The Glove of Darth Vader: This Book is For Children
I spent the last few days reading a book for children. Here are all the unnecessarily salty things I have to say about Star Wars: The Glove of Darth Vader.
“Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the Rebel Alliance have fought valiantly against the evil Galactic Empire. Together they have kept alive the hopes for freedom and helped restore the ways of the Old Republic with its wise Senate and noble line of Jedi Knights. But now a new threat awaits the Alliance.
Within the evil Empire, the surviving Imperial warlords have been fighting among themselves for power. No one knows who will seize control, but the Prophets of the Dark Side have foretold that soon a new Emperor will arise, and on his right hand he shall wear an indestructible symbol of power…”
Keeping all that in mind, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
R2-D2 is Nearsighted
Mentioned by C-3PO as a total throwaway line (“Why didn’t you tell me we’d passed [the entrance to the stadium] you nearsighted hunk of tin!”], I did what I do best and latched onto it as a pertinent detail. Ask me about R2-D2 character lore, I’m going to tell you he’s nearsighted with the utmost confidence. As someone who’s also nearsighted, this explains why he’s always running into things and screaming.
We Get an Ecology Lesson from a Fish Man
For a good whole paragraph, Admiral Ackbar gives us a lesson on Calamarian ecology and the symbiotic relationship the Mon Calamarians have with the Whaladons: “‘The Whaladons eat the little plants, or plankton, that grow at the surface of our oceans,’ Ackbar explained. ‘If those little plants spread and become too plentiful, as they breathe they could use up all the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere—the process of photosynthesis. Without carbon dioxide, our planet would get much colder. You see, we need Whaladons to keep the amount of plankton in balance, or we Calamarians could wake up one day to find ourselves in an ice age!'”
I liked this little bit of over-simplified science in a science fiction book. I consulted a physicist who I know in real life on the probability of this: bottom line, it’s possible—on a colossal, Mon Calamarian scale—for plankton to breathe up all the carbon dioxide and freeze the planet. But also, Admiral Ackbar’s explanation is in super-duper general terms and shouldn’t be used in place of real, actual science. This is still a Star Wars novel, after all.
There’s a Glossary at the End of this Book
I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but there’s a glossary at the end of this book. And a cast of characters complete with portraits in the beginning. And kind of ugly pictures throughout. Again, this book is For Children.
There’s a Pretty Good Twist
M. Night levels of twist, if I may be so bold. This won’t make much sense until I get into the Cons and explain the main villain a little more, but this twist went from good to bad in about one paragraph. The good twist: Trioculus is not Emperor Palpatine’s long-lost three-eyed son. The bad twist: Emperor Palpatine has a real three-eyed son, and his name is Triclops.
“‘Never forget,’ Trioculus said… ‘that when the Central Committee of Grand Moffs proposed to me that I be the one to declare himself the Emperor’s son, you grand moffs swore you would keep the plot a secret'” (68).
“‘And I hope you shall never forget,’ said Grand Moff Hissa… ‘that we dreamed up this plot only because we had absolutely no choice. The Emperor’s real three-eyed son, Triclops, is hopelessly insane…'” (68).
So, the twist is decent: a guy who says he’s the Emperor’s son and heir to the Empire turns out to be none of those things and it’s all just an elaborate plot to find the glove of Darth Vader and rule the galaxy. What’s not decent: Triclops. Why.
The Villain’s Name is Trioculus: Guess How Many Eyes He Has
First of all, this man is introduced as Trioculus, Supreme Slavelord of Kessel, which is bad in and of itself; and then, he’s introduced as Emperor Palpatine’s long-lost three-eyed son, which is even worse. After all that, there’s still this line: “[Threepio] was surprised that he wasn’t ugly like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine had been. In fact, Trioculus was almost handsome” (18). So, we have Palpatine’s hot three-eyed son Trioculus to deal with now (except—unless you skipped around—we know from our last Pro that he’s not really Palpatine’s son but an Incredible Likeness).
Apparently, his three eyes are important, as he says to the gathered Grand Moffs: “‘It is known by the ancients that a Dark Lord with three eyes has a secret strength…'” (19). This is where things get a little bit clever, or else I’m giving too much credit to a children’s book; Trioculus doesn’t have the “secret strength” because the prophecy isn’t about just any three-eyed Dark Lord, it’s about Triclops, Palpatine’s actual three-eyed son. Since Trioculus possesses no link to Palpatine, he has no real lightning power, and he can’t wield the glove of Darth Vader.
Other than that, this villain is absolutely the most ridiculous. Along with Grand Moff Hissa— who filed his teeth down to points—and Captain Dunwell—the Ahab of Space—the evil in this book reads more like a clown show than anything.
R2’s Beeps are Spelled Phonetically and Overuse of Onomatopoeias
BZZZZT! Dweeeet bchooo tzniiiiiiit! WHOOOOSH! Ptooog bziiini? ZHWEEEEEEK! Drooot boopa zinnnn. Reewooo dweet? Beeeeza zoooon? ZING! Tzooooooot gniiiiiizba! Chpeeeeez phoooooch! SHIBOOOOOM! Bzzzz tzzzt gniiiz bzheeep dzz dzooop! GRONGGGG!
Thanks! I hate it!
Everything is Exposition
There’s nothing I hate more than Exposition Theater™. What this means: blocks of text (usually dialogue) where things are just Explained. Since the nature of Star Wars novels usually includes some sort of meeting where The Mission is explained in dialogue, I’ll give them a pass. But this book not only Explains through dialogue, it Explains through the narrative as well. The most heinous Exposition Theater™ offense comes in chapter three, where for a good few paragraphs the book just explains Whaladons.
“…they sat at a very long banquet table while a servant brought in trays filled with Whaladon meat, a delicacy that was reserved only for the Imperial ruling class and forbidden to stormtroopers and slaves. Whaladon meat was especially prized because it was thought to be a source of strength.
Whaladons were huge whale-like creatures, mammals that lived only in the oceans of the watery planet Calamari. They were highly intelligent and wise, and it was against the laws of Calamari to kill them. Still, a huge illegal Whaladon hunting operation existed in Calamari’s waters. In fact, even though Whaladon’s were endangered species, there were more Whaladon hunters on Calamari than ever before, led by Captain Dunwell, a trusted friend of the Central Committee of Grand Moffs” (25).
This is perhaps too harsh, as I have to look at this through the lens of “It’s a Children’s Book.” But, that’s really no excuse not to write well, I think. In any case, this little excerpt ties into our next point:
Going On About Endangered Whaladons like it Isn’t a Heavy-Handed Metaphor for Commercial Whaling
The endangered Whaladon’s are literally a non-issue. It’s a pointless subplot and could’ve been written around. “But then,” said the Davids, “where would we talk about how whaling is bad?” Okay, you got me there, Davids.
When this book was written, in 1992, the effects of commercial whaling were still pretty fresh in the mind; the International Whaling Commission‘s commercial whaling moratorium had been in effect for seven years, putting a pause on commercial whaling from “the 1985/1986 season onward.” In 1970, the United States added commercially hunted whales to its Endangered Species list and prohibited the import of whale product. Currently, Norway and Iceland set their own catch limits in opposition to the moratorium. According to the IWC, “The Russian Federation has also registered an objection to the moratorium decision but does not exercise it.”
So, we had a little history lesson. Is that a Con? Not necessarily, I guess. It got me to look up 20th Century commercial whaling to try and correlate some things, so it’s not all bad. I’ll still protest SeaWorld until they stop breeding whales for entertainment, in case anyone was wondering. Still: it’s bad writing, so I’m going to talk about it.
Out Of Character. We’ve all seen it. We all know it. That dreaded thing that ruins a fanfiction for us, that murders a book-to-movie adaptation, and—for me personally because I’ve read so many—completely obliterates a Star Wars EU novel. In terms of The Glove of Darth Vader, basically everyone is out of character. Let’s compare:
Han goes on about the Kessel Run as if no one knows he did it in 12 Parsecs. Trust me, everyone knows; how does everyone know? Because Han is the type of character who would go on and on about it. In this instance, there’s no exasperated sighing, no “Yes, Han, we know you did the Kessel Run in 12 Parsecs.” Here’s the quote we’re working with: “‘Kessel is a planet that all experienced cargo pilots try to avoid,’ said Han. ‘Especially me. But a few times, where there was a fortune to be made from transporting spice, I flew the trip from Kessel anyway, against my better judgment. In fact, I’ve made the Kessel Run in the Millennium Falcon in less than twelve standard time parts.'” After that, Luke mentions that Han told him that story when they first met, and Han says, “‘Yeah, I remember, kid, now that you mention it.'” There’s no way Han forgot he told that story. He may forget who exactly he told it to, but he knows he’s told it, and he doesn’t care if he tells it again.
Han part 2
Han Solo only lasts until page ten in this book, and then he leaves and never comes back, apparently. He leaves Leia with a surprisingly selfish goodbye, and the only thing I can come up with for this is everyone who writes EU novels really wants Han and Leia to break up. Here’s Han and Leia’s exchange: “‘…Lando’s offered me a lease on a piece of sky near Cloud City. I’ve always dreamed of having a place of my own, and I figure it’s about time Chewie and I built my dream sky house.’ ‘Can’t you put it off until we know what’s going on with the new Emperor?’ asked Leia. ‘Princess, there’s always something important that seems to come up before I can take care of my own dreams. Time is running out. And a man’s got to do what he’s got to do.’ ‘If that’s the way you want it, Han,’ Leia said” (10). And then Han takes Leia’s hand and says “May the Force be with you.” I’m interpreting this strictly as an excuse to not have to write Han into the story.
As a backwater desert planet farmboy, Luke is empathetic, a bit naive, always out to do what’s best and help his friends. He’s also whiny, sarcastic, and a little bit of a ditz. After he learns about his parentage, he turns dark and broody, but he still cares about his friends. In this book, Luke is more or less one dimensional, and his one dimension is “nice.” He’s just a nice boy, and that’s all. There’s a line where he says to Han, “‘Thanks Han, coming from you that means a lot'” and the dialogue tag after is “Luke said to his friend.” In my analysis of Luke’s character, Han is someone he’s sarcastic with, someone to make fun of in good humor. They’re not so heartily sincere with each other. If anything, Luke is the most genuinely sincere with Leia and Ben Kenobi. Literally anyone but Han.
My final statement is, No One Understands These Characters. I’m not even excluding myself in this, but apparently, I paid more attention to character traits than the Davids did.
Literally, Vader’s Right Hand was a Robot
This entire book is based on a prophecy about Darth Vader’s right-hand glove made specifically as an “indestructible symbol of evil.” On page 6, Mon Mothma reveals the prophecy: After Palpatine’s fiery death/Another leader soon comes to command the Empire/And on his right hand he does wear/The glove of Darth Vader! She then goes to explain, “‘Unlike the left-hand glove, the right glove was made to be indestructible…A symbol of evil that would survive forever.'”
We’re talking about a glove. A glove that was “hurled out into space when the Death Star exploded.” Not only is our entire story hinging on a glove, but it’s also believed that Darth Vader’s power was concentrated in said glove: “The glove didn’t work for [Trioculus] like it had worked for Darth Vader, who had been able to choke the life-breath out of his victims by pointing the glove in their direction” (67). I mean, technically, yeah, that’s how it works. To point your hand at someone you must also point your glove at them. But, Darth Vader didn’t store all his Force power in his glove, so this doesn’t make as much sense as the Davids wanted it to.
The Domed City of Aquarius
This isn’t all bad; an underwater city encased in a dome, half air-breathers, half-water dwellers, everyone living in harmony. Look down into the canals and there’s the water city, you can wave to your fish cousin from the walking bridge.
The issue I have is it’s not cool enough to go on the Pros list; it’s white bread, basic sci-fi concept of an underwater city. They did the same thing with the Gungan city in The Phantom Menace. Pixar did the same thing in Monsters University.
Related to The Phantom Menace, they could’ve changed the Gungans to the Mon Calamarians and it would’ve had the same narrative effect without the subtle racial coding. Certainly not the worst offense as far as racial coding in a Star Wars film goes, but maybe everyone would hate Jar Jar Binks less if he just hadn’t happened in the first place.
This is Basically Just Moby Dick with Fancier Whales
Leviathor, great white whale, leader of the Whaladons, composes an opera at the end of this book. That’s all I have to say about that.
Opinions: This Book is Bad
So Star Wars: The Glove of Darth Vader Oh, this book is bad. It’s so, so bad. But, it’s for children, so it’s allowed to be bad, I guess. And I knew it was going to be bad, it was lent to me under the pretense of “You wanna read the worst Star Wars book ever?” So, this article is dedicated to my friend Adam who let me borrow his terrible book. Thanks, man, I wouldn’t have suffered without you.
In the end, you’d think a graduate of the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film Studies (Mr. Paul Davids) and Senior Vice President of Special Projects at Universal Pictures (Mrs. Hollace Davids) could’ve written a better book; apparently, 90’s children didn’t deserve good literature based on the most popular science fiction series of their time and before. And that’s all I have to say about that.