Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
Author: Sean Williams
Published By: Ballantine Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
With the popularity of the first video game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and the media blitz that accompanied it in the form of a graphic novel, a novel by Sean Williams and more, I knew that there was going to be a sequel. And that the sequel would contain Starkiller, even though events in the end of the game, novel and graphic novel seemed to make Starkiller's presence impossible. Having read the Sean Williams novel adaptation of Haden Blackman's video game storyline, I felt I had to read the sequel, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.
In this novel, the Rebellion is in its fledgling stages. Juno Eclipse is a Captain, leading a frigate into various skirmishes around the galaxy in an attempt to harass the Imperials and their Empire. Jedi Master Rahm Kota, frustrated with the inaction and indecision of the Rebel leadership to date, has been formulating and enacting his own missions, hoping to seriously damage the Empire by taking the war to their doorstep. Juno has been secretly helping him in her own way, believing his approach better than the cautious one suggested by Mon Mothma.
Things are going well until Kota's venture on Cato Neimoidia falls apart. Kota's team is destroyed and Kota feared dead. Juno Eclipse is suspended, but that leaves her free to act on a new mission secretly divulged to her by none other than Leia Organa. Should she succeed, her actions will not only secure the assistance of the Mon Calamari and the Quarren and the warriors and ships they can add to the Rebellion, but it could strike a serious blow to the Empire that would send a message to the galaxy.
Meanwhile, on Kamino, a man thought long dead awakens. In the captivity of his former master, the man known as Starkiller finds himself once again facing trial after trial to prove his worthiness to Darth Vader. Until one trial too many sends him over the edge, helping him to remember everything about his recent past and causing him to seek out the one person he feels he cannot live without - Juno Eclipse. Starkiller will do anything to find and be reunited with Juno...even destroy the very Rebellion he helped to forge.
While Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is still an action/adventure novel set in a science fiction atmosphere, this sequel is inspired by the relationship that never truly materialized between Starkiller and Juno. This sequel is a love story with one tormented man struggling with his own identity seeking out the one thing he knows to be true - that he must protect the woman he loves. No matter what insecurities he faces - warring with the dark and light sides of the Force and those seeking to control him - the one thing remains constant: Starkiller loves Juno and can only feel complete with her at his side.
That being said, and putting aside the whole "this is not fitting with the canon of the Star Wars saga" feeling, the reader actually finds him/herself rooting for Starkiller to find Juno Eclipse and prevent her death at the hand of his former master. I enjoyed the action and suspense of this novel and felt that Sean Williams did a great job making these characters and their outcomes important to the reader. I also liked the friendship that blossoms between Juno and Leia and can perfectly understand how this friendship could possibly have influenced Leia's decisions in the future. Another enjoyable aspect was the way that Sean Williams was able to weave both video game endings into this novel. In the game, depending on whether the player chooses to have Starkiller go the path of the dark or light side, the ending is different. Williams expresses this through visions, having Starkiller realize the consequences should he go with his Dark Side tendencies and revealing to us what happens when he chooses a different path.
My problem is with the ending itself which I found not only inconsistent with the Star Wars canon, but wholly unrealistic. All the while, we have been led to believe that the reason Starkiller never seems to die no matter how often he is killed is due to the fact that there are numerous clones of Starkiller and that Vader brings one out of suspended animation as soon as another dies. I can accept that - in fact, that makes perfect sense to me. What I can't accept is someone coming back from the dead without having been cloned. How can someone be dead one minute and, after a series of flashbacks, come back to life.
Despite the fact that Starkiller is amazingly more powerful than any Jedi we have ever met, I find it hard to believe that he might have the power to re-animate the dead. I think, in fact, that the story would have been better had this character (you will probably figure out who I'm referring to, but you can never say I gave away the ending) died. It would have effected Starkiller profoundly and something outlandish could have been done to swerve the novel back onto the Star Wars canon track.
So, in closing, although I found Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II to be an enjoyable action-filled story with a romantic undertone, I was thoroughly disappointed with the ending. When you finish a book and the ending doesn't even come close to being realistic, you find yourself feeling angry and unfulfilled. That was the way I felt when I finished this book at 12am...I actually said to myself, "Really?! That's the way they want to end it? I stayed up late to get to this?!" If you read Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, you will probably poo-poo this review and want to read the sequel anyway...but don't say I didn't warn you!