Sep 4, 2018

[Books] Star Wars: Death Star Review

Rogue One is a great movie that tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans of the Death Star and how that battlestation got its fatal flaw. But that's the new canon continuity and not at all what the older Expanded Universe books had crafted as an explanation for the details of the Death Star's creation.

Enter Star Wars: Death Star, which is a Legends book that had come out towards the tail end of the old Expanded Universe and tried to explain some of the stories of the Death Star, but with an unusual focus on the people who were actually on the battlestation that is definitely not a moon.

I only read this book recently after it had spent years in its original plastic while sitting on the shelf. Heck, it sat on two different shelves since I had purchased it before we moved condos - such is the fate of many of my physical books in this digital era of the Kindle and other ereaders.

It was quirky but not that bad. In other words, it's a classic Legends book.

Synopsis: Star Wars: Death Star is a Star Wars book written by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. The book covers events directly before and including events during Star Wars: A New Hope.

The book takes place across the period of the construction of the Death Star around the planet Despayre based around the superlaser technology that had been developed at the secret Maw Installation near Kessel. Apart from the perspective of Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader overseeing the project here and there, the story actually spends more time talking about people who also worked on the Death Star as a project or just worked aboard the station here or there.

The more prominent characters include the smuggler Ratua who manages to sneak aboard the station. He gets into a relationship with Memah Roothes, a Twi'lek who is tasked to run a cantina on the station. There's Dr. Uli Divini, who is a surgeon who had initially been drafted during the Clone Wars and was now retained to serve as a doctor on the station. There's Nova Stihl, an Imperial Marines Sergeant who is also a master of the martial art of Teräs Käsi. And there's Teela Kaarz, an architect who is also tasked to work on the Death Star construction project.

What I Liked: This book is as Legends as any book can get given it's wide variety of practically throwaway characters and references to other Legends books, particularly the Maw Installation, Admiral Daala and her odd relationship with Grand Moff Tarkin. I always loved these interconnections between Legends books as it helped build the Expanded Universe to feel all the more real, substantial and thus richer.

And then you have the fact that this book set out to try and answer the question "What happened to everyone else who died on the Death Star?" It invests a lot of time to really build up these characters, given then decent back stories, relationships and other interconnections and on the whole try to make them matter somehow in the greater scheme of things. Plus the book literally overlaps with events from A New Hope, which is like totally Forrest Gump-ing this story to insert them well into known Star Wars events.

What Could Have Been Better: There is way too much going on and the decision to tell this as straightforward story with a LOT of jumping around character arcs means that you will lost track of the characters. I forgot to cite that other characters with stories include Tenn Graneet, the master gunner for the superlaser and Villian Dance, the ace TIE fighter pilot. How did I forget them? And there's even the Chief Librarian because supposedly they wanted to the Death Star to have a giant laser AND have the most complete library in the Empire? WHY?

I think this could have worked better as an anthology of short stories like the Legends books Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales from the Empire where we focus on each before moving to the big finally. To borrow another reference, this could have been crafted more like the Magic the Gathering novelization of Weatherlight where we had many POV chapters covering overlapping events. Instead it's a straight up story that contrives to get most of these characters together towards the end of the book just so it feels like a payoff for following their individual stories. But it's not quite that great.

TL;DR: Star Wars: Death Star is a clunky book that doesn't hold up well even without thinking about the new canon version of events. It was a noble effort to explore this side of the story but it did so in a very convoluted manner. Thus the book only gets 3 reactions to the power of the Death Star by those who called it home out of a possible 5.


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