Publisher: Random House Audio (Audiobook – 28 January 2014)
Series: Star Wars
Length: 12 hours and 20 minutes
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is part of my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.
2021 has so far been a fantastic year for Star Wars novels with excellent releases such as the two Star Wars: The High Republic novels, Light of the Jedi and Into the Dark, and the final entry in the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, Victory’s Price. I have been really enjoying these new Star Wars novels but I recently got a hankering for something a little different and decided to go back and check out some of the older Star Wars tie-in novels. While there were several intriguing options (I was strongly eyeing off A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, Darth Plagueis by James Luceno and Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells), I eventually settled for the one of the last entries in the Star Wars: Legends range of books, Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber, an intensely exciting and dark novel with an amazing story to it.
Welcome to the space station Cog Hive Seven, the most dangerous prison in the entire galaxy. Here inmates are forced to fight to the death in matches broadcast to millions of gamblers across the Republic determined to make a profit off the blood of the galaxy’s worst killers and criminals. No one escapes from Cog Hive Seven, and every one of its deadly and evil inhabitants know that they will eventually die there. However, not even these deranged inmates are prepared for the new evil that has been thrown into their midst, the lethal dark-side assassin, Darth Maul.
Sent by Darth Sidious to contact a secretive weapons merchant, Iram Radique, Maul has disguised himself as a notorious mercenary and killer. Determined to complete the mission his master has given him, Maul begins to upend the prison to find the elusive Radique, quickly establishing himself as a destructive force of chaos. However, his notoriety also sees him forced into progressively more dangerous matches against some of the deadliest creatures in the galaxy.
Bereft of his lightsaber, forbidden from using the force and with bombs injected into both his hearts, Maul must rely on his brutal combat abilities and own inner strength to succeed. But the closer he gets to finding Radique, the more he realises that not everything is as it seems aboard Cog Hive Seven and that his target will do everything is his power to avoid meeting with Maul. Worse, dangerous factions have taken notice of the prison and its deranged warden and soon Maul must contend with a death cult, the followers of Jabba the Hutt and a horrifying monster living within the walls of the prison. Can even Darth Maul overcome the odds in front of him, or will the creatures of Cog Hive Seven swallow him whole?
I think readers of this blog will not be too surprised to hear that the moment I found out that there was a book that followed Darth Maul participating in death matches aboard a space prison, I knew I would have to read it, and boy am I glad I did. Maul: Lockdown is an impressive and fantastic novel that I found to be instantly captivating and which I powered through in a short amount of time. Author Joe Schreiber, whose previous novel, Death Troopers, featured an outstanding story about key Star Wars characters encountering a zombie horde (it is as awesome as it sounds) came up with a pretty epic narrative for this Star Wars novel, and I really enjoyed this cool, Darth Maul-centric book.
I have to say that I was really surprised about how complex and impressive Maul: Lockdown’s narrative turned out to be. Based on the plot description, I would have expected a simple, action-orientated story, but instead Schreiber crafted together a dark and powerful Star Wars tale with some compelling mystery elements. This book reads a lot like a prison thriller, with Maul thrust into the middle of a dangerous jail which he must navigate to find his target. While there is a natural focus on the fights between Maul and the other dangerous inmates, which results in some exceptional action sequences, the author also works in some great mystery and crime fiction elements that combine perfectly with the Star Wars backdrop. The author utilises a bunch of multiple perspectives to show the chaotic nature of the prison, and there are several great storylines based around supporting characters which twist their way around Maul’s central story of surviving and attempting to find the secretive arms dealer.
As the story progresses, more and more dangerous elements and antagonists are thrown into the narrative, including monsters, deranged cultists and even Jabba the Hutt, intensifying the obstacles facing Maul and raising the thrilling stakes of the narrative. I really enjoyed the main storyline of the hunt for Radique, and there were plenty of false leads and twists around who he was and where he was hiding. I did think the eventual reveal of the character (spoiler ahead!!!) was a tad weak, mainly as it ended up being a character we hadn’t seen before (spoiler end), but it was still an interesting and exciting centre to the narrative. Schreiber also weaves some excellent horror elements into the story, especially surrounding one unique creature in the prison. The author makes this creature particularly horrifying to behold, both because of its appearance and its unsettling abilities, and there are some real terrifying sequences surrounding it. All these great elements come together perfectly into one fantastic and captivating tale that proves to be extremely addictive and very clever.
This is an exciting Star Wars novel that fans of the franchise are really going to enjoy. Maul: Lockdown was one of the later entries in the previous Star Wars extended universe which is now known as the Star Wars: Legends range. Despite no longer being considered canon, the Star Wars: Legends books still have some great stories, such as the impressive heist novel Scoundrels, and this was a pretty cool entry. Set a year before The Phantom Menace, this book is loaded with a ton of references to other pieces of Star Wars media, including several previous Star Wars: Legends novels and comics, Schreiber’s previous book Death Troopers (featuring a clever cameo), and even an old Star Wars video game, Bounty Hunter. There are lots of interesting pieces of Star Wars lore in here, and the author features a couple of major figures from the prequel films, as well as a few obscure characters from some of the older Star Wars novels, including a corrupted Padawan of Count Dooku I had not heard of before (she is not in the new canon). I really enjoyed the author’s inclusion of a battle of intrigue between Darth Sidious and his master Darth Plagueis, and the story in Maul: Lockdown has some great connections to certain events in the Darth Plagueis novel. While Schreiber has included a lot of high-level lore, I felt that this was quite an accessible Star Wars novel and anyone who saw Darth Maul emerge in The Phantom Menace will definitely enjoy this darker and captivating piece of Star Wars fiction.
One of the most intriguing things about this novel is the way in which the author attempts to dive into the mindset of fan-favourite character Darth Maul. Ever since he whipped out his dual-bladed lightsaber in The Phantom Menace, Maul has been a much beloved figure in the Star Wars franchise, but you do not often get to see much of his inner thoughts. While I would probably be happy reading a simple hack-and-slash adventure featuring Maul, I really appreciated the way in which Schreiber takes the time to examine Maul’s inner psyche, and you get an intriguing glimpse into his thoughts about his mission, his purpose in life and his loyalty to his master. I found it quite fascinating to see the way in which Schreiber portrays Maul’s complex feelings about Sidious, as he is both simultaneous absolutely loyal to him while also being deeply suspicious about his intentions. Maul spends most of the book believing that everything he is experiencing is a test or deception levelled at him by his Master and he also hints at his suspicions that he will eventually be betrayed. While this examination of Maul’s more complex thoughts and feelings is quite interesting, it is also perfectly counterbalanced by a huge number of scenes that examine just how much of a badass Maul is. Schreiber has loaded this book up with awesome and brutal fight sequences pitting Maul up against a range of deadly opponents, which are made even more awesome by the fact that Maul is unable to use either his lightsaber or force abilities. Instead, Maul shows off his impressive unarmed fighting skills and his natural cunning, as he overwhelms his opponents in some brutal and clever ways. The author also fits in some compelling hints and depictions of Maul’s training and early life, which I found to be very interesting, particularly as some of these events slightly differ from the current canon. All of this makes for an exceptionally cool Darth Maul novel, and I loved seeing this great character in all his deadly glory.
I ended up checking out Maul: Lockdown on audiobook, which is easily the best way to enjoy a Star Wars book. The Maul: Lockdown audiobook has a reasonable run time of 12 hours and 20 minutes, which dedicated listeners can get through in a couple of sittings. I absolutely powered through this audiobook myself, especially once I got caught up in the cool story, and I had a great time experiencing all the features of this format. Like most Star Wars audiobooks, Maul: Lockdown makes excellent use of the iconic sound effects and musical scores from the Star Wars films and television series to enhance its story. The sound effects are particularly impactful in Maul: Lockdown, and I liked the way they made the many fight sequences pop with the sounds of violence and weapons blasting. They also made one horrifying creature even more terrible to listen to thanks to the slithering and sucking sounds that played when it appeared. This audiobook also made great use of John Williams’ amazing scores. I always love hearing the inspirational and moving Star Wars music during these audiobooks, and while it was more restrained in this audiobook than some others I have enjoyed, it still helped to make several emotional or exciting scenes just a little more epic.
In addition to the cool sound effects and awesome music, Maul: Lockdown’s audiobook also made great use of exceptional narrator Jonathan Davies. Davies is a veteran narrator who has lent his voice to several Star Wars novels in the past, such as Doctor Aphra, Dooku: Jedi Lost, Master and Apprentice and Lords of the Sith. He does a fantastic job bringing the various characters in Maul: Lockdown to life, and I really enjoyed the unique tones that each character received. I really liked the voices that he used for established Star Wars characters, which were close, if not spot on, to how they appeared in the films or television series. This includes the menacing tones he came up with for Maul, which contained all the character’s barely supressed anger and hatred, and he did a rather good Darth Sidious which was reminiscent of Tim Curry’s take on him in The Clone Wars animated series. Davis also did a perfect Jabba the Hutt (not exactly sure that is a compliment, but please take it as such), and I loved hearing him do Jabba’s iconic laugh. Overall, his narration was pretty damn awesome and, when combined with the fantastic sound effects and great musical inclusions, helped to really enhance Maul: Lockdown’s narrative and continued the trend of outstanding Star Wars audiobooks.
Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber is an outstanding and awesome novel that sees one of the best characters in the Star Wars canon fighting for his life in a dangerous setting. Featuring a powerful and addictive narrative, loaded with intrigue, betrayal, and a whole lot of violence, this is a rich, clever, and dark Star Wars novel that comes highly recommended. I had an incredible time reading this cool and captivating book and I really need to check out some of the other amazing sounding novels in the Star Wars: Legends range.