Friday, August 12, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars (Karen Traviss)

Clone Wars closely follows the plot of the movie of the same name. Jabba The Hutt's son, Rotta, has been kidnapped, and the Jedi must track him down and rescue him. Of course, the Confederacy has been holding Rotta. This novel also serves as the introduction of Anakin's padawan, Ahsoka. Clone Wars is a very short book, clocking in at just two hundred and fifty six pages. There are some great action sequences in the first half of the novel, as a small contingent of Republic soldiers holds off an invading droid army, then invades a monastery on a backwater world in order to save Jabba's son. Dealings between Dooku and Jabba add a layer of complexity not seen in the movie, as Dooku tries to frame the Jedi, and keep Jabba from becoming suspicious of the Confederacy's actions.

Things fall off a bit in the second half, as six clones manage to hold off an army of several thousand battle droids, from a fixed position in plain sight of artillery fire, and completely surrounded. This doesn't seem realistic even if battle droids are somewhat stupid, especially after the battle droids steamrolled the other thirty or so members of the clone company without any real trouble. Anakin and Ahsoka's escape from Teth in a dilapidated shuttle was also a stretch of plausibility, and not remotely exciting. Padme is also introduced in the last twenty five pages of the novel, and her role in the conclusion definitely felt like a deus ex machina, basically solving a problem with evidence the Jedi otherwise wouldn't have managed, with little explanation as to how or why she was able to do so.

Besides Dooku and Jabba's interactions, there aren't many highlights. Much of the book was spent trying to convince the reader of the significance of the mission, with constant allusions to the importance of the Outer Rim hyperspace routes, and the power of the Hutt crimelords. Unfortunately, it never feels all that significant. Not only is the Republic getting along just fine without Jabba's routes at the beginning of the novel, they also never have to deal with losing the routes temporarily through Dooku's plotting. This would've atleast shown what would happen if the Jedi failed, as opposed to a vague concept of inconvenience or disarray. Clone Wars has a below average plotline, but the more in depth look in the Dooku scenes, and the handful of effective action scenes early in the novel makes it superior to the film version.

Clone Wars introduces two characters, Ahsoka , and Clone Captain Rex, alongside familiar characters like Anakin and Count Dooku. Ahsoka is written very well in comparison to the movie. She comes across as more of a young Jedi, and less a sassy teen. Through her interactions with Anakin and Rex, and trial by fire over the course of the novel, Ahsoka develops marvellously. Rex is basically a sounding board for some of the same clone-related issues raised in some of Traviss's other works. He comes across as very dependable, loyal, intelligent...basically like every other clone in the EU.

Anakin is presented as having a growing hatred for the Jedi Order, even his former mentor Qui-Gon Jinn. Throughout the novel, he questions the wisdom of the Council's decisions, and why no one would go back and help his mother. He also laments the isolation and loneliness that his status as "Chosen One" has caused him. This characterization fits perfectly with the development of Anakin's character in the EU so far, and helps set up his radical actions in Revenge Of The Sith. Villains such as Dooku and Asajj Ventress are written in a similar way, locking in on one traumatic event, then blaming the Jedi for it and vowing to destroy them over it. Ventress comes across as shallow, because that's all she is about. A point of view featuring her character is her vowing to destroy the Jedi, trying to achieve her mission, and reminiscing about her master's death. Dooku is more complex, focusing on not just the one failure mentioned explicitly, but a more general dislike of Jedi principles and teachings. He also comes across as more tactful and diplomatically skilled as he manages to manipulate and deceive Jabba. Palpatine is also featured in a handful of point of views, and while the large discrepancy between what he says, and what he thinks about the Jedi is amusing and consistent with canon, he isn't in the novel enough to make a significant impact.

The characters are portrayed very authentically, with newcomer Ahsoka being developed skillfully despite not being featured as a point of view. One thing that is a bit strange with this novel is the cast of characters with a point of view. Four of them are antagonists (Dooku, Jabba, Palpatine, Ventress), one is a Jedi with a decisively anti-Jedi point of view (Anakin) and the last is a clone trooper. The villain to hero ratio is unusually high, especially for a Star Wars book, and while I appreciate this unique composition, the constant Jedi bashing got old without much of a counterbalance. A character like Obi-Wan or Ahsoka could've taken the place of a villain or two, if only to give the novel a bit more balance.

The Clone Wars has no real problems with writing style, and in fact omits and modifies many of the aspects that were so cheesy and out of place in the movie version. The dialogue has been made to feel more authentic, and, while some of the cringe worthy dialogue from the movie is still included, most of it makes sense in context with Anakin and Ahsoka's relationship. Constant descriptions of how smelly and gross Rotta the Hutt was quickly became tiring, and pointless after about the fifth mention. Thankfully, descriptions of Ziro, Jabba's relative that arranged Rotta's kidnapping, are toned down from the outrageous movie version.

As previously mentioned, the second half of the novel falls a bit flat in exciting scenes, and the conclusion felt rushed. Not only does Padme show up out of nowhere and solve a huge problem, the action towards the end felt static and dull. Obi-Wan's duel with Ventress was adequate, but everything else was just kind of bland. The chase between Anakin and the droid starfighters is the biggest example of this. This sequence runs for far too long, and delivers no suspense whatsoever. Ahsoka's fight with the MagnaGuards (something that could've served as her coming-of-age moment) is completely skipped over in favor of Anakin telling Jabba things that we already know. Despite these flaws, Clone Wars definitely manages to improve on the movie version, and is in no way a badly written book.

Even with a silly plot and a somewhat lacking second half, Clone Wars is a good read due to the strong, consistent characterization, and some great action sequences in the first half of the novel.

Final Score

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