April 04, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Current Status
In Season
Matthew Stover
Del Rey
Sci-fi and Fantasy, Fiction
We gave it a B+

Here’s the best news I can report after leafing (okay, tearing) through Matthew Stover’s novelization of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith(Del Rey, $25.95): The words “Jar Jar” appear only once, and not until page 370. There are other promising signs of what we’ll see in theaters May 19. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this spoiler-free for those who prefer to remain in the dark. But speaking of dark, this installment certainly is. Instead of merry Gungans and talk about how annoying sand is, Sith is about a galaxy and one of its heroes sinking into the abyss. While words have never been George Lucas’ strong suit (need I remind you about the sand?), Stover does a fine job of fleshing out the screenplay — especially once you get past a predictably plodding 25-page space battle — by delving into Anakin’s inner demons and the forces (no pun intended) pulling him in opposite directions. How it all translates to the big screen (once 12 trillion special effects are added) remains to be seen, but so far, the outlook is impressive. Most impressive.

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