Monday, August 8, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Medstar II: Jedi Healer

Star Wars: Medstar II: Jedi Healer (Michael Reaves and Steve Perry)


Plot
Jedi Healers suffers from many of the same problems as Battle Surgeons, lack of action chief among them. The main characters do finally catch wind of the spy in their midst, and endeavor to discover its identity. This generates atleast some conflict, and gives our heroes something to do besides the trivial nonsense that completely enveloped the first book. Unfortunately, most of the sideplots aren't very interesting. Jos's relationship with Tolk takes a few turns, and his uncle shows up to add his input, but there aren't any reasons to care about them. Their relationship wasn't particularly interesting in the first novel, and these new twists don't make it any more so. Barriss has an incredibly strange sub plot involving the dark side, bota, and diminishing skill in the force. She is still badly mischaracterized, and doesn't do anything overly impressive (or even Jedi-like) for the duration of the novel. Den Dhur's quest to get I-5 drunk was entertaining, but his romance with the female Sullustan named after real life entertainer Martha Raye was terrible. I-5's subplot also gets an anti climactic resolution when he is able to achieve intoxication with nothing more than time to remember his past and programming features.

The conflict in this book is more pronounced, and the main characters are actually aware of the spy in their midst this time, but there still isn't a terribly compelling antagonist. The bota smuggling plot continues from the last book, but, considering it has zero effect on the main characters, and they never even become aware of it, those sections don't meet with much significance. The traitor is a fairly obvious guess roughly halfway through the book when something happens that leaves only two characters as being suspects. One is a main character that, if guilty, would've definitely given the book a pessimistic feel. The other was a tertiary character mentioned only a handful of times through the duology. As such, it wasn't difficult to deduce the traitor's identity. Action sequences are still hard to come by, only the confrontation with the traitor, and the evacuation at the end of the novel are worth mentioning.

Characterization
For a duology that has invested so much time in character development, Medstar II is surprisingly lacking in likeable, realistic characters. Barriss is further mischaracterized in this novel as a irresponsible (using the bota to further her force potential without telling the Council, potentially heading down a dangerous path), power hungry (the same reason), incompetent (she slices her foot open with her saber, because she felt a sudden chill in the air) Jedi. She reaches Knighthood at the end of the novel, but her character was so thoroughly unlikeable in this series, and her accomplishment so minimal (not turning to the dark side through bota use), that this promotion carries no emotional weight with the reader. Jos is defined by his relationship with Tolk, but Tolk's personality is never really conveyed, all that we really know is that Jos really likes her, and that she could be a spy. The relationship as a result feels somewhat one sided. Jos also faces a hurdle in that his cultural customs prevent him from marriage with offworlders. His uncle shows up, rather unconvincingly, as a way to show one possible result of defying the family values, and Jos considers leaving Tolk to remain in his family's good graces, before finally deciding to stay with her. Not only do the customs themselves come across as contrived, Jos's relationship with Tolk also feels very artificial after he nearly leaves her, the love of his life, over some outdated customs.

I-5 and Den Dhur are still the comedic relief, and neither really progresses much. Den gets married, but his culture views marriage as a much more casual thing, even endorsing polygamy. There doesn't seem to be much of a connection between Den and his bride, beyond the physical, with even that spark somewhat fizzling by the end of the novel. I-5 learns more about his past, and is probably the most compelling character in the entire series (not saying much). I-5's mannerisms and ideas continue to be strangely human-like, leading to the same types of discussions on this topic as seen in the first book. The sense of duty he feels after he uncovers a message from his friend Lorn is one of the few authentic moments in the novel, and his mission would later lead to the creation of a spinoff series, Coruscant Nights.

The villains are cliche and predictable. Klo Merit, the minder turned spy, is given the most cliche "spy" point of view passages imaginable, musing about his friends that he has to betray, the nature of spies, his lost life on a destroyed world, and his duty as a double agent working for two deadly organizations. Klo's backstory is in fact nearly identical to that of Prince Xizor- harbouring a grudge against the Republic for a botched weapon experiment that ruined his homeworld and nearly eradicated his species (Steve Perry wrote the Shadows Of The Empire novelization, so this likely isn't a coincidence). Kaird is a more formidable villain, a trained Black Sun assassin, but he isn't given much to do besides order people around, and steal bota that our heroes don't even realize is missing. His sub plot is completely irrelevant, rendering his character much the same.

Prose
Action sequences, the few that occur in the novel, are over nearly instantly, with no real detail, and little in the way of excitement. The same gritty, realistic approach on the operating theatre is taken in this novel, leading to vivid descriptions of organ transplants, burst heart valves, and infectious diseases. Dialogue retains the philosophical questioning, debates, and etc. from the first novel, but toned down just a bit. It feels more authentic than Medstar I, but still only somewhat reminiscent of Star Wars. Descriptions are even more sparse than before, the proportions and layout of the Rimsoo still largely unknown by the end of the novel. The bizarre references to the USO continue as they put on a show for the clone soldiers and Rimsoo personnel. Even the descriptions of the performers are reflective with their real life counterparts, and these segments definitely hurt the novel's credibility, making it feel silly and self indulgent.

Conclusion
Improving on most of the flaws of Medstar I, Medstar II is nevertheless the conclusion to a largely failed project. With its intense focus on mostly lifeless (or mischaracterized, in Barriss's case) characters, instead of a cohesive plot or extensive conflict, Medstar fails to deliver on its premise.

Final Score
49/100

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