Waru Express: The Clone Wars

We’re neck deep in the Clone War books now and in case there was any doubt, the war really sucked but at least we got some pretty great books out of it.  This week, I started a love letter to Matt Stover, continued the one to Barriss Offee, flailed over Yoda, and there were two other books that got lost in the middle.  Oops.

Shatterpoint
This book is one of my favorite books in not only the entire Expanded Universe but of all time.  Why?  Two words: Matthew Stover.

Matthew Stover… How do I begin to explain Matthew Stover?  Matthew Stover is flawless.  I hear his writing hand is insured for $10,000.  I hear he does lightsaber commercials… on Coruscant.  His favorite movie is ‘How To Destroy A Reader In 300 Pages’.  One time he met GRRM on a plane and he told Stover that he was good at killing people’s emotions.  Lots of times he punched us in the feels… it was awesome.

Mean Girls joke out of the way, I positively adore Shatterpoint because this is the book that really establishes Mace Windu as an incredibly powerful Jedi Master who should not be messed with.  The best part?  It has absolutely nothing to do with SLJ playing him.  Mace Windu is a force to be reckoned with and he is going to get his former Padawan off Haruun Kal or else.  He’s also going to deal with this war and secure the planet for the Republic but that’s just quick task for after lunch.

I have to talk about the perfection that is Nick Rostu.  I am forever sad that no one decided to write more about Mace being a general and Nick as his military aide.  They are honestly the last two people who should probably be getting along and yet they have this wonderful dynamic.  (“Are you crazy?” “Shut up, Nick.”)  Plus, how can you not love someone with that sense of humor?  Of course, there’s a lot more to him than just his ability to crack jokes.  Underneath, Nick has been hardened by the hand in life he was dealt and he’s also a pretty good shot and cares about his friends.  He’s one of those characters that I would happily buy books about on a routine basis.  Or even short e-stories.  Please?  (Editor’s Note: It never works when I ask this.)

Right from the start, this book never fails to draw me in.  I get chills every time I read the recording of Depa: “I use the night and the night uses me.  I have become the darkness in the jungle… Because nothing is more dangerous than a Jedi who’s finally sane.”  Stover deconstructs both Mace and Depa but only one of them makes it out intact. It’s told almost purely from Mace’s point of view and even includes some first person entries and really puts you into his head in a way that no other Star Wars novel has really done.  This book is Mace Windu.  It’s honestly very difficult for me to describe why I love this book so much because it’s more of an experience than anything else.  This is what perfection feels like.

Besides that, the only other thing I’ll say is that this book never fails to make me want a book set pre-Phantom Menace where we get to see Mace and Depa on a mission together, either as Master/Padawan or else after she’s on the Council.  Not only could it be something unaffected by the new films but we’d get to read more about one of the most underused Jedi Masters.

The Cestus Deception
I know that Shatterpoint is a tough act to follow but this book just thoroughly underwhelmed me which is disappointing because Obi-Wan is one of my favorite characters in the entire saga.  The most interesting part was probably Obi-Wan and Kit’s staged lightsaber duel.  Besides that… yeah.   It was mostly just going through the motions.  Maybe it’s because I never found Asajj Ventress terribly interesting but all the parts with her bored me too.  I mean… congratulations?  You stayed out of sight and pulled the strings and then failed at capturing the Jedi anyways?  Dooku’s not going to give you a gold star. (Editor’s Note: Clearly The Clone Wars cartoon did a much better job here.)

Also, I might’ve appreciated what the author was doing with Nate/Jangotat more if perhaps he’d also followed through with some of the other clones.  Then again, I’m sure the fact that I just finished reading the Republic Commando books probably isn’t helping here.

Overall, it’s not a terrible book but it’s not an amazing one either.  I think it’s probably the weakest link in the original Clone Wars books but then again, given how much I like most of these books, this is hardly giving it the Crystal Star stamp.

MedStar: Battle Surgeons and Jedi Healer
These are two books that I think way too many people underestimate and just ignore but gosh are they good.  I love seeing other aspects of the war and military medical units certainly qualify.

Although there’s a plot, both books are certainly character driven and Reaves and Perry give us a great cast.  Aside from Barriss (I’ll get to her later) my favorites are probably Jos Vondar and Zan Yant whose friendship has a bit of a Face and Ton feel to it at times.  They both have their coping mechanisms for the war including some high levels of sarcasm.  Zan’s death apparently never fails to hit me in the gut like a sucker punch.  (Maybe that’s part of the reason I think of him and Jos as the Ton and Face of these books…)  In the back of my mind, I knew the death was coming and yet I let myself relax after Den rescues Zan’s instrument anyways.  Poor Zan.  Oh!  And I can’t neglect young Doctor Uli who is perhaps the only person from Tatooine who didn’t spend their childhood shooting womprats from speeders.

I think it’s about time that I continue my love letter to Barriss Offee, right?  She is easily one of my favorite Jedi characters ever because she feels so gosh darn real.  She’s not the perfect person or the perfect Jedi and she has her own worries and doubts. I also love the duality of her character with the Jedi Warrior and Jedi Healer aspects.  It reminds me of the Song of the Lioness series where the main character is told she has a gift both for fighting and for healing and that she has to use them both because one helps balance out the other.  A lot of Barriss’s character is about finding the balance between everything and it just works so well.  The book is also about her trials and ascension to Knighthood.  She looks the dark side in the face and manages to turn away and I love her all the more for it because not everyone can turn down that much power.  (Yes, that was another dig at Anakin.  SORRY.) (Editor’s Note: Also… GODDAMNIT FILONI. I TRUSTED YOU. WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU.)   Aside from that, I just love her interactions with the rest of the little sabacc club where rank or profession don’t make much difference and they’re just a group of friends playing cards.  In particular, I liked reading about her and Uli.  In an ideal world, I feel like the two of them would have kept in touch after the war’s end and had a lovely little friendship.  Honestly, I just like seeing Old Republic Jedi have friends outside the Order.  I guess that what I’m really trying to say here is that I love how Reaves and Perry developed her character and she honestly has one of the best character arcs in this era.

The one real nitpick I have with the book is the Corellian culture aspect that’s a plot issue for Jos with the whole esker thing.  I don’t really remember reading about it in any other books and it just feels weird for it to be associated with Corellia.  It’s not a huge deal but it just might’ve felt less odd to be if it had been associated with a different planet.

Long story short, I suggest that you read these books if you never got around to it back in the day.  I promise you that they are worth it.

Jedi Trial
Wow.  This book has some of the worst pacing ever.  The book is basically one giant battle on a planet and Anakin and Nejaa don’t even get there until 100 pages in.  To top it off, about half the book is centered around two soldiers from the planet that I never end up caring about.  If this is supposed to be the Anakin book to balance out the Obi-Wan book… it kinda fails because of that ratio.  Oh.  And the villain is just one big tropefest and not in an entertaining David Eddings sort of way.

This might be the first book that I’ve reread for this project that is worse than I remember it being and I honestly have always wanted to like this book.  I remember being incredibly excited when I heard that it would also be featuring Nejaa Halcyon and he really is the saving aspect of the book.  I do actually like the friendship between him and Anakin and it’s nice that they’re this little fraternity of Jedi Who Shouldn’t Be Married But Are.  (Mark Nejaa down as another friend that Anakin desperately needed and should’ve chatted with BEFORE making horrible life decisions.)  Unfortunately, Nejaa never really gets much character development outside of the mission and his friendship with Anakin.  It would be nice if we could get an e-short story about him one day.  (HEY DEL REY.  MAYBE GIVE STACKPOLE A CALL.)

Bottom line is that it’s not terrible but it’s not good either.  To take that a bit further, I think that the theme of my Clone Wars book reviews has been that most of these books are good… except for the ones focusing on our main heroes from the films which is rather unfortunate.

Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
This book never fails to be a pleasant surprise every time I read it.  Back in the day, I was obsessed (and still am) with Padme’s handmaidens and ended up purchasing this book mostly because they made the briefest of cameos but ended up loving it for some much more.  It’s a character study backed up with a great supporting cast with a touch of philosophy and a good plot line to tie it all together.

Obviously, this is a Yoda book and we really get to know who he is as a person.  It helps reconcile the very in control Jedi Master we see in the Prequel Trilogy with the hermit on Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back.  (If the mental image of Yoda being grouchy because he’s stuck using a hollow R2 unit as a disguise doesn’t amuse you then I don’t know what will.)   Sean Stewart shows us Yoda’s relationships with Jedi across the board as a teacher and a mentor.  This is the book where you really get that Yoda is over 800 years old and yet still cares about each and every one of his students.  There’s one passage in particular that kills me every time:

Whie cried for what seemed like a long time. Scout ate. Fidelis served. Master Yoda told stories of Maks Leem and Jai Maruk: tales of their most exciting adventures, of course, but also comical anecdotes from the days when they were only children in the Temple. They drank together, many toasts.

Scout cried. Whie ate. Fidelis served.

Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

Yoda never stops caring about his students even though you’d think he would’ve learned to feel a bit more detached after 800 years of watching his students live and die.  He even still cares enough about a fallen student to risk his life on a chance that he could bring Dooku back to the light.

That brings me to my next point because the book is also a character study for Count Dooku.  This book is probably the most that anyone has really delved into his mind and motivations.  Reading this book also made me think that maybe Dooku wasn’t really as much of a Sith as he thinks he is.  I think he was in it more for the political aspect than any desire to be evil or anything.  I really do think that there’s a good chance he could’ve been redeemed if he hadn’t, you know, lost his head.  (Editor’s Note: And also his hands.)

To top it all off, you have the other point of view for this story: Scout and Whie.  As a reader, I ended up finding myself fairly invested in the fate of both of these padawans.  They’re two sides of the same coin and clearly serve as foils for one another while remaining interesting characters in their own rights.  I’ll admit that I’m a bit more partial to Scout though.  After all, we have already determined that I’m a sucker for underdogs.  She’s a kid who isn’t very strong in the Force but manages to stay a Jedi because of her smarts and pure force of will.    I also like that Stewart showed us what life was like for the young Jedi who remained at the Temple during the war because they were too young to be sent off to battle and those who have lost their Masters to the war.  If only they weren’t all about to be doomed anyways. 🙁

This is another book that’s hard for me to really describe why I love it so much because again, this is definitely an experience and absolutely worth the read.

The Clone Wars are drawing to an end which means that unofficial Revenge of the Sith trilogy is up next.  Spoiler alert: I’ll probably have another emotional meltdown on Twitter thanks to one Matthew Stover.  (Editor’s Note: Spoiler Alert: I totally did.)

Originally posted on Tosche Station on December 13 and 17, 2012.

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