Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Review: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Author's note: I was organizing my Google Documents and stumbled across this file. It's the first review I had placed over at TheForce.Net - an event which lead to the creation of not just this blog but also my invitation to join TF.N's Books staff. How it managed to not get placed up on the blog I'm not entirely certain, but it's an oversight that I'm going to correct right now. It was originally published at TF.N on October 4th of 2006.


I must admit something – a lot of recent SW EU has left me feeling, less than thrilled. I remember the visceral enjoyment I got when I read my first piece of SW fiction. I had seen SW novels in the stores, but had passed it over for other more esoteric forms of science-fiction/fantasy. But when I read that first SW novel, I, Jedi actually, I was ecstatic. It was Star Wars, a story of space fighters, Force users, and the noble goal of rescuing the girl. I happily consumed everything I could find in the book stores, my collection bloomed from that single hardback I picked up at a flea market on a whim, to include nearly every novel that had been published by that time. I was thrilled. I was having fun. I even liked the first half of the NJO. But around the time of Star by Star, something happened, a fundamental shift in how things happened in the stories.

Star Wars stopped being hopeful and fun.

The books I use to consume in hours, would now sit for days on a shelf before I got around to reading them. It had gotten so bad, that it was nearly two weeks between the time I purchased Outbound Flight and the time I read it.

Of course there were bright points, Dark Nest was enjoyable and I truly enjoyed Betrayal, reading it that first day I purchased it. I bought Drew Karpyshyn’s Path of Destruction on the Monday before it was supposed to be released. Found it at Books-a-Million, and snatched it up early. Then it sat on the shelf until I took it to my wife’s doctor appointment on the Friday after its release. It’s now early Saturday and I’m kicking myself for not reading sooner.

I expected this book to be depressing, and sad. Just more of the same EU which left me feeling “blah” about the franchise in general. Which is a reasonable expectation; it is a book about the bad guys. Yet that simple concept masks the sheer enjoyment that reading this book brought me.

The first thing that surprised me was the simple fact that Bane is a sympathetic character here. You can see, feel and understand the reason for his joining the Sith, for the decisions he makes and the struggles he faces.

And you root for him to win.

That caught me off guard. I wanted Bane to succeed. I was thrilled as he planned and connived. As he acted like a Sith should. It’s not that Drew pulled his punches, that Bane wasn’t a Sith Lord, doing all the things which that entail. Bane acted Sith, yet I was still able to root for him as the protagonist.

The second thing that I enjoyed was the thoughts about the Dark Side of the Force in this book. The reasons for the Rule of Two. And especially for consideration is how they describe the Force, especially its Dark Side. You learn more about the Sith, the Force, and the Dark Side in this book than 90% of all other Star Wars fiction.

And then there are plenty of things to make the Fleet Junkies happy. New fighters, battleships, scout ships and even land vehicles. A veritable parade of brand new designs that we have never seen before. While I’m not the biggest Fleet Junkie, it’s still enough to make me drool with excitement.

Of course this is not to say that there weren’t some problems with the book. As always there were continuity errors. The biggest was cortosis. It was originally described as a rare, brittle material. Here it is described as a strong material, which dulls the jack hammers used to mine it. Then the events described here for the final battle of Ruusan don’t perfectly mesh with the story produced in the Jedi versus Sith comics. But by far the one which I found the most annoying was the use of Vaapad, some 1000 years before Mace created it.

Yet the few continuity glitches were not enough to detract from the well written plot, the wonderfully devised characters and the general feel of the book. Make no mistake though; this is not a traditional Star Wars story. This is not the swashbuckling hero, walking through the Hero’s Journey to save the day.

This book made me wish that Drew Karpyshyn was the one that had been pegged for the Darth Plagueis novel, and on the strength of this showing, I hope that he gets to write the rumored Sith book for 2008. I cannot reiterate just how good this book is, and how much I enjoyed it.

Sure, for those of us who have read Jedi v. Sith, we know the end result of this book going in, but that simple fact does nothing to negate the sheer enjoyment of the journey which it represents.

It gets a 3.6 out of 4


RJ Peters said...

I loved Darth Bane. It was well written, the topic was different and interesting, and I also was rooting for Darth Bane. It's probably the most fun I've had reading a Star Wars book over the last couple years. It's basically the complete antithesis of my experience reading Star by Star, which I loathed (not for the content necessarily, but the style, pacing, length).

Stephen Wrighton said...

Aye, I felt the same way about Path of Destruction, despite the fact that it wasn't standard Star Wars fare I loved it. Or maybe it was because it wasn't standard SW fare... anyways, I didn't loathe SbS, there were just a whole bunch of decisions which I didn't agree with happening in it.

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