Title: Star Wars: Scourge
Author: Jeff Grubb
Published: Out Now
Jedi Toro Irana dies under mysterious circumstances. When his Master, archivist Mander Zuma travels to Takem Me to investigate, he uncovers a dangerous conspiracy involving a new form of spice, Tempest. With the help of Toro's sister Reen and her partner Eddey, Mander becomes involved in the murky underworld of the Hutt crime lords, the bureaucratic machinations of the Corporate Sector Authority and the deadly spice trade. It's all a very long way from his beloved library on Yavin 4.
I wasn't expecting a lot from this novel. It's based on characters and events from the Star Wars RPG, and I haven't really experienced many RPG tie-ins, although I know many people enjoy them very much .
What a lovely surprise. This is a cracking little murder mystery. It has a very noir feel to it, oddly enough. We have the unassuming man dragged into events far beyond his experience, pushed on by a sense of honour and duty. We have the fierce, bereaved sister, willing to do anything to uncover the truth about her brother's death, and avenge him if possible. In addition, there's Eddey. He's a Bothan, but very unlike any Bothan I've encountered before. Yes, he's brilliant and he uses his easily underestimated appearance to his advantage, but he's loyal, drily witty and kind.
The Hutts are a fascinating culture, and this novel serves them really well. In keeping with the noir theme, I imagine Sydney Greenstreet playing Popara, the patriarch of the Anjiliac clan. I always think it's a good sign when I start casting a novel in my head. Reen Irana? Bacall. Honestly. She's that cool.
There are shadowy figures, murderous gangs, a laughably incompetent Rodian clan bent on vengeance, and interesting hints of subcultures and hidden races. Of course there is hardcore blaster and saber action, and there's a much-loved rust-bucket ship. But just as many characters tell Mander he's not what they expect from a Jedi, Scourge is not what I expected from a Star Wars RPG tie-in. I especially love how Mander's archivist skills are used to good effect. It's an interesting use of the monk part of the Jedi Warrior-Monk nature.
The switches, twists and turns kept my interest throughout. I did figure out whodunnit fairly quickly, but I think one is supposed to: there are definite clues and hints. Then again, I am on occasion that annoying person who guesses the killer before the end of the teaser, so I can't really judge fairly. I certainly don't think it's a fault in the novel. There are some fantastic red herrings and false trails, so that I did occasionally question my instinct.
I do have a few niggles, but they would most definitely be spoilers, so I shan't share them. The novel is by no means perfect, but it's fun, intelligent and gripping. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel to crime fiction fans, as long as they're at least a little fond of Star Wars. In fact, I'm urging my partner to read it on that basis. I'd also recommend it as a first toe dip into the EU: the characters as well as events are stand alone, so you don't need to have years of knowledge of major EU events, or even spend a cram session on Wookieepedia. I'd also recommend it to existing EU fans. It's very different tonally from a lot of EU adventures, but it's so much fun and a really interesting use of the Star Wars universe to tell a different type of story.
I think the highest recommendation I can give the novel, is to say that I would like more, please. I'd really like to read the further adventures of Mander, Reen and Eddey solving crimes and uncovering conspiracies.