Prolific Star Wars novelist Luceno (Millennium Falcon, 2008, etc.) offers a rather redundant standalone tale examining the life of a master of the Force’s dark side.

Taking place in the years leading up to the first Star Wars prequel film, The Phantom Menace, Luceno’s novel mostly just engages in gap-filling, expanding on the role that Sith Lord Darth Plagueis played in training and mentoring Darth Sidious (also known as the nefarious Emperor Palpatine). Palpatine’s arc has been thoroughly explored both in the Star Wars films and in various supplemental works, so there’s little new ground for Luceno to cover once he gets to Plagueis recruiting Palpatine as an apprentice. The first part of the book, detailing Plagueis’ efforts to harness the power of the Force to grant immortality, has greater novelty, and occasional scenes later in the book hint at a more mystical story. But Luceno mostly concerns himself with dry accounts of political and business maneuvers, full of convoluted deals and deceptions. Many passages are little more than parades of names, listing off people and planets that Plagueis and Palpatine must make into allies or enemies (or enemies masquerading as allies). At one point Plagueis himself even laments how convoluted the Sith Lords’ plans to overthrow the Galactic Republic have become. As the later part of the story overlaps with the events of The Phantom Menace, a number of familiar faces show up in small parts (including Darth Maul, Queen Amidala and Count Dooku), but the story remains focused on Plagueis and Palpatine, two patently evil characters whose very existence is defined by being cold and ruthless. It’s hard to engage with such unpleasant, unknowable protagonists, and even more so when their fates are essentially predetermined. With increasingly smaller niches to explore, Star Wars novels need to find new approaches to the same material, something Luceno is unable to achieve here.  


Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-51128-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Del Rey/LucasBooks

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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