I have that big comic organizing project (or the next phase anyway) to start, but I have some unfinished business to complete first.

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Going through my comics is relatively easy. I read two a day from my oversized collection, and if I see one I never want to read again, it goes into a pile until I can figure out how to get rid of them. Most comic shops don’t need comics from the 1980s and 1990s. Especially the 1990s. I review them on my other site. Novels on the other hand take longer to go thought. I read a chapter a week and post a “chapter by chapter” review of that book. And this one would long since been done, but you all know how last year went.

Well this year I finally finished a book I started reading when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters and now it’s getting done as Star Wars: Rogue One is probably close to done with its theatrical release. So the question is whether or not this is the third book to potentially leave my library, joining Total Recall and The Black Stallion’s Ghost, or if it’s one I really want to read again. Well, you can read the reviews of each individual chapter and read along with my review, or you can just see the final review here. Your call.

Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire

Written by: Steve Perry

Published by: Bantam Books (paperback edition: April, 1997)

The history of the book is just as interesting as the story within it. The gimmick is that it was treated just like a novelization of a movie that didn’t happen. There was a comic adaptation, video games, toys, and I own the soundtrack. There’s also an audio book version but I don’t have that. The story is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, ending just before the latter film we all thought would be the last one back in 1996, when the original hardcover was published.

The story finds Luke Skywalker building his new lightsaber just as people are trying to kill him. It’s the fault of Prince Xizor, the leader of a criminal organization called Black Sun, who is competing with Darth Vader for the favor of the Emperor. However, there’s a more personal reason Xizor hates Vader, and why he’s trying to make the Sith Lord look bad. As Leia goes to investigate our heroes, aided by new character Dash Rendar, may have to save her by taking one of the biggest risks of their lives, possibly even tougher than the Death Star!

Author Steve Perry does a good job of setting up events connecting to Jedi, possibly too well. Some things leading up to that movie happen here that didn’t need to. For example, how Leia got her bounty hunter costume she used to infiltrate Jabba’s palace, or even where she got the thermal detonator. That wasn’t really necessary. There’s also a failed attempt to catch up to Boba Fett that worked better. Perry can also make a fight scene, be it in space or with people, come alive and you can “see” the battles take place. And you can also hear the actors speaking their roles, which is always good for a tie-in book or comic.

Perry introduces three new characters to the mythos. Dash Rendar is a substitute for Han Solo but he’s not a clone of Han. He makes mistakes and handles them differently. He may work for money but he’s not lacking in concern for others and sometimes helps our heroes even when he isn’t being paid. Guri is Xizor’s right hand, a replica droid (or android) built to resemble a beautiful blond-haired woman with all the right parts to fool anyone. ALL…the right parts. Let’s just say she’s “fully functional”. She’s also a deadly assassin and does all of Xizor’s dirty work. She’s a good henchmen (henchwoman? henchdroid?) character, although near the end she does do something that feels out of character from what we’ve seen her do just to have Guri fight Luke.

However, it’s Prince Xizor who is our main villain. And he’s a total bastard. He has understandable motivations for wanting to embarrass Vader, and he makes a good threat. Possibly too good of a threat, because Perry goes way out of his way to establish just how cold, unfeeling (until the end where he kind of snaps), and ruthless he is. Xizor plays oneupsman with the Emperor (which is a game for both of them), takes risks like the Star Wars Galaxy equivalent of blowfish (if prepared wrong it will kill the diner), and what he tries to do to Leia is just unforgivable. However, even when established quite well how awful he is, Perry will still take time to bash into our heads how evil Xizor is, even when the audience no longer requires to be told “this man is scum”, and it gets old after he tries to mess with Leia.

Really, that’s my only complaint with this book. The pacing at times, especially in the early chapters, is sometimes off. Perry will check in with Xizor or Darth Vader at times that does nothing to advance the plot, and even pauses the action in a few chapters just to remind us that these characters are in the story while giving us nothing that wasn’t already established or couldn’t be established later, especially when it comes to reminding us Xizor and Vader hate each other and are playing their own cat-and-mouse game with each other. As he goes on though, the pacing does get better and scene changes will actually build the suspense rather than ruin an action scene.

Decision: Stays

I enjoyed the book when I first got it, and enjoy it now that I’ve read it again. I also recommend the comic, as it adds scenes not in the book, including following one of Vader’s spies trying to protect Luke from some bounty hunters, as well as the sequel comic also written by Steve Perry, Shadows Of The Empire – Evolutions, which continues Guri’s story and reveals the true fate of Dash Rendar (although lacking in the how). Once the pacing gets under control it’s a good read and one I hope to do again.

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