Book Report: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader


Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader – By James Luceno

Book Report By Vincent

The impossible happened. I loved a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel. I know! It’s crazy, but Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader is the first Star Wars novel since the Heir to the Empire series that I’ve really enjoyed. Sure, I liked a few others here and there, but I had never hoped that I’d like it as much as it as I did.

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader focuses on the brief period of time right after Revenge of the Sith and well before A New Hope. For the layperson that means between the shitty movies and the good ones. It appropriately deals with the rise of Darth Vader as the title indicates. I’ve been meaning to read this sucker for a long time, despite the fact it was Star Wars EU. I liked the idea behind what might have gone on after Revenge of the Sith (I don’t think everything in the book is canon, it would make me go insane if I did). The basic plot of the book aside from the rising part is that there’s a few Jedi that escape Order 66 and they start looking for other Jedi. Then this guy who is all dressed in black starts chasing them down and killing them. That’s about it, but within this framework there’s some cool stuff that happens. The first is that it really gets to what Anakin was thinking and that’s handled way better than it is in the films.

Now here’s where I admit something that I’m rather embarrassed about. It took me a little bit longer to read Rise of Darth Vader than it should have (it’s a rather short one), because… I actually cared about the Jedi characters who were the quarry of Darth Vader. I knew that most if not all of them would come to a bad end and did they. It was painful knowing the entire time that these well meaning folks would bite it, so there were some nights where I read a little less than I normally would. I just wanted to avoid the inevitable.

The Rise of Darth Vader addresses some of the things you might never have thought of when watching Vader look and be all bad ass. What was it like being in the suit for the first time? According to the novel, it’s pretty much a nightmare. Another aspect that I never really thought about is the fact that the military commanders would have to get used to this dude all dressed in black. Just think about the fleet commanders who spent years in school, work their way up the ranks, survive the Clone Wars directing massive battles in space, and then some crazy evil spaceman shows up out of nowhere and has complete power granted by the Emperor. You’d kind of want to know what his credentials were to boss you around. The book does touch a little bit on this, which is pretty cool.

Another area that is addressed that I never thought about before is the issue that nobody knew exactly what happened after Order 66. Obi-Wan and Yoda didn’t really tell many people what went on, since they went into hiding right away. Most of the good guys figure that it was some sort of betrayal, but they don’t get that Palpatine orchestrated the whole thing. They believe that the Clone Wars were legit and that Palpatine just took advantage. It’s a nice touch and it makes sense based on the somewhat shaky framework presented in the movies.

One thing I didn’t particularly care for in Rise of Darth Vader is that there’s no explanation of how the clones who have been depicted as heroes in various media like the Clone Wars cartoons and comic books are suddenly transformed into assholes.   Sure there’s a few that disobey Order 66, but on the whole they are automatically faceless, nameless jerks. Perhaps this was beyond the scope of this book, but it was just weird thinking the same clones who got along with Jedi and seemed to have a perception of right and wrong were all  of a sudden attacking Wookie civilians without a problem. My personal nerdy take on it would be that there was some sort of physiological switch in their brains that was thrown during Order 66. You wouldn’t want soldiers to be completely cold-hearted when you’re the “good guys”, but once you’ve taken over the galaxy you want ruthless jerkbags.

Back on the good track, the last chapter was great. I don’t want to ruin it so SPOILER ALERT! It features Obi-Wan and does an excellent job at explaining just why he kept Luke on Tatooine. That little plot hole is now neatly filled for my tastes.

All in all, if you’re a Star Wars fan do yourself a favor and check Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader out. It’s enjoyable, it’s not very long, and it covers some issues and topics that weren’t explained in the prequel films very well.

I also decided to do a Job Bob Briggs style wrap up, because it’s fun: One evil dude in a robot space suit, decent amount of space combat, no breasts, no beasts, Lightsaber-fu, plank-fu, Wookie-fu, Droid-fu, Dozens of dead clone troopers, Wookies, and droids, bunches of limbs lost, heads do roll, Vincent says check it out.

  • jacon

    this is what i thought the prequels were gonna be about… hunting down jedi and killing ’em!

  • lamartherevenger

    Well, just when I thought it was safe to give up Star Wars books… especially non Tim Zahn books

  • Good report, sir. Could you answer a question for the uninitiated? Are the Stormtroopers in Episodes Iv, V and VI clones? And do any of the Star Wars books deal with the metaphysics of cloning? Do the clones have individual selves? Are they free to make moral decisions or are they determined by the DNA that they receive through the cloning process? And why are they so bad at shooting people? It seems that should be the one thing a clone army should be good at. But what do I know?

  • Mr Jimbo. Well, I’m not the expert I used to be on all matters Star Wars (they changed stuff since I was really into the expanded universe stuff, but this is my understanding):

    1. Stormtroopers are clones, but they don’t all come from Jango Fett’s DNA like the clonetroopers seen in the prequel films.
    2. Sort of. I’ve read a couple of Clone Commando books which deals with a specialized unit of troops and how they feel about war.

    3. Sort of. They do identify themselves by picking names and things like haircuts. Many of the commanders eventually pick out different types of armor to make them different.However, they are all similar in that they serve the republic/empire.

    4. Different clones have different levels of intellectual freedom. The lowest ranks have about no free will, while at the top are the Alphas which are closer to Jango Fett’s mindset and they can get away with a lot more. In between you have commanders, commandos, and the like that have varying levels of free will to enable them to have the flexibility to do their jobs.

    5. If they shot and killed the heroes of the films, then there would be no films. They aren’t so bad at shooting people in the comics, games, books where it doesn’t “matter” as much. You can also look at it like this, when cops or the military in real life get into a shooting battle, literally hundreds of rounds can be shot before someone is hurt, depending on how much cover each combatant has. And the Clone army has amazing aim. They killed a lot of Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. They dispatched battle droids like nobodies business. Its not until you get to the original films where the aim gets pretty bad.

  • Thank you sir. I must say I always loved the explanation given for the poor aim in one of the Star Wars video games (I forget which one, it may have been X-Wing or Tie Fighter, the two I played the most). In one of those you see a poster advertising the recall of the aiming mechanism for the Stormtrooper blasters. It would certainly explain a lot, especially the shooting in a New Hope. Ray Charles would have done a better job than those Stormtroopers.

  • Esbatty

    Guess I’m picking this up to share with Dad. He loves Vader and I love me some EU, so we can split the difference.

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