GTW book review:  Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

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First of all, screw you for judging me.


Anyway, I sent this as an email to some friends a few weeks back, but decided that ultimately this site is supposed to be about geeks and their obsessions. So even though none of you (not already on that email list) will read this much less care about it, I’m posting it for posterity.


I haven’t read a star wars novel in a very long time. I was into them in college after the Timothy Zahn trilogy came out, the supposed parts 7-9 that Lucas had authorized. But in the last ten years I’d grown tired of being a well-read fanboy and kind of lost interest.

I’ve always wanted to start reading “The New Jedi Order” books, which are all about the Solo and Skywalker kids, etc. But they’re so detached from what I really love, which is the core characters from the films.

Before the third of the new movies came out, Chris and I got the audiobook for the prequel to Revenge of the Sith, called “Labyrinth of Evil.” It was unabridged and somehow I just couldn’t keep listening to it. It was hard to concentrate while driving, etc. Very dense. A lot of what you’d expect – detail about starships and such.

But I’d heard good things about the author. I’d also tried listening to the audiobook for Revenge of the Sith, because I was told there were great details left out of the movie (of course) of plot and character development that were interesting. There were a few examples of this, especially the Jedi discussing (and arguing) about the Sith plot that was just under their nose, but the rest of it was very dense and again I trailed off.


On a whim I picked up a seven-dollar paperback of “Darth Vader: Rise of the Dark Lord,” a sequel to Revenge of the Sith. I read it in about four or five sittings and actually had so much fun I wanted to recommend it. If you still love these movies overall and there is still a fan inside of you who wishes these prequels were better, it’s a cheap, a quick read — and it really DOES expand on a lot of the best dynamics of the third movie, and provide the kind of inner dialogue and detail we wished were in these scripts.

Basically it’s a deneumont to the third prequel, in which we learn a lot more about the Palpatine/Vader relationship. It’s not rocket science, the novel won’t blow your mind – but it’s SO FUCKING COOL to find out what it’s like for a man to live inside that massive suit. There are some great details that will forever make me change (and you have to decide if this is a good or bad thing) the way I feel when I watch Vader in the movies. It’s not that it makes him seem weaker, just that you have more empathy for him in general.

Essentially it goes from Anakin still having conflicted emotions about the past, feeling like a shell, etc — to becoming an iron fist who craves more power. It also wraps up a lot of loose ends from the movie, including the fate of the twins and the rise of the Empire and how it is seen by the general populace, how Vader is percieved when people encounter him for the first time, etc…

It’s kind of a mind-fuck to realize that –yeah, there was a time when people saw this guy and said — WHO THE FUCK IS THE DUDE IN THE BLACK HELMET? smile

The book’s subplot is about a few Jedi who survived Order 66, characters original to this novel who are decent characters and go through some interesting turns but mostly you just flip through those chapters to learn more about Vader.

THE BEST THING about the book is that it attempts, if only in brief, to answer some questions – why the hell hide Luke on friggin Tattooine? Why does it take so long to build the death star? Who built it? Why was it so easy for a kid to shoot one torpedo up its ass and destroy the whole thing? What happened to the wookiees on Kashyyk? Why didn’t the jedi know what was going to happen to them? Etc.

I was rather satisfied by some of the answers, and appreciated the fact that at least that SOMEONE took the time to try and address them.

There are some great moments with key characters from the saga, including Bail Organa – who of course is the shit because you imagine Jimmy Smitts.

Anyway, the reason I recommend it is that as opposed to all these novels about characters we’ve never heard of, this is kind of a footnote to the most recent movie, and an expansion of all the concepts that were interesting about it. It of course trumps anything George would have written because it’s a lot more personal, with a lot more inner dialogue, etc.

So check it out – it’s seven bucks. I copied a bunch of you on this email but I think Roger, Berg and Matthew will get the most out of it, knowing there are still white-hot burning fans in their hearts. This book was written for them. It ain’t shakespeare, but you could do worse while killing time at the DMV.