Monday, August 22, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Shatterpoint

Star Wars: Shatterpoint (Matthew Stover)

Mace Windu attempts to track his fallen apprentice, Depa Billaba, through the jungles of Haruun Kal, and turn her back  towards the light side of the force. Along the way, he meets a group of soldiers fighting in the Summertime War, a conflict between Haruun natives and offworld miners. These soldiers, along with the sights of the Summertime War and Depa's tragic fall, cause him to question his belief system. The plot is very good overall, with just enough action sequences to balance out the more introspective moments that also feature heavily in this book.

The action scenes are very good at the onset, mostly outside of the box for Star Wars material, and very intense, but the later scenes leave much to be desired. The final battle between Depa and Mace, then Mace and corrupted native Kar Vastor felt INCREDIBLY contrived, not only does Mace withstand atleast four lightsaber wounds, he also manages to incapacitate Kar in a matter of seconds (in a fashion that is very poorly explained by the book) after losing to Kar in a thrilling  one on one contest earlier in the novel. Mace's method of forcing Balawai (offworlder) Geptun to surrender also came across as hare brained. Feigning surrender, Mace convinces his captor to take him to the building where he suspects Geptun is hiding. Once there, a guard takes his lightsaber, and follows him into the meeting room with Geptun. Mace then uses the force to pull the lightsaber to him, and with the help of his friend Nick, manages to turn the tides on Geptun.

Conflict is provided primarily by Kar Vastor, and the faceless forces of the militia. Kar and Mace have an evolving dynamic throughout the novel, at each other's throats one minute, fighting against the militia the next. Kar is a successful villain because he actually comes across as Mace's equal, and because he is written as a very sinister, primal figure, definitely unique. Geptun is a very dynamic villain as well, showing up in only a handful of places throughout the novel, and interacting with Mace in completely different (yet sensible) ways each time. He lacks the same sense of malice that Kar has, but makes up for it by being somewhat complex.

Shatterpoint's primary goal is to give Mace Windu a more defined character after his glorified cameo role in the movies. In this it succeeds, creating a character that is as powerful as the one from the movies was supposed to be (but never quite was) and adding layers of emotional depth by having him question the Jedi's role in the Clone Wars. He comes across as a Jedi with a slight mean streak, like a more level headed Qui-Gon, and his struggles to accept his supposed failure at Geonosis (one of his lamentations concerns his inability to nuke the Geonosis arena, killing the Seperatist leaders and ending the war before it began), his padawan's fall to the dark side, and the brutal nature of the Summertime War make him a very complex character. The author also bestows in him the ability to see "Shatterpoints" in conflicts, objects, people, and so on. The idea is presented fairly well, and luckily it isn't used to solve EVERY problem, as Mace explains (paraphrasing), sometimes the shatterpoints are open only for a moment, and sometimes they don't exist at all.

The side characters also develop nicely, the aforementioned Kar and Geptun doing a great job of reinforcing the "shades of grey" concept that is a major theme of the novel. Nick is sort of the comic relief, he is funny at times, annoying at others, overall his routine gets old by the end of the novel but the introspection he causes in Mace is enough to make his inclusion understandable, and a net positive for the book. Depa is much the same way, not in that she is annoying, in fact she is somewhat undeveloped... what we know about her mostly comes from what Mace tells us. Her inclusion makes Mace into such a deep character, however, that I really enjoyed her as well. Also included is a trio of minor soldiers that are not particularly memorable or interesting, they advance the characters in small ways, but they were a bit tiresome and cliche for my tastes.

The author uses most effective descriptions of places and events. As mentioned, some of the action scenes could've used a bit more thought, but none of them were poorly written. Dialogue is very good, effectively building on the limited amount of lines Mace was given in the prequels. Most of the passages are imbued with a sort of dry/gallows humor, livening up otherwise overly morbid or tedious sequences. Overall no real problems where writing is concerned, a very fundamentally sound, well written book.

Shatterpoint's conclusion somewhat damages an otherwise amazing book, featuring a handful of unique, enjoyable action sequences, and giving a great characterization to one of the most under used major players in the Star Wars universe.

Final Score

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