Sunday, February 28, 2010

Amy's thoughts on... Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry (Audiobook)

The time came this week where I was getting sick of my iPod's inability to connect to the internet. My own fault really for not getting wireless connection set-up.  So I decided to find another use for it: audiobooks. I have listened to a few over the years. Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter is one of the wonders of this Earth and I vaguely recall listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was a wee child on a cassette tape! remember those??

As I was browsing through the possibilities, I came across Shadows of the Empire, a Star Wars book that acts as an "interquel" between The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. And yes, this is the one where "Many Bothans died to bring us this information". Overall, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia project created by Lucasfilm in 1996  to explore all commercial possibilities of a full motion picture release, without actually making the film. I actually still have the Nintendo 64 game. It was one of the first released for the platform and I bought it second hand from a Games shop in Manchester when I was 13! It is still one of  my favourite games and, as far as I know, is a classic in the N64 format. So...

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... *big grin*

Xizor is the reptilian head of the vast criminal organization Black Sun. He is also the No. 2 man to the Emperor, surpassed only by the dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. And Vader is the last obstacle between the predatorial Xizor and his goal. That's an obstacle he plans to eliminate on his rise to the top by thwarting Vader's promised attempts to retrieve the young Luke Skywalker and bring him before the Emperor. With the aide of his lieutenant, the beautiful but deadly human replicant Guri, they secretly employ assassins and bounty hunters to kill the now-in-training Skywalker and make it look as if Vader himself is out for Skywalker's blood. Meanwhile, Leia continues to hunt down the feared bounty hunter, Boba Fett, to rescue Han Solo before he can be delivered to the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. With the help of Lando Calrissian, Rogue Squadron and a brash smuggler named Dash Rendar, Luke and Leia and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 must dodge their way though a complex web of treachery if they are to rescue Han and uncover the identity of the mysterious Black Sun and it's cunning and deadly leader.

Shadows of the Empire,  is more than just another book between the movies. Perry's writing allows the characters to come alive. Their dialogue isn't just rehashed lines from the films, and the humor has a spark to it that is all its own. In true Star Wars fashion, the plot runs in parallel development; Luke and Leia move down their separate paths that ultimately bring them back together in the climactic finale at the headquarters of Black Sun on Coruscant, the very center of the Empire itself. Also, more to the point, this book expands on the universe of Star Wars. Characters like Lando, and even Wedge Antillies, the unsung hero of Rogue squadron, are expanded on and allowed to shine. The bothans, the race of super spies, are expanded upon. And we get a chance to explore more of the worlds born in George Lucas's imagination. For his part, Steve Perry's writing is good. The book is an easy and fun read, and the plot and dialogue keep you moving from scene to scene. And in audiobook format, it is a lot more enjoyable.

Now, I love the game to pieces! I still play it now and again even though the N64 went out a very very long time ago (call it sentimental value!) and I was under the impression that the novel would take some of the events of the game into account. Now, while I do get that most games don't even  follow the movies that they're based on, I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed to not see Dash Rendar (the main character of the game) hopping through the canyons in a jet pack trying to find Boba Fett (a lot of fun in the game!) whereas in the novel, he just flies over in his ship, The Outrider (a new version of the Falcon) and then leaves Leia and co to die!! However, saying that I'm probably being unreasonable. Once you actually slot of the game and book together they fit very nicely. But, as I said earlier, it still would have been nice! 

Okay, no more comparisons to the game. That's unfair! So, Vader, in the past, was a naughtly boy and killed Xizor's family. So Xizor wants to get revenge against him by killing Luke and destroying Vader's reputation and hopefully to give him some kind of "feeling" of what it is like to have family murdered. His plan is cunning, with twists and turns at most parts of the story. It always kept me guessing, even though I knew how it ended; and that, my friends, is the sign of a good story. It's like watching Apollo 13! You know how it ends, but the tension and suspense almost kills you! Okay, this book is no-where near as compelling as Apollo 13 but I'm sure you get the point!

Little Nerdgasms while listening to this audiobook are the sound effects. I know most audiobooks have sound effects in the background, but these are Star Wars noises! Blasters, TIE Fighters, X-Wings, R2 beep and bleeps, hyperspace, lightsabers and the list goes on. Even parts of the soundtrack from the game and movies can be heard which is just awesome!

Dash Render is easily my favourite character in the book. He is basically a Han Solo replacement who, just like Solo in the first film, just wants to get paid and run away. However he feels responsible for the deaths of loads of Bothans during a battle to steal the plans for the new Death Star. I loved playing him in the game (especially on the Battle of Hoth level, which is always the best one!)

If you like Star Wars, I highly recommend you read this. I hope that you will agree with me that this would have made such a better movie than ANY of the prequels. But then agian, most of the Star Wars books are like that anyway!