Dear Darth Plagueis: It’s not you, it’s me

I don’t know why I was surprised when James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis failed to blow my mind.

I bought the book on the release date, but didn’t start it until last Monday – mainly because I knew I’d have to recap the Luceno Facebook chat on Wednesday and I didn’t want to be spoiled for what folks on Twitter were labeling AMAZING REVELATIONS. So I forced myself through it in two days.

And I was not blown away. The revelations? Not that amazing. To me, anyway.

There are no overt spoilers for Darth Plagueis after the jump, though there are some references to the content which may be obvious to anyone well-versed in fandom.

Was Plagueis a good Star Wars novel? I’d put in somewhere in the vast middle, where most Star Wars books reside. Luceno has never been a favorite, but he’s serviceable enough and has yet to make me rip my own hair out. But his specialty – linking up different bits of existing stories in ways that make the detail-obsessed swoon – is totally lost on me. This was only the fourth prequel-era novel I’ve ever finished, not counting any of the movie novelizations. The only prequel comics I’ve ever read were some of the short stories in Tales. (And I only actually remember the funny ones.) The Clone Wars? I’ve watched less than a dozen episodes. So, for the most part, I hadn’t the slightest clue what most of the pieces he was playing with even were. There was exactly one thing that made me eyebrow-raise in Plagueis, and it was something that’s had far more play in fan theories than in anything official.

See, it really comes down to one thing: The prequels? I’m just not that into them.

In some circles admission of that opinion is more than enough to tar and feather me, but contrary to the knee-jerk true-fanism that kind of statement tends to invoke, I don’t really hate the prequels. (Face it: One doesn’t start a Star Wars news blog in 2004 if they hate the prequels.) They’re not my favorite movies, but I have no trouble accepting them as legitimate Star Wars. They certainly didn’t do a damn thing to my childhood memories of the original trilogy, which are weird enough already (Tina Turner is involved.) The truth is that I was never all that interested, never formed any particularly high expectations about things that happened before A New Hope.

In fact, I clearly remember feeling guilty in the mid-90′s because I was looking forward to Zahn’s Hand of Thrawn more than actual Star Wars movies. (The first of what became the duology – Specter of the Past – came out in 1997.) And I’d already learned – thanks to a few substandard gems of the early Expanded Universe – that the Star Wars label does not necessarily mean something will be good, let alone amazing. So the disappointment did not form a large core of bitterness for me: It just became, well, apathy.

Now, I’m not saying that the post-Return of the Jedi era that is my particular focus is better – it certainly isn’t perfect, and I would be the first fan to admit that. (Though that’s another column entirely.) But I’m invested in it – I care, in a way I just don’t about the prequel era. It’s simply the part of Star Wars that matters most to me.

So of course Plagueis didn’t blow my mind. In fact, I’d say my reaction more or less mirrors my original reaction to The Phantom Menace itself: ‘Well. Okay.’ They’re just backstory to the parts of Star Wars that I love. Nothing more.

Is the book worth reading? Sure, particularly if you are really into the prequels, the Sith, continuity and the like. (Your mind may be blown!) Plagueis is by no means a bad Star Wars book, just not one that appeals to me much. Though if you’re not particularly up on the details of the era, it’s easy to get lost, annoyed, or overwhelmed by the various references to vague bits of prequel EU. (I admit to a bit of eye-rolling.) But overall? If it interests you, go for it.

In fact, if anything, the book made me want a Palpatine-focused novel set during the original trilogy. Think Matt Stover is busy?

11 thoughts on “Dear Darth Plagueis: It’s not you, it’s me

  1. Nanci

    “In fact, if anything, the book made me want a Palpatine-focused novel set during the original trilogy. Think Matt Stover is busy?”

    Now, THAT would be something.

    I enjoyed Plagueis. I love the prequels, but my love generally extends only as far as the film and TCW. Like you, I’m most invested in the post-RotJ era.

    Reply
  2. Chris

    Interesting. I wasn’t blown away either, but I’d much prefer to read a book set in The Old Republic era than post-RotJ now (Gave up halfway through NJO).

    I loved the Tales comics, devoured the Bane trilogy (for all its faults) and even worked my way through the Knight Errant novel, which was patchy at best. All that said, couldn’t get into Plagueis.

    And I think it’s something to do with weaving all the loose ends into a plot, rather than create an original story. I personally don’t buy how far into the time frame the Palpatine stays The Apprentice, and would have preferred it not to be as closely tied to TPM.

    I was expecting a story that was less of a prequel to the prequels and more of a story about The Sith, I guess.

    Reply
  3. Aaron

    I am not a big fan of prequel era SWEU but I did love this book. I am a sucker for EU references and details of the history of the Sith so it was right up my alley. It was also nice to learn a little more about what was going on behind the scenes leading up to and through The Phantom Menace. A great book to read before you go see TPM 3D.

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  4. Jason Ward

    I felt the book had me contextualizing things from the films in a different light that was actually positive. I devoured this book and it was a home run for me. I think you’re spot on about being into the prequels making the difference. Because if you’re not, the powerful points don’t really interface with anything that matters to you.

    Reply
  5. Ryorin

    I’ve been considering checking out this book, and it’s nice to know that I won’t be some freak of nature if I don’t like it. I really appreciate hearing an honest opinion of the book from someone else not super invested in the Prequel era.

    Reply
  6. Stooge

    I’m kinda confused by the love for to this book. There was very little plot, very little characterization, and an enormous amount of tying up all the loose ends of the prequels. It was a bit like reading a Wookieepedia article… it fills in some blanks, but it’s hardly entertainment.

    Reply
  7. Nate Tenebrous

    Nice Post. I like that Star Wars is a big enough universe to accommodate all kids of tastes.

    To me this book has the same relationship to the prequels that the Thrawn trilogy had with the first films: namely they are a true continuation of the themes and modes of their respective predecessor trilogy.

    I loved the book partially because I love the political and philosophical sides of the series, the kind of intellectual turn the Sith in the book have, the descriptions of Muun culture; I could go on, but a response is not the best place for a exposition of the book’s strong points and the reasons behind them.

    One thing though. The book really captured our current zeitgeist in the States at least. A banker and a politician conspire to profit by creating heads I win tails you loose situations? Sounds somewhat familiar . . .

    Reply
  8. Aaron 2 ;-)

    I liked Plagueis, because I love Cloak of Deception, and Plagueis is a nice extra on top of it. But I wasn’t blown away, either. Plagueis is an interesting character, and some of book’s links were pretty well set up, but Plagueis’ main failings are the same as those of Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi, etc.: There simply was no punch. When people died, it didn’t impact me, when they schemed, I couldn’t care less. It was always on the brink of making the jump into hyperspace, but it never went.

    >>I’m not saying that the post-Return of the Jedi era is better, but I care, in a way I just don’t about the prequel era.

    I was always wondering, why I never cared much about Obi-Wan, Anakin, etc, and this is indeed it. I don’t care because I don’t care. Sad as it is. Interesting revelation right there. ;-)

    Reply
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