The Force Unleashed – Novel Review

Who’s it by: Sean Williams based on a story by Haden Blackman

What’s it about? The novel of the video game – this book adds some background depth to the characters and situations presented in the game. The blurb is long- here is the beginning of it:

“The overthrow of the Republic is complete. The Separatist forces have been smashed, the Jedi Council nearly decimated, and the rest of the Order all but destroyed. Now absolute power rests in the iron fists of Darth Sidious – the cunning Sith Lord better known as the former Senator, now Emperor, Palpatine. But more remains to be done. Pockets of resistance in the galaxy must still be defeated and missing Jedi accounted for … and dealt with. These crucial tasks fall to the Emperor’s ruthless Enforcer, Darth Vader. In turn, the Dark Lord has groomed a lethal apprentice entrusted with a top secret mission: to comb the galaxy and dispatch the last of his masters’ enemies, thereby punctuating the dark side’s victory with the Jedi’s doom.”

Review it:

By the way, all the bad grammar and so on in that blurb are actually in the printed version, they are not typos by me. I don’t know who wrote the blurb, but the editor should have picked up on that.

So – a novel of a Star Wars game. Looking at the precedence, we have Shadows of the Empire (a good read of an interesting game) and Galaxies: Ruins of Dantooine which is tripe. Where does Force Unleashed sit?

The overall story is quite strong and fits as a fairly neat bridge between episodes three and four of the Star Wars saga. Obviously, the game on which it is based is more action based than the novel, though the author has tried to suggest at the carnage that follows The Apprentice around, actual action is lacking throughout. Invariably we read “The Apprentice de-activated his lightsabre after doing some really cool force moves and lightsabre stuff” (I para-phrase) rather than seeing RA Salvatore style intricate combat scenes. Even the combat with other Jedi is lacklustre and brief. I like to feel energised or drained after a fight or dogfight and this was never the case here.

Characters are somewhat padded out from the game but motivations seem strained in places. I’d like to have seen more development of the relationships than was evident. The forced “oh, lets have a love interest because it’s a game and gamers like that” romance wasn’t really built up and just happened on the page. Enough for a game maybe but not engaging enough for a novel.

To be fair to the author, I don’t think that Force Unleashed could have been much other than it was, considering the source material. The game is basically a hack and slash with cut-scenes where the player is encouraged to massacre everything he sees. The novel also follows the game’s structure of fly here – fight these – have boss battle. I’d like to have seen more in-between level characterisation and development than was apparant here, but I guess that was a constraint placed from above.

I would also point out that while I appear to be negative here I still enjoyed the book and think it sits nicely with the other god knows how many Star Wars Novels I have. And it is certainly far superior to the Star Wars Galaxies tie in.

Best bit: For me the reveal on the final page. Loved that bit as it answered a question I’d had since playing X-Wing in 1993.

Rate it: 3 / 5 above average but don’t expect gripping action (which I was) or detailed character building (which I was)

Dry Slaps: 2. I was expecting gripping action and detailed character building.

Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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