Maul: Lockdown

Maul: Lockdown lives up to its description as a cross between films such as Gladiator and Escape From New York. Taking a break from horror novels, author Joe Schreiber puts the iconic character Darth Maul in a hi-tech prison where the inmates are pitted against each other in brutal death matches. Meanwhile the galaxy makes a fortune off the prison with high stakes gambling. Yet this lucrative gladiatorial space station has a secret, and Darth Maul has been sent in to find out whether there is any truth to the legend of Iram Radique. For fans of the film The Usual Suspects, you’ll definitely get a Kaiser Sose vibe from the story.

The central viewpoint character for Maul: Lockdown is of course Darth Maul. Readers will get to see Maul compete in some extremely violent gladiatorial contests that push his skills to the limit. But beyond that, the book also dives into Maul’s head. There are some really nice explorations of how Maul views his master, his place in the galaxy, his role as a Sith, and some insights into just how he looks at others and himself. This is perhaps one of the deepest looks inside the character we’ve ever gotten in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Nevertheless, Maul is not the only character fans will be treated to.

In addition to Maul, the book lives up to its promise of tying in to the critically acclaimed novel by James Luceno, Darth Plagueis. As such, both Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidiuos show up in this book several times as an ongoing sublot. Maul’s mission in the prison is part of one of Sidious’ schemes. Furthermore, Plagueis is suspicious of what’s going on and plays his own game of cat and mouse to keep tabs on Maul’s mission. Thus, while Maul is battling for his life in an inescapable prison, Sidious and Plagueis are waging their own high stakes match for control of the galaxy. Either way, Maul becomes their pawn and his success or failure will determine who wins.

The Sidious and Plagueis subplot really enriches the context of the story in Maul: Lockdown. There is plenty of good action scenes and drama as Maul fights one adversary after another. However, the grander scheme that’s at work adds an intellectual thread to the book. While reading it, I was constantly trying to figure out how the events in this story fit into Darth Plagueis. As more and more of the schemes were revealed, and as the tides turned one way and another, I was keeping a mental score with how this affected the storylines in the other novel. In the end, Maul: Lockdown really is a nice companion piece to Darth Plagueis. It’s very much a different type of novel, with Lockdown being more action oriented and exciting, and Plagueis being more complex and thought provoking. In Plagueis, we really didn’t get to see very much of Maul, but Lockdown manages to remedy that.

Outside of its tie-ins to Darth Plagueis, Maul: Lockdown ties into a lot of other EU material as well. Quite surprisingly, one of the most significant tie-ins was to the Star Wars: Bounty Hunter video game. Unfortunately this was not a game I was able to play, so I missed out on the nods. But after reading the book, I was compelled to find out more about a certain character: Korami Vosa. Korami Vosa played a key part in the Star Wars: Bounty Hunter game, and for all intents and purposes, was a precursor to Asajj Ventress. Both were trained by Dooku, both were female, and both used two curved handled lightsabers. In fact, the lightsabers Ventress uses are Vosa’s. But the tie-ins don’t stop there as mentions of Trezza and the Orsis Academy are also made and link to the recent Darth Maul short story “Restraint” written by James Luceno for the re-release of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter.

It’s worth noting that none of those additional EU elements and Plagueis subplots detract from the core of the story. At it’s heart, it really is a combination of three films: Gladiator, Escape From New York, and The Usual Suspects. Maul is sent to this high tech prison on a special mission. It’s a prison that is nearly impossible to escape from, and one where the inmates are allowed unprecedented free reign. Once Maul completes his mission, he has to accomplish the nearly impossible: escape. To further complicate matters, he has a bomb surgically implanted in his heart. All of this is very much a tribute to Escape From New York, a film where Snake Plissken is sent to the island of Manhattan which has been turned into a giant prison for the country’s criminals. There are no guards inside the “prison” so the inmates do as they please, but they can’t escape. Like Maul, Plissken has a special mission and has to escape on his own, and like Maul, he has bomb surgically implanted in his chest.

The Gladiator and The Usual Suspects stories kick in more subtly. The inmates in the prison are forced to fight each other in death matches, much like gladiators. As they win matches, they earn acclaim. The Usual Suspects kicks in with Iram Radique. Maul’s mission is to find a mythical weapons dealer who goes by that name. Yet no one knows whether that person really exists. It’s rumored that he is nothing more than a ghost, a boogey man whose name is whispered to frighten others. You see, no one has ever met Iram Radique and lived to tell about it, assuming he exists at all. This angle of the story mimics the mystique created by Kaiser Sose in The Usual Suspects, a mythical character no one has ever met and lived to tell of. For Maul, it also creates a very difficult problem. He cannot leave the prison until he finds this Iram Radique…a person who might not even exist.

Through all of this, Joe Schreiber composes a rather entertaining story. There’s the exciting, action driven storyline as Maul hurdles one obstacle after another in the high tech prison on his search for Iram Radigue. Plagueis and Sidious create an additional layer of intrigue with their machinations for control of the galaxy. Various elements of the EU are drawn in to add to the richness of the story, helping to make it feel bigger and more connected, while adding additional layers of interest. And with all of that going on, the story is never dull. It’s an action packed ride that spins one entertaining chapter after another. The multiple layers of story keeps readers guessing what will happen next and just who will live and who will die. While it’s not as deep a novel as James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, it certainly adds to the character of Darth Maul while matching Plagueis‘ complexity with sheer fun. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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