Author Terry Brooks was given the task to write the book adaptation of the first Star Wars prequel movie: The Phantom Menace . The novel is based on the screenplay by George Lucas. As with any other book there are good things and bad things about this novel. In this case, the good and the bad are the same thing: Terry Brooks must stay close to George Lucas s screenplay. This is good because Brooks must stay close to what the movie would end up being. This is bad because the screenplay wasn t very good.
The story is obviously the same as the movie (though fleshed out a little bit more). Two Jedi are sent to negotiate with the Trade Federation over the Federation s blockade of Naboo. The Neimoidians, under the power of Darth Sidious, try to kill the Jedi (Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi). The Jedi escape and travel down to Naboo where they end up rescuing Queen Amidala and a few select Nubians. To hide from the Trade Federation they land on the planet Tatooine where they meet a boy named Anakin Skywalker. Their ship is damaged and to get the parts they need Anakin helps them win something called a podrace, which Anakin is a driver in (the only human who is able to do so). Qui-Gon believes this boy is strong in the Force and is the one mentioned in a prophecy about a boy who will bring balance to the Force. The novel has two primary focuses: the time spend on Tatooine with Anakin and freeing the Naboo from the Trade Federation.
There are some things that this novel does very well. The opening of the novel is different from the movie in that we see Anakin in the podrace where he is wrecked by Sebulba (alluded to in the film). We see how Anakin is able to race the pod so well and this is the hint of how he is able to use the Force even without knowing what it is. Because we have more of Anakin s thoughts, we see his actions in a different light. We also get to see more of the Sith and their origins (though I prefer Shadow Hunter for that). Darth Maul does not come off very well in this novel. He is still an excellent fighter, but he doesn t get to speak or think here. The two Jedi come off the strongest as we get to see more interaction between the two and with more explanation of their relationship.
There are also some things that do not work very well. While Anakin is better explained as the potential child of prophecy, he is still not very interesting as a character. Also, both Darth Maul and Padme Amidala are given short shrift in characterization. Worse, I was bored throughout the novel. Sure, I knew the story so there were no surprises, but I can re-read a book or watch a movie a second or fifth time and still be entertained. With this novel I felt that I was just dragging myself along and the only benefit was that I did already know the story so I could skim at times. I have long been a fan of Terry Brooks and his Shannara novels, but this one was rather weak.