Published by Del Rey
Hardcover, December 2008
Matthew Stover gets Star Wars, he gets the potential in the characters and the story. More importantly, because he gets it, he often questions some of the core beliefs and tenets of the super saga. Is Luke Skywalker really a hero? Is the power in the universe simply divided between the Force and Dark Side. With these questions in mind, Stover thrusts readers into "a galaxy far, far Away" not too long after the destruction of the second Death Star. The young Republic is still getting its feet settled, Han and Leia are still unmarried, Lando Calrissian is adjusting to post war life as a diplomat, and Luke Skywalker is still a relatively fresh-faced twenty-year old.
As the new Republic is convening with the Mandalore regarding a much-debated asteroid, word reaches Solo and Calrissian about Shadowspan, perhaps the most powerful warlord of the dying remnants of the Empire. A newly created "Rapid Response Task Force" is sent to Mindor to investigate the overlord Shadowspawn and his growing army of black-armored Shadow Stormtroopers in an attempt to quell all further remnants of the Empire. What Skywalker finds is a being who has gone by many names in the past and who sees Luke as the next physical embodiment of the Emperor, and with Luke as Emperor, the Empire can truly rise from the ashes.
Star Wars chronology, at best, is a complex thing even for a reader like myself who has read a relatively substantial portion of the Expanded Universe. In Shadows of Mindor, Stover streamlines a lot of this backstory, makes sense of inconsistencies, and manages to tell a very entertaining story along the way. What makes this effort even more commendable, is that he makes this story greatly accessible to readers who may only be familiar with the films; that is, the story works perfectly as a sequel/follow-up to Return of the Jedi, and is a great thematic bridge between RotJ and the classic comic series Dark Empire.
What provided perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the novel is one of Stover’s strongest abilities as a storyteller – the examination of the hero. He’s given many ‘faces’ of the hero in his wonderful Acts of Caine sequence and here he puts one of the world’s most iconic heroes under the lens – Luke Skywalker. One of the more clever and entertaining ways by which Stover examines Luke as Hero is through the holo films in the Star Wars universe marketed, some may say, as propaganda for Skywalker’s heroics during the Galactic Civil War. One of the examples of this is through the "alternate" story as depicted in Luke Skywalker and the Jedi’s Revenge. Such commentary can be seen as both how heroism can be twisted to fit the needs of a story one is trying to promulgate, while it can also be seen as a remark about the films themselves. Of course, the title itself is an Easter Egg of sorts – Revenge of the Jedi was the original tile of Episode VI. This examination of Skywalker also works very much like Stover’s excellent character examination of Darth Vader in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith.
In addition to putting Skywalker under the microscope, Stover once again examines the nature of the Force. Much like he did in the New Jedi Order novel Traitor and to a lesser extent Shatterpoint, the dichotomy of the Force is brought into question as an offshoot simply called the Dark, is brought into play through the character of Shadowspawn. This examination can also be seen through Luke’s eyes, as he adjusts to life after the war and very little contact from Force-ghosts Kenobi and Yoda.
All told, Stover has penned a thrilling adventure that also looks at the very core themes of the Star Wars galaxy. In comparison to his other Star Wars fiction, this one sits somewhere in the middle, but on the whole the novel works very well on its own as a terrific story.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford