April 19, 2016

The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams

"The Sith always betray one another. . . . I'm sure you'll learn that soon enough." - Sean Williams, The Force Unleashed

Blurb: 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. 

Format: The Force Unleashed is a novelization of the Star Wars extended universe video game, now considered non-cannon by Disney/Lucusfilm. I am reviewing the audio format of the novel which was narrated by Jonathan Davis and is 6 hours and 24 minutes in length. It was originally published in 2008 by Del Rey. The novel is told in limited 3rd person POV and covers the story of Starkiller, Vader's secret assassin. 

Setting: The novel takes place on multiple worlds in the Star Wars universe. Kashyyk, Felucia, Raxus Prime, the Death Star, and Darth Vader's star destroyer the Executor are the primary locations for this novel. As with most Star Wars novels, much of the setting's descriptions are expected to be familiar locations with Star Wars fans and often throughout this novel I felt that the author was definitely relying on my familiarity to not go into details on the setting very much. Effort was still put in to the general descriptions of the worlds so someone who may be outside of the Star Wars fandom can figure it out, but it definitely feels more like a backdrop you are expected to know and understand.

Characters: Starkiller is the primary character and central focus of the novel is on him. He is a conflicted character whose backstory and feelings towards his master are the center piece for much of the novel. A common theme with his character is there is the need to serve his master, yet there is still good within him. He is joined by Juno Eclipse, his pilot and love interest, as well as his training droid Proxy. Several other familiar characters to the Star Wars universe are visible, but the primary focus is on these three, with the POV characters being Starkiller and Juno.

Plot: Darth Vader has taken on a secret apprentice that he has trained in the ways of the dark side. This apprentice he hopes can help him overthrow the emperor and he can rule in his absence. Code named Starkiller, Vader sends his apprentice on several missions to dispatch his rivals, which include Jedi, to complete Starkillers training. Not long into the novel however the emperor discovers Vader's training of the young apprentice and Vader is forced to end the apprenticeship. There are a lot of twists in this novel that begin with that point so I will not ruin it for you. But I will say the plot certainly fulfills its role as a Star Wars story on a grand scale with high stakes.

My Thoughts: The Force Unleashed video game was and is one of my favorite all time games in the Star Wars universe. I decided to give the novelization of the game a fair shake because of my love for the game and I was left somewhat underwhelmed. The novel for all it's strengths really failed to connect me with the major characters of the story. This was a failing that I had with the game as well as I enjoyed the game play aspects but hoped for more character development. There still are great moments in this story. Starkiller pulling a star destroyer out of the sky, his rage fulled action when he unleashes the power of the force, and his love interest with Juno were all very fun and interesting to read instead of play. I just wish a little more time was thrown towards character development. I know with a novelization and author's hands can be tied but I still hoped for a little more character insight than what was given. A novel should have more room to play with these things than a game and I was a little disappointed. If you're a Star Wars fan like myself I'd still recommend it for a read. But as a reader looking for the best of science fiction and fantasy I'd have to say you should 

About the Author: #1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books--forty-two at last count--including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is a YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level. You can find some related short stories over at Lightspeed Magazine and elsewhere. 

Author's Website: Sean William's Website


  1. Yeah, I think the game is one of the best ever but the game somehow manages to make Darth Vader's Sith apprentice seem...lame? Which is something he should never be.

    1. I enjoyed the game but still felt that there should have been more depth to the characters. Obviously it was just a short video game so they couldn't do a whole lot. I hoped the novel would pick up on that but it failed to really accomplish my hopes there.