It’s a dark side sort of day with the first Expanded Universe book release of 2014. Out today is Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber. What happens when you send one of the most dangerous beings in galaxy on a do-or-die mission? A heck of a lot of carnage for starters.
Cog Hive Seven has a new inmate: Darth Maul. Sent by his Master Darth Sidious to infiltrate the prison and find the elusive Iram Radique, a legendary arms dealer. What might seem like a simple task is layered in complications. No one’s actually seen Radique and lived to tell the tale. Some think he’s just an urban legend. On top of his mission, Maul must survive the nightly fights to the death organized by the warden and the gamblers across the galaxy want to see their newest champion fight.
This isn’t as much of a blatant horror book as Death Troopers, Schreiber’s first foray in the Expanded Universe. There are no zombies here but it still has some elements of the broader genre present. At the same time, the book had more of an air of a mystery novel layered on top of it to keep me intrigued and wanting to turn each page faster. Schreiber’s writing style definitely contributes to this, making the book fairly enjoyable.
It’s certainly not a bad book by any means but neither can it really compete with some of the better releases we’ve seen as of late. (It’s likely going to be a while before we can stop comparing things to Kenobi.) In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t consider myself to be a fan of either the horror genre nor of Darth Maul. If I were, I would’ve likely enjoyed this book a fair bit more than I did which is why it definitely gets a recommendation to those who consider themselves a fan of either of the above. That said, I did enjoy Maul: Lockdown. The efforts of Maul to discover the identity of Iram Radique inside the prison are just as engaging as the straight-faced maneuverings by Sidious and Plagueis back on Coruscant.
One of the things that book did quite well with was its use of the established universe. This is one of the first books that really takes what James Luceno did with Darth Plagueis and incorporates it into theirs. The addition of Darth Plagueis to the story was a welcome one especially as it let readers get a little more insight to the relationship between Plagueis and Sidious. The book even opens with Maul fighting a Yuuzhan Vong in one of the death matches and actually manages to work in the context. There are a few other established characters who make appearances but cannot be named without spoiling some of the tale. This all leads to another check in the plus column for Maul: Lockdown which is that it can easily standalone. Readers who have only seen the films won’t have trouble picking it up. On the other hand, universe context can only make the read more enjoyable for more experienced Expanded Universe readers.
On a similar vein of thought, the book does a good job of throwing more challenges at Maul than just the ones readers might expect at the start. The Warden, Sadiki Blirr and her brother Dakarai were interesting additions to the mix complete with enough hints about their backstory that I wanted to know more. I also appreciated the addition of Komari Vosa. Because of the fairly large cast, the book turned out to be much more than just ‘find Radique’ which read as being far too easy of a mission on the surface. Plus, a lot of additions felt logical to the story and were also ones whom some authors might not have considered. The flip side of that coin is the feel it almost gave the book. With each new group or person or challenge who was defeated, another group with its own challenges immediately sprung up to take its place. While this obviously did help keep the plot moving forward, (as the plot should) it did at times border on feeling a little too much like video game levels. That said, it didn’t bother me quite as much as, say, video game action would have.
Bottom line is this: if you enjoy Joe Schreiber’s books and/or you like Darth Maul, this book should go on your ‘to buy’ list. If you’re even mildly intrigued, give it a read either now or when it comes out in paperback.
I give Maul: Lockdown a 7/10.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing us with an advanced copy of the book for review purposes.