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Death Star, by Michael Reaves, Steve Perry
Genre: Star Wars
Publisher: Random House
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 1/16/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

Death Star, by Michael Reaves, Steve Perry

Book Review by David Roy

Have you read this book?

So did anybody who watched the original Star Wars movie wonder about the origin of that massive battle station, the Death Star? Or were you intrigued by the image at the end of Episode III, with it slowly being built in the distance as the new Darth Vader, the Emperor, and Tarkin look out the window? Michael Reaves and Steve Perry have written Death Star, the story of not only the creation of the station, but also the Imperial story behind the first movie, all the way up to the station's destruction. Unfortunately, what they've forgotten to give us are interesting characters to wrap the story around.

The Death Star is Grand Moff Tarkin's dream, something that will become the ultimate power in the universe. But of course the rebels are desperately trying to delay, or even prevent, the station's completion. Death Star is the story of the station's destruction, as well as the lives of a few Imperial military people, prisoners and slaves who are forced to work on the station, and a few independent contractors (such as cantina owner Memah Rooths, who is offered a lucrative opportunity to run one of the many lounges on the station as it nears completion). These characters' lives intertwine as the Death Star becomes operational, among the backdrop of the first movie. Will they go down with the station when it's blown up?

While the concept of Death Star is extremely interesting, I have a lot of problems with the execution. Reaves and Perry give us all of these new characters to get involved with, anchoring them with the viewpoints of Tarkin and Vader as well, but they fail to make the new characters very interesting. Of course, they all pair up in various romantic entanglements, and of course none of the Imperial officers we see like what Tarkin and Vader are doing once the Death Star actually starts being used. It would have been nice to have a main character (perhaps not a viewpoint character, but one who is in the same circle as the ones we do get) who actually supports the bad guys. It would have made for some interesting conflict among them. But no, instead we're given a couple of normal military officers who quickly turn once they see the true evil of the Empire.

Because of the overwhelming disinterest I had with the main characters, the building of the station actually is a chore to read. This quickly goes away when Tarkin and Vader are "on screen," as we see just how determined Tarkin is to get the Death Star going. We see his ruthlessness, but we also see a (somewhat, anyway) softer side in his affair with Admiral Daala (I'll give those of you who have a twinge at the thought of Tarkin actually having sex a moment to collect yourselves, but take heart that at least it's all only implied in the book). Vader is sent by the Emperor to help the investigation into a couple of rebel attempts to sabotage the station before it's completed, which sort of explains why he's almost acting as Tarkin's lackey in the first movie. In Death Star, he's willing to let Tarkin's ego take apparent control, but he's ready to step in if necessary.

The book gets most intriguing when the first movie starts. It's almost like getting a behind the scenes look at the events of the movie as we see the thought processes from the Imperial side. Reaves and Perry show us what's going through Vader's head as he senses Obi-Wan Kenobi on the station and during the lightsaber duel. Vader (and Tarkin as well, when Vader tells him) is completely mystified by the way Kenobi disappears after being run through by Vader. It's all very interesting, and these sequences are also the only times the original characters become even remotely interesting as well. Uli Divini, a doctor in the Imperial Navy who just wants to go home but who has had his tour indefinitely extended, has some nice interaction with Princess Leia in between scenes of the movie. The characters start reacting to the events that we've already seen (like the destruction of the planet Alderaan), and realizing what they may have gotten themselves into. The writing of the book also gets a lot more interesting here, as it becomes a bit more action than the more boring set-up at the beginning of the book.

For fans of Star Wars book continuity, there's plenty in Death Star to whet your appetite. There's Admiral Daala, of course, though I'm not familiar enough with all of the books to know whether her relationship with Tarkin was already established. I believe it was, though. Dr. Divini is from the Medstar books, I believe. Reaves & Perry also seem to enjoy implying that their original characters for this book were actually seen in the movie, such as a scene where a corridor in the Death Star explodes during the rebel attack on the station at the end rescuing the doctor from certain death. Thankfully, none of this continuity gets in the way of the story. I appreciated that.

This book would have been a standout if Reaves and Perry had made their original characters interesting. Instead, it takes the action in Death Star, at least halfway through the book, to make this reader become engaged with them at all. Thus, we get an interesting idea, some cool intertwining with one of the movies, and some cool Vader/Tarkin scenes to tide us over until we get to more boring scenes. This makes an excellent book thoroughly average instead. You won't regret reading it, but it could have been so much better.
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