Author: Jeff Grubb
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Reviewed By: Chris Carey
Without a doubt, Scourge is the most standalone book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. It is a book with an all-new cast of characters, and it requires only a rudimentary knowledge of Star Wars for full enjoyment. As a standalone, Scourge is a mostly cerebral story – built upon layers of mysteries rather than galaxy-spanning conflicts. It’s a throwback to the early days of the Expanded Universe, when the dangerous underworld played a much bigger role in the stories being told. Scourge is a blast of fresh air into an Expanded Universe that has been a little stagnant of late, and newcomer Jeff Grubb really impresses with the book.
The plot seems simple, at first. Jedi Master Mander Zuma learns that his former padawan has been killed while on a mission, and Zuma decides to finish the mission in the hopes of learning more about what happened. Of course, nothing is as it seems. Mysteries deepen, answers lead to more questions, and twists abound. Scourge will keep even the most jaded of readers on their toes as they try to piece together the answers before Zuma discovers them for himself. Zuma quickly falls into the company of a pair of well-written and memorable spacers, and clashes with the Corporate Sector Authority. Along the way, he trails the answers to his mystery as it spirals into the Hutt-controlled underworld. The book takes place on several different planets, all of them memorable and wonderfully seedy. In a book that highlights the criminal underworld, even the planets become characters as they almost mimic the corrupt nature of the beings that inhabit them. Scourge is also notable for having a mostly non-human cast. Aside from Zuma and a few members of the Corporate Sector Authority, the book consists of aliens. This was a great decision on Grubb’s part, as it seems many authors tend to shy away from the use of the visually intriguing aliens that help make Star Wars so memorable.
The Hutts are particularly noteworthy in Scourge. Although usually typecast in stories as gangsters or corrupt, the Hutts in Scourge have much more depth. Make no mistake, they are (for the most part) criminals. But each Hutt introduced in the book is also a unique character, and each one embodies a different sleazy flaw. Whether they are motivated by greed, hubris, or something more sinister, the Hutts are a commanding presence in Scourge without being main characters. They weigh on the minds and actions of each character, and that’s a real testament to Grubb’s writing. For the curious readers, Hutt culture is fleshed out quite a bit in Scourge, to the point where even the uninterested are likely to look forward to more Hutt-centric stories in the future.
Of course, Scourge has some flaws too. Descriptions of characters are often repeated, and certain plot points are resolved a little too abruptly. The main protagonist, Mander Zuma, is a character that readers will either enjoy or hate. It helps that his character is surrounded by characters that are both fun to read and strong on their own (i.e. his Bothan companion, Eddey Be’ray), but Mander’s problems stem from a lack of believability. It’s hard to believe that a Jedi could obtain the rank of Master, yet be self-conscious and unsure of himself. It’s rather refreshing to get that point of view from the normally confident Jedi characters that litter the Expanded Universe, but it felt a characterization that would more befit a Jedi Knight, rather than a Master. He just seems like too much of a novice, and although that helps propel the story, it certainly doesn’t do his character any favors. Readers won’t likely be clamoring for another appearance by this middling Jedi once the book ends.
Scourge is a really fun read, and Grubb has proved himself to be a great new addition to the Expanded Universe with this book. Clocking in at just under 300 pages, readers will likely blaze through the story in just a few days – which shows that Grubb has written an entertaining, fast-paced story. With a complete absence of film characters and previous Expanded Universe lore, Scourge is a fantastic jumping off point for anyone new to the Expanded Universe. It’s also a great book for fans wanting a great Star Wars story, but without having to rush to Wookieepedia every few minutes to look up forgotten characters and facts. Scourge has proved that there is still a place in the Expanded Universe for pure, fun Star Wars adventures.