Life and Death of the Death Star

I can’t believe this book exists!

Michael Reaves and Steve Perry’s new novel, “Death Star,” is a look at daily life and drama on that superstructure Obi-Wan Kenobi so chillingly assessed in the original “Star Wars”: “That’s no moon. It’s a space station.”

Turns out it’s also your everyday workplace… “Death Star” is the untold story of the grunt employees, some of whom are having second thoughts about working there — a TIE fighter pilot, a storm trooper, a doctor, a librarian, a bartender and her bouncer, a stowaway and especially the guy who pulls the trigger that blows up the planet Alderaan. He really hates his job.

Here’s a Washington Post interview with one of authors, Michael Reaves, from which the passage above it lifted. And here’s Mr. Reaves on the approach the book takes:

Well, we start from the point that not everyone on board the Death Star was a villain. As Kevin Smith pointed out in his movie “Clerks,” someone had to be the plumber. That’s basically where we’re coming from — we knew we wanted to do the events of [the original film], but from all these different points of view, of people who are allied with the Empire but who then start to realize that what’s supposed to be the cushiest gig in the universe isn’t all that great.

So you’ve got all these people on board, and they don’t walk around in uniforms Sieg Heil-ing all day. There’s got to be bars, places to eat…

Now, baring the emergence of full-on glowing reviews for “Death Star,” I don’t plan to regress back to my reading habits at age 12 — which, naturally, consisted of many, many novels from the extended Star Wars universe.

Still, this is fairly brilliant idea for a book. Of course, one would hope that the authors take the Death Star more seriously than did George Lucas himself. In the interview, Reaves makes it clear that the plot turns on an internal debate over the famous exhaust port. (Click here to relive the ’70s green-line computer animation outlining the exhaust port attack.)

But if the place really is as big as a freaking moon — with inhabitants layered throughout the sphere, in addition to on the surface — the authors had better make it take ages to get between key places. Everything can’t be an elevator ride away. Also, I imagine there’d be a draconian-yet-imperfect secret police regime backing a giant faction-stricken bureaucracy that can’t quite exert control on every nook and cranny.

The book’s premise raises other thorny Extended Star Wars Universe questions. To wit, the (absurd) creature in the (absurd) trash compactor: Do you somehow account for its existence? Or depart from the canonical film and pretend a cyclops-python infestation wasn’t a key infrastructure challenge onboard Death Star? Better yet, maybe you invent a whole ecology of predatory organisms somehow living in the bowels of the station….

The Trash Compactor Problem is by no means new: Joshua Tyree, in 2002, laid out the case against trash-compacting: “[T]he trash compactor onboard the Death Star in ‘Star Wars’ is implausible, unworkable, and moreover, inefficient. The Trash Compactor Debate turns on whether the Death Star ejects its trash into space. I, for one, believe it does.” It is hard to argue with his logic.

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One response to “Life and Death of the Death Star

  1. a librarian, a bartender and her bouncer, a stowaway

    Good grief. The thing is supposed to be the last word in weaponry. It sounds like the Empire had everything aboard except the kitchen sink.

    I’d always assumed that Death Star was that big because it had to contain the planet-destroying weapon. The habitat volumes would be large but not a large percentage of volume, and scattered across the entire station for damage control sake.

    From descriptions I’ve read it sounds like it’s crammed full of living space and the weaponry is really not all that large.

    Something like going aboard the USS New Jersey and finding a full-size casino installed aft of the number two turret. Don’t you guys have guns to shoot and bulkheads to paint?

    I suspect the Imperial Navy build a large space station because they could and the planet destroying mission was tacked on by the Senate’s oversight board. No wonder the exhaust port was left open ..

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