Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Cloak of Deception (Star Wars)

Title: Cloak of Deception
Author: James Luceno
Superseries: Star Wars
Series: -


Score: 3/10


I knew when I bought this book that it would be a good one. I just knew it. Star Wars books are generally good quality, it's set in my favourite time-period of the Star Wars Universe, and was centered around political story-lines. As regular readers of my reviews know, I like to see politics and intrigue at work in novels. So I was hyped up to read it, and opened it a soon as I got home.

But somehow, something went wrong.

It took me three weeks to read the book. Now, books generally take me a day or two to read, (I read Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano in an afternoon - despite it being the type of book I least like to read). So for me three weeks to read a book is a bad thing. While I had been expecting to be unable to put it down, In truth I found it difficult to pick up.

The book has a very promising start. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, the heroes of Episode 1, are chasing after some mysterious pirate who attacked the Trade Federation. (This is set pre-films, so the federation aren't bad guys yet). And then it seems to go downhill from there. The action is sparse, or at least not interesting enough to keep me reading, and it seems that we know far too much of what's going on, as we see it from several points of view.

Now there is a twist at the end, which one would hope for, but not a major one, as given that it occurs so close to the first film, we know that, for example, certain characters can't die. Unfortunately, that seems to be all of the protagonists. Since it's likely that anyone reading the Star Wars books has seen the films, we KNOW that there is no danger to the characters. There is no suspense.

I'm not saying that all the star wars books should be about characters we don't know what happens to. Rogue Planet is a particularly good book about Obi-Wan and Anakin. But it needs to be done well. Indeed, it needs to be done better than other books, and has to be more in-line with the films. Which leads us to problem number 3.

The characters seem completely different in this book to the films. In particular Yoda, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, as well as Palpatine.  Perhaps the latter can be excused, as he is seen in different circles in the film, but Yoda seems far too contrary to be in keeping with his character, Obi-Wan rather pathetic, and Qui-Gon seems to just like disagreeing for the sake of it.

The only non-original character I thought was done particularly well was Master Adi Gallia, as her friendship with Valorum and Qui-Gon was nicely written and well-placed.

This also brings us nicely to the original characters, which I have to admit, weren't bad. Cohl's team was interesting, and Havac was a fairly clever little devil, despite playing stupid. But for me even Cohl seemed a bit boring after a while, and it seemed almost as if the author had gotten tired of writing about him.

The story did pick up a bit in the last few chapters, which I was grateful for, as I wanted to read the books that had just arrived in the post, but not an awful lot. Enough to let me finish the book in one sitting, but not enough to redeem the book in my eyes.

If you're a collector of star wars books, and see it in a charity shop, I'd give it a go. If you've never read a Star Wars novel before, don't choose this one. It's not representative of the majority. I might read it again one day in the future, and perhaps I'll have a new insight, but today, I wouldn't recommend this except to a huge fan, and I'd warn them not to have high expectations.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): Male, Human
Main Antagonist(s): Male, mainly human
Main Relationships: Heterosexual - not a huge role in the story
Genre: Science Fiction (Star Wars)
Brief Synopsis:

Mired in greed and corruption, tangled in bureaucracy, the Galactic Republic is crumbling. In the outlying systems, where the Trade Federation maintains a stranglehold on shipping routes, tensions are boiling over—and now even the comfort of Coruscant is being invaded, as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi foil an assassination attempt on Supreme Chancellor Valorum.
As Humans and aliens gather for an emergency trade summit, conspiracies sealed with large sums of money run rampant, and no one is entirely above suspicion. But the greatest threat of all remains unknown to everyone except three members of the Trade Federation who have entered into a shadowy alliance with a dark overlord. While the trio will be content with more money and fewer problems, Darth Sidious has grander, far more terrifying plans.

ISBN: 0099439972
Amazon Link: US UK
Pages: 368
First Published: May 29, 2001
Publisher: Arrow Publishing

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