The Force Unleashed II
by Sean Williams
Published by Del Rey
Adrick's Rating: 2 out of 4
As ruthless apprentice to Darth Vader, Starkiller was mercilessly schooled in the ways of the dark side, commanded to exterminate the last of the purged Jedi Order, and groomed for the ultimate Sith power play: assassination of the Emperor. He served without question, killed without remorse, and lost his heart without warning to beautiful Imperial fighter pilot Juno Eclipse, never suspecting that he was just a tool in the schemes of his masters—until it was too late to escape their lethal betrayal.
Juno mourned Starkiller as dead...but now he is back, purged of all memories and programmed to kill. And as fate brings Juno and Starkiller closer to reuniting, with Darth Vader determined not to lose his assassin a second time, they will both have to make a stand. The prize is freedom. The punishment for failing will be eternal enslavement to the dark side of the Force...
The Starkiller is back for another round! And this time we have a tighter, better paced story with an interesting character dilemma. Vader’s secret apprentice, apparently killed off in the first Force Unleashed storyline, returns here as a clone…or does he? Starkiller initially believes that he is a copy of the original, but his emerging memories of the events of the first game lead him to escape from Vader’s cloning labs and reunite with his compatriots Rahm Kota and Juno Eclipse. After escaping, Kota causes him to doubt Vader’s explanation of his survival, and the possibility that he is the original Starkiller emerges.
Ok, I’ll admit bringing back a character as a clone is a cliché. Cloning has been overdone in the Star Wars Expanded Universe since the 90’s when both Heir to the Empire and Dark Empire relied heavily on cloning for their plotlines. More recently, hints that popular villains like Thrawn and Prince Xizor might be resurrected as clones have made me shake my head and sigh. But honestly, this works in The Force Unleashed II. One of the issues I had with the first novel was that Starkiller was just not developed enough as a character to be interesting. The game had Sam Witwer’s impressive performance and exciting gameplay to fall back on; the novel had neither of these elements.
In this story, however, the uncertainty of Starkiller’s true nature is enough to make the character far more interesting and complex. In the end, Starkiller must pursue his own destiny may have to come to terms with the fact that it it doesn’t even matter whether he’s a clone or not. If you simply must bring your one-dimensional main character back as a clone, this is the way to do it.
Sean Williams has also supplemented The Force Unleashed’s storyline with an interesting sub-plot for Juno Eclipse, the Starkiller’s love interest. Williams has a clear affection for the character; she was more interesting than Starkiller in the original novel. Here Williams also takes the opportunity to tie in The Force Unleashed with earlier Expanded Universe stories—this is a welcome change from the first novel, which didn’t stray much from the game’s plot. We see an early overture to the Mon Calamari, the 181st Imperial fighter wing from the X-Wing comics, and the strain building between Rebellion founders Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis.
All in all, The Force Unleashed II is a definite improvement over the first novel—I hope this trend continues!
Unfortunately, despite the added character depth and ties with other stories, The Force Unleashed II is still plagued with the same endless fight descriptions that bogged down the last Force Unleashed novel. Of course, part of the “problem” is that the game’s story is tighter and less sprawling than the last one. It’s a better story, but it is also much shorter story. (This is, I understand, an issue with the game version as well.) Even with the added events on Mon Calamari and the seemingly endless combatant-by-combatant fight narrations, this is still a fairly short novel. Still, I would have rather seen page space devoted to the barely-touched characters like Yoda and Boba Fett, or some of the interesting story revelations that can be unlocked in the game.
There are also a few character moments that stretch credulity, such as Bail Organa’s continued status as a fugitive (are we just going to ignore the original Star Wars radio drama? Really?), Leia’s idolization of Juno Eclipse, and especially Wedge Antilles’s unperturbed reaction to Starkiller jumping on his ship. So hitting a two meter target is “impossible”, but a guy falling out of the sky to hitch a ride on your starfighter is no big deal? Maybe he was drunk that day…
At this point, it’s probably no big secret that this story ends in a cliffhanger, and that the third game has been canceled. It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be seeing the end of Starkiller’s saga anytime soon…and just when it was starting to get interesting too.