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A novel by Karen Traviss (2008, Del Rey)
The Clone Wars, book 1
Set 20 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Anakin Skywalker gets a new Padawan as he fights in the Clone Wars, and attempts to rescue Jabba the Hutt's infant child.




Read July 12th to 19th, 2009  
    I didn't have high hopes for the animated movie of the clone wars, as I have not been very impressed with much of the stuff that took place between Attack of the Clones (including that movie) and Revenge of the Sith. However, I was completely surprised by this movie. And now, like the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, this novel takes the story even further. The movie is not simply repeated verbatim, as so many others have been, for example The Phantom Menace, or Star Trek Deep Space Nine's What You Leave Behind. We get thoughts that tell us of the characters' histories, of stuff we already know, and things we didn't.

The author gets a chance to comment upon Attack of the Clones, and to foreshadow Revenge of the Sith. For the most part, I liked both of what she said. However, Anakin focuses a little too much on his hatred of Hutts for my liking. Maybe that's realistic, but I found it a bit wearying. Similarly, Asaaj Ventress thinks upon and wonders about some of the things from the movies that I found to be a little too convenient.

The writing was enjoyable, again for the most part. When describing the events from the movie, it evoked the actual scenes, which was terrific. When she was dealing with the clones and their time away from the main story, always from Rex's point of view, the author began to slip into that Mandalorian militaristic narrative type that I disliked so much in Revelation, though it never bogged down so much as in Triple Zero.

The plot, like the movie, is quite simple, but it is brought into full novel form by the author by expanding on common themes and motives. Jabba the Hutt's son is kidnapped by his cousin Ziro in an effort to frame the Jedi and get Jabba to close his hyperspace routes to the Republic. I find it hard to believe that Jabba could lose his empire just by appearing weak by not saving his son, or by showing a little emotion about the event. That sort of ruins Ziro's motivation for me, but I suppose it's acceptable for a society like the Hutts. When the Republic is asked for help, Anakin and Obi-Wan are chosen to do the task. I liked the subtle references to the way Hutt's change sex when having offspring, as first mentioned (I think) back in the Han Solo trilogy.

Anakin and Obi-Wan are, of course, otherwise engaged, and Anakin is not happy to see a new Padawan arrive. Ahsoka proves herself here, of course, and she is meant to be Anakin's tether to the real world. She talks a lot, offers advice, but is a very quick learner. She risks her life for their troops, along with Anakin. When they finally win the battle in the first half of the book, we have to wonder what they were fighting for, but it was truly a well-devised battle-plan, which means everything kept changing to suit the new situation as it arose.

Anakin and Ahsoka leave for Teth, where little Rotta is being held captive. The Separatist army is waiting for them, and they lose a good number of troops just getting to the old monastery. Once inside, however, they find Rotta very easily, which means it is a trap, as Anakin knows. He and Ahsoka have to battle Ventress, while Rex and the troops battle droids. In the end, Rex, who had a decent story after all, is left with five of his men alive. His story shows how stupid the droids really are. Even Ventress laments that she is stuck with their stupidity.

Anakin and Ahsoka eventually leave Teth with Rotta, and Ahsoka gets a medical droid to give the Hutt some medication to get him better. I liked the way Anakin kept admiring Ahsoka for her ability to cuddle up with slime and the smell of the huttlet. She even shared a water bottle with it! Deep down, Anakin wonders why they have to spend an army of men to rescue a baby Hutt, when the Jedi and Republic didn't spend even a thought on rescuing his mother. Does he ever wonder if his and Padme's lives (and Obi-Wan's) were worth the deaths of a hundred or more Jedi in Attack of the Clones?

Unable to dock with their cruiser, Anakin flies directly to Tatooine, where the ship is shot down, but they manage to escape. Anakin fights Dooku, while Ahsoka battles the magna-guards of the Separatists. Dooku has tried through the whole book to turn Jabba against the Jedi, and Jabba plans to kill Anakin right away, until Ahsoka turns up with Rotta, whom Dooku said was dead. Jabba threatens to kill the Jedi anyway, except that Padmé had been to Ziro's lair on Coruscant and he tried to kill her (she was extracted by clone troops in the background- we saw some of it in the movie, but not here), and she contacts Jabba at the last second.

Anakin's thoughts about this are that he still can't save anybody -Ahsoka saved Rotta (though he's too hard on himself; she couldn't have done it alone), and Padmé saved him by exposing Ziro. And through it all, Anakin keeps thinking of the troops he abandoned on Teth to accomplish the mission, hating every moment of it, which is very Karen Traviss.

One of the interesting things in the novels that are now coming out in this era is that we can get Palpatine as a point of view, which Traviss does here. I'm not sure I like it, but I do think she captures his essence quite well. Having him sit across from Yoda nodding pensively, when he is thinking of how complacent and old Yoda is, sitting across from a Sith and not even knowing it, was quite amusing. All the droid points of view from the movie are missing, which means there is a lot less humor in the book. Some, though, is referenced here, like the droid who fell off the cliff by looking out too far.

As surprised as I was by the movie, I was further surprised to note that I've enjoyed nearly every single episode of the Clone Wars animated series. I hope to say the same of these tie-in Clone Wars novels.


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