By Kevin J. Anderson
12.5 years after ANH


This book by Kevin J. Anderson provides the second installment in a loose sort-of-trilogy with author Barbara Hambly's two books, Children of the Jedi, and Planet of Twilight.


Darksaber has Hutts, Imperials, and Jedi in peril. Renegade Imperial Admiral Daala is back, and she is more determined than ever to unite the fractious Warlords and remnants of the Empire in an all-out stab at the New Republic. She enlists Vice Admiral Pellaeon…Captain under Grand Admiral Thrawn in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy…to make a multi-pronged attack against the security and tentative peace forged by the still-shaky Republic. Included in her plans for mayhem, is Yavin IV, and the obliteration of Luke Skywalker's recently-established Jedi Academy. Luke, meanwhile, is preoccupied with his new love, Callista (see Barbara Hambly's Children of the Jedi for more information on this), and with Callista, Luke is traversing the universe in search of a means to help Callista re-acquire her lost Jedi powers. And lurking in the Hoth asteroid belt is nefarious gangster Durga the Hutt, who has hired former Imperial engineering genius Bevel Lemelisk, one of the chief designers of the Death Star, to make a newer, better, bigger weapon…the "darksaber" of the title…to further Durga's plans for galaxy-wide domination.




Oh golly…where to begin…

We have an army of suddenly, ridiculously canny Wampa(s), directed by a one-armed, revenge-driven, leader. We have ludicrous Taurills…picture chimpanzees with extra arms…in space suits. We have several fat bad guys; when you're naughty, ill intent obviously manifests itself in eating disorders. We have horrible, turgid metaphor by the truckload: "the countdown continued like an avalanche of diminishing numbers", or, her "mane of hair flowed behind her like a comet's tail". URK. We have cartoon characters, dialogue, and plotting. Darksaber is simply and completely a mess. It is not only poorly written; it is condescending. Let's take superficial traits…Levelisk constantly checking to see if he's shaved, Durga slurping gross food-stuffs, another bit-player's pomposity…let's take these "tics", and use them as sole definers of personae. Every time Qui Xux looks at something, she looks at it with "her wide, indigo eyes". Every time Callista is on the scene, she looks around with her "gray eyes", and tosses or runs her hands through her "malt blond hair". Admiral Daala's hair is always molten or fiery, her vision somehow affected by her eyes being emerald. As if these trivial features give a character dimension or realistic identity, or that the color of their eyes, incessantly reiterated, affects what they're seeing. And to top it all off, let's use tidbits from the movies and from the other novels as flash-cards to wink knowingly at the supposedly easily-mollified fanboy reader, as if to say "see, we know what you want, and we know all that you require to hold your interest."

Not only is the writing sophomoric, but there's so much padding, t'boot. Why do Luke and Han have an extended, untidy early sequence where they ride with Tusken Raiders on the way to extract some info from Jabba's Palace? Why not just land the Falcon at Jabba's lair, and be done with it? Why does C3P0 give a book-report about Hutts to people he knows already know all about Hutts, and why do none of these people stop him? And everything is over-rationalized, over-explained, and over-recapped. This is not a trilogy; this is one, not-particularly-complicated story. We remember what happened three chapters ago. We get why each, simplistic event is taking place. We get it. The characters get it. The only one who apparently doesn't get it , is the author.

And lest we forget one of the primary rating criteria, character voice, the core protagonists are practically unrecognizable. They have no spark, no warmth, and no depth. Everyone is like a cardboard standee of themselves. Luke, especially, should sue.

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, Kevin Anderson thanks several of the wonderful authors who provided assistance in scribing this tome. This seems a case of the axiom "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink." In a sort of inversion of how the Wizard of Oz doled out brains, courage, etc., from Michael Stackpole, Anderson should learn space battle description, from Barbara Hambly he should study characterization and realistic, grown-up dialogue, and from Timothy Zahn, Anderson could ingest the skill needed to weave an engrossing, believable, multi-layered plot.

The good news is, that most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe literature is marvelous. How many novels have there been? 40? More? The range of enjoyability and writing acumen for 90% of the EU runs the gamut from good to great. The bad news is that there are two exceptions: The Courtship of Princess Leia (see that review for details…and by the way, Kevin Anderson should write a thank you note to COPL author Dave Wolverton; Only COPL makes this book not the worst the EU has to offer), and Darksaber. Hey, two bad apples in such an excellent crop is not a terrible track-record for the EU. As with COPL, Darksaber sits smack dab in the middle of the timeline, in too prominent a position to totally ignore. But as with Courtship, you are advised to flit quickly through Darksaber, pick up some salient plot points, and move on post-haste to the next book in the continuum, Planet of Twilight. Extended exposure to this piece of tripe could be harmful to health and intellect.

© May 1, 2000 by Karen Ross AKA "Queen of the Dweebs"