Monday, 4 January 2021

Jedi Twilight (Star Wars Coruscant Nights #1)

: Michael Reaves (James Michael Reaves)
First Published: 2008
File size/Pages: 596KB / 188pp
Ebook Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
Ebook Date: Oct 2012

For the first entry in my 2021 Challenge, I decided to choose the first novel in the Star Wars Coruscant Nights trilogy, Jedi Twilight, written by Michael Reaves. As I've previously said in my review of Heirs of the Force (Star Wars Young Jedi Knights #1) I have a problem with the Star Wars expanded universe books. 

I don't find reading about the adventures of Luke, Leia or Han Solo that engaging. Added to this, in my eyes no other villains can match up to the gravitas of Darth Vader or The Emporer. I've tried over the years, but it just hasn't worked out for me. So, when I decided to choose Star Wars EU as one of the 2021 Challenges, I had to pick carefully. To be honest, it was a toss up between this trilogy and the X-Wing series (mainly because I do not believe either of them feature any of the holy trinity) and this one came out on top.

And this is where it pains me to have to admit that I have actually read this book in the past. I have no idea what came to mind, but as I was about halfway through the novel I started to get a strange sense of deja vu. [It's now rather embarrassing to read my blog of Splinter of the Mind's Eye in November 2019 and realise I remembered reading it back when I wrote that blog entry, but not 12 month's later - I must be getting old!]. Anyway, suffice to say, I read the whole book through - this review isn't conceived from a long distant memory.

Michael Reaves was born James Michael in America in 1950. His work spans many mediums including film, television, tie-in novels, children's books and original short and long fiction. Beginning in the 1980s he has written for an impressive number of animated shows. His script contributions span numerous series such as Batman, Spiderman, Conan, He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Ghostbusters, Superman, Godzilla, Droids and Ewoks as well as many others. He is also no slouch when it comes to live action; series such as Swamp Thing, Star Trek The Next Generation, Captain Power, The Twilight Zone and even Father Dowling Mysteries commissioned his work.

In fiction, Reaves had short stories published from the early 1970s, and his first original piece of fiction was published as I, Alien in 1979. Soon after Reaves began collaborating with authors, a strategy he maintained throughout his career - most notably with Steve Perry, Neil Gaiman and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff.

He already had a few Star Wars books behind him when the Coruscant Nights gig came along, and there were a few more to follow. Unfortunately Reaves was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and his work has naturally slowed down. His last published piece was in 2015 with Eternity's Wheel, a young adult novel written with Neil Gaiman and Mallory Reaves.

Jedi Twilight, as you might have guessed, is set on the city-planet of Coruscant. The time period follows pretty swiftly after the conclusion of Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith, just a matter of months. Newly baptised Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader is intent on hunting down all remaining Jedi in an attempt to dominate the galaxy and ensure the Sith rule forever. But there are still some determined individuals who evade capture. Additionally there is a burgeoning resistance emerging from the ashes of the Empire's takeover.

The story begins with Jedi Master Even Piell being pursued by stormtroopers through the depths of Coruscant. The diminutive Jedi is cornered, and in the ensuing battle passes on a last wish to freedom fighter Nick Rostu. Rostu contacts the only other Jedi he knows, Jax Pavan, and passes on the Masters dying wish to track down a Droid who has some key information sorted within his data banks (macguffin anyone?).

Jax has had to become a bounty hunter to make ends meet. He isn't particularly bothered about hiding his true identity, which seems rather foolish with Vader in such close proximity, and uses the Force very sparingly. Jax also has a mysterious item that was entrusted to him years ago, by a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker. Pax is oblivious of Skywalker's fate.

Elsewhere, news reporter Den Dhur and his protocol droid I-5YQ are trying to track down the only son of I-5YQ's former master Lord Pavan. The droid is rather unusual, he displays extremely human characteristics for a robot, he has various settings either switched off or removed - for example he has no hesitation in using the laser beams built into each index finger when the situation calls for a little firepower.

There are other characters who will be pulled into the web of intrigue of Jedi Twilight; Larath Tarak, a Jedi Paladin who uses the Force but prefers a pair of blasters rather than a Lightsabre; Dal Perhi the Underlord of the Black Sun (crime syndicate), and Prince Xizor, a Black Sun operative whose ambition to climb to the top of the organisation will put him in direct opposition of others. 

And behind all of them Vader looms from the shadows, a menacing presence that everyone talks about in hushed tones and sideways glances.

Reaves' book appealed to me because it was sold as being "like a detective story" in structure, set amid the haunts of Coruscant's lower levels where crime pays and killing is a way of life. I can't say that the story felt very much like detective fiction, but the atmosphere of the ground level locations was evocative and enticing. Selling Star Wars as crime fiction is a bit of a stretch and Reaves prose wasn't particularly Chandleresque or anything. Saying this, I was very impressed with his storytelling, and the plot certainly held my attention throughout. The first half of the book has a lot of scene-setting and character introducing to get through - but Reaves writing skill carries you along nicely.

The second half allows for a few more action sequences, with a great final set piece. Everything comes together well in the conclusion to set up the next installment. I didn't realise just how well Reaves had set this up, and how much I liked his different characters until this point so I have to take my hat off to him in that regard. I also was pleased that Vader is used sparingly - I like it that he is there, but was concerned he was going to be in the story too much.

If you are into your Star Wars lore, then I'm sure you will get a lot more out of it than I could. There are probably a lot of little Easter Eggs in there. I am now aware that some characters are present in Reaves previous books - not knowing this didn't spoil the tale for me though, so it shouldn't do for anyone else I guess.

Very well written, good action and characterisation thoughout. I'm looking forward the reading the next book in the trilogy.

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