The Clone Wars are an integral part of the ‘Star Wars’ saga as shown in the films. The cast of characters in this book are largely known to us already: Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Chancellor Palpatine, Count Dooku, Jabba the Hutt and so forth. We know how it all turns out for them. In these circumstances, it is difficult for a writer to build any suspense or drama into the narrative but it can be done. One technique is to introduce new, minor characters whose fate is as yet undecided. Another is to shed more light on some of the subtler aspects of the relationship between the main characters, something that prose can do more effectively than the big screen. Karen Traviss manages to make an interesting story that slots nicely into the big epic drama of the ‘Star Wars’ films.
Ziro the Hutt has conspired with Count Dooku, leader of the Separatist forces, to kidnap Rotta, the young offspring of Jabba the Hutt. Ziro is Jabba’s uncle but said offspring is not his bloodline as Hutt’s have asexual reproduction, all by themselves. Dooku wants to frame the Jedi for the kidnapping and make Jabba their enemy. Both sides want access to Hutt controlled space routes.
Meanwhile, the Clone Wars continue. Obi Wan Kenobe and Anakin Skywalker are fighting on the world of Christophsis. Anakin is a Jedi Knight and fights well but has to keep reminding himself that anger is bad. He’s full of it. He remembers killing the Tuskens who murdered his mother and has kept it a secret. His marriage is also a secret and he resents the way he’s treated by the Jedi Council. His interior monologue is full of denials that he is tempted by the dark side. Then he’s given a Padawan to teach, a brash fourteen year-old named Ahsoka who initially annoys him but as in all good buddy narratives…well, you know. Anakin is also shown as loyal to his men, particularly Clone Captain Rex and his squad. When they get involved in the mission to rescue Rotta, these comradely ties give the narrative more impact.
Moreover, by heading each chapter with a quotation from some intelligent character, often from the dark side, Karen Traviss underscores the fact that the villains’ motives were genuine. They viewed the Jedi as a smug elite, blindly supporting a rotten system. The Republic was basically corrupt as it neared its end. The films show this but the point can be lost in all the slam-bang action required in that medium. A prose book can deliver a lot more subtext and some politically-minded readers may even see a connection with our own age. Democracies can go into decline if the populace start taking them for granted and that‘s when the dictators take over. Mind you, there’s no lack of action here as it’s pretty much a constant battle from the first page to the last for our Jedi heroes. The subtler stuff is just slipped in along the way.
An enjoyable adventure and an object lesson in what a good writer can do even within the restraints of a film series tie-in. Some literary snobs give it short shrift but well wrought franchise fiction is not to be sneezed at, especially if you want to resell the book online.
(pub: Arrow/Random House. 272 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-09953-319-1)