Labyrinth of Evil by James Luceno


I’m not a huge follower of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which consists largely of printed publications. Very few Star Wars stories that were not concocted by George Lucas himself pique my interest anymore. I liked a few in the beginning, like Tim Zahn’s first trilogy and a few others, but it takes something a bit more epic to make me me to go out and buy a Star Wars book these days. A book that directly leads into one of the films would be a good example, and that’s what Labyrinth of Evil is—so I picked it up.

Labyrinth of Evil neither underwhelmed me nor blew me away, but I did think it was a decent effort by James Luceno, a favorite of many Star Wars fans.  I have only read a few of the relatively recent books like Vector Prime. This one seemed to fit in nicely with books in that vein: straightforward, action-packed, and easy to read. It’s not the kind of book where you lose interest easily. The chapters are short (some are a whopping two pages) and the story moves from subplot to subplot at a good pace. There’s really no time to lose interest because just when one thing gets going, you’re thrown into something else, and then it’s basically a ping pong match for the rest of the book. I’m sure there are people who don’t like this but I found it quite fun. It’s like short bursts of action, one after the other.

One of the other things I liked about the book was the attention given to Darth Sidious. The Dark Lord has been largely ignored thus far in the Expanded Universe (as far as I know) so it’s nice to have him and his alter ego as major players in the story. Count Dooku even has a few interesting scenes. Luceno also delved into the back story of General Grievous. This is the book to read if you want to know exactly what happened to him, how be came mostly robotic, and who was responsible. Grievous has a few key fight scenes with some big guys like Mace Windu and Kit Fisto, but again, they’re very brief, much like everything else in the book. Nothing really drags on for too long.

I liked the way the book brings you right up to the doorstep of Episode III. Knowing the plot to the film, it definitely puts some of the scenes in perspective, knowing where things are going and what’s going to happen later. There are references to C-3PO’s memory wipe, Bail Organa’s offer to help Padmé any way he can, and many other tie-ins to both the Prequels and even the Original Trilogy. Obi-Wan even deactivates a tractor beam and uses the same trick he used in Episode IV. There are a lot of nice little moments like that in the book which fans will enjoy.

On the other hand, I found some of the banter between Obi-Wan and Anakin to be disinteresting. In fact, many of the scenes with those two didn’t thrill me at all. I’m not sure why that was but I know that I was definitely more interested in the chapters with Palpatine, Sidious, Mace Windu, Dooku, and Grievous than the ones with the two main characters. That’s another reason I was glad the chapters were so short. You didn’t have to wait too long to get back to something you like.

I wasn’t overjoyed with all the references to other Expanded Universe items like the books and even the Clone Wars cartoons. This may be because I don’t read the books all that often, but every nod or mention seemed gratuitous. If you removed every one of them, it would have no impact on the book at all which makes me wonder if there’s some plan to perpetuate a big, cohesive universe, but how long can that be sustained?  It’s especially frustrating if you haven’t read the stuff and have no desire to. There were multiple mentions of a previous meeting/duel between Yoda and Count Dooku which is from another book. The way the passages are written, it’s assumed that you’ve read these works. One or two of these kinds of references wouldn’t bother me but after five or ten it got a little annoying.

There were many (quite obvious) parallels to things like 911, terrorism, President Bush’s controversial first term, and other aspects of politics. It wasn’t anything all that bad but the parallels were there and it took me out of the book for a little bit. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the word Coruscanti. I’m not sure who started this or if Luceno created the word for this book, but not only is it overused but what a silly word. It means “people who inhabit Coruscant” and I understand the use here, but I have to admit that every time I saw it, I cringed and mumbled to myself. I have no idea why. I just hated seeing that word. It made the people sound like a school of fish or something.

On the whole, Luceno had a job to do. He was given the task to lead us into Episode III with a fun read for fans and casual readers. I can safely say he got the job done well.

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