of The Force Unleashed take place during the construction of the original Death Star and culminate with the birth of the Rebel Alliance. In this novel, we learn that, hidden in an undocumented section of Darth Vader's star destroyer, Vader has secretly been training an apprentice in the ways of the dark side. By the time we meet this apprentice, who goes under the code name Starkiller, he has already been sent on missions to eradicate some of Vader's enemies. He is very strong in the Force and Vader is pleased with his progress. He decides to send Starkiller on one of his most difficult missions yet.
Aided by a talented Imperial pilot with a troubling past named Juno Eclipse and PROXY, a training droid whose primary programming is to bring about the death of his master, Starkiller is tasked with killing General Rahm Kota. A Jedi Master who has been in hiding, General Kota has recently resurfaced and is leading an uprising on Nar Shaddaa. While attempting to kill Kota, Starkiller sees a vision from his past and receives prophetic pronouncements that trouble him.
Uncertain as to whether he has achieved his mission and even less certain of his strange vision, Starkiller is assigned to track down and destroy another Jedi on Raxus Prime. After achieving success here, he moves on to Felucia to hunt down Shaak Ti. It is here that he receives yet another prophetic message: "The Sith always betray one another, but you'll learn that soon enough." He learns this immediately upon completion of his mission when, learning of the apprentice's existence, the Emperor orders Vader to kill him.
But, although Vader seemingly carries out his master's orders, Starkiller finds himself still alive, hopelessly confused and betrayed. Vader sends him out on yet another mission - to pretend that he wants vengeance for what has happened to him, all the while seeking to root out insurrectionists to destroy them for the Empire. But as Starkiller begins this new mission, he is filled with doubts...doubts about his past life, doubts about his master's intentions, doubts about his growing feelings towards Juno...and doubts as to whether he would rather join the resistance movement against the Empire rather than destroy it.
The story by Sean Williams based on the video game script by Haden Blackman is interesting...captivating even. But it does present a ton-load of continuity issues. First, we never before knew of a Sith apprentice to Darth Vader. This, in itself, is not a problem. It's what this apprentice becomes by the end of the novel that - without giving too much away - does present a problem. Also, if we go by this story, General Kota helps to form and lead the Rebel Alliance. This becomes an issue, because, as the story goes, the Jedi have all but been wiped out. All of the living Jedi are supposed to be in hiding. How can the Rebel Alliance have been formed and led by a Jedi if, as is made very clear in A New Hope, they are all in hiding? By the way, wasn't Shaak Ti killed before Anakin turned to the dark side? Also, I found it strange that Starkiller appeared to be even more powerful than Vader himself. I thought we had been indoctrinated into the idea that no one was that powerful.
That being said, there are some interesting things that seem to get cleared up in this novel. In the past, we have heard about various Wookiee uprisings that caused problems while completing the original Death Star. This book offers a glimpse into one such uprising. I also liked how the newly formed Rebel Alliance came up with the insignia they used throughout the war with the Empire. I thought that was a nice touch and tied things up pretty well.
I liked the character of Starkiller and the chemistry that develops between him and Juno so much that I found myself rooting for him, despite his bad guy status, and hoping those two would get together in the end. I found myself laughing at PROXY and his primary programming mission to kill Starkiller, disguised as a number of prominent Jedi, including, of all people, Anakin Skywalker.
I also enjoyed the way Sean Williams' writing style made it easy to picture what was going on. You could tell when, in the game, a player had to try various ways to kill a big bad. It was in the way Williams described the scene. I could almost picture what I would do if I were playing the game.
The action of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was intense, the storyline dramatic with quite a few unexpected twists, and - other than the continuity issues - the book was incredibly enjoyable. I can't wait to read what happens next in The Force Unleashed II.