Monday, 10 February 2014



By Joe Schreiber

Published in hardback by CENTURY PUBLISHING

Reviewed by Scott Weller

Joe Schreiber pulls us back to his darker interpreting of the STAR WARS universe, utilizing the Prequel saga’s most formidable Sith apprentice- the anti-hero hero we all love to root for- Darth Maul, in his biggest and boldest book adventure yet, sending the horny little devil into the firing line, infiltrating a disturbing and deadly prison base- Cog Hive Seven, under orders from his Sith masters, to locate a powerful and secretive arms dealer residing there, but the price in finding him is having to participate in the prison satellite’s main form of “entertainment”: the ultimate form of bloodsport, watched and wagered on by gambling spectators from all corners of the galaxy. Physically primed he may be, but could even Maul be out of his depth in this dangerous environment?

The red and black icon was the perfect killing machine in THE PHANTOM MENACE, but here, undercover as a freelance mercenary, he gets to use his brains alongside his brawn, especially as he is not allowed to use his Force powers or have his trustily efficient double bladed lightsaber in case his Sith identity be revealed. This time, in this seemingly escape proof prison, he truly has to adapt to survive, turning the tide to his favour where possible in a series of events that prove challenging and page turning for the reader. Maul soon manipulates through strength and power, prime requisites of being a member of the Sith, putting himself in a unique position to find a Iram Radique, the key to bringing further chaos to the Galactic Republic and help the Sith’s takeover plans blossom further.

Using all kinds of prison drama scenarios and characters we’re used to in film and television (shades of PRISON BREAK and 24 are thrown in to the mix, alongside a little bit of that ingenious nineties indie sci-fi film CUBE) but with far darker shadings and twists, overall adding a new kind of barbarity within the STAR WARS fiction envelope that we haven’t seen before. Schreiber makes sure that Maul is aided and hindered by a genuine diverse variety of scum and villainy, as well as the luckless and the unfortunate who have ended up locked away alongside him in the farthest reaches of space. 

Characters whose destinies will change upon meeting Maul, mostly for the worse, include an ambitious prison boss whose control of the enclave and its many depraved inmates has so far proved successful, alongside her profit-inducing run of bloodsports. Sadiki Blirr thinks she has it all under control, but is actually sitting on a powder keg waiting to explode- thanks to Maul, who soon begins a prison break out and lights the fuse for a final escalating gang war. Alongside her is her technical wizard brother, constantly analyzing the prisoners and their abilities for the continuing sport, and now fascinated by the charismatic, horned Zabrakian that has newly arrived in their domain.

A secrets hiding, burnt out pit fighter and his son launch the rest of the colourful and crude band, including a slimy Banking Clan official with ties to Maul’s masters, shady and corrupt jailers, untrustworthy financiers, a dangerous religious cult and several bizarre creatures residing inside the dark and restrictive areas of the prion facility, all with a taste for blood, including one nice surprise from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that fans will raise a smile to. It’s all quite the party!

But the most important new character in the book is Radique- a genuine challenge for Maul, his identity mostly unknown to the inmates and fully immersed within the prison community, even having a small legion of eyes gouged out servants to follow his orders, and clawbirds to guide them and pass on messages whilst proving useful attack beasts.

Radique is a shadowy figure that might not even exist yet runs the joint through quiet terror and whispered dread- he could easily give THE USUAL SUSPECTS Keyser Soze a run for his money as the author builds up Maul’s search for his elusive prey, soon on a timer to complete his mission before his own life is extinguished amidst some fast paced destructive chaos.

Never afraid to use some of the film series classic characters, either, Schreiber gives us a worthy cameo from vile gangster Jabba the Hutt- still slobbering over humanoid females and an interested party in the gambling affairs and profits of the facility. Not good news… He/it helps bring the book to a highly charged conclusion…

Meanwhile, back on that shining jewel of power that is Coruscant, the always fascinating, constantly scheming rivalry between Sith Lords Darth’s Sidious and his supposed mentor Darth Plagueis goes up a notch: the ultimate chess game for control of the universe-move and counter move. Enemies yet brothers in evil.

A further intriguing link to the authors STAR WARS past (and future) comes with an appearance from a certain Imperial prison ship not yet overridden by zombie hordes…

For the most part, Schreiber’s character interactions come together well- the only weak link being the arrival of a female Jedi outcast in charge of a legion of her own religious warriors, which, ultimately, proves a little dull. As does the tense attraction she and Maul share towards the books conclusion. It all feels a little bit too familiar and overdone in STAR WARS.

Another plus for the book: the interior of Cog Hive Seven is handled effectively: a grimy, metal barred, windowless world specially designed by its jailers to disorientate its inmates living above, between and below- all of them injected with small explosive detonators if they fail to obey the laws and curfew times, and primed for the savagery of combat that lies ahead…

You can imagine the blood, sweat, violence and claustrophobia in Shreiber’s descriptive passages-a perfect fit plot-vehicle wise for a Sith warrior of such intensity, and darkness, to be immersed in. Fan controversially, this is, perhaps, Schreiber’s most bloodthirsty action and violence tale. Not for the squeamish with its descriptions of ingeniously contrived deaths, mutilations and combat, MAUL: LOCKDOWN is a far more adult and brutal, less family friendly STAR WARS adventure than most people are used to, with much larger ambitions in comparison to his two previously well received, relatively smaller scale horror journeys with Death Troopers and Red Harvest.

AFICIONADO RATING: Prequel fan favourite Maul is effectively showcased here, though some of the violence and graphic descriptions may not be to everyone's tastes. 7.5 out of 10.

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