Back in college, I read a fair number of the new Star Wars universe novels, starting with the much-loved Timothy Zahn trilogy. They were fun and they featured characters I loved in a universe I loved. Sure, some were better than others (I remember The Marriage of Princess Lea as being shockingly inept), but they were good disposable reads. When they got into the whole 30-novel cycle about strange new alien beings coming from beyond the outer rim I tried to keep up but just couldn't - way too much product. So it had been a long while since I'd read a Star Wars novel. But when I was in the library last week, I saw a new hardcover that cried out for an impulse borrow.
Death Star is a fast, tight, episodic look at a wide range of characters involved in the construction of the Death Star - from such muckety mucks as Tarkin, Mott, and Vader, to a cantina owner (it had never occurred to me that the Death Star would have bars and restaurants, but of course it would), to an architect, to a stowaway thief, to a pilot,to a guard, to a doctor. I haven't yet finished the book, but it seems that the plot is careening towards what we readers now will be the death of nearly all these characters as the Death Star is destroyed.
What I think I like most about this very fun book is the very idea of the thing - getting a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead kind of backstage look at what was going on in the Death Star, is just good wholesome geeky fun. And the writers, Michael Reaves and Steve Perry, do a very good job of making their universe feel real and of a piece with what we know, with very good, never overbearing, hard sci-fi type stuff abounding. But what's even more impressive is the pathos they manage to wring around the moral and ethical feelings that would go along with building a weapon that kills millions - or of being the guy who "pulls the trigger." Or of being a good man, a doctor, nevertheless in service to the Empire. This is very well-done world building, and I find myself now curious to see if there are any other Star Wars books out there that take this approach - the R&G approach, I'll call it.