In between stints of hard science fiction and golden age classics I decided to rest the brain a bit and feed it with a little fat laden mind candy that’s been sitting on my shelf collecting dust. Little did I know that this particular bit of enticing candy had reached it’s expiration date.
I’m a self admitted Star Wars fan, and George Lucas apologist. I even make it a public point to defend George Lucas from internet trolls. But I cannot defend substandard creations in the Star Wars extended universe, because there’s so much of it. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is imminently substandard.
The story of Shadows was developed as an “interlude” that spans the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In it we learn about the new Death Star being built (foreshadowing Return of the Jedi); how Luke, Leia, and Londo tracked down Han and his carbonite slab; behind the scenes strategy between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine . . . and a lot about the Black Sun criminal element that permeates the Star Wars galaxy (at least in the extended universe).
Prince Xizor is the new antagonist in town, and he wants a piece of Leia’s ass and the Empire, probably in that order. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
In order to gain the favor of Palpatine he must get rid of Darth Vader, who is on a quest to find his newly revealed son and turn him to the Dark Side. Juxtaposed against this is Xizor’s quest to find the young Jedi and kill him. To do so he uses Princess Leia as bait. But while he has her in his clutches, why not knock boots?! Yeah, that’s what every megalomaniac worries about when attempting to take over the galaxy! Now, here’s where the story turns creepy. Leia of course would never be interested in this, she has conflicting feelings for Luke (he brother) and Han (a noble yet roguish hero). So how to get around this? Hmmmmm . . . Oh, I know! It’s such a wholesome message to send to young readers of the Star Wars extended universe.
You see (pay attention here) Xizor secretes pheromones that make women lose all inhibitions and want to do the nasty. Don’t mind that he’s a lizard dude and his pheromones work fine on human women. Yeah, I may be reading too much into it but reading all those passages with Xizor so obsessed with getting it on and using a drug to force her into sex (which comes close, but never happens) was rather appalling to me. In most societies this is called date rape. Steve Perry must be into the kinky stuff because he even has Xizor eyeballing a humanoid droid that is in his employ. Really? A rich and powerful crime lord has to resort to having sex with droids? Just an utter train wreck of a plot line, and it’s a fairly significant one within the book.
“Ultimate victory lies within the grasp of the dreaded Galactic Emperor Palpatine as the tattered remnants of the Rebel fleet desperately seek sanctuary and time to muster new allies.
A grim Luke Skywalker, reeling from Darth Vader’s revelation on the cloud city of Bespin, ponders his own destiny and that of the Rebel Alliance. Meanwhile, the search ensues for Han Solo, captive of the notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
To deal a final blow to the Rebellion, Palpatine has hatched a new plan of which even Lord Vader is unaware. To aid him, the Emperor
has enlisted the services of the vast criminal underworld that lurks within the Shadows of the Empire . . .”
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry
Genre: Science Fiction
Beyond that, this is very mundane Star Wars stuff. There’s bad characterization (beyond the over dramatic Xizor). Dash Rendar is purely a Han Solo replacement. Han is in carbonite but apparently we still need to have the over confident rogue element . . . what would we do otherwise?! Luke is still a bit of a whiny and indecisive kid. Chewbacca is a complete throw away. All he does is fire his bowcaster now and then, growl, and act as Leia’s bodyguard. The only interesting characterization in Shadows is that of Darth Vader. The portrayal of his feelings for Luke, his struggle with the Dark & Light Sides, and his effort to heal his horrifically damaged body through the use of The Force is the only interesting part of this book.
Shadows is rife with Star Wars tropes, much to its detriment. I know it’s comforting to read a Star Wars book and have the Millennium Falcon break down (and have Londo complain it wasn’t his fault), or walk through a sewer and have a dianoga attack (those things sure get around!), but it just smacks of someone recycling what was previously successful and safe. Shadows is also rife with pointless narrative passages; Xizor introspectively eating fruit, Xizor introspectively sitting in a bath tub, Xizor introspectively looking at gardens, Xizor introspectively perving over females . . . please Steve Perry, make it go away!!
Speaking of Steve Perry. The man’s writing is so simplistic it borders on the inane. Yes it’s easy and quick to read, but it’s also non-descriptive, grammatically lacking, and broken in to sections so small that no atmosphere is built. If you asked Steve Perry to write a passage describing the most beautiful sunrise he’s ever seen, he’d write: “The sun came up, and it was pretty.” I just wanted to get through each section so I could get to the end. Maybe my tastes have changed over the years as I’ve been reading a lot of really well written and thought provoking science fiction as of late, but I found Shadows one of the most poorly written books I’ve read in the past 15 years.
Okay, I made it to the end. The entire Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was developed as a massive “interlude” cash grab . . . books, games, comics, cards, toys. The book reads like it. It reads like it was bashed out over the span of four weeks in order to meet an aggressive marketing schedule driven by Lucafilm and their “interlude” concept surrounding the entire project.
The reason I’m giving it two stars and not a dreaded one, is that the story, put in the hands of a better writer, could have been very epic. That’s what we want with Star Wars! Instead we get a mundane “rescue the princess from a pervert who wants to kill the hero” story. I understand that some readers may find Shadows enjoyable. I found it forgettable.
Let the hate flowwwwwwwwwwww through you.
Words © 2013-2022, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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