Literature: Death Star

"The Death Star was a monster, no question about that. It was conceived by monsters and controlled by them. But not everyone on board was a monster."
— Teela Kaarz

Death Star is a novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, written by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. Perry also wrote Shadows of the Empire. Reaves wrote a few episodes of the old Droids and Ewoks television shows, as well as Darth Maul Shadow Hunter and the Coruscant Nights trilogy. Prior to Death Star, the two authors worked together to write the Medstar Duology. They re-use characters and details from one anothers' previously-written works with some regularity.

The novel follows the lives of a selection of characters who end up working on the Death Star late in its completion, and after that. They include Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Admiral Motti, a surgeon, a Force-Sensitive stormtrooper, a bartender, a librarian, a bouncer, a TIE pilot, a wrongly accused convict, a political prisoner who was an architect, and the Death Star's lead gunner.

Interestingly, there is no overall villain of the book. The Rebellion is certainly out there, weighing on people's minds, but aside from the minor role that Leia Organa plays, none of them are named or given much notoriety, much less become a viewpoint character. Some characters oppose each other — Motti does not like Vader, for instance — but until the end most of them are at least somewhat civil with each other. They're all more or less on the same side, after all.

The novel includes examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The TIE pilot, Vil Dance, becomes one.
  • Ascended Extra: Tenn Graneet and Nova Stihl.
  • Asteroid Miners: The system where the Death Star was built was strip-mined for resources, the asteroids included. By the time it was completed, the only bodies of note that they might test the superlaser on were a pair of gas giants and... Despayre.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Vader of course, but it turns out that Motti lifts weights in several times normal gravity.
  • Bar Brawl: Threatened at several points, but it never gets that far. The bouncer's good at his job.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Tenn Graneet calls it by name.
    There was an old proverb his grandfather had taught him when he'd been a boy: Take care what you wish for, Tenn- you might get it.
    Now he understood exactly what that meant. He had wanted to fire the big gun, and he had gotten to do just that. The only man in the galaxy who had shot it for real, at real targets, and look what it had brought him: misery beyond his ugliest dreams.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Tenn Graneet is the one who pulled the trigger sending Despayre and Alderaan to their deaths. While Despayre unnerves him, he can at least partially rationalize it what with it being full of convicts declared too dangerous to be held locally. When he terminates Alderaan, however, he sinks into a deep, deep depression feeling that death would be too good for him.
  • Big Bad: Cleanly averted as there is no overall villain. The closest thing the Rebellion is to this is a recurring antagonist.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The smuggler is Zelosian, and although he looks like a green-eyed human, he photosynthesizes.
  • Call Forward: "We all know what this battle station can do. If they can build one, they can build more - maybe even bigger than this one."
  • Catapult Nightmare: Nova. See Dreaming Of Things To Come below.
  • Catch Phrase: Lieutenant Vil Dance often thinks or says a variation of "Never happen!", as in "it will never", when he thinks of failing in his duty.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In addition to the obligatory "What the hell is that thermal exhaust port doing there, and isn't it a blatant Weaksauce Weakness?" comment, there's Uli's research into midichlorians as they relate to Nova's Blink. He even forgot all about it.
    • The exhaust port was actually going to be edited out of the plans, but the construction droids built it before that could happen. The rest is, as they say, history.
  • Continuity Nod: Quite a few to A New Hope. Perhaps the best is the explanation for why the gunner said "Stand by. Stand by..."
  • Cultured Warrior: Nova Stihl.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Rebels send five hundred X-Wings after the Death Star before it's fully operational. This does not end well, with Graneet blowing away the carrier with the superlaser and the flight controllers then swarming them with TIE fighters. Which explains how the Rebels knew it was designed to repel a large-scale assault.
  • Delaying Action/You Shall Not Pass: Nova avoided the death he'd foreseen in one dream by not chasing too closely after Han Solo. But at the end of the novel he accepts another death he'd foreseen by fighting off other stormtroopers alongside a bouncer to let the other defectors get to the shuttle.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Called out by name, with lampshade lovingly hung.
  • Defector From Evil: Why some of the surviving characters decide to join the Rebellion. They know nothing about it, but it's got to be better than the government that decides to annihilate inhabited planets as a test.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: When he transfers onto the Death Star, Nova's Force-Sensitivity starts giving him horrible, horrible dreams that all end up coming true, to one extent or another.
  • Drink Order: Only to be expected when one character is a bartender.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The two Alderaanians.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Alderaan, obviously, but before that, Despayre.
  • Ensemble Cast: One of the distinguishing things about the book is that rather than revolving around at most three main protagonists like most of the EU, it instead has a large, well-developed cast of supporting characters ranging from Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin on down to one of the stormtroopers.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Despayre's environment is explicitly like that. It doesn't help that it's populated by (mostly) dangerous convicts.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A novel revolving around the Death Star I.
  • Fan Disservice: Motti, "stripped to", well, anything, but the use of the word "strap" makes it sound like the GFFA version of a jockstrap.
  • Fanservice: Twi'lek "micro" clothing leaves readers wondering what it is.
  • Foregone Conclusion: You've seen A New Hope. You know that the Death Star destroys Alderaan, Leia escapes, and the Death Star is blown up by a brave Rebel pilot.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Most of the cast is aware the Empire's done some bad things, but believe it can't be as bad as the Rebellion makes it out to be.
  • Heel Realization: Every Imperial viewpoint character except Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Admiral Motti gets this at the destruction of Alderaan. The ones who weren't in the Imperial military, who just worked for it, tended to get it earlier.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • Atour Riten was forced to remain on the Death Star instead of escaping with the other defectors in order to override the bay doors and allow their shuttle to get clear.
    • Nova Stihl and Rodo stayed to fight off a squad of guards to give their fellow defectors time to get to the shuttle and escape. Both were killed in the fight.
    • Tenn Graneet delayed firing the superlaser at the Rebel base on Yavin 4 to give the Rebels more time to destroy the Death Star, despite knowing that he'd die too if they succeeded.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • To vacnote  with this!
    • Out of the black.
    • A pixel is worth a thousand bytes.
    • A snowflake's chance in a supernova.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The prison world "Despayre".
  • I Have Many Names: Celot Ratua Dill, the smuggler, also gets called "Teh Roxxor", "Green-Eyes", and "Radish Boy".
  • I'm Having Soul Pains: Nova.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Darth Vader. The TIE pilot saw him fly once and promised himself that he'd commit suicide if Vader ever came after him; late in the novel the pilot and his new defecting friends flee in a shuttle, are pursued, and the pilot manages to not get shot down just long enough that Vader's attention turned to the Rebels.
  • Interspecies Romance: Memah Roothes (the bartender) and Celot Ratua Dil (the convict); also Villian Dance (the pilot) and Teela Kaarz (the architect). Interestingly, while Memah is a Twi'lek, Ratua is a very humanlike plant alien, and Teela is from a near-human species (Star Wars lingo for a Human Subspecies resulting from divergent evolution of human colonies).
  • Just Following Orders: Averted. All the Imperial characters with a talking part are either ruthless tyrants or morally sensitive people who join the Rebels after they see the Death Star in action.
  • Last Name Basis: As a result of Daala having Only One Name at this point, Tarkin is given to referring to his lover only by her last name, even in private.
  • Leet Lingo: The name the convict takes for himself is "Teh Roxxor".
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Thirteen characters in the Dramatis Personae (ten male, three female). three males and three females survive. Admittedly some characters are Doomed by Canon - or saved by it in the case of Darth Vader and Admiral Daala, but even amongst the 'new' characters the male death rate is 60%.
  • Mind Probe: Vader does this casually to the architect, who senses him, freaks out, and closes down. That she was able to shut him out mildly impresses him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tenn Graneet has a major one of these. Some time after shooting down a shuttle of escaping convicts, and then after killing Rebels in X-Wings, the TIE pilot, Dance, has a quieter one.
    [Graneet] couldn't stop thinking about it. He didn't believe he would ever be able to stop thinking about it. The dead would haunt him, forever.
    How could a man live with that?
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Nova's Force-Sensitivity.
  • Neutral No Longer: Most of the cast to some extent, but especially the historian. Atour's long life was spent politically neutral, until the horror of Alderaan jarred him into opposition. He immediately went to work researching blueprints looking for weak points - which others in the cast found out about and decided to take to the Rebellion.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. One of the interspecies couples refers to this as a Noodle Incident after a Time Skip of several months.
    "How was I to know your kind can't eat sweetweed?"
    "You could have looked it up. You plan to date outside your species, it's on you to know what's poison and what's not."
    "You're never going to let me forget it, are you?"
    "Not a chance, Green-Eyes."
  • Penal Colony: Despayre, again.
  • P.O.V. Sequel
  • Planar Shockwave: In exposition, we see that this is because the superlaser actually causes part of the target to shift suddenly into hyperspace.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Nova, again. Despayre wakes him up screaming. Alderaan makes him pass out, bleeding, with muscle tremors.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Tarkin, Daala, Motti, and Vader aren't, but the other Imperials are.
  • Rage Within The Machine: The gunner, the pilot, and the stormtrooper were all content to serve the Empire, but over the course of the book doubt builds, until the traumatized gunner works slowly praying for a miracle and the others sacrifice themselves or defect.
  • Red Baron: Col. Vindoo "The Shooter" Barvel.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Tenn Graneet delays firing the superlaser at Yavin IV long enough for Luke to fire a proton torpedo. He's also smart about it. He knows that if he refused, he would be executed, and they would find another person to do the job, and the replacement may just pull the trigger without hesitation. So when he kept standing by, he was hoping that whatever plan the Rebels had to destroy the Death Star would succeed.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Doctor Uli Divini has been in Imperial service since before Palpatine's New Order, due to the Imperial Military Stop Loss Order, or IMSLO.
    (IMSLO is) A retroactive order mandating that, no matter when you'd been conscripted, once you were in, you were in for as long as they wanted you - or until you got killed. Either way, it was kiss your planned life goodbye. Imperial Military Stop Loss Order. An alternative translation, scrawled no doubt on a 'fresher wall somewhere by a clever graffitist, had caught on over the last few years: "I'm Milking Scragged; Life's Over."
  • Retcon:
    • Daala suffers a head injury during the Rebel attack on the construction site, explaining where her supposed tactical brilliance went.
    • Why did it take so long for the Death Star to fire at Yavin IV? The gunnery chief had a change of heart.
    • The superlaser is retconned from a pure directed energy weapon into a partially technobabble one that also caused a sizable chunk of Alderaan's mass to transit into hyperspace. The Planar Shockwave added in the '97 Special Edition is apparently what the resulting hyperspace ripple looks like from realspace.
  • Retirony: Old-school Admiral Helaw, a man with standards who'd take a beam to the chest rather than allow it to get you In the Back, planned to retire as soon as this project was finished. A certain amount of time was spent building him up as cautious, reliable, and Admiral Motti's confidant. And then he died in an act of sabotage.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Admiral Helaw (one of Motti's old friends) talks about this hardcore master marksman who would often throw himself into the fray with his troops. Helaw's friend is about to gun down a charging pirate when his gun jams and he gets unceremoniously shanked by a sharpened piece of junk. Helaw relates this story as a warning against hubris.
  • Sergeant Rock: Despite not being in the Army, Master Chief Petty Officer Tenn Graneet certainly fits the bill.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Horrified out of complacency, much of the cast decides they can't support the Empire anymore, even passively. Several characters who had had little to do with one another band together and plot to take a copy of the blueprints off the Death Star and to the Rebel Alliance, who may be able to do something with a small weakness found in them; an oddly-placed thermal exhaust port. Several characters sacrifice their lives to buy time for the others or otherwise give them a chance, and they flee Darth Vader himself. Of course, the Rebels had the plans already, and their assault is what draws Vader away. It's not all for nothing, at least - they survive, and some join the Rebellion. Though, as they're never heard from after this and the Rebels have a very rough time over the next several years, how long they last is in question.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: A sort of odd example. Uli often thinks back to the young Jedi he knew twenty years ago during the Clone Wars, who died in Order 66. He's not sure if he loved her, but her death left him badly shaken, and he tries not to think of her too often. When Princess Leia is taken on board the Death Star and tortured, he's summoned to tend to her and is struck by the various ways in which she's like that Jedi. Later his friends refer to Leia as Uli's girlfriend, and he tiredly says the trope name.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In what appears to be a reference to Star Trek, the shuttle NGC-1710 ferries Nova Stihl from Despayre to the Death Star.
    • Uli's a surgeon, not an internal meds doctor!
    • Additionally Dybersyne Engineering Systems is said to be one of the companies contracted to assemble the Death Star's superlaser.
    • There's also a clever reference to the singleplayer of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 snuck in. There are rumors of an escape attempt by the prisoners being held on board the station. Memah Roothes overhears a conversation about it. The first guy says that he heard nine prisoners broke out, led by a Jedi. The other guy (who happens to be Tenn Graneet) says that Jedi are kind of scarce, so that's not too likely. Then he says that he heard that it was fifty prisoners, all of whom were captured rebels, and that they were led by five Jedi, and then they took over the superlaser and started blowing up Star Destroyer after Star Destroyer. Tenn knows that part is impossible, being the guy whose job it is to fire the superlaser and thus knowing firsthand that it isn't working yet, but he says "Why let facts get in the way of a good story?" They go on to joke that eventually the story will become so embellished that people will be saying there was a whole Rebel army on board trying to blow up the station, and that it took the 501st to stop them. (In the video game, there were tons of prisoners, all rebels and all with guns, led by one Jedi, who still had his lightsaber. The 501st did happen to be on board the station at the time and was tasked with stopping them. They didn't try to blow up the station or blast Star Destroyers, but they did try to destroy the superlaser and escape with a copy of the Death Star plans.)
    • At one point, Tenn Graneet is walking down a corridor and sees none other than Darth Vader up ahead, walking in the other direction. The corridor is narrow enough that one or the other is going to have to move out of the way, and Tenn wonders if he should step aside or just walk toward Vader until he moves out of the way, as that's a common game in the Imperial Navy to see who backs down first. (You don't pull it on superior officers for obvious reasons, but since Vader technically isn't part of the navy, Tenn doesn't see him as a superior.) Graneet decides at the last second that he had better move to let Vader pass, and thus avoids becoming a victim of Too Dumb to Live. Where's the shout out here? Well, as Vader walks by Tenn his cape brushes against Tenn's arm and almost gets caught on Tenn's chrono. (Wristwatch.) Tenn belatedly realizes that if he hadn't stepped aside he would probably be dead now and, moreover, he almost became the man who tugged on Darth Vader's cape.
  • Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness: The whole spectrum is well-represented.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Tenn Graneet. He'd always aspired to fire the biggest gun in the galaxy, and actually getting that wish meant guilt and misery beyond his ugliest dreams.
  • Taking You with Me: Dance calls it the WBD - We Both Die.
  • Talk to the Fist: Those two contractors from Alderaan are kriffing sick of gloating Imps.
  • Technobabble: A thankfully short explanation of how the Death Star blows up planets is given by Tenn Graneet, who is more in horror of the fact that he just sent several billion innocent people to their deaths with Alderaan's destruction.
  • Tested On Humans: The Death Star was test-fired on Despayre. Neither the convicts nor the guards were evacuated beforehand.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Tenn Graneet goes into a full-on nervous breakdown after destroying Alderaan.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting
  • Villainous Breakdown: Tarkin never believed that the Death Star had a weakness. In the end, right before the Death Star explodes, he's thinking "Unthinkable. Unthinka—" *BOOM*
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Tenn Graneet.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Nova Stihl is badly shaken after Alderaan, the deaths of billions of innocent civilians of all ages, enough so that he concludes he has to try to prevent something like that from happening again.
    Nova could fight a room full of men straight-up, face-to-face, and if he had to kill half of them to survive, he'd do it. But he hadn't signed on to slaughter children in their beds.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: A minor character named Bahlateez speaks in this manner.