Sunday, 2 October 2005

Star Wars: Labyrinth of Evil

James Luceno
Del Rey
ISBN: 0-345-47572-0

The Clone Wars have spread across the galaxy, the Republic’s Jedi-led army in constant conflict with the druids of the Separatist forces. After countless battles and the loss of hundreds of Jedi, the war is finally turning. The homeworld of the Trade Federation is invaded and the Jedi heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are there to hunt down the Federation’s Viceroy, Nute Gunray. One of the Separatist figureheads and the being responsible for the Invasion of Naboo thirteen years before, Gunray is high on the Republic’s wanted list, but when he stops to loot his most treasured possessions before fleeing he leaves behind a clue that could lead to the man behind the war: the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious.

As the war rages and the extent of Sidious’ machinations becomes clear, Kenobi and Skywalker must find their way through the maze of deception. Can they uncover the Sith Lord’s true identity before becoming trapped in his web?

As the book leading into the opening scene of a movie entitled ‘Revenge of the Sith’, chances are that the answer is no. ‘Labyrinth of Evil’ is hampered by the fact that all of its surprises and intrigues are pre-empted by the existence of the film to follow. Only a reader with total ignorance of Episode III’s content will get much from ‘Labyrinth of Evil’ and it seems likely that the reader of a Star Wars novel would have anything but. As it is, this novel is a placeholder, designed to fill in the gaps for the sake of completeness.

Still, other similar works have managed to overcome these hefty disadvantages and achieve some level of merit. ‘Labyrinth of Evil’, unfortunately, lets the side down. It is a shallow, dull example of style over substance, a Hollywood action movie in literary form. It reads like a screenplay for Episode Two-And-A-Half, lacking the visual element that makes blockbusters entertaining. The gunfire and explosions never stop long enough for the reader to develop an understanding of the characters, while the constant danger in which our heroes are placed has a numbing effect. Even if the reader did manage to overcome paper-thin characterisation and come to care about Luceno’s versions of Anakin and Obi-Wan, there’s only so much one can take.

The result is a novel that fails to engage the reader on any significant level, the fictional equivalent of white noise in your speakers; you can listen to it, but in the end it doesn’t really mean anything. ‘Labyrinth of Evil’ never rises above filler material, and so I condemn it to my ‘Star Wars Completists only’ shelf.


This review was originally written for SFcrowsnest.com