Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth

Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth (Karen Miller)



Plot

Stealth features some great action scenes, but a questionable plot, poor pacing, and an awful villain prevent the story from taking flight. The book starts off fast, with a wonderfully described battle on and above the planet of Kothlis. Obi-Wan and Anakin have a great rapport here, and even Ahsoka has a great scene saving Obi-Wan. From there, however, the book drags for about the next two hundred pages.

The scenes on Coruscant feature alot of talking, establishing the conflict, developing characters, etc. This is fine, but there is absolutely nothing in there to break up the monotony. It is just one conversation after another until the mission is underway. This part is even worse because of one of the most awkward dinner parties ever, where Anakin throws himself at Padme with Bail and Obi-Wan in the other room. It wouldn't be such a problem if the book hadn't gotten off to such a fast start, the quick pace of the beginning contrasts sharply with the middle, and makes it really hard to sit through all the talking.

The conflict, in the form of yet another devastating weapon, is cliche, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable (see my previous review of Dark Empire). What does prevent it from being effective is the awful villain and the pointless sub plot with Ahsoka and original character Taria Damsin. The villain, Lok Durd, is just another sniveling, petty tyrant. Some of his signature moments involve gloating uselessly, beating up a woman, and cowering before Count Dooku.

As for Taria and Ahsoka's sub-plot, it is a good idea poorly executed. They have to go about rescuing people from Separatist surveillance, in order to force a captured scientist to stop working on the bioweapon. The actual sequence depicted is good, but the characters here are so insufferable that the whole plot point is rendered moot. Taria is depicted as being the most attractive, smart, funny, awesome Jedi in the universe, and Ahsoka's constant admiring of her was highly annoying.

The main storyline is good, it focuses heavily on stealth and trickery, which I appreciated, even though some of the solutions to problems seemed ridiculous. A part where Anakin and Obi-Wan hole up in an abandoned store is a bit on the boring side, though it was somewhat of a necessary break after a few action scenes in a row. There is a really good escape scene that ends the novel on a high note, and sets the stage nicely for the second book. There are some exceptional scenes, but the plot is more than somewhat uneven overall.

Characterization

Though not as bad as Wild Space, characterization is still a flaw in Stealth. To start with, Anakin and Padme's romance, though not the central aspect of the story, is still important. The aforementioned dinner scene is the worst of it, but their relationship never really feels right. By contrast, Obi-Wan and Anakin's relationship is handled very well. Just about everything is covered: Anakin's relationship with his mom, need for attachments, and pressure of being the Chosen One, among other things. I particularly enjoyed Obi-Wan's thoughts on Anakin's development at various stages of the mission. These two are the most important characters to the story, and it was good to see a realistic portrayal of their relationship. I also liked Bail and Obi-Wan's relationship here, they acted in a much more civil way to each other, and it was easier to see why Bail would be trusted with one of the last of the Jedi in Episode 3.

The flaws lie in the secondary characters. As previously mentioned, Taria is an awful character, she has a very cliched, fan fiction feel that definitely doesn't help this book. Lok Durd is a worthless villain, in the same vein as Pors Tonith of Jedi Trial. The scientist is an awful, illogical character too. She refuses to leave the facility at first because she fears for the safety of twelve family members. Instead, she opts to keep working on the project and put millions of lives, including those of her family, at risk from the bio weapon. This strikes me as very odd behavior for a rational scientist, and it was hard to think of this as anything other than a contrived plot point. She doesn't really have a redeeming characteristic either. She never seems firm or resolute in the face of Durd's advances, and in fact gives up the Jedi at pretty much the first available opportunity. These three bad characterizations do significant damage, but the great portrayal of Obi-Wan and Anakin is a significant redeeming factor.

Prose

Prose is good here, with only a few minor nitpicks. Firstly, barve is one of my least favorite words in the Star Wars lexicon, and it makes constant appearances here. I cringed every time I read it, and thought back to the horrible Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy. Also, the dialogue is pretty solid, but the Jedi characters have an annoying tendency to read each other's minds. This makes sense in moderation, maybe Obi-Wan knows how Anakin will react because of a similar situation in the past, but when it is a constant presence in the novel, it is really hard to swallow.

The world of Lanteeb isn't the most compelling Star Wars planet, and in fact, outside of its purpose in the story, and brief history in the middle of the book, very little world building occurs. It has no distinguishing wildlife, alien species, landmarks, etc. Its just a planet with a city; there aren't even any descriptions of climate.

I did like quite a bit with the writing style here. The author does a great job with action scenes, and the frequent use of espionage (often overlooked in Star Wars) was handled wonderfully. Descriptions of Coruscant were also good, and I like the dry humor present throughout the novel, both in words and thoughts of the various characters. Overall, above average prose, though a poor example of world building.

Conclusion

Gambit: Stealth has some flashes of brilliance, but bad side characters and poor pacing prevent it from being a good novel.

Final Score

50/100

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