Star Wars: Medstar I: Battle Surgeons (Michael Reaves and Steve Perry)
Battle Surgeons is the story of a medical station on the remote world of Drongar. The sepratists and clones are fighting over the bota plant, a sort of wonderdrug that cures ailments, improves force sensitivity (temporarily) and curtails the aging process. The plot mainly focuses on a handful of non combatants stationed at the medical station, including a reporter, doctor, and a Jedi healer. I-5 from Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter also makes an appearance as a supporting character. These characters aren't drawn from the same background as so many others in the Star Wars universe, and the differing opinions, struggles, and combat abilities makes for a definite change of pace from the usual Star Wars fare. Unfortunately, this book is at a complete lack for both plot and conflict.
Conflict is very strange in this book, there are only two life or death action scenes in the entire novel, and the villain (a double agent working inside the base, identity not revealed in this novel) isn't involved in either of them. There is also a sub plot about crooked Republic officers smuggling bota for Black Sun that goes absolutely nowhere- it doesn't effect our protagonists at all, so why care? The worst attempt to add conflict to the story comes in the form of Phow Ji, a martial arts master that is recorded disarming, then killing Separatist commandos with his bare hands. Our heroes are shocked and disgusted at this, and since Phow Ji has an obvious hatred for Jedi, in addition to being a supposed cold blood killer, we are supposed to hate him too. However, this doesn't really work, because everyone overreacts so harshly. The reporter wants to write a smear story on him, Jedi Healer Barris Offie wants to kill him at several points in the novel, but it just doesn't make sense seeing as they weren't prisoners of war or non combatants, they had every opportunity to fight back and kill him. Phow Ji does provide the only memorable action sequence in the entire novel, but it has nothing to do with our protagonists.
As for plot, there isn't much to go on. It's very much episodic in nature, mainly focusing on character development amongst the main trio of characters. There isn't any over arching plot to tie them together, they just keep waking up, healing injured soldiers, having some extremely trite discussion over a game of cards, then repeating. There are some funny moments, and even some meaningful character development, but without anything overly exciting/difficult for our characters to overcome, it all seems kind of pointless.
As stated above, I do appreciate the different types of characters the authors presented here. I-5 returning was entertaining, being characterized in much the same way as the previous novel. Den Dhur (the war reporter) had his moments too, though he was often a bit cliche. Barriss is characterized in a way that doesn't fit at all with her previous appearance in The Approaching Storm. In Approaching Storm, Barriss is characterized as being patient and collected, if confrontational with Anakin at times. In this novel, Barriss is a complete hothead, being written in much the same way Anakin is at times, her crusade against Phow Ji is the prime example of this, and that alone is enough to soil her character in this book. Jos, the surgeon, is kind of a dull character. His romance with a fellow doctor, Tolk, is supposed to be hindered by his familial religious customs, and most of his contribution to the novel is spent agonizing over this. This aspect of his character came off as completely contrived. Jos also has a change of heart towards clone troopers when he realizes they, and droids, are sentient just like him. He ponders his existence, leading to more cliche card table discussions, and eventually settles on an answer.
Suitably gory for a novel set in a medical camp, Battle Surgeons also packs enough technical jargon and procedure into the novel for the operating scenes to feel atleast somewhat authentic. Dialogue is never really cringe worthy, and can be entertaining at times, but it often just covers some war themes that have been covered much more adeptly from other sources. There are some strange real world references to the USO, Bob Hope, and Edwin Starr. These allusions felt extremely out of place in the Star Wars universe, and didn't have much of a point. There are almost no descriptions of setting in the book, besides that of the terrain surrounding the camp. The dimensions of the camp itself, and the operating theatre are left up to the readers imagination, along with any descriptions of the interior.
Battle Surgeons gets credit for using unique archetypes and settings, but a lack of any real conflict, and only the thinnest of plots render it a failed experiment.