The Force Unleashed
The overthrow of the Republic is complete. The Separatist forces have been smashed, the Jedi Council nearly decimated, and the rest of the Order all but destroyed. Now absolute power rests in the iron fist of Darth Sidious—the cunning Sith Lord better known as the form Senator, now Emperor Palpatine. But more remains to be done. Pockets of resistance in the galaxy must still be defeated and missing Jedi accounted for…and dealt with. These crucial tasks fall to the Emperor’s ruthless enforcer, Darth Vader. In turn, the Dark Lord has groomed a lethal apprentice entrusted with a top-secret mission: to comb the galaxy and dispatch the last of his masters’ enemies, thereby punctuating the dark side’s victory with the Jedi’s doom.
Since childhood, Vader’s nameless agent has known only the cold, mercenary creed of the Sith. His past is a void, his present, the carrying out of his deadly orders. But his future beckons like a glistening black jewel with the ultimate promise: to stand beside the only father he has ever known, with the galaxy at their feet. It is a destiny he can realize only by rising to the greatest challenge of his discipleship: destroying Emperor Palpatine.
The apprentice’s journeys will take him across the far reaches of the galaxy, from the Wookieee homeworld of Kashyyyk to the junkyard planet of Raxus Prime. On these missions, the young Sith acolyte will forge an unlikely alliance with a ruined Jedi Master seeking redemption and wrestle with forbidden feelings for his beautiful comrade, Juno Eclipse. And he will be tested as never before—by shattering revelations that strike at the very heart of all he believes and stir within him long forgotten hopes of reclaiming his name…and changing his destiny.
Adrick: Reviewing a novelization like The Force Unleashed is difficult. The video game on which it is based is all about spectacular graphics and game play, with a somewhat nonsensical storyline contrived mainly to give players as many chances to cause massive destruction as possible. Stripped of the impressive visuals, cinematics, and gameplay, the tale of Starkiller the Secret Apprentice is a little tedious, and it doesn’t help that many of the events surrounding the formation of the Rebel Alliance in this book fly in the face of sources like the original Star Wars radio drama.
Having never played the game, it is difficult to disentangle the flaws of the game’s storyline and the novel. Sean Williams seems to have written a fairly straightforward adaptation of the game. Starkiller faces down Jedi after Jedi, all of which are potentially intriguing characters…but we never see the battles from their perspective. It would be interesting to know, for example, what madness caused Kazdan Paratus to construct an entire Jedi Temple out of junk and populate it with Jedi droid doppelgangers…but this bizarre eccentricity is quickly dismissed as Starkiller moves on to yet another mission.
Williams does a better job with the main characters: Starkiller, his pilot Juno Eclipse, and PROXY the training droid. Eclipse had seemed like a rather superfluous character to me (Darth Maul didn’t need a pilot, after all…) but Williams provided enough background and depth to make her genuinely interesting. The relationship between Starkiller and Eclipse seemed rushed and forced, however—it was never entirely clear to me what attracted them to each other.
Starkiller is just a challenging character to relate to. Williams does his best to explore his thoughts and feelings, but the Secret Apprentice is no Kyle Katarn or Darth Revan. I’m not sure if the problem is that he’s too much of a blank slate, or that his slate isn’t blank enough. He has a definite name and identity, but no real character traits. His past is revealed, but it is essentially irrelevant to the plot—in fact, Starkiller doesn’t get the chance to discover much about his past at all. And because Starkiller is so powerful to begin with, he has little to learn. His character doesn’t develop so much as shift allegiances.
All things considered, I think that The Force Unleashed will make for a better video game than a novel. Williams has written a fairly competent adaptation, but nothing on the order of Karen Traviss’s The Clone Wars or Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith.