April 2005

Darth Vader’s descent into darkness

By Matthew Stover
Review by
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Science fiction fans who have patiently waited for the sixth and final entry in George Lucas's Star Wars epic have a double treat in store this spring: the final film (the third in the story, chronologically) will open in theaters on May 19, and Matthew Stover's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a novel based on the screenplay of the movie, will be released on April 2.

Readers will be thrilled by the chance for an advance look at the complex and heartrending events that led to the transformation of young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into the Dark Lord Darth Vader. The embodiment of pure evil and arguably the most popular villain in the history of the science fiction genre Darth Vader was once a troubled young man struggling with his dual life as an ambitious Jedi Knight and secret husband to Senator Padme Amidala. His development into the heartless monstrosity behind the black mask is easily the literary science fiction event of the year.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the darkest and most emotionally charged of all the Star Wars novels. Jedi Master Yoda's mantra fear is the path to the Dark Side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to suffering is at the crux of Stover's story. Without giving too much away, we can mention a few highlights of the novel: the systematic destruction of the already fractured Republic by the mysterious Sith Lord, Count Dooku, and his droid army; the tragic death of Anakin's beloved wife, mother to fraternal twins Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa; and the most intimate of betrayals that leads to the ultimate downfall of the once almighty Jedi Order.

As the story unfolds, Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate, is kidnapped by members of the Separatist movement. Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan fight valiantly to rescue the Chancellor but ultimately fail. The staged abduction turns out to be just another maneuver by Palpatine, who is really the mastermind behind the formation of the Galactic Empire, Darth Sidious. The kidnapping sets in motion a series of truly epic events that are guaranteed to leave readers awestruck, including the extraordinary conclusion of the Clone Wars, the fledgling beginnings of the Rebel Alliance and the construction of the Death Star.

Like most concluding volumes, Stover's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has something for just about everyone: nonstop action, unbelievable plot twists, shocking revelations and an utterly satisfying conclusion that will appease even the most hardcore Star Wars fans. But almost more significant than the events that tie together the six motion pictures and complete the saga is the much-anticipated insight into the complex character of Darth Vader and his internal struggles with obligation and emotion, unconditional love and uncontrollable hate, good and evil. In short, Stover's Revenge of the Sith is as ambitious as it is epic in scope.

After hundreds of Star Wars novels, graphic novels and reference guides, and an endless array of merchandise, the Star Wars saga has become an integral part of the American consciousness. Those who doubt its enduring cultural significance, and the iconic status of characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jabba the Hutt, Yoda and Darth Vader, need only visit for an eye-popping reality check. Here, fans can purchase hundreds of items, from Darth Vader coffee mugs and life-size Chewbacca replicas to Boba Fett football jerseys and a $15,000 bronze Yoda statue.

And to think the multimillion dollar juggernaut that redefined and reinvigorated the science fiction genre began with the 1976 publication of an unassuming paperback by George Lucas entitled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker.


Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Syracuse, New York.

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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

By Matthew Stover
Del Rey/LucasBooks
ISBN 9780345428837

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