||There were so many things I disliked
about this novel, that it is hard to know where to begin. Browsing
on-line, I see that this book is very highly rated; I fail to see why.
I can't believe this is the same author
who wrote Traitor. The writing style is so different, with short,
clipped sentences and dripping sarcasm, as well as hyperbole. It reminds
me of the style of Shadows of the Empire, or
The New Rebellion, each of which I
disliked so much upon second reading. The difference was the beginning
of Mace's logs, which started out fairly well, but then degenerated into
In fact, I don't know why the author
created the story in terms of logs, at all. They use the same tone as
the narrative, and both tell Mace's thoughts, one in the first person,
the other in the third person. It doesn't make it more personal, because
it tells the story in exactly the same way.
The book is out to tell the story that
"war is hell", and appears like a Vietnam war story, similar to
Apocalypse Now. This was more of a war story set in the Star Wars
universe, than a Star Wars story featuring war. This really could have
been any setting. We see Mace Windu, second-most powerful Jedi on the
Jedi Council, begin to lose his mind as he travels the war-town jungle
towards his lost apprentice. The biggest problem with this book, I
think, is that the author never convinced me that this was happening.
He explains Mace's vulnerability by the
"fact" that he likes to fight. Again, I never believed it. We don't know
enough about Mace from the movies, and the fact that he remains cool
throughout his fighting doesn't suggest to me that he enjoys it, but it
doesn't tell me that he doesn't, either, I suppose. As he travels
the jungle, he has trouble controlling his anger and the Force. He must
have been really unstable, and removed from the Council, then.
Mace returns to the world of his birth,
a world where the people have access to the Force, because they are the
result of a crashed Jedi ship from before The Sith War, so long ago. I
guess Mace is an exception to the rule that the Jedi cannot know about
their past, since his people, the Korunnai, were descended from Jedi. If
Mace was taken to be a Padawan, why weren't the other Korunnai, since
they showed potential?
From the moment Mace arrives on the
planet of Haruun Kal, he seems to be affected. The tone of his thoughts,
other than short and clipped, reminded me of techno-SF, like
for example, where the major characters are ruffians, as if to say he is
a "bad dude!" He is almost portrayed as a Han Solo character, which
puzzles me. How did he end up on the Jedi Council, as he doesn't seem
nearly as noble as Qui-Gon.
The first half of the book has Mace
travelling the jungle, towards a goal that is Depa Billaba, former Jedi
Master and Council member, who sent him a very gruesome message about
what was being accomplished here -she and the natives managed to drive
the Separatists away, but that is not really the issue here. The
Separatists keep being brought up as the reason for this book, but it is
only the excuse to make this a Clone Wars novel.
Mace teams up with Nick, a native who
swears way too much (and the swear words are just mildly disguised), and
a few other no-name characters. Mace pretends to take control, but he
makes so many bad assumptions or mistakes that he never is. I wondered,
from their time in the only real city, if the Separatists have already
begun molding places into pre-Imperial worlds, or if it was just the
backwater nature of this planet that made people so eager to take up
arms. It's a wonder these places would ever get visitors from off-world.
Through the jungle, we get a sense of
the world, and what the people here are fighting for, which is not much.
They fight because they were taught to hate off-worlders from birth, and
the non-natives were taught to hate the Korunnai. There is no reason for
it, at least not anymore. The jungle, it appears, has a very potent
fungus, which destroys all metal. It also quickly infects any wounds.
There are some sort of wasps that burrow into the brain, and explode out
to infect others. The native people are bonded to their huge grassers,
which don't do much except eat all the time, and akks, which help
protect the herd. We saw these akks before, in
Emissaries to Malastare,
so at least I could visualize these creatures, which were put to use
many times throughout.
Eventually only Mace and Nick are left
alive, with two of their comrades infected by the wasps, who have to be
put into suspended animation. Mace is left at a compound, while Nick
goes to find Depa and the others. Here, he is once again in charge, as
he cleans up the destroyed compound, and rescues several children from
death. The parents arrive in a convoy fleeing the native attack, and end
up being nearly completely slaughtered as the natives arrive. The fight
and negotiation at the compound, at least before the natives show up,
was the only part of the book that I found reasonably well written,
though I still never bought into the way Mace's character was so
susceptible to depression or lack of control.
It was at this time that I decided I
didn't like Mace Windu as a character, at least as he was portrayed
here. I had so much trouble believing that Mace was losing control,
because the author didn't make me feel it was a logical progression -it
wasn't, because it was a nebulous effect of the planet. The important
distinction here, I think, is that we don't know what Mace is like when
he is in control. We have no reference point.
I don't see why the author had to
create a new "style" of lightsaber fighting, Vapaad. It didn't seem any
different from what the other Jedi use in the movies, in their terrific
fight sequences. It did allow Mace to do some things that seemed less
than credible, but nothing near as incredible as the stuff that Luke and
his followers are able to do in the New Jedi Order, or earlier.
I did enjoy the brief moments when Mace was in
control, like when he freed the prisoners from the natives, and led them
to the militia. I liked his scheming, and when he finally grew into a
Jedi Master, and decided to confront Kar Vastor. Unfortunately, the
fight was a total bore. First, I could not believe that Kar was stronger
than Mace, just because he was a wild Force user. Mace has control
of the Force, as a Jedi. But the worst part of the fight was they way it
was portrayed as Matrix-style, hanging in the air, and so on. I couldn't
comprehend why Mace would do the things he did, like head-butting all
the time, or ramming into non-critical areas. The fight didn't make
sense, except to drag out the so-called action.
It was at this point that Nick started
to get really, really annoying. His humor might have been funny to other
people, but to me it made the character intolerable. Was the author
writing for a comedy duo, or a serious novel? He stopped the action so
often to relate a bunch of half-sentences, repeating far too often
"Nick, shut up", which is what I was saying, myself. I didn't need
to hear him heckle Mace for the remainder of the book. It's impressive
that their enemies stopped long enough for them to have those exchanges.
The meeting with Depa, finally, was
anti-climactic, to say the least. They say almost nothing, and nothing
The author piqued my interest every so
often by indicating that the government of the planet had betrayed Mace,
but that interest only lasted until we discovered the trap, itself. How
did they manage to track his lightsaber? The energy is so diffuse, they
should be able to pickup individual people more easily. It is not like a
comm signal, which has direction, and can be traced.
It is about this time, when they arrive
at the native's "base", that the book changes from a journey story to
give us a war story -with real battles. The change is not a good one, in
any way. The author gets way too technical, which was a problem earlier,
as well. He describes the armaments of each side of the conflict in
excruciating detail, down to the number of energy cells or bullets. The
technical jargon is ten times worse than in a Stackpole novel, where it
is at least bearable. The narrative suddenly takes a dispassionate tone,
describing the battle as if it was a history textbook -but one that
exudes hyperbole to the extreme.
From here nearly to the end of the
book, Kar Vastor suddenly starts taking orders from Mace! What a
turnaround! This makes the power struggle depicted earlier irrelevant,
if it ever had any meaning. Mace single-handedly stages the defeat of the planetary
government, using a partially recovered Depa, the native Korunnai, and
the clone troopers that managed to survive the destruction of his
"extraction" ship by Separatist droid starfighters.
The battle starts with the bombardment
of the native base by meteor-like satellites, follows with a huge
gunship battle, where Mace, Depa, Nick, Kar and a couple of others
hijack two of those ships and convince the droid starfighters to attack
the rest. I was yawning throughout the whole thing, because it was so
technically-described. It wasn't entertaining at all.
Mace goes after the local governor,
leaving a clone trooper in charge, but he is killed and Depa takes
control, leading the natives on a strike against the city, taking out as
many non-natives as possible. Again: yawn. I wondered why the author
focused so much on Mace's ability to find "shatterpoints", weaknesses in
a situation that could be exploited, when he is so wrong so many times.
He almost never made the correct decision in this book, that every time
he found a shatterpoint, I expected the errors to come from it.
When finally Mace has to battle Depa,
she spears him with her lightsaber! How the heck does Mace survive a
lightsaber strike to his gut, when Qui-Gon and so many others died with
a single strike so quickly? He even manages to continue fighting after
that, defeating Kar Vastor, but not killing him. In fact, nearly all of
the characters survive this novel, leaving Nick as a major in the
Republic army (why is it being called the "grand army" of the Republic-
Palpatine used the term "grand" to describe the scale of the thing, not
as a title), Depa as a mentally-insane Jedi, Kar as a prisoner of war,
and Mace without a scratch, as far as we know. It actually didn't bother
me too much, because by this time I had stopped caring, and was just
reading it to finish the book -otherwise I would have abandoned it long
The author treated the Force as a
continuum in this book, as if it was finite. When the Jedi draw on the
Force, life isn't taken away, so why should power grow when Force-users
die? Is the pelekotan so different from the Force? If so, why? By the
time of the final battle I was so eager to finish the book, because the
author was destroying what little I still liked about the character, so
I believed less and less of what he was saying. The last act came when
Mace couldn't even feel a personal attack through the Force. By this time, he wasn't a
Jedi, just a normal person- and a poorly characterized one, at that.
On another front, the author gave Mace
too much tongue-in-cheek future-sense. He actually gets a vision of the
Yuuzhan Vong attack on Coruscant, and the jungle it becomes in his other
book, Traitor. He sees the death of all the Jedi, and the survival of
So the author's message, once again, is
that war is hell. Okay, the Jedi already know that. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon
managed to immerse themselves in brutal civil wars in the Jedi
Apprentice series, and they understood. I have trouble believing that
Mace didn't; his attitude was just not plausible.
The Jedi cannot survive a war with
their peace principles intact, the author tells us. Yet they managed to
survive the war with the Yuuzhan Vong, and they were far fewer than the
Jedi of Mace's time. Luke has had his attitudes changed, but not to the
point where he is unrecognizable to the Jedi (though maybe that was
Vergere's point when they finally met).
To recap, I wasn't impressed with this
book, especially as an opening to the Clone Wars novels. Mostly, I
didn't like the author's style, which is completely opposite to what I
liked about Traitor. I also didn't like the portrayals of any of the
characters, including the main character. I didn't believe what was going
on, especially how far into despair and loss of control Mace went.
Even though his novels have been
well-received, I don't know why this author was chosen to be the author of
Episode III. The movie will likely span a galactic conflict, as the
previous two prequel movies did. This author has only done localized
stuff. Traitor was isolated almost exclusively around Jacen Solo on
Vong-controlled territory. This book is even more localized, as
everything comes from Mace's point of view. I have nothing against him
doing the novelization, but I hope he is up to the