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A novel by Karen Miller (2008, Del Rey)
The Clone Wars, book 2
Set 20 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

When Anakin gets his first mission as a Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan follows Senator Organa to a mysterious planet housing dangerous Sith artifacts.



Read March 21st to 30th, 2011  
    A really good start, with a lackluster second half that I'm sure I've read before in other forms.

The book starts off immediately following the battle of Geonosis, before Attack of the Clones actually ends. The author had already captured the characters perfectly. Anakin and Obi-Wan are not the characters of the movie, however, but of The Clone Wars, which fits their dialog and tone of voice (yes, even in written form) so much better.

We get to see Anakin and Obi-Wan recovering from the duel with Count Dooku, Anakin getting a prosthetic arm. We see Padmé's worry, and her internal resistance when Obi-Wan (through Yoda's insistence) tells her she must let go her love for his Padawan. I don't believe she could hide her deceptions from Obi-Wan, but the author would probably simply have us believe "the dark side clouds everything", which we are told so often. But it makes sense that so many would know about Anakin's love for Padmé, and her feelings returned. So it also makes sense, in a prequel-Jedi way, that they would tell her to end the relationship, which we know works so well in all movies (sarcasm here)! This part of the book actually ties many of the loose ends left by Attack of the Clones, things that the author must have paralleled my feelings that the movie was inadequate in many ways.

Through the first half of the book, Master and Padawan are still a little ill at ease with each other. Although they worked well together in Attack of the Clones, Anakin did have that telling moment with Padmé where he expressed his opinion that his master was holding him back. But I think the authors (of The Way of the Apprentice and here, for example) have taken that sentiment too far. Anakin hasn't even told Obi-Wan the reason they were on Tatooine in the first place- that his mother had died.

In time, though, especially after the events of The Clone Wars, they grow closer again, into the good friends Ben talks about in A New Hope. One of my favorite scenes in this book was of Anakin and Obi-Wan dueling, from Ahsoka's point of view. It lasted a while, and a crowd gathered, Ahsoka became jealous of sharing this with the others, and still the Force flowed between the two duelists. It was really a beautiful scene. It would have been nice if it set the tone for the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, we then get more of the same old (or recent) Star Wars prose. Obi-Wan risks his life visiting Dexter to learn of an impending attack on Bothawui. The Jedi talk about defending the billions of lives on that planet, but seem more interested in the spy network. If the Bothans are that good, shouldn't they already know about the attack?

There is an explosion in the skyways of Coruscant as terrorists hit the central planet. Didn't we see this in Triple Zero, and again in Bloodlines? Obi-Wan is near-fatally injured. Palpatine takes Padmé and Bail Organa to view the bodies, in the hopes of causing them more confusion and stirring the need to continue the war.  While Obi-Wan is recuperating, Anakin is given charge of the defense of Bothawui. The entire thing takes place off-screen, which is frustrating except that the whole thing too place ON-screen in an episode of The Clone Wars. This is where Anakin loses R2D2 in the absurd idea that the droid carries all the secrets of the Republic Army in him. Worse, though, is that we don't get any conclusion to that story, even to say that R2 has been found and the listening post destroyed, as occurs in the follow-up episode.

There is a lot of talk about Attachment in this book. Anakin, of course, is attached to everybody and everything he meets, from Padmé to Rex and the 501st, to R2D2 and Ahsoka. He's teaching Ahsoka to be attached to him and R2, at the very least. But the author showcases Obi-Wan's attachments, too. While he scorns Anakin's attachment to a droid, he is very much attached to his former Padawan, and still listens for the voice of his former Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan has almost as many attachments as Anakin. He worries about the boy, which is a form of fear, which leads to anger and the Dark Side.

Speaking of the Dark Side, the second half of the book has Obi-Wan and Bail Organa searching for a planet where the Sith may be setting a trap for the Jedi. As with all Sith magic, I hate the way it is depicted as being so strong, so palpable, and is all things that the Light Side is not. Can the Light Side project itself the way the Sith device does here? If so, I've never heard of it.

Anakin and Yoda, and a few other minor characters are completely dropped for most of the second half of the book. Instead, we get incessant arguing between Obi-Wan and Bail, most of which felt very forced. Worse, they had the same argument almost every chapter after they leave Coruscant: Obi-Wan thinks it is too dangerous for a non-Jedi, while Bail feels that he is capable and that he should be the one to meet his resource, which determined the information about the Sith in the first place.

At first I thought Darth Sidious was behind the resource, and though he was definitely behind the trap that the source led them into, he wasn't the actual source. I do find it remarkable that the Jedi have managed to keep the existence of the Sith a secret since Attack of the Clones. It puts Padmé and Bail's relationship to the test when he finds out she knew.

The journey to Zigoola was defined by Obi-Wan's dislike of politicians, and Organa's frustration with Jedi secrets. Other than that, the only point of interest comes at the space station where Organa's contact is residing, but which has been attacked by pirates. Obi-Wan becomes one with his lightsaber, which is something we've seen before, from authors who really get the character right when describing his fighting style. I guess he's grown a lot since his fight with Dooku. All of the pirates are killed, as well as all of Organa's contacts. But before dying, the last one reveals the coordinates of Zigoola.

Approaching Zigoola, which is in the Wild Space of the title, the Sith holocron on the planet somehow takes control of Obi-Wan's mind. This is where I feel that the magical element of the Sith is used too much. It is also too strong, even though the author is obviously using this as an adversity to be overcome, that the Light Side can prevail against overwhelming odds. So how powerful does a Jedi need to be to be immune to the effects of the Dark Side -and this isn't even a Sith, it's a holocron. Does the Light Side have such possible power?

On the three-day journey from the crash to the temple, Obi-Wan holds off the voice in his head and only succumbs to some of the hallucinations projected by the holocron. He relives several events from his past, including Xanatos (from The Death of Hope, among others), Dooku (from Attack of the Clones), and Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace, of course).

The journey is mostly uninteresting, as we've seen aspects of this before, too. Most recently, Ben Skywalker trekked across a Sith planet in Exile, against a hostile Sith force, though he didn't have to battle so much as Obi-Wan does here. In the end, though, they use each other for support, and manage to get to the temple, which they destroy inadvertently. Obi-Wan rescues one artifact which he uses to reach across space in the Force to contact Yoda, who sends Padmé to rescue them.

After all this, it is fully expected that Obi-Wan and Bail Organa become good friends, possibly even better than with Padmé. It was a nice result, but it just took too long to get there, and I really have trouble with how strong the Dark Side is here.

Another complaint I have about this book is the random way the author pulls the names of planets to fall to the Separatists. Bakura? It's so far away as to be almost value-less to the Separatists. Since when was Korriban part of the Republic, especially since it contains the largest concentration of Dark Side energy in the galaxy, and is the origin of the Sith. Many more planets are mentioned, and while some make sense, others are given in strange context as well.

If the author had continued the second half of the book logically and with as much multiple-character story as the first half, this would have been a very interesting and fun read. Instead, the second half feels recycled and didn't keep my interest as much as it could have, which is unfortunate. Still, the story was well-written, even if I was ready for it to be over. 


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