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A novel by Jude Watson (2001, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, Book 13
43 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

The Jedi chase after the evil scientist that imprisoned Qui-Gon, as she provides the cure to a planet that she poisoned.



2+ stars+

Read on April 16th, 2003  
    While possibly the best written book in this series, I had some serious issues with the plot.

I continue to be impressed by the writing in this series. The book is very exciting, and forces the reader to turn pages in earnest! The characters are all very interesting, and they each have their own personalities, which is important.

Once again, Obi-Wan gets to shine in several scenes. I really like that. His confrontation with Ona Nobis in the hospital was amazing beyond words. I think it's great that the author allowed Obi-Wan to leave the battle when it wasn't finished. He knew that he was outmatched, and he also knew that he didn't have to fight. It's an important lesson to kids these days, who are under so much peer pressure. It is an extremely difficult decision to step away from a fight, since it is seen as cowardly. But it was so logical!

What is not logical is the flow of this book, in terms of time. I was ready to read an exciting battle of wits between Qui-Gon and Jenna Zan Arbor. It was not to be, however, as he is rescued in only the second chapter. I was happy to see Adi Gallia and Siri again (from The Fight for Truth), but the whole plan didn't make sense. This time around, the Three Stooges (Cholly, Weez and Tup) were annoying, except for unloading the droids, where they acted like the real Stooges.

I can't figure out how Zan Arbor knew she was in a hurry to leave, was able to order a bunch of droids, contact the Stooges (only a moment ago, they were watching her warehouse, which was unknown to them, looking out for the bounty hunter), have them collect the droids from somewhere, and ship them, all since Obi-Wan broke into her compound? This book began only instants after the last book ended. Add to that the idea that Qui-Gon contacted Tahl before he lost communications, telling her that Jenna had locked herself in with the other prisoner. Wouldn't Jenna have had to disrupt communications before entering the lab, especially since her controls didn't seem to do anything? She also managed to move the prisoner to her ship, a ship that didn't have room for the droids she ordered, killed her assistant Nil, and played pretend with Qui-Gon. Why the act, unless she knew he was watching? More time seemed to occur than can be accounted for in the text we get to witness.

Jenna didn't seem to be afraid of Qui-Gon in the slightest, even though he was on the loose, and armed. She easily left the "cell" without even checking the corridors for her escaped guest, to accept the shipment of droids.

Although the Jedi medic found the transceiver that would have poisoned the other Jedi, it appears that Jenna was either lying, or turned it off. Otherwise, the other Jedi would have died after Qui-Gon left the building, or when that prisoner was taken away.

More time discrepancies: by the time they leave Jenna's abandoned lab, Astri has arrived at Coruscant, administered the antidote to Didi, presumably stayed to make sure it worked and fawned over Didi, learned that the restaurant has been repossessed, left and arrived on Sorrus, the homeworld of the bounty hunter! Wow! That's mighty fast of her!

The best part of the book takes place on Sorrus, however, as Obi-Wan and Siri were sent to investigate Astri's "illness", a trap. What I want to know, however, is how the "doctor" knew Siri would go to fill out the forms, while Obi-Wan would go alone to see his friend? That is the only way the ambush would work. In any case, Siri disapproved of Obi-Wan backing out of the fight, but would learn her lesson by the end of the book.

While on Sorrus, they learn that Astri and the Stooges are there, as well. Investigating, they are trapped in Ona Nobis' hideout all together, until they devise a plan to use the shiny cave supports to signal through the landslide. I thought this was really silly, especially when it worked. Once again, I must point out that in Luke's time, he would have used the Force to move the landslide, grain by grain, from the outside.

This section provided another bright spot, however, as the author seemed to anticipate me. I was ready for Qui-Gon to be disappointed in Obi-Wan for not contacting him before going off alone, but didn't think he should have been disappointed in Siri. After all, Obi-Wan is the elder Jedi, and is a lot more experienced. He also has a lot of Qui-Gon in him, so he was able to get her to go along with his plan, much the same way that Qui-Gon got Adi Gallia to go along with his! In the very next chapter, the author provides us with a terrific conversation between the two Jedi Masters describing exactly this!

The book slows down again once they reach Belasco, homeworld of the former Senator Uta S'orn. I knew she would reappear, and that she was more than just a little guilty. Being the parent of a Force-sensitive child isn't brought up, unfortunately. But they discover that she is still working with Jenna Zan Arbor.

Through an elaborate setup, and a bunch of plot machinations that I didn't think were necessary, they discover that the water on this world (all taken from a single source!) has been poisoned, and that the antidote, which is found just when the Jedi arrive, comes from Arbor laboratories. Hmmm. This was hinted at in the last book. Another time factor comes into play, here- how did it come to fruition so fast? In The Evil Experiment, Jenna was bent on discovering the source of the Force, and ready to abandon everything else. How did she think she could make a fortune by poisoning the water of this planet? The attention it would gather would certainly attract the Jedi, whom she knew were on her trail. It seems as if this book was written only after the previous one was published, so that nothing could be changed there. Because this story takes a different turn, entirely.

I also think this book has entirely too many characters. I was very happy to see Adi and Siri again, but when Astri and the Stooges showed up, they took too much of the book. And then when Fligh turned up alive, with S'orn's datapad, no less, I knew there had been too many pages devoted to everybody except for the Jedi who are supposed to be the focus of the series.

Like in The Captive Temple, lightsabers can't be used underwater. I suppose the author is constrained, now that it was a plot point in a previous book in the series, but I still think it's silly, and I maintain that lightsabers have been used underwater before. The whole scene, however, as I understand it, was supposed to show us how Qui-Gon had not fully recovered from his torment in the last book, which it did admirably.

Another problem with several of these books is that the author pits the Jedi against large numbers of battle droids, so that her narrative speaks solely of deflecting blaster bolts and cutting off droid heads, presumably something like in The Phantom Menace. I have trouble believing that the two Jedi (or even four) could deflect so many blaster bolts, and still cover their comrades. Those scenes are still well-written, but are getting less and less interesting.

However, I did like the scene where Qui-Gon and Adi Gallia captured Jenna Zan Arbor. I really enjoyed seeing Qui-Gon's fake attack, capturing her in the tapestry behind her!

Unfortunately, the author once again took the easy way out with respect to Ona Obis, having the bounty hunter fall to her death. It is even Adi Gallia who cuts the whip. I really want to see Obi-Wan's first kill (not of droids), because I think this author can really deal with the emotions the way they need to be seen. However, we keep getting cheated. Hopefully, by the end of the series, we'll see it. At least Siri got to see how outmatched she and Obi-Wan were, allowing her to apologize for thinking he was a coward.

Hmmm. I started out really liking this book, but when I look at it critically, I realize that even excellent writing can't save something that doesn't make sense. Still, there were two excellent moments, and the writing was terrific. Even if I had to stop to scratch my head often enough, the book was very exciting, and it does conclude the rescue. I didn't realize, however, that it was not Qui-Gon who needed rescuing, but the other prisoner, a retired Jedi.


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