Author: Jeff Grubb
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: April 24, 2012
Era: New Republic
This review contains minor spoilers.
At first glance, it’s obvious that Star Wars: Scourge isn’t your average Expanded Universe (#SWEU) novel. The stark white cover prominently displays an off-kilter Star Wars logo. The former is a rarity among the numerous EU books, and the latter is almost certainly a first. Upon digging into the book itself, readers will discover many unique concepts and perspectives, courtesy of Jeff Grubb, a newcomer to the Star Wars novels. Grubb is not, however, unfamiliar with the universe or writing in general. He’s worked on many novels, comics, and role-playing games (RPGs), including Tempest Fued, the tabletop RPG upon which Scourge is based. Newcomers to the story are sure to enjoy the plot’s twists and turns, but Grubb adds enough new elements–while remaining faithful to the original story–that veterans of the 2002 game should enjoy it as well.
When Jedi Knight Toro Irana is killed while negotiating with the Hutts, his former master Mander Zuma is sent to investigate the fatality and close the deal. What follows is an exciting adventure deep into the galaxy’s underworld, filled with smugglers, killers, and crime lords. A host of memorable characters accompany the Jedi Master on his mission to put an end to the Tempest spice trade, including Toro’s sister Reen Irana, her Bothan companion Eddey Be’ray, and Corporate Sector Authority Lieutenant Commander Angela Krin. With the exception of Krin, this basic plot is completely new. The rest of the story, however, dovetails nicely into Tempest Fued.
Most Star Wars books rely heavily on major characters, even while introducing new fan favorites. Not so with Scourge. While Grubb often references well known locations and organizations, nearly every character–even those merely referenced in passing–is completely new (provided you don’t count Tempest Fued). The closest Scourge gets to mentioning a major character is in the quote “My master’s master’s master,” a vague reference to Yoda. But while some fans might be disappointed by this, Scourge is written well enough that Grubb doesn’t need to rely on big names to keep readers entertained.
Mander Zuma, in particular, is a very interesting and unusual character. A Jedi archivist, Mander is knowledgeable about the galaxy but uncertain about himself. He’s skilled enough to take on opponents with a lightsaber, but he prefers to resolve the situation with words, rather than action. The “librarian,” as he is often teased, always knows exactly what to say to surprise and disarm a potential enemy, be it a by-the-book CSA officer or a villainous Hutt. Mander is also hesitant to use the Force to change someone’s mind; a recurring theme in Scourge. This leads to a great discussion about the intricacies of Jedi Mind Tricks, such as why they are often difficult to pull off and potentially dangerous.
The other characters are just as interesting. Reen, like her deceased brother, is a Pantoran, the blue-skinned species introduced in The Clone Wars television series. She and her friend Eddey, an expressive Bothan of few words, have shared a wide range of experiences as spacers; experiences they’d rather not share with Angela, who is in command of a CSA ship. Surprisingly, the Hutts depicted in Scourge defy most stereotypes. Popara, his two sons Mika and Zonnos, and the various other Hutts bring unique perspectives to the species. Patella, in particular, is extremely cool, despite his rather limited role. We don’t want to spoil the surprises, but readers might find themselves sympathizing with the Anjiliac clan on multiple occasions. Only Koax felt like a throwaway character, seeming to have served no purpose to the overall plot.
Scourge isn’t filled with as much humor as, say, Shadow Games, but there are a few moments which are sure to elicit laughs from readers, such as “… looking wise and venerable and completely <spoiler redacted>.” The book’s only annoyances are the repeated use of “Jeedai” by the Hutts and their henchmen, the mention of a “warp space motivator” (this isn’t another sci-fi franchise; hyperdrive motivators have already been established), and the strange need to put the word “new” in front of every reference to the Jedi Order.
All in all, Star Wars: Scourge is an excellent addition to the Expanded Universe. Jeff Grubb’s unique perspective and cast of all-new characters brings a fresh take that should please Star Wars fans. With Scourge, things are not always as they appear, and that applies to every facet of the novel. “You want to read this book.” *waves hand*
Reviewed by William Devereux
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