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Labyrinth of Evil: Star Wars    by James Luceno order for
Labyrinth of Evil
by James Luceno
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

As the Separatists continue their assault under the influence of Siths - Count Dooku, General Grievous, and their Master Darth Sidious - Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Master Obi-Wan Kenobi pursue Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray. Gunray cleverly escapes, but heedlessly leaves behind a valuable mechno-chair, loaded with a holotransceiver. As Anakin and Obi-Wan marginally avoid disaster, they discover the mechno-chair on a loading platform. The unique device reveals a hologram and a partial message to Lord Sidious in Gunray's voice.

Anakin and Obi-Wan fight and banter through a tangle of intrigue, finding that each clue leads to another. As Anakin maneuvers the ship, Obi-Wan comments, 'The only thing worse than being your wingmate is being your passenger!' They travel from Neimoidia to Charros Four, in search of the Xi Charrian named t'laalak-s'lalak-t'th'ak, who made the mechno-chair. They learn that the Xi Char have 'short chitinous bodies, quartets of pointed legs, scissor- action feet, teardrop-shaped heads', and that this peaceful species care only about the engineering of technology, not its intended use. Anakin and Obi-Wan advance to Escarte to find Thal K'sar, who designed not one but two holoprojectors. Following K'Sar's lead, they traverse snowy Naos III in search of former spicerunner Fa'ale Leh, to question her about the delivery of the second transceiver to Seinar Advanced Projects for an experimental aircraft. And they are sent to Tythe on a hunt for Count Dooku.

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has been granted emergency powers through the passage of the Security Bill, giving him stronger political reins over the Republic from his chair of state on Coruscant. But the Chancellor is 'hardly the innocent he sometimes pretends to be ... no longer humble and self-deprecating'. The Loyalist Committee (including Senators Padme Amidala, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Terr Taneel, Bana Breemu, Fang Zar, and alien Chi Eeekway) arrive to meet with Palpatine. They hope to convince the Chancellor to cede some of his powers. Jedi Mace Windu and Master Yoda are also present on Coruscant. Suspicions and tensions rise. Yoda says to Palpatine, 'From the dark path, no returning there is. Forever, the direction of your life it dominates.' The action builds to a climactic, destructive attack on Coruscant by the Separatists under that ruthless, 'cyborg killing machine', General Grievous.

James Luceno surpasses himself in supreme action scenes, as Anakin and Obi-Wan attempt to capture Gunray, and race to discover the identity of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, venturing into deep interstellar space. While Anakin is on Tythe, his wife (they were secretly married on Naboo) Padme Amidala is trapped on Coruscant. 'In his mind's eye he saw Padme stalked by a dark, towering creature ... His fear for Padme expanded'. Anakin also hears Yoda's voice, 'Fear leads to anger; anger to hatred; hatred to the dark side.' Throughout, Anakin Skywalker is closely watched by Sidious in preparation to seduce 'The Chosen One' to the dark side of the force. Luceno ties together multiple plots, masterfully melding them into a unified, coherent whole. Labyrinth of Evil ends where the forthcoming Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Woodring Stover begins (April 2005) in preparation for George Lucas's STAR WARS Episode III movie (May 2005).

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