Labyrinth of Evil
Author: James Luceno
Release Date: January 2005
Labyrinth of Evil is probably known as the novel that leads into the opening events of Revenge of the Sith. This is a shame because Labyrinth is much more than that. James Luceno is a skillful writer who expands upon relationships and back stories, expansions that help to enhance our understanding of characters and helps to give them more depth.
The novel begins during an attempt to capture Nute Gunray. Even though he escapes, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are able to capture his holotransceiver, a catch that offers clues to finding Darth Sidious. That’s the basic plot, and I won’t go into further detail because the plot is secondary at this point. For anyone who has seen Revenge of the Sith we already know that no truly major events will occur in this novel, because of continuity and the events of that film.
This begs the question: why read Labyrinth of Evil? We already know the Jedi won’t capture Darth Sidious. Why read something that is so directly reliant upon continuity? Labyrinth should be read because Luceno does more than just give us a story. Luceno is able to make the characters more realistic by expounding upon their relationships, with one another and the world around them.
I know many fans felt the brotherly relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith seemed forced. One aspect of this novel is the progression of their relationship. More information on them in between films gives authenticity to their new relationship. But this is not a complete transformation. The two men still have disagreements throughout the book, and I appreciated this. As Anakin matured their relationship would change and they would see each other in a new light, yet some remnants of their past relationship would remain. One of the first things Vader says to Obi-Wan nearly twenty years later after the events of this novel is, “The circle is now complete”, reminding us that any many ways they’re relationship will always be master and apprentice.
Another disappointing aspect of Revenge of the Sith was Anakin’s turn to the dark side. With the major exception of his killing of the Sand People in Attack of the Clones, there is nothing in the films to indicate Anakin’s eventual turn. Luceno is able to give a more detailed look at Anakin’s transformation. In Labyrinth, Luceno writes about Anakin’s pleasure in the clone troops being frightened of him. He also details Anakin’s drawing upon his rage in combat. This lends a genuineness to what happens to Anakin, as his conversion isn’t so abrupt.
It was also good to get information on the Trade Federation. In the interest of honesty, I was never really sure how the Trade Federation fit into everything (don’t ask me about their role in The Phantom Menace). Labyrinth of Evil recounts Nute Gunray’s story of joining of the Separatist Movement and his relationship with Darth Sidious. This new understanding helped me appreciate their role in the story more.
The novel’s biggest fault is what seems to be the real life connections it makes between Chancellor Palpatine and George W. Bush. Luceno details the subtle ways Palpatine slowly transforms the Republic into the Empire. The passage is effective but it also blatantly draws parallels with then President Bush, and some of his more controversial measures during the War on Terror. This objection is not a matter of politics, but the belief that real world matters have no business in Star Wars. The comparison comes off as cheap and doesn’t serve any real purpose. The only thing it accomplished was to draw me out of the story.
There is also a conversation between Yoda and Obi-Wan that I found to be odd. It surrounds the origins of the clone army. I have no problems with the discussion itself, but rather the timing of it. Why are they discussing these things now? By now the war has been going on for three years. The conversation comes off as being solely for the reader’s benefit and the tone of the discussion is awkward.
Labyrinth of Evil is weighted down with its continuity issues. There was no mystery in the plot. Everyone knows that Darth Sidious is actually Palpatine. Yet, Labyrinth should still be read. James Luceno is an excellent writer, and his characterizations are well done. He is able to expand upon characters and their relationships, and give them depth. Despite some shortcomings, the novel works well and serves as a good introduction to Revenge of the Sith.