Shadows of the Empire
by Steve Perry
Published by Bantam Publishing
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
Darin's Rating: 4 out of 4
This story takes place at the immediate end of the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK up to the beginning of RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Han Solo has been frozen in Carbonite and taken by Boba Fett to Jabba the Hutt, only problem is, it's not exactly a smooth trip for him. He's got just about every bounty hunter in the galaxy trying to steal his prize, not to mention Luke, Lando, Leia, Chewie, and the gang.
Meanwhile, Xizor (pronounced Shee-zor), head of the criminal organization Black Sun, decides he wants to take the place of the Emperor's right hand man...Darth Vader. One of the main reasons is that Vader destroyed his family and his entire planet. Not very nice, eh? He learns that Vader is after Luke Skywalker for the Emperor and he decides that the best way to win the Emperor's favor is to capture Luke, dead or alive. However, once he learns Luke is Vader's son, he decides dead is better.
Leia learns of the plot on Luke's life and she knows that whoever is behind it has criminal ties. She decides to infiltrate the criminal underworld to uncover who's behind it, but she quickly gets in over her head. It's then up to her buddies to help save her butt.
Here we have all the missing pieces between "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi". Han is frozen in Carbonite. Somehow, Leia has to become Bouush and get hold of some Thermal Detonators (not to mention tone up and get a tan so she'll look good as a slave girl). Luke has to build a new lightsaber and get a lot better at being a Jedi. Chewie has to protect Leia. Lando has to figure a way to get Han back, since he got him frozen in Carbonite. All the ingredients neccessary for a great novel.
This story was a really great idea. I really liked finding out the answers to questions like where did Leia get the bounty hunter outfit, did Luke ever go back to Ben's house, why did so many Bothans die to get the Death Star plans, etc, etc. I thought Steve Perry did a good job developing Darth Vader's character and giving us insight into why he hates Obi-Wan Kenobi so much. Steve Perry also has a great way of writing action sequences and making them come alive. I really liked the X-Wing battle and the Swoop chase. I also really liked the Outrider and Dash Rendar's droid. Very cool! I can't wait to see them in the Star Wars Special Edition! Perry is also good at including humor with his characters. It was an enjoyable Star Wars story.
Darth Vader in action again! Yes! With a competitor, even better! Good old-fashioned tromps through the sewers with all your pals, undercover in the middle of the central complex of the government that has your WANTED posters hanging everywhere. Thermal Detonators (heh, heh, FIRE, FIRE!) A droid that looks like Cameron Diaz and fights like Bruce Lee. (OYoooooWee! You make me wanna walk like a camel!--In case you don't understand that, listen to "Walk like a camel" by Southern Culture on Skids) What makes it better is that it is set between TESB and ROTJ, so there are all kinds of subtle tie-ins with the movies.
SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE was a major multimedia production and you could tell by reading it. You would read one part and you could say "Here's where the video game will have a sequence'", or "Here's where the comics will cover", or "This guy will be an action figure". It took away from the story for me, though I guess my expectations were a bit high. I also felt that Dash Rendar was so obviously a Han Solo clone that I immediately didn't like him, though I suppose there's no reason two guys couldn't act like each other in such a big universe. I was also disappointed by not seeing Boba Fett at all. Princess Leia's logic didn't jive much with me either. Finally, I didn't think Darth Vader was used enough. It felt like the story was leading up to a major confrontation with Vader, and it never happened. Vader was never in any real action. Steve has said that Xizor was no match for Vader, but I feel that, if he was half as bad as he seemed, he could have made Vader sweat a little. Maybe a dogfight with the Virago vs. Vader's TIE, maybe have his stooges mob Vader in a fight, etc. Overall, though, I still liked the book.
I personally thought the whole thing with the droids flying the Falcon was a little TOO comical. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate humor. I'm not opposed to having Threepio and Artoo fly the Falcon, but I think Artoo is a better astromech than he gets credit for here.
Princess Leia kissing that lizard boy, Xizor. Oooh, Oooh, Icky Pooh!
Prince Xizor (what did Leia see in a green guy?). Punk-rock Chewie (need I say more?).