"I've always thought that Luke felt pretty bad for a few days after it was over."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Michael Reaves and Steve Perry's new novel, "Death Star," is a look at daily life and drama on that superstructure Obi-Wan Kenobi so chillingly assessed in the original "Star Wars": "That's no moon. It's a space station."

Turns out it's also your everyday workplace. Yes, Darth Vader is around, sent by corporate HQ to make certain the Grand Moff Tarkin is ready for a Grand Moff Opening. A certain princess with a funny hairdo is in custody. But "Death Star" is the untold story of the grunt employees, some of whom are having second thoughts about working there -- a TIE fighter pilot, a storm trooper, a doctor, a librarian, a bartender and her bouncer, a stowaway and especially the guy who pulls the trigger that blows up the planet Alderaan. He really hates his job.

We spoke to Reaves (who is 57 and lives in Los Angeles) about one of science fiction's favorite pieces of military spending.

-- Hank Stuever

Reading this, I realized we didn't see all that much of the Death Star in the 1977 movie, did we? It's just a hangar bay, some hallways, a chasm or two, a command bridge . . .

It's immense, and there are millions of people on board. One person couldn't explore the whole place in a lifetime.

But I never knew why it had to have a trash compactor -- that's about the dumbest thing in the universe, when you think about it.

With its fascist interior design, we never think of the Death Star as having restaurants, happy hours, luxury apartments and recreation areas. Turns out it's a mixed-use development!

Well, we start from the point that not everyone on board the Death Star was a villain. As Kevin Smith pointed out in his movie "Clerks," someone had to be the plumber. That's basically where we're coming from -- we knew we wanted to do the events of [the original film], but from all these different points of view, of people who are allied with the Empire but who then start to realize that what's supposed to be the cushiest gig in the universe isn't all that great.

So you've got all these people on board, and they don't walk around in uniforms Sieg Heil-ing all day. There's got to be bars, places to eat . . .

People sometimes say "Death Star" as a way of describing structures we think are ugly or foreboding -- parking garages, offices, McMansions, the Crystal City underworld, Dick Cheney's bunker. Do you have any Death Stars in your neighborhood, or in your life?

The inside of the Universal studio lot, maybe. Lots of long hallways . . . very drab, beige. I've wondered if that's maybe what [George] Lucas had in mind when he was thinking of how the inside of the Death Star would look.

By the end of your novel, it seems we're supposed to feel bad about all the people (and alien labor) who die when Luke Skywalker shoots and scores. Or do they deserve it, for being on the Imperial payroll?

I felt a little bad. It gets blowed up real good. And you think, jeez, there's a lotta guys on there. Maybe not families, since it's a military vessel, but lots of, you know, people. . . . Ninety-nine percent of them didn't even know what was going on, they were just doing their job. Then again, it's war.

I've always thought that Luke felt pretty bad for a few days after it was over.

Six years later, in "Return of the Jedi," those evildoers have built another Death Star! (Or two-thirds of one.) That was fast, wasn't it?

People argue about this. If the first one took 20 years to build, based on what we see at the end of ["Revenge of the Sith," the 2005 prequel film], then how come the next one got built so quick?

I think the answer to the first one taking so long is simple: red tape.

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