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  • Written by James Luceno
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On Sale: June 28, 2011
Pages: 384 | ISBN: 978-0-307-79579-3
Published by : LucasBooks Ballantine Group

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Read by Jonathan Davis
On Sale: February 20, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7393-5705-7
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The war that erupted in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones is nearing its boiling point, as the dauntless Separatist forces continue their assault on the teetering Republic–and the diabolical triumvirate of Count Dooku, General Grievous, and their Master, Darth Sidious, fine-tune their strategy for conquest. In Episode III Revenge of the Sith the fates of key players on both sides of the conflict will be sealed. But first, crucial events that pave the way to that time of reckoning unfold in a labyrinth of evil. . . .

Capturing Trade Federation Viceroy–and Separatist Councilmember–Nute Gunray is the mission that brings Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, with a squad of clones in tow, to Neimoidia. But the treacherous ally of the Sith proves as slippery as ever, evading his Jedi pursuers even as they narrowly avoid deadly disaster. Still, their daring efforts yield an unexpected prize: a unique holotransceiver that bears intelligence capable of leading the Republic forces to their ultimate quarry, the ever-elusive Darth Sidious.

Swiftly taking up the chase, Anakin and Obi-Wan follow clues from the droid factories of Charros IV to the far-flung worlds of the Outer Rim . . . every step bringing them closer to pinpointing the location of the Sith Lord–whom they suspect has been manipulating every aspect of the Separatist rebellion. Yet somehow, in the escalating galaxy-wide chess game of strikes, counterstrikes, ambushes, sabotage, and retaliations, Sidious stays constantly one move ahead.

Then the trail takes a shocking turn. For Sidious and his minions have set in motion a ruthlessly orchestrated campaign to divide and overwhelm the Jedi forces–and bring the Republic to its knees.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1

Darkness was encroaching on Cato Neimoidia’s western hemisphere, though exchanges of coherent light high above the beleaguered world ripped looming night to shreds. Well under the fractured sky, in an orchard of manax trees that studded the lower ramparts of Viceroy Gunray’s majestic redoubt, companies of clone troopers and battle droids were slaughtering one another with bloodless precision.

A flashing fan of blue energy lit the undersides of a cluster of trees: the lightsaber of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Attacked by two sentry droids, Obi-Wan stood his ground, twisting his upraised blade right and left to swat blaster bolts back at his enemies. Caught midsection by their own salvos, both droids came apart, with a scattering of alloy limbs.

Obi-Wan moved again.

Tumbling under the segmented thorax of a Neimoidian harvester beetle, he sprang to his feet and raced forward. Explosive light shunted from the citadel’s deflector shield dappled the loamy ground between the trees, casting long shadows of their buttressed trunks. Oblivious to the chaos occurring in their midst, columns of the five-meter-long harvesters continued their stalwart march toward a mound that supported the fortress. In their cutting jaws or on their upsweeping backs they carried cargoes of pruned foliage. The crushing sounds of their ceaseless gnawing provided an eerie cadence to the rumbling detonations and the hiss and whine of blaster bolts.

From off to Obi-Wan’s left came a sudden click of servos; to his right, a hushed cry of warning.

“Down, Master!”

He dropped into a crouch even before Anakin’s lips formed the final word, lightsaber aimed to the ground to keep from impaling his onrushing former Padawan. A blur of thrumming blue energy sizzled through the humid air, followed by a sharp smell of cauterized circuitry, the tang of ozone. A blaster discharged into soft soil, then the stalked, elongated head of a battle droid struck the ground not a meter from Obi-Wan’s feet, sparking as it bounced and rolled out of sight, repeating: “Roger, roger . . . Roger, roger . . .”

In a tuck, Obi-Wan pivoted on his right foot in time to see the droid’s spindly body collapse. The fact that Anakin had saved his life was nothing new, but Anakin’s blade had passed a little too close for comfort. Eyes somewhat wide with surprise, he came to his feet.

“You nearly took my head off.”

Anakin held his blade to one side. In the strobing light of battle his blue eyes shone with wry amusement. “Sorry, Master, but your head was where my lightsaber needed to go.”

Master.

Anakin used the honorific not as learner to teacher, but as Jedi Knight to Jedi Council member. The braid that had defined his earlier status had been ritually severed after his audacious actions at Praesitlyn. His tunic, knee-high boots, and tight-fitting trousers were as black as the night. His face scarred from a contest with Dooku-trained Asajj Ventress. His mechanical right hand sheathed in an elbow-length glove. He had let his hair grow long the past few months, falling almost to his shoulders now. His face he kept clean-shaven, unlike Obi-Wan, whose strong jaw was defined by a short beard.

“I suppose I should be grateful your lightsaber needed to go there, rather than desired to.”

Anakin’s grin blossomed into a full-fledged smile. “Last time I checked we were on the same side, Master.”

“Still, if I’d been a moment slower . . .”

Anakin booted the battle droid’s blaster aside. “Your fears are only in your mind.”

Obi-Wan scowled. “Without a head I wouldn’t have much mind left, now, would I?” He swept his lightsaber in a flourishing pass, nodding up the alley of manax trees. “After you.”

They resumed their charge, moving with the supernatural speed and grace afforded by the Force, Obi-Wan’s brown cloak swirling behind him. Victims of the initial bombardment, scores of battle droids lay sprawled on the ground. Others dangled like broken marionettes from the branches of the trees into which they had been hurled.

Areas of the leafy canopy were in flames.

Two scorched droids little more than arms and torsos lifted their weapons as the Jedi approached, but Anakin only raised his left hand in a Force push that shoved the droids flat onto their backs.

They jinked right, somersaulting under the wide bodies of two harvester beetles, then hurdling a tangle of barbed underbrush that had managed to anchor itself in the otherwise meticulously tended orchard. They emerged from the tree line at the shore of a broad irrigation canal, fed by a lake that delimited the Neimoidians’ citadel on three sides. In the west a trio of wedge-shaped Venator-class assault cruisers hung in scudding clouds. North and east the sky was in turmoil, crosshatched with ion trails, turbolaser beams, hyphens of scarlet light streaming upward from weapons emplacements outside the citadel’s energy shield. Rising from high ground at the end of the peninsula, the tiered fastness was reminiscent of the command towers of the Trade Federation core ships, and indeed had been the inspiration for them.

Somewhere inside, trapped by Republic forces, were the Trade Federation elite.

With his homeworld threatened and the purse worlds of Deko and Koru Neimoidia devastated, Viceroy Gunray would have been wiser to retreat to the Outer Rim, as other members of the Separatist Council were thought to be doing. But rational thinking had never been a Neimoidian strong suit, especially when possessions remained on Cato Neimoidia the viceroy apparently couldn’t live without. Backed by a battle group of Federation warships, he had slipped onto Cato Neimoidia, intent on looting the citadel before it fell. But Republic forces had been lying in wait, eager to capture him alive and bring him to justice—thirteen years late, in the judgment of many.

Cato Neimoidia was as close to Coruscant as Obi-Wan and Anakin had been in almost four standard months, and with the last remaining Separatist strongholds now cleared from the Core and Colonies, they expected to be back in the Outer Rim by week’s end.

Obi-Wan heard movement on the far side of the irrigation canal.

An instant later, four clone troopers crept from the tree line on the opposite bank to take up firing positions amid the water-smoothed rocks that lined the ditch. Far behind them a crashed gunship was burning. Protruding from the canopy, the LAAT’s blunt tail was stenciled with the eight-rayed battle standard of the Galactic Republic.

A gunboat glided into view from downstream, maneuvering to where the Jedi were waiting. Standing in the bow, a clone commander named Cody waved hand signals to the troopers on shore and to others in the gunboat, who immediately fanned out to create a safe perimeter.

Troopers could communicate with one another through the comlinks built into their T-visored helmets, but the Advanced Recon Commando teams had created an elaborate system of gestures meant to thwart enemy attempts at eavesdropping.

A few nimble leaps brought Cody face-to-face with Obi-Wan and Anakin.

“Sirs, I have the latest from airborne command.”

“Show us,” Anakin said.

Cody dropped to one knee, his right hand activating a device built into his left wrist gauntlet. A cone of blue light emanated from the device, and a hologram of task force commander Dodonna resolved.

“Generals Kenobi and Skywalker, provincial recon unit reports that Viceroy Gunray and his entourage are making their way to the north side of the redoubt. Our forces have been hammering at the shield from above and from points along the shore, but the shield generator is in a hardened site, and difficult to get at. Gunships are taking heavy fire from turbolaser cannons in the lower ramparts. If your team is still committed to taking Gunray alive, you’re going to have to skirt those defenses and find an alternative way into the palace. At this point we cannot reinforce, repeat, cannot reinforce.”

Obi-Wan looked at Cody when the hologram had faded. “Suggestions, Commander?”

Cody made an adjustment to the wrist projector, and a 3-D schematic of the redoubt formed in midair. “Assuming that Gunray’s fortress is similar to what we found on Deko and Koru, the underground levels will contain fungus farms and processing and shipment areas. There will be access from the shipping areas into the midlevel grub hatcheries, and from the hatcheries we’ll be able to infiltrate the upper reaches.”

Cody carried a short-stocked DC-15 blaster rifle and wore the white armor and imaging system helmet that had come to symbolize the Grand Army of the Republic—grown, nurtured, and trained on the remote world of Kamino, three years ear- lier. Just now, though, areas of white showed only where there were no smears of mud or dried blood, no gouges, abrasions, or charred patches. Cody’s position was designated by orange markings on his helmet crest and shoulder guards. His upper right arm bore stripes signifying campaigns in which he had participated: Aagonar, Praesitlyn, Paracelus Minor, Antar 4, Tibrin, Skor II, and dozens of other worlds from Core to Outer Rim.

Over the years Obi-Wan had formed battlefield partnerships with several Advanced Recon Commandos—Alpha, with whom he had been imprisoned on Rattatak, and Jangotat, on Ord Cestus. Early-generation ARCs had received training by the Mandalorian clone template, Jango Fett. While the Kaminoans had managed to breed some of Fett out of the regulars, they had been more selective in the case of the ARCs. As a consequence, ARCs displayed more individual initiative and leadership abilities. In short, they were more like the late bounty hunter himself, which was to say, more human. While Cody wasn’t genetically an Advanced Recon Commando, he had ARC training and shared many ARC attributes.

In the initial stages of the war, clone troopers were treated no differently from the war machines they piloted or the weapons they fired. To many they had more in common with battle droids poured by the tens of thousands from Baktoid Armor Workshops on a host of Separatist-held worlds. But attitudes began to shift as more and more troopers died. The clones’ unfaltering dedication to the Republic, and to the Jedi, showed them to be true comrades in arms, and deserving of all the respect and compassion they were now afforded. It was the Jedi themselves, in addition to other progressive thinking officials in the Republic, who had urged that second- and third-generation troopers be given names rather than numbers, to foster a growing fellowship.

“I agree that we can probably reach the upper levels, Commander,” Obi-Wan said at last. “But how do you propose we reach the fungus farms to begin with?”

Cody stood to his full height and pointed toward the orchards. “we go in with the harvesters.”
Obi-Wan glanced uncertainly at Anakin and motioned him off to one side.

“It’s just the two of us. What do you think?

“I think you worry too much, Master.”

Obi-Wan folded his arms across his chest. “And who’ll worry about you if I don’t?”

Anakin canted his head and grinned. “There are others.”

“You can only be referring to See-Threepio. And you had to build him.”

“Think what you will.”

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes with purpose. “Oh, I see. But I would have thought Senator Amidala of greater interest to you that Supreme chancellor Palpatine.” Before Anakin could respond, he added: “Despite that she’s a politician also.”

“Don’t think I haven’t tried to attract her interest, Master.”

Anakin placed his artificial hand on Obi-Wan’s left shoulder. “Perhaps, Master. But then, who would look after you?”


From the Hardcover edition.
James Luceno|Author Q&A

About James Luceno

James Luceno - Labyrinth of Evil: Star Wars
James Luceno is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars novels Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Cloak of Deception, Labyrinth of Evil, as well as the New Jedi Order novels Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial and Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, The Unifying Force, and the eBook Darth Maul: Saboteur. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife and youngest child.

Author Q&A

James Luceno: Navigating the Labyrinth of Evil

Setting the Scene

Making the wait for Episode III's cinematic debut easier for Star Wars fans is Del Rey's release of Labyrinth of Evil, the new Star Wars novel that directly ties into the beginning of Episode III. Author James Luceno writes this new adventure, with access to detailed Episode III information from Lucasfilm, ensuring an authoritative prelude to the final Star Wars chapter.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker embark on their last big mission together before the events of Episode III. It is the Chosen One's first assignment with Obi-Wan as a full-fledged Jedi Knight. The Clone Wars are nearing their climactic resolution, with the Jedi investigating tenuous leads as to the location of Darth Sidious, the long-rumored mastermind behind the dark events clouding the galaxy. But such a search leads deep into a web of lies, and an explosive adventure that sets the stage for Episode III.

Author James Luceno answers a few questions about this hotly anticipated hardcover release that hits bookstores today.

Labyrinth of Evil is said to be the prequel to Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Does the novel take place immediately prior to the film? What will audiences who see film without having read the book be missing?

Labyrinth of Evil takes place in the final month of the Clone Wars and leads directly into the opening moments of Revenge of the Sith. It supplies plot and character backstory that George Lucas didn't have the time -- or inclination -- to include in the film. In addition, the novel addresses a couple of story points that remain unresolved from Attack of the Clones. With regard to whether audiences will be missing out by not reading the book, Sue Rostoni, of Lucas Licensing, put it best when she asked fans to consider whether knowing precisely how Princess Leia received the Death Star plans is essential to enjoying A New Hope. Personally, I like the fact that Star Wars films always begin in the midst of the action and leave the backstory for audiences to fill in. But I jumped at the chance to provide the back-fill.

Did you have access to the shooting script for Revenge of the Sith in writing Labyrinth of Evil? Were you able to look at any early rushes from the film?

I read the first version of the script, and was kept updated on revisions until the last possible moment -- that is, until no further edits could be made to the manuscript. I read the novelization as it was being written, and, because I was also working on the Episode III Visual Dictionary, had access to film stills and props, and spoke frequently with Sue Rostoni, Pablo Hidalgo (Episode III Set Diarist), and Jonathan Rinzler (author of The Making of Revenge of the Sith), all of whom were either attending dailies or seeing screenings of the rough cuts. Even so, Labyrinth contains a few minor continuity errors, owing to my attempts to be specific when I probably should have been vague.

Can you set the scene of the novel for us?

Following on the heels of events in Jedi Trial and Dark Rendezvous, Anakin Skywalker has been dubbed a Knight, and Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has been named to the Jedi Council. The Separatists have been pushed from the galactic core, and the war has taken a toll on everyone. The Outer Rim sieges have been going on for four months, and Anakin and Padmé haven't seen each other for at least that long. Labyrinth is the first chance to focus the action on Anakin and Obi-Wan, both as warriors and close friends. The first half of the book takes them through a series of adventures, during which they gather clues which coalesce in the second half, setting the stage for the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith.

Some have commented that the war the Republic faces parallels the uncertainty the U.S. faces in its current war. Were these intentional parallels or is this a case of reality mirroring art?

Views espoused by the characters do not necessarily reflect those of the writer, and no intentional parallels are made. So it must be a case of reality mirroring art. In public and in private George Lucas has said that the prequel films show the way in which democracies fall and dictators come to power. But galactic politics, even the war itself, are backdrop. Ultimately, Star Wars is a family saga about loss and redemption, and the repercussions that spring from cutting deals with the devil. Revenge's political scenes will probably end up on the cutting room floor, in any event, though they are included in the novelization, and with luck will show up on the DVD.

It's interesting to see how the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan has evolved over the course of the films and novels since Episode I The Phantom Menace. How would you describe that relationship in Labyrinth of Evil?

Jealousy and concern undermine the depth of Anakin and Obi-Wan's friendship. Obi-Wan fears that he has failed to persuade Anakin of the danger inherent in anger, and to convince him to distance himself emotionally from Padmé. He also worries about Chancellor Palpatine's continuing influence on Anakin. By contrast, Anakin is torn between being the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan wants him to be and following his own destiny as the Chosen One. Anakin wants to have it all and has convinced himself that the Jedi are holding him back. More important, he no longer accepts that the Jedi can win the war. He wishes that the Senate would simply follow Palpatine's lead.

Even though Padmé and Anakin aren't physically together in Labyrinth, they are never far from each other's thoughts. This relationship is obviously a source of great strength to Anakin . . . why does Obi-Wan fear it?

The relationship is an opening to the dark side, in the sense that attachment, of any sort, is a road to fear, anger, and suffering -- in the world according to Star Wars. Padmé is both wife and surrogate mother to Anakin, and any threats to her have a devastating effect on him. What happened on Tatooine in Attack of the Clones was only the beginning.

Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord orchestrating the collapse of the Republic and the destruction of the Jedi Knights, is always a step ahead of his adversaries, even powerful Jedi like Mace Windu and Yoda. Is this because the Jedi have grown too fearful of the dark side?

The Jedi appear to have forgotten that evil can't simply be stamped out, and that their mandate is to help maintain a balance between good and evil. Complacent for too long, they have dropped the ball. They dismissed Dooku as a political idealist, failed to prevent the Separatists from creating a vast army, and allowed themselves to be beguiled by Palpatine. Worse, they have placed too much trust in the prophesized Chosen One. Sidious, meanwhile, the culmination of 1,000 years of Sith training, has been watching the Jedi closely, and gaining strength at their expense.

Speaking of Dooku, it seems that you had a degree of sympathy for him.

Dooku started out as wanting to reform the Republic. He was disillusioned by the fact that the Jedi Order had essentially turned its back to obvious instances of corruption and vice. But Dooku ended up taking the easy path to power, by allowing himself to be seduced by the dark side, and, in the end, to be duped by Sidious. Perhaps, at 83, Dooku is beginning to lose his memory; or perhaps Sidious neglected to include a Sith history lesson in Dooku's training. Betrayal plays an important role in the Sith master-apprentice relationship, and Dooku just doesn't see it. He also fails to grasp that Sidious is keen on recruiting Anakin, despite the fact that, where two Sith can coexist, three spells trouble.

General Grievous, destined to play a large role in Episode III, appears in Labyrinth. Who is he, and what makes him so dangerous?

Grievous was a fierce warrior long before he was transformed into a cyborg, as the result of what appears to have been an accident. Supreme Commander of the Separatist forces, General Grievous is far more cunning than the members of the Separatist council, and is able to deploy the droid army to better advantage. Trained in lightsaber combat by Dooku, and backed by a cadre of durasteel MagnaGuards, Grievous poses a threat not only to clone troopers, but also to the Jedi. He does, however, have a sniveling, cowardly side.

You mention authors Ian Fleming and Thomas Pynchon in the dedication of Labyrinth. Why these two writers, one famous for creating James Bond, the other a master of postmodern paranoia?

Both writers had a strong influence on me as a teenager. Along with Carlos Castaneda and Eric von Daniken, Fleming set me on the path of adventure travel, and is probably responsible in part for some of the tight spots I've gotten myself into along the way. Pynchon was a great companion to have on those adventures, first because it took me weeks, sometimes months, to get through novels like V and Gravity's Rainbow, but also because Pynchon has such a great facility for fusing the esoteric and the comic. I enjoy his take on history, and the fact that he succeeded in making himself into a man of mystery.

Are you working on any more Star Wars novels? What about projects outside the Star Wars universe?

At the moment I'm working on a book that will form a loose trilogy with Labyrinth of Evil and Matt Stover's adaptation of Revenge of the Sith. Focusing on Darths Vader and Sidious, along with a band of Jedi that survives the events depicted in the film, Star Wars: Dark Lord begins before Revenge ends, and takes place over the course of the subsequent month or two. I've been so immersed in the Star Wars universe for the past six years that there hasn't been much time for other writing projects. When I'm not writing I'm usually making my way to some remote archaeological site, playing bass, or doing carpentry work on our log cabin in Maryland.






From the Hardcover edition.


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