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?