Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Approaching Storm

Star Wars: The Approaching Storm (Alan Dean Foster)


Plot Summary (Highlight to read)
- Obi-Wan and Anakin, and fellow Jedi team Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee are on the world Ansion in an attempt to keep the increasingly discontent populace in the Republic, fearing that secession could spark a series of other worlds to pull out of the Republic too.
- They reach an agreement with the city dwellers that will keep Ansion in the Republic, as long as the Jedi can convince the nomadic Alwari to agree to a new treaty involving land rights. Barriss is kidnapped by two mentally disabled Alwari, but is able to trick them, then heal their damaged minds, gaining two guides for the upcoming journey.
- The party journeys across the plains of Ansion, in search of the Borokii, the most powerful of the various nomad clans. An additional member of the party, Tooqui, is recruited when he attempts to steal food from the group. Eventually, they encounter the Qulun, a tribe of lesser importance than the Borokii, but still significant. The Qulun capture the Jedi and Alwari guides, but Tooqui escapes and eventually frees them.
- The group finally discovers the Borokii camp, however in order to gain an audience with the Elder Council, the Jedi must get a patch of white fur from the back of an extremely rare albino surepp. After Luminara does this, the Jedi are able to successfully persuade the Borokii until agreeing to the terms of the city dwellers. The Borokii ask that the Jedi help them in eliminating a rival clan. Instead, the Jedi use an impressive show of force to convince the two sides to sit down and make peace with one another.
- The Jedi return to the capital city, only to be attacked by Soregg the Hutt's minions, intent on keeping the Jedi away from the council building until the representatives can vote on secession. The Jedi over power them with the help of their new Alwari allies, and present their case to the representatives. The representatives agree to keep Ansion in the Republic

Plot Analysis
This story attempts to explain the political setting prior to Episode two, in that respect it is similar to Cloak of Deception. Unlike Cloak of Deception, this is a focused, simpler tale. Instead of focusing on the brewing rebellion, this novel is more about a journey across a strange world. As such, the conflicts are somewhat boring, the Jedi encounter strange creatures, kill them, and keep moving in search of the Borokii. Some thugs try to stop them at various points, and on two separate occasions the Jedi have to behave like complete idiots just to generate conflict. The whole idea of Soregg sending mentally disabled Alwari to apprehend the Jedi is absolutely laughable, even the explanation (the Jedi won't be able to sense their damaged minds) makes no sense. What makes even less sense, however, is that the plan actually works at first. This lack of realistic conflict hinders the novel greatly. The various creatures the Jedi encounter are a mixed group, some (the swarm of bird like creatures that number in the millions, and the suubatars) are interesting, while others (Tooqui and his species, and the sadains) are derivative and boring. Overall, the simplicity of the plot works against it here because Ansion simply is not that interesting, would've liked an effective political thriller like Cloak of Deception as opposed to a quasi-Lord of The Rings journey that never really musters any significance in the overall tapestry of the Star Wars universe.

Characterization
Characters are probably the strongest point in the book, most notably the four Jedi. Their dynamics when working as a team are handled very well, though Obi-Wan and Anakin's relationship didn't seem quite right to me given the timeframe of the novel. The two Jedi introduced are somewhat bland on their own, but they mesh together well. Anakin does have some very telling moments throughout the book, for example his longing to be with his mother, and his ideas on how to control a rebelling planet that closely mirror those of Darth Vader. The main villain was a sorry one, about as stereotypical as one can get, a nasty Hutt businessman that sends his underlings to kill the Jedi, you really don't learn anything about him, nor his aide Ogomoor. The indigenous guides recruited by the Jedi are absurd. The Alwari change far too drastically to be taken seriously, and their contributions to the story are incredibly trite. Atleast they did have a purpose in the story (explain flora and fauna, guide the Jedi, demonstrate Barriss' healing powers), Tooqui can't even say that. Introduced in the later half of the book, Tooqui is nothing more than poor comic relief, scenes in his point of view are almost unreadable due to the lack of empathy with the character, and his tendency to say the same word twice.

Prose
The author spends much more time on describing things than was probably necessary, most noticeably when new and uninteresting species were being introduced to us in the second half of the novel. Not only were these additions unnecessary in their own right, they also hinder the flow of the reading and made the book more of a chore to read. There isn't much action and when there is, the author doesn't go through much trouble trying to explain it, never putting the Jedi in any real danger outside of the ridiculous situations presented to the Jedi. The Jedi fall for some incredibly stupid tricks in this book, Barriss is kidnapped by the mentally handicapped Alwari guides when they spray perfume in her face, and the entire Jedi group is knocked cold when an Alwari tribe tricks them into a rigged tent. There are many ways to present danger to Jedi without making them utter idiots, would've liked more creativity in that regard. In the final one hundred pages or so, there are also some grammatically odd sentences that, while probably legal, still made me stop and think every single time.

Conclusion
Approaching Storm's characterization of Jedi Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee, in addition to the glimpses into Anakin Skywalker's future personality, are the only things that keep this from being one of the lowest on the list.

Final Score
38/100

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous6/6/11 21:14

    I would like to see your review of other books as well :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are going to like my next review then, no spoilers but it won't be Star Wars.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous30/1/12 10:56

    Excellent review! I love your critical analysis. This book frustrated me to no end...I wanted to like it so much, but it almost felt like a children's book. Please keep writing reviews, I love them!!

    ReplyDelete