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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Sean Williams' novel The Force Unleashed is part of a multimedia blitz from Lucasfilm centered around the release of a multi-platform next-gen videogame. This particular project was started in 2005 and has the twin goals of providing a unique and trail-blazing gaming experience while simultaneously adding an important new chapter to the overall Star Wars saga. I've followed the development of The Force Unleashed with a certain degree of skepticism, centered around my doubt that a storyline so focused on creating an over-the-top, ultra-powerful gaming experience would be able to also sustain a compelling narrative.

Now that the novel is here, it appears my concerns were well-founded. The book reads like a summary of a videogame. Yes, that's what it is, but that doesn't lend itself to a well-rounded story. The characters in the book are thinly sketched, the plot is a series of "missions" that end in what are clearly boss fights in the game, and the bigger storyline has such a fundamental impact on the overall story of the saga that it undermines itself by being too rushed. Large expanses of the chapters are devoted either to tedious action sequences or the inner monologues of two of the characters, so not much room is left for meaningful exposition or more exploration of the plot's impact on the other main characters.

The two characters that get the bulk of the attention are Darth Vader's secret apprentice, a boy he has raised to eventually help him overthrow the Emperor, and Juno Eclipse, an Imperial pilot with misgivings about the side of the war she has chosen to fight for. The secret apprentice is the main character in the game, and his missions have a bizarrely amoral bent to them. Since Vader wants him to remain completely secret from everyone in the galaxy, that entails the apprentice slaughtering every single person that crosses his path, even his supposed Imperial allies. It feels like the storyline creators (while Sean Williams wrote this novel, it is based on the overall story from Haden Blackman), were concerned that this character might be too evil if he only wiped out good guys, and so they alleviate that by having him kill everybody. I find it hard to reconcile the apprentice's massive killing sprees with the vastly different role he is placed in at the end of the book.

The other difficulty with the apprentice's missions is the lack of tension during the action. He mows down any number of any enemies he encounters with no problems. His ability to tap the Force is close to unlimited, which is an interesting concept but it certainly doesn't make for a gripping fight scene. There are many descriptions of piles of bodies, people flying into walls, waves of Force power rippling through rooms, but the sequences are so nebulously depicted that they don't have enough impact. He does struggle some in the boss fights, but fans of Darth Vader as he was portrayed in the original trilogy are probably not going to like how his fight with the apprentice turns out here. I also was surprised how quickly his battle with Jedi Master Shaak Ti was resolved. Here is a leading Jedi who had survived sixteen long years since Order 66: it felt like there was a lot more story left to be told. Not to mention her apprentice, who essentially turns bad, fights the apprentice, and runs off, again feeling too much like a scene from the game and not a fully-realized story.

Williams describes the settings well and it is easy to visualize the distinct locations the story rapidly moves through. I enjoyed the brief appearance of a certain Rebel original trilogy character, and the apprentice's droid sidekick Proxy is an innovative concept. Proxy has a hologram technology that allows him to appear as anybody he has in his database, which has interesting ramifications for communications, fight training, and potentially for the apprentice's spy missions. He also provides a few nice moments of comic relief.

I won't spoil the end events of the story, which have a significant impact on the original trilogy of movies. Suffice it to say that they open up some interesting ideas, but I sorely wish Williams could have been freed to spend most of the book on this plotline and a whole lot less on action sequences. After reading the book, I am optimistic that the game itself may be a very engaging experience, but I would mostly recommend the novelization to hardcore fans who, like myself, want to know all the ins and outs of the larger saga.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2008
Having read the graphic novel first, this 300+ page book serves basically as an extended version with little more depth, outside of an extended pair of sequences on Raxis Prime and the Death Star.

Based on the upcoming video game, aptly titled "The Force Unleashed," this book serves as a rough outline of the canonical story and ending of the game. This book follows the views of two main characters, the apprentice and Juno Eclipse. Within the first one hundred fifty pages the apprentice has already completed three of his missions to kill jedi, who get about three sentences of dialog apiece before being dispatched.

Little development is given to any other character, whether Darth Vader, the Emperor, or Ram Kota, each is virtually treated as a cardboard background to the shallow musings of the apprentice or Juno Eclipse. Given that it is a novel, it would have been refreshing to have seen the treatment given to novels of the prequel trilogy, whether the fishing scene between Jango Fett and his son Boba in the Attack of the Clones novelization, or the private musings of the Emperor and Vader which are explored in the Revenge of the Sith novelization. The novel explores no further than the graphic novel, and I'm sure it follows word for word the cut scenes of the video game.

It would have been nice for the author to have gone a bit deeper and given us a different vantage point to experience the story, whether from Darth Vader's point of view, or the Emperor's point of view. The novel is forgettable, and wasn't even as enjoyable as the worst of the Legacy of the Force novels.

Shadows of the Empire was also based on a video game, but at least it went a bit deeper than this book did. A novel gives the author the freedom to explore beyond the video game/movie - and it is sad when you can get virtually 100% of the experience this novel gives you from the 50 page graphic novel. I do not recommend this book for anyone outside of the most rabid of Star Wars fans who must get their hands on everything, and would point you to the graphic novel which at least is narrated by Proxy and gives a slightly different point of view to the story.

Sean Williams can write very well grammatically speaking, but artistically he expressed nothing more than could be expressed through pictures and comic bubbles. He should think about expanding beyond his source material for whatever he decides to write next time.

Save your money.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2010
When this book was announced, I remember being very excited. The wait for it to come out in paperback was almost unbearable. I know that several books in the Star Wars series are meant to accompany games, but this one seemed different. The plot sounded unique and thrilling, and, having a certain love for both the Sith and the Empire, personally appealing. If it made a successful game, so it had to be a good book, right? I will openly admit to being terrible at video games, so the idea of getting the game's plot in novel form seemed like a great idea. For these reasons, it pains me to say that The Force Unleashed was probably one of the most disappointing Star Wars books I've read in long might even be one of the worst out there. Spoilers follow.

Let's start with the plot. We don't get a lot of introduction to our main character, the unnamed apprentice (though he occasionally goes by the code name Starkiller); he appears, we're told that he's Vader's apprentice, and then he gets sent on three missions to kill a few of the surviving Jedi Knights. Somewhere in here, our two other main characters (Imperial pilot Juno Eclipse and droid PROXY) and one of the future secondary characters (General and Knight Rahm Kota). The missions are short to the point of disappointment and the apprentice quickly returns to Vader, hoping to reap the reward of assisting his Master in taking down the Emperor. However, he's met with an unfortunate surprise that changes his outlook on life forever. From here, he, Juno, PROXY, and Kota run around the galaxy destroying the Empire's ships and other signs of oppression. They even have a large hand in forming the Rebel Alliance (like so many characters before them...)! Through all of this, the apprentice battles with his loyalties, past, and feelings for his comrades.

Unfortunately, much of the plot reads like that taken directly from a video game, especially in the beginning. It's fairly obvious where the "boss battles" and various levels would be in the game, and I'm sure much of the dialogue is pulled directly from the video game. This wouldn't be quite so bad if the author had given us some different perspectives, the chance to really get in the characters heads to get to know them, anything that would give the reader something beyond the basic gaming experience in terms of connecting to the characters. The story is also pretty predictable. There's not a lot of suspense: it's obvious that the apprentice is too powerful to be killed. The action scenes are a bit lacking in their description and, after a while, become difficult to distinguish from each other. In short, the plot isn't that great or exciting.

To be honest, I preferred the beginning to the book to the middle or end of it. Yes, it was a bit predictable and perhaps a bit too fast paced, but it embodied something I've been waiting to see in a Star Wars book for a while: human (as in beings with emotions, aspirations, and values) members of the Empire doing their work and honestly supporting the Empire. For once, not all of the Imperials were portrayed as atypical "bad guys" who are evil for the sake of being evil. I've always thought it a bit ridiculous that every being the Imperial galaxy hated the Empire, and those who didn't were mindless, evil thugs. It was nice to see this change. However, about 100 pages in, the plot turns, the characters change loyalties, and the book becomes yet another that focuses on taking down the Empire and founding the Rebellion. It was probably one of the most disappointing aspects of the book, in my opinion.

There are really only four characters that get any development, and what they do get is minimal, practically non-existent. The others (including Vader and the Emperor) are more props than characters: they stand in the background and occasionally to something, but the plot is more focused on the four previously mentioned characters.

The first main character is the apprentice (also known as Starkiller and later Galen). Honestly, his existence isn't that bad an idea. It's not unreasonable that Vader would train a Force-sensitive being in the ways of the Dark Side, even if it does violate the "Rule of Two" (if I'm not mistaken, Count Dooku trained an apprentice or two as well). What is unbelievable is the amount of strength and Force talent the apprentice possesses. He never breaks a sweat while fighting, he annihilates powerful Jedi Knights as if they were mere beginners, he survives encounters that should have killed any other being (seriously, who can survive being impaled through the chest by a lightsaber and then thrown into the vacuum of space? Apparently the apprentice can)...he makes Vader look like a child. We don't get to see him develop as a character and change. Instead, we're just told this. His later relationship with Juno was also unbelievable. He doesn't mention anything about having feelings for her until 100 pages or so from the end, and then suddenly they're madly in love and he's talking about them leaving for safety together. It's quite abrupt.

Regarding the relationship, I fail to see why it was necessary. Sure, they could be become friends. In fact, I think they would have made great friends and traveling companions. It should have ended with a strong friendship. Instead, Williams chose to take the predictable, cliché path and make them a couple. As the plot progresses, it seems that Juno is there solely for the reason of giving the apprentice a love interest.

Speaking of Juno, I actually liked her in the beginning. Like I said earlier, she was a refreshing change from the typical Imperial. Reading about a character that was actually proud of the Empire and her job was interesting, something I'd been waiting for. I could see her character going downhill, though, when references to Callos started appearing in every section devoted to her. Her obsession with this past mission was borderline annoying. We get it, she felt that her actions there were wrong. Do we really need to hear about it every time her character shows up? Also, I didn't understand why she was needed in the first place. Sith apprentices have typically worked alone in the past and knew how to pilot a ship. Why does the apprentice need her to fly, yet demonstrates that he and PROXY are capable of piloting when the lab begins to explode. This leads me to believe that she was only included in the first place to give the apprentice and romantic interest (as it becomes obvious that that's where their relationship is heading). She was completely unnecessary and didn't really grow as a character beyond constantly mourning for Callos. Sadly, Juno actually had a lot of potential to be a great, unique character.

PROXY was genuinely interesting. It's made apparent that he deeply cares for the apprentice on an almost parental level (even though he claims his primary mission is killing Starkiller in a duel) and that he shows an unusual level of sentience for a droid. The holo-image idea is also quite intriguing; I wish the author had done more with it.

Rahm Kota was also fairly interesting, if not a bit unbelievable at times. In an early battle with Starkiller, he completely loses his sight. Later, he becomes an ally to the apprentice and Juno, despite his handicap. His overall personality is enjoyable to read and I personally liked his conversations with Juno and the apprentice. However, I found it hard to believe that his loss of sight affected his abilities as much as it did. Isn't one of the Jedi principals not trusting your eyes because they will deceive you (Obi-Wan says something to that effect in A New Hope)? Also, he should have been able to sense that the apprentice was a dark side user; he is a powerful Jedi Knight, after all.

My final complaint comes in the form of the Rebellion and certain key characters that founded it (Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and Garm Bel Iblis). I thought that the origins of the Rebel Alliance were pretty well documented and set in earlier books (AC Crispin's Han Solo Trilogy comes to mind). The Star Wars universe didn't need another story that described how this or that original character had a large hand in creating the Rebellion. Here, it is portrayed like the apprentice and friends did a few things to smite the Empire, and then Bail Organa saw their exploits and thought "well, that's a good idea!" It was completely unrealistic.

On a random note, I did like the appearance of a younger Princess Leia and felt like the author handled it well.

The one star I've given The Force Unleashed is for PROXY and Williams' ability to describe detailed settings. The rest of the novel, from the characters, to the plot, to the bigger impact on the Galaxy Far Far Away, is just plain disappointing. I would only recommend this to those who must read everything Star Wars (like me). Otherwise, give it a pass and move on; it's not as interesting as it looks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Growing up, I quickly fell in love with the original Star Wars films and the toys, comics, games, etc. that went along with them. When I matured a bit, I found myself reading a few of the books that expanded the Star Wars universe. When the three prequels hit the screen, my faith in the Star Wars universe faltered. It had become, in my opinion, a loud, special effects-laden kaleidoscope of weak science fiction.

After attending a recent science fiction convention, however, I was turned on to the "Clone Wars" series on Cartoon Network. A bit of my faith was restored, but I was still uneasy when I picked up "The Force Unleashed." For starters, it's based on a video game. Secondly, there was no Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca or Han Solo to help the story along. Heck, there wasn't even a Jango Fett. Still, I decided to give the book a chance. I'm glad that I did.

The story centers on Darth Vader's secret apprentice whom the Dark Lord utilizes to seek out and destroy the few remaining Jedi hidden throughout the galaxy. As the apprentice goes on mission after mission and encounters a few Jedi and other characters, he begins to struggle internally with his belief in the Empire, the use of the Force, and even the trust of his master. In the end, he is forced to decide on which side of the fence he stands. No matter what he decides, however, many, many people will die.

As others have already mentioned, the early parts of the book read just like the stages in a video game. While they are very action packed, they move along rather quickly, and the reader never really gets to visualize the entire battle in their mind before the apprentice is off on his next mission.

About half of the way through the book, author Sean Williams slows the action down a bit and the reader begins to learn more about the apprentice, his pilot named Juno Eclipse, his humorously homicidal droid called PROXY, and a number of other characters who play larger roles either in the book or in the films.

Of course, taking place before "A New Hope" means that the fate of some of the characters is known well before the conclusion of "The Force Unleashed." It felt like Williams was forced to rush the fates of a few of the characters in order to make it all tie in nicely with the films. That's probably the biggest hindrance to the story that Williams has to deal with. While he does a decent job, it appears that "The Force Unleashed" would have fared much better had it taken place at a different point in the Star Wars time line.

Overall, "The Force Unleashed" is an entertaining read. Some of the action and a few of the events that occur within the story are a bit far-fetched, but I still found this adventure to be much more enjoyable than any of the prequels. One or two of the previously mentioned classic characters may or may not make an appearance, but I won't reveal to much on that point. Just know that Sean Williams has taken the plot of a game and turned it into a major adventure that ends with the beginning of a crucial element in the original films. Recommended to fans of the classic Star Wars saga and anybody who enjoys a good swashbuckling adventure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2008
For a long time I had anticipated the release of Lucasarts' new game, "The Force Unleashed." Ironically enough, I have yet to play any more than the demo, but ran out and purchased this novel and the companion graphic novel as well. Although the events laid out in literary form are indeed pivotal to the rest of the saga, they are related in a bland and distanced narrative. The characters themselves have promise, but their motives and choices are somewhat confusing and unbelievable. The 'tell it like it is' style of writing here is perhaps on par with a junior novel adaptation of a film, made all the worse by the fact that it covers the events of a video game. One can clearly pick out the "boss fights" as they would exist in the game and each chapter seems to cover a "level," as Starkiller hops from world to world. It's a format that's uninspired and sometimes downright frustrating.

For hardcore fans (like myself) you'll probably read it anyway, but for someone new to the Star Wars literary universe, pass it over and go for something along the lines of one of the Timothy Zahn novels (i.e. Heir to the Empire).
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2008
As much as I love Star Wars, I can't recommend this book. First, the main character, Starkiller seems too powerful. I don't believe at any time he even broke a sweat going against any non force user. I mean I know the Jedi/Sith are very strong, but come on! He performed stunts I don't think even Yoda could do on a good day!

Also, the books are supposed to harmonize. From my understanding, the Rebellion had its initial beginnings long before the time this book seems to make it (in the old Han Solo triliogy, the Rebels already had a small number of ships, and were trying to come together into an alliance.) In this book, it seems as if Starkiller did a few things that spanked the empire, and Bail Organa said, "that's cool-maybe we can rebel too!" It just seemed very unbelievable to me.

Another gripe I have with this book is that it seems to have no real idea how to make characters. I mean take the second Jedi that Starkiller went after. If you are in hiding from a galactic government that is eager to kill all Jedi, would you build a mock Jedi temple on a planet filled with scavenging scum who would sell information condemning their own mother for 2 credits? And, yes, he was obviously...unhinged, but I don't believe that explanation holds water for someone who has had the mental disciplines to be a Jedi anyway.

The only redemptive qualities of the book in my opinion are the droid Proxy (the idea of the holograms was cool!) and the Jedi Rahm Kota. His personality and fleshed-out characterization was interesting.

Another thing, why would Starkiller need a pilot? Darth Maul traveled alone, Vader can pilot a starfighter, and so it seems can any trained person. Wouldn't having another person knowing of a secret apprentice be a bad thing?

I'm sorry, but to me there are just too many plot holes for me to put this as part of Star Wars canon in my mind (like how if Bail Organa was already known as a rebel, why did Leia try to bluff her way with Vader at the beginning of a New Hope-the list goes on and on)
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2008
I'm gonna wreck the storyline, not just the fact that it's just a play by play of the game for people who are too inept (or like me and their machines are too inept) to beat the video game.

The story is pathetic attempt to give an interesting beginning to the rebellion. It basically attributes all success of the starting of the rebellion to a pathetic sith/jedi wannabe with ridiculous force powers. It also introduces into the story yet another jedi character who now must die sometime before the appearance of luke skywalker. It presents a series of stupid kinks into the midst of a well developed storyline (known as the expanded universe) that somehow fail to mentioned anywhere else by primary characters who live far into the future.

Also, this book fails to fit into the 16 year time frame between the end of revenge of the sith (ie, the birth of luke and leia) and the beginning of A New Hope. The main character is mysteriously aged from about age 4 to his late teens early twenties without interrupting the timeline laid out so well before.

The ease with which the main character again defeats so many integral (and impossible characters) and the implacable star wars logic that killing the bad guys is a bad idea, leads little credibility to the story line, and I hope die hard star wars fans join me in black listing this as being an actual part of the star wars expanded universe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 17, 2009
Most everyone has heard the name Star Wars. Some people know more about the saga than you'd think possible while others have a limited awareness. But from the utmost fan to the novice, The Force Unleashed aims to please.

This story takes place between "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" and "Episode IV: A New Hope." Launched as a video game by LucasArts this Novel adaption was written by Australia author Sean Williams, who has also co-written three books in the New Jedi Order series (which I have yet to read).

Story overview:
One fine day as Darth Vader was out frolicking on a foreign planet, he kills countless Wookies while making his way to the home of a Jedi. The original Star Wars movie indicated this time in history-when Vader tracked down all the Jedi and slaughtered them-which is why Yoda was in hiding. At any rate, Vader succeeds at killing the man, but to his surprise a little boy (the dead man's son) summons the very lightsaber out of Vader's hand. Rather than kill the boy, he takes him in as his secret apprentice.

In the game this scene was shown in the beginning, but in the book we don't learn about it until later when the boy-now grown into a young man-experiences visions from the past. It was at this time he was searching out people who opposed the Emperor. Unlike before, he wasn't there to kill them, but was on Vader's orders to rally them into starting a rebellion. Yes, that rebellion. Why? Vader said it was so he could overthrow the Emperor and take his place, with Starkiller at his side.

With Starkiller's attractive pilot, Juno Eclipse, they travel the stars in order to fulfill his mission. We come across some familiar characters, such as Leia Organa, and get an earlier glimps of the Death Star. Starkiller finds himself torn between his loyalty to Vader and his love for Juno, and in the process we are wonderfully exposed to many twists and turns.

My thoughts:
The story was much better than I thought it would be. Aside from the clunky action scenes-that sounded like a summary of the video game-I found myself getting into the tale. As a video game (which I've only partly played on the PS3,) and a book, I think the best adaption of this story would be in a movie format. I can see this being a hit on the big screen as it almost seemliness intertwines into the original franchise. I give the story four out of five, and am filled with a new desire to give the video game a second chance. That, and it's important to note that the story has a lot of heart.

Things to consider:
I would age rank this in the early teens. There are no inappropriate sexual references or foul language, but there is a considerable amount of violence that could be disturbing to some children. And being Star Wars, this would definitely appeal more towards boys, but it isn't limited to them by any means.

James D. Maxon
Author of Traphis: A Wizard's Tale
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2008
This book is based on the novelization of a video game by the same name and you can tell. Sean Williams is the author for this adventure. The basic premise is that a SuperJedi becomes a Sith apprentice and wrecks havoc on the Rebellion. The question is, if the SuperJedi are only apprentices then how do the Sith ever lose to a punk like Luke Skywalker?

Dust Jacket Summary: "The Sith always betray one another. . . . I'm sure you'll learn that soon enough."

The overthrow of the Republic is complete. The Separatist forces have been smashed, the Jedi Council nearly decimated, and the rest of the Order all but destroyed. Now absolute power rests in the iron fist of Darth Sidious-the cunning Sith lord better known as the former Senator, now Emperor, Palpatine. But more remains to be done. Pockets of resistance in the galaxy must still be defeated and missing Jedi accounted for . . . and dealt with. These crucial tasks fall to the Emperor's ruthless enforcer, Darth Vader. In turn, the Dark Lord has groomed a lethal apprentice entrusted with a top-secret mission: to comb the galaxy and dispatch the last of his masters' enemies, thereby punctuating the dark side's victory with the Jedi's doom.

Since childhood, Vader's nameless agent has known only the cold, mercenary creed of the Sith. His past is a void; his present, the carrying out of his deadly orders. But his future beckons like a glistening black jewel with the ultimate promise: to stand beside the only father he has ever known, with the galaxy at their feet. It is a destiny he can realize only by rising to the greatest challenge of his discipleship: destroying Emperor Palpatine.

The apprentice's journeys will take him across the far reaches of the galaxy, from the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk to the junkyard planet of Raxus Prime. On these missions, the young Sith acolyte will forge an unlikely alliance with a ruined Jedi Master seeking redemption and wrestle with forbidden feelings for his beautiful comrade, Juno Eclipse. And he will be tested as never before-by shattering revelations that strike at the very heart of all he believes and stir within him long-forgotten hopes of reclaiming his name . . . and changing his destiny.

What I liked: A good premise. At certain parts of the story the characters represent life like beings instead of killing machines. The other positive things are the presence of Wookies and Jar Jar is never, ever mentioned. It does have a cool jacket cover.

What I didn't like: Starkiller (the apprentice) is way too powerful in comparison with the other characters. He kills off Jedi Masters like they were droids and is able to move a crashing Star Destroyer with a flick of a finger. Starkiller goes on numerous missions that only pertain to the video game storyline and seams out place. Due to his superpowers, you never feel that Starkiller is in any danger.

Last word: Poorly executed novel. The video game designers were allowed way too much latitude in the Star Wars universe and it shows through due to much of the nonsense that happens in the novel. I wish the author would have deviated more from the video game storyline and allowed the story to breath. This is a wasted opportunity to breach the gap between the third and fourth movies. Skip it.

Reviewed by Matt
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2014
Please Keep in mind: I'm a big Star Wars fan so my opinion is a little bit biased.

This is by far one of the most exciting and well written Star Wars books in the entire novel series. The style is very different than most Sci-fi and Star Wars books in general . Instead of the normal incredibly detailed plodding style that most books of this genre fall into this one instead is read almost like a film treatment. The action and dialogue go at a nice fast clip while still leaving you enough detail to imagine what is going on.

This book was part of a video-game project and is thus a tie-in. However while the games were entertaining they failed to meet the incredible demanding expectations that Lucas Arts setup with their hype machine. The book however doesn't disappoint.

Much of the hate for this book comes from said crushed expectations and is unfairly given. Yes it feels like it's a book based on a videogame but in this case that isn't a negative.

Star Wars at it's best is concise giving you just enough detail to grab your attention but not so much as to leave you swamped. This book does just that and would fit as an in-between film between episode III and IV .

All in all I would recommend this for fans of star wars , the expanded universe, or someone who wants to get into reading the expanded universe without being bored to tears.
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