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Star Wars villain Dooku's early days revealed in compelling audio drama – CNET

Dooku (left) and Asajj Ventress (right) are the main voices in audiobook Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost.

Random House Audio

The idea of a Star Wars audio drama might seem a bit niche, but there have been loads since 1981's wonderful National Public Radio adaptation of the original movie, in which actors performed a dramatic reading of that story.

We've had adaptations of various movies and comics since then, but Dooku: Jedi Lost is the first in many years.

This audiobook, from author Cavan Scott, is a cross between those old-school adaptations and a modern audiobook. It's basically a short novel -- clocking in at 6 hours and 21 minutes -- read by a full cast.

It reveals the early days of Jedi Master Dooku, who'll ultimately take the super villainous title "count," become a Sith Lord and kick off a galactic conflict in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (where he's played by the late Christopher Lee). We saw quite a bit of him as a bad guy in The Clone Wars CGI animated series, but this is our first look at his youth.

The story is told from the perspective of Dooku's apprentice, Asajj Ventress, who learns about him during a mission to rescue his sister. This framing device lets the bitter Ventress add her angry (but fun) commentary to the events, so it's not a straight retelling.

Star Wars villain Dooku's early days revealed in compelling audio drama     - CNET

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We initially dive into Dooku's days as a Jedi trainee, with the story playing out a little like Harry Potter as he and fellow youngling Sifo-Dyas explore the Jedi Temple and get into mischief. Things rapidly become more intense as Dooku ages and his morality becomes twisted, but it's fascinating to see him as a good man and a charismatic hero as we move through his life.

Along with the fun character moments, we get sweet action too. One of the best sequences sees Dooku teaming up with Padawan Qui-Gon Jinn, making this a great companion to recently released Qui-Gon-focused novel Master & Apprentice. The pair chase down criminals like a pair of maverick space cops. Author Scott is clearly having fun with them -- a whole tale about their adventures together would be most welcome.

Since it's an audio drama, production values are high. Orlagh Cassidy gives Ventress a suitably sinister purr and plenty of cynicism, while Euan Morton's portrayal of Dooku evolves nicely as the character ages and his voice changes.

Jonathan Davis' Qui-Gon has a stronger Northern Irish accent than actor Liam Neeson who played the character in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. (Note that Neeson is actually from Northern Ireland, unlike Davis). We also get the usual array of Star Wars sound effects and music, grounding us nicely in that universe.

But the medium hurts the experience at times -- there are parts that you'd appreciate being able to reread to fully grasp what's happened.

Some scenes are populated with unfamiliar Jedi, so you'll need to pay close attention lest you lose track of who's speaking. And the last few chapters are pretty complex, to the point where they might require multiple listens. This is a more frustrating prospect than simply rereading a section.

Despite these niggles, Dooku: Jedi Lost offers a surprising look at one of the many intriguing Star Wars characters we only glimpse in the movies. We know where this guy ends up, so it's great to finally see where he began.

Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost, from Random House Audio, is available to purchase and download from April 30.