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Literature / Death Star

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"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 Starnote  is a novel in the Star Wars Legends continuity, written by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry and published in 2007. 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 books, Battle Surgeons and Jedi Healer. They re-use characters and details from their previous works with some regularity.

The novel follows the lives of a selection of characters who end up working on the first Death Star late in its completion and afterward, including their perspective on the events of A New Hope. 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.

Death Star includes examples of the following tropes:

  • 24-Hour Armor: In the first chapter, it's mentioned that one of the first things TIE pilots learn to do when on-call is to sleep in full battle gear (except the helmet) to save time if the scramble alarm is sounded. However, their gear isn't so much armor as life-support and protection against vacuum, since unlike X-wings, TIE fighters don't have onboard life-support systems.
  • Ace Pilot: The TIE pilot, Vil Dance, becomes one—in fact, in his first full engagement he makes instant double-ace by shooting down ten X-wings. But after watching Darth Vader fly against one of his instructors in practice, Dance remarks that if he's ever up against the Sith Lord for real, he'll just self-destruct his TIE fighter and save Vader the time.
  • Annoying Patient: Several of Uli's patients clearly don't want to be there, an ill Wookiee and a healthy Memah included. Uli himself also doesn't want to be there and is pretty burned out. He takes the Wookiee's sarcasm as a positive, a sign of a will to live, and finds Memah's complaint that her examination is "two hours of my life I'll never get back" funny. Later he tends to Leia Organa after she's captured and tortured and is impressed by her continued defiance and ability to snark while in considerable pain. The only thing he objects to is her calling him an Imperial officer, which just opens him up to her talking about the necessity of resisting evil and leaves him considerably closer to a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Ascended Extra: Tenn Graneet and Nova Stihl are both Faceless Goons in A New Hope. Nova is one of the stormtroopers that chase after Han and Chewie, and Tenn is the Death Star's chief gunner, who pulls the lever that fires the superlaser. Both of them are given personalities and plotlines in this novel.
  • Asteroid Miners: The system where the Death Star was built was strip-mined for resources, the asteroids included. By the time it is completed, the only bodies of note that they might test the superlaser on are a pair of gas giants (not practical for a weapon designed to blow up rocky inhabited worlds) 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.
    • After her cantina on Coruscant is burned down in suspicious circumstances—she assumes Insurance Fraud but it's very heavily implied to be the work of Imperials—Memah is given the opportunity to start a new one on a "military installation" and accepts the job, thinking that it's probably going to be safer. On approach to the half-built Death Star she remembers this thought and says the trope name to herself—surely something this big is going to be safe from attack. It's a Foregone Conclusion that her new bar will be destroyed too, along with the rest of the Death Star, but by then Memah does not mind in the least.
  • Been There, Shaped History: A number of the novel's original characters are revealed to have had surprisingly major impacts on the events of A New Hope and other works:
    • In his duties as a librarian, Atour Riten acquires a complete set of the Death Star's schematics and decides to store them in the mainframe of an Imperial base on Danuta—where they are stolen by a certain Rebel agent. Much later, he taps into a security feed and witnesses Luke and Han making their plan to rescue Leia. He decides to help by unlocking the elevator for them, since they don't have the code to access the prison level.
    • Due to a Force vision, stormtrooper Nova Stihl deliberately impedes his team's pursuit of Han and Chewie, allowing them (and consequently Luke, Leia, and the droids) to escape.
    • Chief gunner Tenn Graneet, depressed and disillusioned by his role in the destruction of Alderaan and Despayre, delays firing on Yavin IV, giving Luke time to complete his attack run and destroy the station.
    • Barely averted in the case of Teela Kaarz, who, in her role as a supporting architect, deletes the fateful exhaust port from the Death Star plans as redundant and unnecessary. It gets built anyway due to a communications breakdown, and she shrugs and lets it go since having it probably won't hurt anything.
    • In the film, Darth Vader disappears from the final battle for a while before returning to chase down Luke and his last few companions. In the book, this is because his attention is drawn away by the main characters, who are attempting to desert the Death Star in a stolen medshuttle. Once he senses how powerful Luke is, he lets them go to return to the fight.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Tenn Graneet is the one who pulls the trigger sending Despayre and Alderaan to their deaths. While Despayre unnerves him, he can at least partially rationalize it, what with the planet 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 is the Rebellion, a recurring antagonist which attacks the Death Star twice (the first time in a failed Zerg Rush of hundreds of X-wings, and the second being the Battle of Yavin IV).
    • By the third act, as a result of their Heel Realization, the protagonists conclude that Tarkin and the Empire fit the role.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: Some of the cast is Imperial military, but plenty of the rest are just trying to keep themselves fed and clothed, and range from indifferent to the Empire to disliking it but not seeing better options. Teela was sentenced to life on Despayre for backing a political candidate whom the Empire didn't like, and facing the choice between continuing to starve and risk violence on the penal colony, or using her architecture skills to work on the Death Star in much more favorable conditions, she chose the latter. Living on the station as it's being constructed isn't bad, but several characters feel twinges of conscience, which intensify dramatically as it becomes operational.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Between Teela and a Wookiee. She can understand Shyriiwook because Wookiees are commonly found as construction workers and she's an architect, and Wookiees who work construction can usually understand Basic.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Celot Ratua Dil, the smuggler, is Zelosian, and although he looks like a green-eyed human, he photosynthesizes.
  • Call-Back: To the MedStar duology, by the same authors and which introduced the character of Dr. Uli Divini. Notably, in both works Uli takes a liking to a Force-sensitive female characternote  which results in him being teased about his "girlfriend" by his friends and colleagues.
  • 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."
    • Atour, after Despayre, becomes depressed and unsettled and thinks "Build a blaster that could destroy a planet, and some bigger fool would build one that could extinguish a star. It would go on, insanity without end, because there's always a bigger blaster." The Jedi Academy Trilogy does in fact involve a superweapon that forces suns to go nova, and parts of the Star Wars Legends canon are infamous for superweapon escalation.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Nova's Force dreams (most of them are about ways he may die) often send him thrashing into wakefulness.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The Death Star gunner stating "Stand by... Stand by..." goes from a pacing issue to a man deliberately stalling for time after having a mental breakdown.
  • 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 from Teela Kaarz (who almost manages to keep it from being built), there's Uli's inquiries about midi-chlorians as they relate to Nova's bad dreams. He even forgets all about them, until they get him arrested for "illegal medical research."
  • Closet Sublet: While the residential areas of the Death Star are under construction, architech Teela is presented with a serious problem: the space allotted for personal quarters is only technically adequate given the number of people expected to require them. There's only space to set up not even capsule hotels, just tiny spaces that people wouldn't even be able to sit up in. This is not going to work, she exclaims, but she's forced to try to sort it out and apparently does, though the readers aren't shown just how.
  • Conscription: Uli was conscripted back during the Clone Wars and has had his term of service extended indefinitely, much to his dismay. Teela is also pressed into service, though she's so happy to be off Despayre and in a relatively safe environment actually getting to work as an architect again that she mainly manages not to be bothered by it until things come crashing down.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Quite a few to A New Hope. Perhaps the best is the explanation for why the gunner kept saying "Stand by. Stand by..." when they had Yavin IV in their sights for as long as they did.
    • A number are made as well to various video games, though their canonicity (even within Legends) is debatable.
      • A number of the events of the novel were lifted straight from X-Wing, most notably the destruction of Despayre and the planting of a bomb on one of the Star Destroyers guarding the construction site.
      • There's also a clever reference to the single-player mode of Star Wars: Battlefront II 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.)
      • A more oblique reference is made to Dark Forces in that one of the novel's characters is responsible for the Death Star plans being on Danuta, where the plans are stolen by Kyle Katarn in the game.
    • After the destruction of Alderaan, Tenn Graneet ruefully compares himself to famous mass-murderers, including General Grievous, the Butcher of Montellian Serat, and Grand Admiral Il-Raz. None of them ever killed over a billion people with one pull of a lever.
  • Critical Hesitation Blunder: Tenn Graneet is mid-breakdown over Yavin, feeling sick and hopeless and knowing that even if he refuses, they'll have another gunner in his chair within a minute to push the button and annihilate another inhabited world, so he's stalling. Here his "Stand by..." comes when the superlaser is well and truly ready, and the crew with him notices. Honestly, he would have been very relieved to know that Luke Skywalker had launched torpedos and that his few seconds of stalling actually came to something.
  • Cultured Warrior: Nova Stihl keeps it a secret that he'd rather stay in his bunk and read than go out drinking with his buddies—he does so only often enough to keep up appearances. Where other troopers might stash porn, he keeps copies of philosophical texts.
  • 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.
  • Cyanide Pill: Subverted. While on Despayre, Celot Ratua Dil had a spy-killer device that was designed to program a trigger word for a small explosive, which would then be implanted at the base of the skull. If the spy ever spoke the trigger word, BOOM! Ratua convinced the dock supervisor to help smuggle him off the prison planet by letting the supervisor set his own name as the trigger word and implant Ratua with it to prevent Ratua from implicating him if he was caught. What the guy didn't know was that Ratua had reprogramed the device to show the bomb was active when it actually wasn't.
  • Defector from Decadence: 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.
  • Delayed Diagnosis: Uli's asked if he can help with Nova's intense and terrible dreams but scans and an examination prove that the only physical abnormality he has is a higher than average midichlorian count. Most midichlorian research was performed by Jedi and related organizations and now that information is heavily restricted under the Empire but Uli, being a good doctor who looks into all avenues, makes a request for more information anyway... and gets in trouble for it later, at the exact worst moment.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Called out by name, with lampshade lovingly hung.
  • Dodge by Braking: How the escapees manage to survive their shuttle being blown away by Darth Vader. It was a pure desperation move on Vil Dance's part, and as a result Vader Didn't See That Coming and barely missed them. And then before Vader could pull back around to take another shot at them, his attention was drawn away by a certain Rebel pilot with a strong presence in the Force.
  • 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.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After Alderaan is destroyed, two Alderaanian contractors are seen in Memah's bar, mostly just staring into space. When an Imperial trooper loudly voices his opinion that the planet's death was a good thing, one of them, half the trooper's size, gets up and puts him on the floor. Memah's bouncer Rodo tells the trooper and his buddies to get lost on their own or with his "help." Rodo then tells the Alderaanians how sorry he is for their loss, puts their tab on the house, and tells them if anyone else says something so insensitive to let him handle it because he can hit a lot harder than they could.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Alderaan, obviously, but before that, the Death Star is tested on Despayre. With the superlaser only at one-third power, the first shot wipes out all life on the surface, boiling the oceans and setting the atmosphere on fire, the second causes the plate tectonics and volcanism to go haywire, and the third finally blows the planet apart.
  • 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.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: It never occurs to Tarkin that anyone manning the superlaser might feel remorse over blowing up inhabited worlds.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Tenn Graneet passes Darth Vader in the corridor, and notes that the very air seems to have been chilled in the wake of the Sith Lord's passage.
  • Evil Is Petty: To maintain operational security, most of the people serving or working on the Death Star aren't permitted to leave it for years, but it's such a large installation that plenty of space and money is available to provide off duty leisure services. Instead of just hiring people to staff those, some Imperial or another decided to burn down a bunch of functioning bars and so on on Coruscant and offer jobs to their newly unemployed owners and workers.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A novel revolving around the first Death Star.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: A common trope of Steve Perry's writing. The book imports Teräs Käsi, a style designed to fight Jedi, from Shadows of the Empire as a style Nova Stihl is trained in, and teaches to political prisoners on Despayre so they can protect themselves from people who are there for... other reasons.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: This novel offers an explanation for how the Death Star's fatal weakness escaped notice during construction: It didn't. One of the viewpoint characters, an engineer shanghaied onto the project, notices the extra exhaust port and sends a change order, only for the change to get buried in the Imperial bureaucracy and the exhaust port built anyway.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Dr. Uli ends up the target of a criminal probe when he requests medical information on midi-chlorians while treating Nova Stihl for weird dreams, after noticing the stormtrooper has a higher-than-normal number of them. It's an act of pure medical desperation that could end up getting doctor and patient both executed. Nothing comes of it because Uli escapes with the other defectors during the Battle of Yavin, before the investigation can conclude, and Nova dies covering their escape. Uli's probably not going to be able to practice medicine in Imperial space ever again but that'd be the case already, given that he defected.
  • 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. Seeing the Death Star actually blow up a couple planets jars them out of this way of thinking.
  • 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 aren't in the Imperial military, who just work for it (not always by choice), tend to get it earlier.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Atour Riten is 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, after his droid, who was supposed to perform that role, is taken in for investigation.
    • Nova Stihl and Rodo stay to fight off a squad of guards to give their fellow defectors time to get to the shuttle and escape. Both are killed in the fight.
  • Hero of Another Story: Leia really only appears a few times, and most of that is rendering events of A New Hope from Vader or Tarkin's perspective, but she makes a very strong impression on Uli Divini, whose cynical, defeatist neutrality is rattled and overturned in two short conversations with her. Her defiance as a captured daughter of Alderaan, of course, also results in her homeworld being chosen for mundicide, which horrifies every character with a functioning conscience.
  • 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.
    • A couple of surgeon-specific ones, "When the only tool you have is a knife, everything looks like a steak," and "You cut it, you take care of it."
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Memah, not familiar with hyperspace, tries watching it on her way to her new assignment and gives herself a headache and nausea. Staring out into it for too long is said to give people "hyper-rapture", so by default the view from ship windows is opaqued. Not when Vader's flying, though, as he likes to watch it.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place:
    • The prison world "Despayre".
    • The Death Star itself.
  • I Have Many Names: Celot Ratua Dill, the smuggler, also gets called "Teh Roxxor", "Green-Eyes", and "Radish Boy".
  • I'm Having Soul Pains: While other Force-sensitives might just notice a "disturbance" when the Death Star destroys a planet, Nova Stihl, who's on the Death Star itself, hears screaming in his head and gets headaches and nosebleeds. Alderaan knocks him out completely.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Darth Vader. Vil Dance saw him fly once and promised himself that he'd commit suicide if Vader ever came after him; late in the novel Vil and his new defecting friends flee in a shuttle, are pursued, and Vil manages to not get shot down just long enough that Vader's attention is drawn back to the attacking 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).
  • Jedi Mind Trick: A young Imperial officer, having heard of (or perhaps witnessed) how choke happy Darth Vader can be, is absolutely terrified to deliver a report to Vader. While in most cases Vader doesn't mind if people are extremely afraid of him, at times Vader finds the amount of fear he causes interferes with efficiency. Vader uses a Jedi mind trick to get the officer to calm down enough to deliver his report. He later thinks that at least the weak minded fool is no longer shaking in his boots after the mind trick.
  • Just Following Orders: Averted by all the Imperial characters in the dramatis personae, who are either ruthless tyrants or morally sensitive people who join the Rebels after they see the Death Star in action. Less important characters sometimes meet this trope better.
  • Just in Time: At the climax of the book, Uli is arrested for "illegal medical research" but as he's being led away the Rebels start their attack. As they're right under the trench at the time, there are local fluctuations in power and a small explosion in the hall that separates Uli from the officers, letting him escape. Not long after, the stolen medical shuttle he and his surviving friends escape in has a close encounter with Darth Vader before he veers off after Luke Skywalker. Immediately after that someone on the Death Star gets a tractor beam on the shuttle and starts to reel them back. Just as the shuttle's occupants decide to overload their engines, the Death Star blows up, and they're just out of range where that would have killed them too.
  • 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."
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The novel as a whole is one for rank-and-file Imperial forces and civilian contractors.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Thirteen characters in the dramatis personae (ten male, three female). Four 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 among the 'new' characters the male death rate is 60%.
  • Mind Probe: Vader does this casually to Teela Kaarz as she stands by during one of his tours. She senses him, freaks out, and closes down. That she was able to shut him out, without any Force-sensitivity or training, mildly impresses him.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, the destruction of Alderaan drives most of the cast into turning on the Empire. Tenn Graneet, the main Death Star gunner who pulled the trigger, is sickened and ashamed and realizes that the rest of the Galaxy will also see him as having crossed this.
    He wouldn't be able to walk on a street on any civilized planet in the galaxy; people wouldn't be able to abide his presence. Nor would he blame them.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tenn Graneet suffers a severe mental breakdown, being the man who threw the switch that killed Alderaan. 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 moment of realization.
    [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 manifests in Dreaming of Things to Come and as a sense he calls his "Blink," which lets him anticipate opponents' moves in hand-to-hand fighting.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Apart from previously established ones, more or less every Imperial character in the book is a lukewarm careerist, doubter, or outright Rebel sympathizer. Even the one who seems to be the token true believer has a change of heart.
  • Neutral No Longer: Much of the cast starts out vaguely uneasy about the Empire to some extent, but they shrug and have to get by somehow. Anyone with a functioning conscience finds they can't ignore it anymore after the destruction of Alderaan, and while most of these characters had had little to no involvement with each other before then, they find themselves in a cantina sharing a moral imperative to, even if they can't stop the Imperial machine, at least not help it anymore. Special mention goes to the historian. Atour's long life has been spent politically neutral, but this event sees him immediately going to work researching blueprints looking for weak points. Later he devises a plan to allow himself and the like-minded people he'd met in the cantina to find a way off the Death Star.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. One of the interspecies couples refers to this as a Noodle Incident after a Time Skip of several months.
    Ratua: How was I to know your kind can't eat sweetweed?
    Memah: 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.
    Ratua: You're never going to let me forget it, are you?
    Memah: Not a chance, Green-Eyes.
  • Oh, Crap!: Vader, who throughout the saga generally avoids this trope, comes the closest he's ever had to one of these moments during the Battle of Yavin, when he senses that one of the attacking Rebels (Luke) is very strong in the Force. Vader, who was about to finish off the defecting Imperial shuttle, immediately abandons that pursuit and goes back to defend the space station, even going so far as to ignore the Force sensitive pilot's wingmen.
  • Penal Colony: Despayre is where the Empire dumps criminals with a life sentence, deemed too dangerous to incarcerate closer to civilization. It also happens to be where they put many of their political prisoners, far away from any prying eyes.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The second part of the novel is one to A New Hope, from the exclusive perspective of characters aboard the Death Star and other Imperials. Most of Vader and Tarkin's dialogue is reproduced faithfully.
  • 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.
  • Punny Name: So many. Nova Stihl, Villian Dance, Teh Roxxor...
  • Rage Within the Machine: The gunner, the pilot, and the stormtrooper are 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, hero of the Clone Wars and one of the Empire's best pilots. Vil saw Vader easily shoot him down in training once.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Tenn Graneet delays firing the superlaser at Yavin IV long enough for Luke to fire a proton torpedo, leading very shortly to his own death. Seeking only to delay the inevitable, knowing that even if he refused to pull the lever someone else would immediately do it, he hesitates just long enough to unwittingly save the Rebellion.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Doctor Kornell "Uli" Divini has been in Imperial service since before Palpatine's New Order, due to the Imperial Military Stop Loss Order, or IMSLO. He's too valuable to the war effort to have any say in when he gets discharged. Resentment over this has him hating the Empire more than any of the rest of the cast and often while plying his trade he thinks that a patient is going back to being worked to death, or committing atrocities. As he tells Leia, though, his options are to serve or be shot.
    Doctors, in particular, were in short supply; hence, IMSLO. 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, plans to retire as soon as this project is finished. A certain amount of time is spent building him up as cautious, reliable, and Admiral Motti's confidant. And then he dies 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 was about to gun down a charging pirate when his gun jammed and he got 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. Career military, has the respect of his men, and wants nothing more in life than to fire the biggest, meanest gun he can get his hands on at whatever his superiors tell him to blow up.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Uli often thinks back to the young Jedi he knew twenty years ago during the Clone Wars, who died in Order 66, Barris Offee. 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 but she never seems to be far from his thoughts. When Princess Leia is taken on board the Death Star and tortured, he's summoned to tend to her and is struck by her moral conviction, comparing her to Barris. Later his friends refer to Leia as Uli's girlfriend, and he tiredly says the trope name.
  • Shoot the Builder: Palpatine and his minions do this on a planetary scale. Grand Moff Tarkin uses convict laborers from the prison planet Despayre for the final stage of the Death Star's construction. Then he blows up the entire planet to test the space station's super laser. The only survivors are already on board, a few engineers deemed valuable enough to spare for additional work and a man who stows away on a supply vessel returning to the Death Star.
  • 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!
    • Dybersyne Engineering Systems is said to be one of the companies contracted to assemble the Death Star's superlaser.
    • 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.
  • Spanner in the Works: Teela deletes an extra exhaust port from the Death Star plans during construction because it was added by the Department of Redundancy Department: there's another, bigger exhaust port right above it so the small one serves no purpose. The change order gets lost in the Imperial bureaucracy and the port is built anyway, and Teela basically goes, "Oh, scrag it, it won't hurt anything." That port turns into the Rebels' primary target, as she realizes when the station suddenly explodes during the Rebel attack over Yavin.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Tenn Graneet. He's always aspired to fire the biggest gun in the galaxy, and actually getting that wish means guilt and misery beyond his ugliest dreams.
  • Taking You with Me: Dance calls it the WBD maneuver—We Both Die. In a TIE fighter, that means either a head-to-head engagement where both fire at once, or the use of Ramming Always Works.
  • 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 is test-fired on Despayre. Neither the convicts nor the guards are evacuated beforehand. (Which rather puts the lie to Tarkin's excuse that all those guards can now be freed up for other service.)
  • These Hands Have Killed: Tenn Graneet goes into a full-on nervous breakdown after destroying Alderaan.
  • This Cannot Be!: Vader's internal reaction when, after delivering a fatal lightsaber blow to Obi-Wan, he sees that the old man's body has vanished.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The very last lines of the book have Darth Vader musing that Palpatine is not going to be happy about the Death Star blowing up.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The novel efficiently juggles thirteen characters' separate storylines over the course of about two years.
  • Typhoid Mary: Memah is ordered to get a medical examination several days after arriving on the Death Star. Annoyed, she says that if she was a Sangi Fever Sal she could have infected hundreds by now, and anyway she got an exam before departing for the station in the first place. She still has to get checked over and complains about it.
    Memeh: That's the government—everything and everyone gets shunted through the Department of Redundancy Department.
  • 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*
  • 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's going to leave the Imperial military as soon as he can and that he has to try to prevent something like that from ever 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.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Nova avoids 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.