Review: Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber

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Joe Schreiber author of Death Troopers and Red Harvest returns to the darker side of the galaxy far, far away with his latest novel, Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown. Lockdown is set after the events of the novel Cloak of Deception, during the later portions of the novel Darth Plagueis and before the film Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis.

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

Welcome to Cog Hive Seven a penitentiary space station filled with the vilest scum of the galaxy, an immorral warden and a serious pest problem. In his third Star Wars novel author Joe Schreiber does not base the plot around a zombie virus. This time Darth Maul has been dispatched by his master, Darth Sidious to infiltrate the prison track down the mysterious and reclusive weapons dealer Iram Radique and get Radique to give a special nuclear device to the Bando Gora death cult in furtherance of the Sith Grand Plan. Maul is sent in under a false identity and told that he must not use his Force abilities because he could reveal his true nature and unravel his master’s plan. To further complicate Maul’s situation all the prisoners in Cog Hive Seven have small electronic detonators implanted on their hearts and the guards can trigger these detonators at the push of a button.

If that is not complicated enough twice a day two prisoners are chosen to fight each other in deadly matches that are broadcast across the holonet for the entertainment of viewers and for the placing of bets by gamblers across the galaxy.

The arrival of Maul and InterGalactic Banking Clan auditor Vesto Slipher at the prison upsets the delicate equilibrium of the prison. Life for the inmates and the staff at the prison gets much more complicated and confusing as Maul works his way through the gladiatorial contests and starts to unravel the mystery that is Iram Radique.

Warden Sadiki Blirr is dealing with her own issues as she fights off unwanted interruptions from Galactic Gaming Commissioner Dragomir Chlorus, Vesto Slipher, troublesome correction officers and her odd but brilliant brother Dakarai Blirr.

Schreiber crafts a story that serves as a solid stand-alone tale, inoffensive to continuity but manages to weave in some interesting continuity nods. We have appearances by Darth Sidious and Darth Plagueis and this story fits within the pages of James Luceno’s novel comfortably. From the Bounty Hunter video game we get the inclusion of the Bando Gora and Komari Vosa. We also get a connection to Screiber’s Death Troopers book with a character that would later appear there. If you read into it further you can even begin to see echoes of what Maul will later do on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in his creation of the Shadow Collective.

I have some issues with how Darth Maul and a few other characters act in the book, decisions they make based on information that they have does not always seem logical. That being said, the combination of Schreiber’s short chapters and relentless action keep this novel flowing along at a break neck pace that I found highly enjoyable.

I loved Schreiber’s selection of species to populate this novel and felt that overall his characterization was compelling and successful in fleshing out so many new characters in a relative short amount of time.

Fans of Schreiber’s earlier work will certainly still recognize the author’s style and while this isn’t a horror novel, the feeling and darkness of his other books is present here as well. As a reader that liked his earlier books but didn’t love them I very much enjoyed Schreiber’s more main stream approach to Star Wars storytelling here.

In the end Maul: Lockdown provides a fast paced and exciting story that gives us more of one of the most exciting characters to come out of the prequel era. Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown goes on sale January 28, 2014  in hardcover, e-book and audio-book formats.

Editor’s Note:  An advance review copy of the book was provided by the publisher for this review.