Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pulp of the Week - Death Star

Japanese Book Cover that I like better as it highlights main characters.

Death Star
by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry - 2007

Death Star takes place in the moments just before and during the events of the original Star Wars - you know, the real one where Luke blows up the Death Star with a proton torpedo shot through a tiny vent the size of a womp rat.

What is interesting about this story is that the heroes of the original story are only minor characters here. The Imperial characters are the leads, especially Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. Leia is also featured.

One of the unique features of the book is that in each of the first twenty chapters a new character is introduced. These include (in no particular order) a bar owner, her bouncer, a prison guard, an architect, a smuggler, a librarian, an ace TIE Fighter pilot, a doctor, and the Superlaser trigger-man.

The tales follows the construction of the Death Star and follows through its life and death. I appreciated that the events of the original movie are not retold (mostly). The book sees those events through other eyes, and shows the effects of them on the characters. I liked the second half of the book far better than the first, but it is tough introducing that many characters without just having a lot of exposition. Once everyone is in place, the story hauls ass.

As I was reading, I first thought the book would be the story of the creation of the Deathstar, but it went farther that that and the characters were forced to consider their part in the war and the in the Empire and make some tough choices. If the authors, Reaves and Perry, had faltered here, the book would have been a bit of a dud. However, as the stakes grew higher, and the choices tougher, the book got better and better.

Grand Moff Tarkin is a strong presence throughout the story and he is written as a ruthless, driven man. Human, but heartless (almost) and played well. Tarkin is somewhat irritated by the presence of the Emperor's domineering foot soldier, Vader. But Tarkin is believable and well written. However, as with Vader, our sense memory of the film's classic performances by James Earl Jones, David Prowse, and Peter Cushing (?) help enormously with the characterizations. Especially Tarkin, who is given some backstory and relationships that are new (to me, anyway.)

This book takes place after Death Troopers and before (and during) Star Wars (the one you younger folks call A New Hope. To me it will always be Star Wars.) I would give Death Star a 7, but the last third gets an 8.5. This is a fun read.

There was one boneheaded reference in the book where there is a blaster battle in a Death Star corridor and reference is made to the walls and floor being coated with a substance that prevents blaster fire from going through to other levels. I think the Empire might have won the war had they used this coating on their storm trooper armor...

For this review I read the hardcover novel from the Burbank Public Library. I'll give Death Star a 7.5 out of 10 for the weird every chapter is a new character for the first half of the book, but an 8.5 overall. This was a fun read and I'll be reading more Star Wars novels.

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