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A novel by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry (2004, Del Rey)
A Clone Wars Novel
Medstar, Book 1
Set 21 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

On a forsaken planet where a very valuable medicinal plant is being fought over and stolen in the Clone Wars, a medical team tries to keep the Clone army healthy.



Read October 30th to November 7th, 2005  
    This was "er" in Star Wars, or perhaps MASH. The medical crew is well defined, there are various interesting and bizarre casualties, some of the doctors and nurses become romantically involved, and at the end of it all, nothing much happens.

However, this was a good ride, generally. I became anxious for something to happen around the halfway point, and the shuttle explosion didn't solve that, mainly because the doctors were not involved in the investigation, and it appeared that nobody else was, either.

Even in the cases of the medical staff, however, all we saw was simply day-to-day living, the drudgery of a hospital in a war zone. There were no real patients who we could watch recover, and only Jos ever really gained a revelation about the idea that clones could be treated as people (and then droids, as well). Unfortunately, all of this has been done before, and it wasn't very interesting. A clone became more than just a clone- an individual - just one book ago in this series, in The Cestus Deception. Luke treats the droids like real people from the moment he acquires them in A New Hope -and Anakin does the same thing with R2D2 in Revenge of the Sith. We learned how bad war was on another dreary planet in Shatterpoint.

The only thing to hold our interest were the characters, and fortunately, they were distinct and well defined. They seemed to have real personalities, not just stock traits. As with the previous Star Wars book by Michael Reaves, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, the banter between the characters was snappy and fun. The new droid with a personality was obviously from that book, as well, though he seems to have lost his memory and is regaining it in pieces. One day he might remember Darth Maul.

Even the Hutt Filba got in some snappy banter, especially with the Sullustan reporter Den. Poor Filba, however, became too much of a liability to Black Sun, so they poisoned him for stealing too much of the magical bota.

It always seems to be the small and empty worlds that get fought over. This one was seemingly worthless until we found out that the drug bota, which could be harvested only on this planet, worked like a miracle on a wide variety of species, and so was prized by everyone in the galaxy -but the doctors were not allowed to use it for their patients on the planet where it grew. It does beg the question of why we have never heard of it, or will not hear of it a generation later. I suspect that the supply will be destroyed by the fighting.

There were a few specific plot points addressed by this novel. One is the Teras Kasi master, Phow Ji, who professes to have beaten a Jedi Master in combat. I never played the Teras Kasi video game, so I don't know anything about that marital art, but I am glad it just wasn't described as being the absolute in martial arts here. I don't understand why Barriss would avoid using the Force, just to make a "fair fight". She was sure that he didn't want to kill her, but that doesn't justify putting herself at risk, anyway. By the end of the book, he dies from a random laser blast, and Barriss saves him with the Force. He becomes so enraged that he goes on a huge rampage against enemy forces, in order to die in a blaze of glory.

There is also the issue of the spy, which is not properly addressed, probably because it will come to fruition in the sequel, Jedi Healer. Den takes an interest in Filba, knowing that the requisition manager was pilfering supplies, and having a grudge against the Hutt. But when he discovers that the Medstar Admiral is part of the scam, he backs off and turns his attention to Phow Ji, whom he then turns into a hero by accident by his news story. The admiral has plans to retire to his home planet, having made millions of credits from selling his stolen bota. But when Black Sun comes calling, he doesn't stand a chance against the trained assassin (the Nedji, anyway; he easily skewered the human). I don't really know what the point of the admiral's story was, because, like everything else in this book, it didn't amount to anything.

The spy was treated obviously as an anonymous person whom we have observed interact with the regulars- perhaps even is a regular character, but not one with whom we have shared thoughts. The obvious choices are the droid with personality, and Tolk, the facial reader with whom Jos falls in love.

Other than that, the book was mostly quiet moments where people simply interacted. They used a lot of expressions that were unique to the Star Wars galaxy, but were instantly recognizable to us in our everyday lives. I liked the way they were given a Star Wars twist. Although we might not know what a healthy alien of some sort would look like, or how healthy he might be, at least we understand what Jos is referring to when he says a patient is "as healthy as a ...".

In other cases, the authors make questionable choices in their expressions. Why would anybody in this time period know of the obscure worlds known as Hoth and Dagobah, and Naboo is a small, insignificant world, where the everyday person wouldn't know what the swamps were like. The worlds were obscure in the "original trilogy" universe for a reason: people didn't want to be found, so they chose worlds that nobody knew about.

Then we come to Barriss Offee, the Jedi Padawan that we last saw in the novels in The Approaching Storm, prequel to Attack of the Clones. In general, I like her. I don't agree with all of her intuitions of the Force, especially when she "opens a conduit", which is a very strange way of looking at it. But I really liked the way she struggles with trying to be "enlightened". Anakin never seemed to have trouble killing, even when he was young in Rogue Planet or The Path to Truth. Perhaps it is this that makes him less interesting. His murder of Count Dooku is the only time we have seen him show something like remorse; his guilt over Mace Windu's death didn't last long.

Barriss seems afraid to use the Force except when healing people. Like so many other Jedi, she is surprised far too often, and ordinary people seem to have thought shields that she cannot penetrate. I believe that the Force is something that the Jedi used unconsciously, so that they could never be surprised completely by actions. I just hope she continues to struggle with her issues, and actually becomes useful in the sequel.

In general, this was an enjoyable book, though not a single spectacular thing happened. One of the main characters dies when they are relocating the hospital. In the aftermath, Jos and Tolk finally get together, dispensing with the strange and archaic beliefs the Correllians apparently have at this point in the timeline. Other than that, the only casualties are the clones, and they require a lot of medical technobabble to fix straight.


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