Ossus Library Index Star Wars Timeline




A novel by Steven Barnes (2004, Del Rey)
A Clone Wars Novel
Set 21 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Obi-Wan and Kit Fisto attempt to use diplomacy and sabotage to stop a planet from producing Jedi Killer droids.



2+ stars+

Read January 15th to 23rd, 2005  
    An easy read, with a well-developed character, but the book was riddled with inconsistencies and a lack of focus.

A lot of the emotions that the main characters went through felt quite forced, right from the start. From the reader's perspective, it's as if Obi-Wan and the clones are experiencing everything for the first time, without the benefit of experience. The clone troopers described their thoughts by discussing how other people would normally feel, contrasting against them. I prefer much more subtle descriptions. Things get better later in the book, when the characters are actually trying to figure out stuff they have never seen or experienced before.

The mission that Obi-Wan and Kit Fisto undertake is to stop the planet Cestus from producing highly sophisticated security droids, which have been implanted with some sort of Force-sensitive eel, making them into Jedi Killers, otherwise known as JK droids.

Obi-Wan tries his hand at diplomacy, with a legal expert from Coruscant. Given that Kit and three clones have gone secretly into the desert to recruit people for infrastructure sabotage, we know that the negotiations must fail. It is only a matter of how long the governing body will stall, and how long Obi-Wan will go about trying to fix it before he calls Kit in. The politics are unimportant, because inevitably, they don't amount to anything in this book, even though there is plenty of it.

In the desert, we get to see everyday activities, which were nice to see, but felt very much like the author didn't know how to flesh it out. However, with the introduction of Sheeka Tull, one of the clone troopers really begins to grow. Sheeka is introduced as a transport pilot, pressed into service by blackmail, but more importantly, she and Jango Fett were lovers at one time. She is the catalyst that makes Nate, the clone trooper, try to become more than just a soldier. At first, he resists that change, but she teases him more and more, and asks him questions about his philosophy, that he begins to ponder life outside a soldier's routine. Eventually, he takes a new name, not based on his designation. I found the name Jangotat ("brother of Jango") to be very annoying, but it served its purpose.

The entire key to Obi-Wan's diplomatic failure was his "deception" of the people of Cestus. In order to try and get the rulers to agree to the Chancellor's commands, Kit and some recruits take a subway car full of high-ranking members hostage, pretending to be sent by Count Dooku. Obi-Wan pretends to track them down, with some information from the underworld, and pretends to battle with them, in order to impress everybody. The fight was well-written, and quite fun to "observe". Unfortunately, somebody videotaped the fight, showing that it was staged. There is a massive contradiction here, though. Even if Obi-Wan knew the location of the kidnapped car, he should have been able to detect the motions -or lack of motions- with the Force, so his performance should not have been faked. The video showed Obi-Wan missing the kidnappers with his lightsaber, swinging wide, but in the passage where it is described, and later on among the troopers, we learned that Obi-Wan did make contact, as the extra armored padding helped deflect the blows. Nate was actually hoisted up out of the car by the noose around his neck, and Kit used the light-whip to battle Obi-Wan. The fight between the Jedi was real enough that Nate and his companions were extremely impressed. I'm sure that Kit wouldn't fake anything in a duel, anyway, just based on his personality. If the incriminating segment was taken while he was outside the car, I wonder why Obi-Wan bothered to fake a battle where nobody would see it anyway -if he was expecting unforeseen cameras, he should have made it as real as possible, regardless. To avoid hurting anybody, then, he should have just used other Force techniques, rather than the lightsaber. The whole setup seemed forced.

Back at the camp of Desert Wind, the group is celebrating Obi-Wan's victory, and a successful deception. How many people knew about the deception, as the whole camp joined the celebration? Too many people, as far as I'm concerned, making it much more likely to leak out.

Throughout the entire book, I was confused by Kit and Nate's purpose. This didn't get better when Obi-Wan joined them in disgrace. If the sabotage and kidnapping were meant to look like they had no Republic involvement, then why recruit people using Republic soldiers and in the name of the Republic? The author obviously wants us to believe that these disillusioned people are 100% honest and can all keep a secret. Even so, many security guards saw Obi-Wan -or at least his lightsaber at work- when they were ambushed. Why was this not made public knowledge, if only by rumor? If a captured clone trooper would prove Republic involvement in the sabotage, wouldn't a captured Jedi be worse? But if the Republic bombs the planet anyway, what difference does it make?

Instead of so much minor sabotage, the purpose of which was quite uncertain, why did they not go straight after the JK manufacturing plant? They hoped to bring the Five Families back to the bargaining table, but why would such sabotage do that? If anything, they would bargain with Desert Wind, which theoretically has nothing to do with the JKs. So it turns out that it is the Jedi who are the ones performing illegally here.

The real enemy in this book, who worked behind the scenes to ... do nothing, actually, was Asajj Ventress, introduced in The Defense of Kamino, and Victories and Sacrifices. Obi-Wan was captured by her in Last Stand on Jabiim, and presumably escapes from her in The Best Blades, which I have not yet read. It was nice to get some background on her character, how her Jedi Master died before he could teach her, and Dooku resumed her training, teaching her that the Jedi had lost their way. She is the one who took the incriminating video, but mostly she struts around the underworld making everybody uneasy. She eventually captures Obi-Wan and Kit, and it takes both of them to unbalance her so that she flees. If I hadn't known that she is still alive in the upcoming comic Obsession, then I thought she could have a good end here. As it is, having her constantly running from a losing battle is getting tiring very fast.

There were a few good scenes with Kit and Obi-Wan, separately. I loved Kit's entry into the water processing plant, and Obi-Wan's sabotage there, his battle with the JK droid, was effectively written. The celebration afterwards, where the group was scattered because Ventress sent JK and other security droids to their newfound location, was less interesting. However, it did get Nate/Jangotat away from the main group, allowing him to grow even further. Sheeka takes him to heal from a serious wound at a secret location where her foster children live. There, he falls in love with her, and she takes him to see the Force-sensitive eels that help these simple people live. Their unfertilized larvae were used in the JK droids to give them the edge that allowed them to kill some Jedi, something these creatures detest, and they disappear when they learn about it.

Jangotat gets a satisfying conclusion when Obi-Wan and Kit are captured, as he detects the location where the Five Families are hiding, and retargets the Republic cruiser's bombs to that location, where he also dies. Seeing the JK droid go crazy when it witnessed horrendous death makes him think that they would have never work on the battlefield, but wouldn't they know that if the droids had already killed some Jedi? Because of the eels' tenderness in the healing arts, it could not take lives willingly. But the JK already had a reputation. More contradictions.

There were many more annoying discrepancies in this book. In the early chapters, Obi-Wan and Kit practice-duelled for one hour, then two. Kit and the troopers set up a base in the caves "not far south" of their landing point, but in order to do so, they went "far to the west". Nate started out with almost 200 recruits, lost 10 early on, then another 40%, leaving 48, which is just plain bad math! At the end of the book, we are told that the bombing was achieved with no fatalities, but the heads of the Five Families and Jangotat were dead! Two people went missing without anybody noticing, also (including the author, apparently). There was the guide who took Obi-Wan into the city where he sabotaged the water plant, and Brother Fate, who helped Sheeka take Jangotat into the eel cave. (The author also uses the name Nate a couple of times after he takes the new name.) There seemed to be a time discrepancy, as well. It only took four days since Obi-Wan's ship was shot down (is it really sabotage if Obi-Wan's escape pod was the only one that malfunctioned?), Obi-Wan joined the recruits, sabotaged something, were nearly captured, celebrated, ambushed and relocated, and sabotaged the water plant. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan helped them train, and Nate recovered from a near-fatal blaster shot.

Anyway, I'm tired of pointing out so many inconsistencies, which is plain sloppy writing. It was very annoying, as were the insanely short chapters (some had mid-chapter breaks, others full breaks, and I couldn't distinguish why one and not the other). I wish the story had had a better focus, as there are many separate stories, each designed to lengthen Obi-Wan's time on the planet, but they don't really lead into one, and they feel like everybody, including the author, are making things up as they go along. However, I did like Nate the clone trooper. The author was successful in making this clone into a person, a human. Even Obi-Wan wonders about the clones as people. Unfortunately, that progress is undone when he leaves the clone pilot aboard their ship without a second thought, and doesn't care when the pilot is killed when the ship is destroyed.

The characters were separate entities, as well, which was refreshing. I wish the author had highlighted the abilities more often, however. They are only showcased when they are needed. Otherwise, they do the same things that normal people would do, like not hear somebody approaching, or pace a lot (didn't Obi-Wan tell Anakin to relax in Padmé's apartment in Attack of the Clones?), or any other clichéd movements.

I'm glad that the radiation suit Obi-Wan wanted to obtain on the black market turned out to be a ruse, because when it was introduced early in the book, I was afraid that it was a too-obvious solution to their problem.

I am curious why Anakin was removed from the story after the first page, and not seen again. Clearly the author didn't want to explore the Padawan relationship. However, a denouement with Anakin and Obi-Wan would have been very nice, especially their interpretation of this nearly behind-the-scenes battle of the Clone Wars.

With the heads of the Five Families dead, the Regent of the planet, a native X'Ting, quickly agrees to stop producing JK droids. I am not certain how the Separatist agenda is advanced by this, but I guess they deserve a setback every once in a while, too.

The author did a good job writing the characters to this novel, for the most part. Unfortunately, his plotting is not so good. Two novels into the Clone Wars, things are improving, but not by much. This was so much more entertaining than Shatterpoint, and much, much easier to read. Still, I am rather unimpressed with the series so far.


Back to Top

All Star Wars material and covers are Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd and the publishers.
All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.