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A novel by Jude Watson (2003, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Quest, Book 7
24 years before and Star Wars: A New Hope

On a mission to evacuate the crew of a station monitoring an invasion corridor, Anakin is captured and is subject to an experiment that strips away his emotions.



Read February 13th to 23rd, 2012, in paperback  
    A rather disjointed story that strives to get to the core of Anakin's anxieties as a Padawan. This novel had no less than five sequential subplots, many more than any other of the Jedi Quest series, which made it more distracting than usual. Several of these were rather exciting, though I don't know if all of them were necessary -but all were very well written. I'm not sure the author succeeded in dealing with Anakin's need to prove himself, even with the revelation at the end, which was nonetheless well presented.

Spoiler review:

When Han tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back that he looks "strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark", he must mean that Luke is in even better shape than usual! In this story, Obi-Wan falls into a nest of gundarks, and they nearly prove to be the end of him. After Anakin joins in the fray, they barely hold their own until they escape -certainly never wanting to see a gundark again.

Their mission starts, as all missions do, with some difficulty, as they fly to a remote moon in the Uziel system to evacuate the listening post of the Typha-Dor people before it is destroyed by their enemies, the Vanqor. It is a little confusing how close together these planets are. Usually in the Star Wars universe, a system is equated with a star system. At one point, they try to hop from one planet to another in a small shuttle that can barely take off, so they can't be too far apart. Yet later in the story, it takes two hours of hyperspace travel to traverse the distance between the same two planets.

The Vanqors are a people who live on a planet with scarce resources, and have decided to take over all the rest of the habitable planets in that system. Typha-Dor is the last holdout, and they request the Jedi help in evacuating their listening post before the Vanqors can destroy it.

Obi-Wan and Anakin are detected before they can get to the outpost, however, and have to crash on the moon at quite a distance from the outpost. Their relationship is strained, with Obi-Wan still brooding over Anakin's apparent betrayal in The School of Fear, and Anakin still blaming himself for Yaddle's death in The Shadow Trap. The two barely talk, and when they do, it is only about the mission. The author does a good job in creating tension between the two characters, especially from Obi-Wan's perspective, where he really wants to talk to Anakin, but can't seem to find the right time. He keeps making excuses for why he hasn't had a meaningful conversation about either of those topics, but they are simply excuses.

So it's a long walk from their crash site to the outpost.

They find the outpost to be in a state of disarray, too, because a saboteur was found among the spies -killed, but not before he disabled the shuttle that would allow them to leave. It doesn't take Anakin long to fix the shuttle, but it barely has enough power to take off. Fixing machines soothes Anakin, who doesn't have to deal with the emotions of people while he's doing it.

It turns out that Mezdec, husband of the outpost's leader Shalini, was the real saboteur, though, as he launches a life pod from the shuttle before it is damaged by Vanqor patrols and Anakin is forced to crash. Mezdec goes to Typha-Dor to deliver fake Vanqor invasion plans. It is too coincidental, though, that Shalini had a backup that she never told Mezdec about. She gives this disc to Anakin as they are all captured, except for Obi-Wan, who manages to hide in a boulder formation at the crash site.

Anakin is taken to a special facility where he is subjected to a drug that makes him feel calm and content, and suddenly his cares are taken away -he knows the mission to Typha-Dor will be completed, probably by Obi-Wan, and he sees no need to escape right away. As Anakin tries to figure out how he was drugged, he misses one important aspect of the drug, and later, Obi-Wan makes the same mistake, though it turns out not to be important. They thought it might be in the food, but the technicians ate the same food and drank the same water as the prisoners. I kept thinking that the technicians had first taken an antidote.

Obi-Wan hitches a ride on an incoming transport to attempt a rescue. It's a little funny to see Anakin simply go along with the rescue, with no emotion at all -it seems to him that this is as good a time as any to get out of the prison... And I liked Obi-Wan's method of getting inside the facility, pretending to be an electrical technician and walking in like it was his job to do that.

Unfortunately, the ship they decide to escape in is programmed to explode if the proper codes are not entered upon takeoff, so they are forced to abandon it, and it explodes in the air above them as they fall, using the Force to break their landing. The subsequent attack by the facility forces sends Obi-Wan into the nest of gundarks. It takes a while for Anakin to shake the Zone of Self-Contentment and decide that he really must go try and rescue Obi-Wan!

After leaving the gundark nest (for some reason, I expected to see dozens of gundarks following them out of the crater, but that didn't happen), they are rescued by Siri and her Padawan Ferus, among other Jedi. They finally get to Typha-Dor, and find out that Mezdec has had the leaders of that planet place their military forces as far from the invasion corridor as possible with fake plans. He is arrested when Anakin hands over the real plans, and Obi-Wan suggest using the capture of the Vanqor fleet as a bargaining item, to create a coalition and bring peace to the system.

There remains the fact that the prison camp was being used for medical experiments, and Anakin is finally allowed to confess that he had been subject to those experiments. Obi-Wan is once again crushed to note that his Padawan has been hiding things from him.

The Moment of Truth comes at the end of the book, when two Padawans (including Ferus) ask him why he hid the details from his Master, and they all realize he wanted to stay there. Obi-Wan approaches him alone, and he confesses that the pressure of being the Chosen One is often too much for him, and that he just wants to be a normal Jedi. This seems to come out of nowhere, but it is not even until Anakin says it that he realizes it himself. I'm not sure I'm convinced, though.

Incidentally, the Jedi attack the prison camp, freeing the prisoners, and discover that the evil scientist doing the experiments is none other than Jenna Zan Arbor, the woman who captured and tortured Qui-Gon back in The Evil Experiment. She's escaped the prison planet she'd been held on The Dangerous Rescue, and manages to escape here, too, which will undoubtedly lead into the next mission.

I'm not sure if it was the pacing of the different parts of the novel that I felt was distracting, or if I simply wasn't convinced of Anakin's moods, but although the writing was exciting and well drawn-out, I couldn't really find the theme to this novel, as I've done with the others in this series. I think the moodiness has been drawn out more than long enough, now, and I would like to seem them bond again.


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