Review: Maul: Lockdown is no letdown

Maul: LockdownMaul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber is out today, and fans of the Dark Side should rejoice. Lockdown delivers a can’t-put-this-down tale of scum and villainy.

Set before The Phantom Menace, Lockdown has Darth Maul sent undercover to infiltrate a space station prison to find an elusive arms dealer operating out of inescapable penitentiary. Maul quickly becomes a contender in the warden’s profitable prison fight circuit, but there’s more to finding someone who doesn’t want to be found in a prison than just cracking heads all the way to the top. Plus, more than just prisoners and guards lurk in the dark confines of this station. And throw in Jabba the Hutt, dangerous cultists, and Darth Sidious scheming under his own master’s nose.

Darth Maul has gone through a renaissance in the past few years – he has gone from being the weapon of rage back in 1999 in The Phantom Menace and the related EU (Michael Reaves’ Shadow Hunter & Ron Marz’ comic), to his resurrection on The Clone Wars (along with Tom Taylor’s Darth Maul: Death Sentence and James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis) as some one able to scheme his way into power as he seeks vengeance on both Obi-wan Kenobi and his old master, while taking on his brother Savage as his own apprentice. And now this year, we get more of Darth Maul, with Lockdown and the upcoming Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic. Maul: Lockdown adds to this modern character and builds some of Maul’s roots as a plotter as this mission tests his abilities to not only survive but achieve his objective before time runs out.

Minor spoilers beyond this point.

I enjoyed reading Lockdown quite a bit. Schreiber brings his own voice again to the Star Wars galaxy, this time taking on a major saga character as protagonist, and getting into his head at an earlier state of his development. At this point Maul is not fully tested, and this mission brings an additional challenge: to maintain his cover, he is ordered from using the Force. And he has to track down a being who is only rumored to exist, and no one is talking. And so Maul has to do something that we wouldn’t expect ol’ tattooed-and-creepy to do: make allies and fit into the pecking order in a prison where guards hold a kill switch over everyone’s head.

Maul-Lockdown-CagematchThere’s a lot of scum and villainy in this prison/pay-per-view fight center, and even something more horrifying in the dark spaces between cells of Cog Hive Seven, but there is a good mix of characters – even one or two that might be considered ‘decent’, and a few that are definitely on the crazy side of the tracks. Plus we get more interaction between Darth Sidious and Darth Plagueis as the apprentice walks a fine line to keep his master from finding out the real mission that Maul is on, while Plagueis has his own agent in place. There’s intrigue! There’s action as Maul is forced to duel to the death for the profit of the warden and her whiz-kid brother. And since Joe Schreiber of Death Troopers and Red Harvest is at the helm, there’s also some monsters! Not really any romance – just maybe a little hero worship. And there’s Jabba the Hutt being awesome.

While I enjoyed going on this ride, I felt the climax to be a little rough. A lot of things collide, and I felt like I missed a piece or two relating to the motivations of some of the characters who figure prominently in the end. Still with the last third, when the Sith hits the fan, the ending is both action-packed and provides some growth for the characters. And if you’re a fan of the Expanded Universe, there are some neat nods here and there.

If Sith Lords are your specialty, get this book! And if you’re a fan of scum and villainy, the denizens of Cog Hive Seven makes the Mos Eisley Cantina look like Alderaan.

Maul: Lockdown is on sale today, January 28, in hardcover, ebook and audio versions. Want to check it out before you buy? Try the first fifty-some pages for yourself.

Grade: B+

An advance copy of this book was provided by Del Rey/Random House for review.