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A novel by David Sherman and Dan Cragg (2004, Del Rey)
A Clone Wars Novel
Set 20 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Anakin leads some clone troopers to recapture a major communications centre and rescue hostages from the Separatists.



Read April 4th to 10th, 2006  
    Yet another bland Clone Wars novel. Although the book was easy to read, with some nice moments, it was not all that well written, and sometimes read like a technical manual on ground warfare.

We started the Clone Wars with Shatterpoint, which was the Apocalypse Now of the Star Wars universe. Then came The Cestus Deception, which was a semi-political-ground warfare book that didn't know what it wanted to be. We had two reasonably good books on the medical side of ground warfare, the MASH of Star Wars, and now, we have more ground warfare. Why can't we get something different -perhaps a story about what Padmé was doing throughout the Clone Wars. I haven't been impressed with the Prequel political stories so far either, but we haven't seen Padmé in any of them, actually. Give her some Jedi guards in order to fulfill the action quota. But give us a good story, finally!

The book starts off by introducing us to a whole bunch of characters from the Expanded Universe. I love it when authors do that. A relative of Tarkin's is a senator, Armand Isard shows up as director of Intelligence already, Sate Pestage is around, and one of the main characters is Nejaa Halcyon, father of Corran Horn.

I like the way Halcyon's wife and child are described in the context of the Prequel Universe. Like Anakin, Halcyon has a deep secret. They actually divulge their mutual secrets at one point in the book. This was by far the highlight of the story.

The plot revolves around a Separatist attack and the subsequent occupation of a key Communications Center on a desert planet at a key point in Republic space. The staff are taken as hostages, and the defense garrison is nearly wiped out. A rogue soldier by the name of Slayke, who was recently pardoned for his treason, has began taking the war to the enemy, and he tries to retake the Center, but fails. Dug in, he harasses the enemy until Halcyon and Anakin show up.

The key to Slayke, of course, is that he recently stole a starship from Halcyon, who was disgraced in front of the other Jedi for doing so. For the second in three novels (Battle Surgeons was the other), we hear of a Jedi who fought hand-to-hand combat with somebody without using the Force. Is that even possible? And why do so many authors think that it is a cool thing to do? That is what makes the Jedi special -their connection to the Force. Sever that connection (as Anakin does at one point -not to fight, but after a fight), and they are no longer Jedi. Just ask Callista.

Like the rest of the characters in this novel, however, Slayke doesn't live up to his potential. We are told that he hates the Jedi, and he actually ridicules both Anakin and Halcyon when they meet. But suddenly, when he is shown the hostages, he has nothing but genuine respect for the two of them. It's like a switch was turned off, and that part of his personality went dormant. We never see it again. Talk about putting your differences behind you!

Then we have the speeches from the commanders, and the "oooo-aaaahhh!" from the soldiers. That was that? It is one thing to have a commander make a rousing speech that inspires his troops. It is quite another to be told that a speech, plain and ordinary (and quite cheesy, actually) is rousing and inspiring.

Halcyon obviously knows nothing about warfare. He abandons two of his three reconnaissance teams, arranges a predictable attack on the Communications Centre (not a "good" one as Slayke tells him), and accepts any crazy thing that anybody tells him, without asking for supporting information. He even agreed to Anakin's final plan (which was successful, of course, because Anakin thought of it) without comment or discussion. If two ships could get through the net so easily, gather a few more pilots and make the attack that Anakin suggested earlier.

That would have, however, spared us the boring and way too technical description of the initial failed attack on the droid army. The authors present military and vehicle and weapon facts like they were copying it directly out of the technical manuals. We don't need that. Even before reading the biographies of the authors, it was obvious that at least one of them had been in war-like conditions. However, as realistic as it might have been (I assume, anyway), we didn't need a lesson in military tactics, which was, frankly, boring.

Then there was the mundane stuff that laymen generally never think about, like supplying a huge army, and so on. That, too, was boring. These characters, and the droid in the control room rambled on for pages and pages. I actually skipped entire (long) paragraphs because I was so bored, which is something I almost never do.

By the time Slayke's army was decimated, I had already lost interest in the story and the characters. The failed attack by Halcyon's army did nothing to improve my opinion. It was only when Anakin went nearly solo to rescue the hostages that my interest was piqued again. My first impression was that this is what the Jedi are trained for. I also liked it because it dispensed with the ground assaults. Unfortunately, the authors only cared about Anakin. The hostages are easily rescued thanks to Anakin's prowess in battle (I thought it was funny that the clones had nothing to do because Anakin had destroyed all of the droids), and they are all loaded onto one of the two ships. Only one? Why not split them up? Because the authors had to destroy Anakin's ship, which was presumably empty. That makes no sense.

The leader of the hostages, who reminded Anakin of his mother, is killed right in his arms. I hate the capriciousness of the Force in Star Wars novels. Anakin can do so much with the Force, but can't see that the droids are about to open fire on them when they entered the facility, or when it killed the woman he was trying to protect. The reason, of course, is to sent Anakin into a rage. He goes after Tonith, the Separatist leader, and nearly kills the man in cold blood. Once again, as in Attack of the Clones, Qui Gon Jinn intercedes, and this time, Anakin listens.

But, for these authors, there is no time for rest -the Separatists have been reinforced, and the two Jedi lead the space battle. Actually, Anakin leads it, and, just like he single-handedly won the ground battle, he single-handedly wins the space battle. I am at a total loss as to how one or two missiles can destroy a capital ship. Anakin does it twice. Remember the control ship from Naboo? Anakin had to do that from inside, after the ships outside had battered at it for quite a while. The destruction of the fleet was way too easy.

There was no reason to put us in false suspense regarding Anakin's death. We all know that he must survive, and we were told about his hyperdrive engine earlier. It would have been better to tell it from his point of view.

Instead of a proper denouement (which few Star Wars authors appear to know how to do), we get Anakin proceeding over the marriage of two characters from the original defense force. Ah, yes, Erk and Odie. Two of the most annoying characters in the entire Star Wars mythos, I think. More annoying than the droid in Jedi Healer, much more annoying than Jar Jar Binks, or even Vilmarh Grahrk. I don't know what more to say about them, except that I dreaded every chapter they were in -and they were spread all around the book.

We needed to see more closure throughout the novel. Whether or not the reader agrees with Anakin passing his trials without his Master present, we at least needed to have some final scenes between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan didn't even know that Anakin was on that mission. He didn't get to recommend Anakin for the trials, let alone witness them. He should at least be heard from. Anakin's trials also seemed to be little different from other missions he has been on. What marks them as different enough to be trials?

In terms of the Separatists, will we ever get more details beyond "they have more money for research" about their cloaking and communications jamming devices? I suppose that it was more complicated than the devices used on Naboo in The Phantom Menace. Was Assaj Ventress on the Separatist fleet that was scattered? She said that she would kill Tonith when she arrived, implying that she was on her way. Tonith survived Anakin's rage, so Ventress could conceivably go after him still. We needed more closure on these plot points and more.

All throughout the book, I found myself wanting to like it. The plot was sound, but the characters, description and dialog was substandard. It was easy to read, for all of my complaining, unlike, say, Shatterpoint, which was very difficult to read in addition to being poorly laid out. There were certain aspects of this book that I did enjoy, but the poor things kept exerting themselves so that I was happy when I had finished it.

There is only one "Clone Wars" novel left, and I hope it provides something different...


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