Story: In the months leading up to the activation of the Empire’s devastating new space station/weapon, the Death Star, a variety of people find themselves aboard the immense vehicle, discovering that it’s practically opulent compared to other Imperial installations (or Imperial prisons for that matter). But when the time comes for the Death Star to unleash its full power upon defenseless worlds populated by countless innocent lives, all in the name of restoring the Emperor’s vision of “order”, they each begin to rethink their lives as cogs in the Imperial machine…and some even dare to dream of joining the Rebel Alliance, if only they can escape the confines of the Death Star itself.
Review: Remember the Babylon 5 TV movie In The Beginning, which demonstrated that nearly all of the show’s main characters had met at some point in the past, even if they didn’t remember those meetings ten years later? Combine that with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what “Death Star” is all about: a diverse group of characters who, just as their stories are getting interesting on their own, suddenly have to intersect with the events of Star Wars (or, for you insistent revisionists out there, A New Hope).
Some of these intersections are quite interesting, while others are the kinds of mangled messes one gets if all the lights at an intersection turn green simultaneously. Quite interesting: the insights into the mind of the man who was charged with the task of physically punching the button that blotted Alderaan out of existence. That’s actually some pretty meaty stuff, handled well, and made all the more juicy by the fact that this character – a former Star Destroyer gunnery chief – wanted to transfer to the Death Star at the beginning of the book, because it was simply the biggest weapons post in the Empire, the capstone on his career. Quite messy: trying to shoehorn another character – who just happens to be Force-sensitive (just like, it sometimes seems, every sixth person in the expanded universe) – into the scene where Han and Chewie chase a platoon of stormtroopers through the Death Star, and almost wind up on the business end of their blasters. It seems here as though the authors are trying to justify the “Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors!” gag, but it felt to me like they were trying too hard.
Speaking of revisionism, numerous scenes from the movie are recounted in loving detail here, only this time we get to see them anew from, say, Vader’s point of view, as he idly wonders why Leia reminds him of Padme, and fumes over Obi-Wan Kenobi vanishing into thin air rather than having the good sense to fall dead at his feet. Some of this stuff I wouldn’t have a big problem with if it was just there for context, but there’s a big part of me that thinks that re-imagining motivations, reactions and internal dialogue from the original trilogy in light of the prequels should be left to the imagination. I’m sure I’m the only one who feels this way, though – at the very least, if you’re going to examine very-well-known scenes from another angle, make sure it’s a very different angle.
Some of the occasional clunkiness that occurs when new scenes and characters rub elbows with the first movie is surprising, considering that Steve Perry (not of Journey fame) is one of the better-known authors when it comes to jamming whole new stories into some of the tighter nooks and crannies of the Star Wars universe (he wrote “Shadows Of The Empire”, which jammed whole new epic stories in between Empire and Jedi). At the very least, the amount of expanded universe continuity that gets name-checked is staggering, from references to Perry’s own “Shadows Of The Empire”, to vague mentions of the influence wielded by General Tagge’s family (a reference to the Marvel Comics of the ’70s), to Raith Seinar (from “Rogue Planet”), to the 501st, to teras kasi. A little less impressive is the jokey alias “Teh Roxxor” used by one of the characters; fortunately, that little hacker-speak gag peters out as quickly as it’s introduced.
It’s an interesting enough book, and the original characters introduced here are worth following (man, I can’t wait to find out what all of them were doing at the battles of Hoth and Endor!), but the attempts to shoehorn them into the adventures of more well-known Star Wars characters seem a bit ham-fisted at times.
Authors: Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
Publisher: Del Rey / Lucas Books