EU Retrospective: The Clone Wars Part I

We’re neck deep in the Clone War books now and in case there was any doubt, the war really sucked but 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, and there was some other book 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.

Before we get into the book itself, I have to briefly mention 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, he’s hardened by the lot 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?

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 looks 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 under whelmed 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.

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 days 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.)  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.

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4 thoughts on “EU Retrospective: The Clone Wars Part I

  1. Pingback: Look at your life, look at your choices: Bria’s Rereading the Expanded Universe | Tosche Station

  2. I'm absolutely loving your EU retrospective, as I've been doing much the same thing over the last several months. After reading from the original Zahn trilogy onward over the years, I decided to give the pre-prequel books a chance and have been richly rewarded. While our mileage may vary as with all things SW:EU, I believe that overall the Sith era onward experience to be much stronger quality and far more consistent than the post-movie universe. Also, amazingly, the EU authors performed a miracle and actually retconned the prequels to such an extent that they actually make sense in a broader context! Lucas should buy each of these writers some serious "thank you" gifts.

    I'm a bit ahead of you (suffering and grunting my way through The Force Unleashed right now) but at your torrid pace, you're going to pull ahead of me soon. Some thoughts:

    Shatterpoint:
    Easily the highpoint of the entire decades-long EU experience. An amazing book by every standard, sci-fi geek or otherwise. Whenever anyone insults sci-fi mainstream as throw-away, supermarket checkout quality, marshmellow fluff, I give them this book. I doubt it's an accident that some of the best EU books (this, Medstar) were obviously inspired by more famous established works (Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, MASH). Couldn't agree more regarding Nick Rostu, who I felt was unfortunately not well written in the subsequent and uneven "Coruscant Nights" series...

    Cestus:
    I was conflicted on this one... While a big comedown from Shatterpoint, I enjoyed it overall for what it was, and greatly enjoyed the depiction of the world and its culture. The Nate thread was predictable. I was intrigued by the force-sensitive native cave dwelling things whose name I can't recall. This book, though, falls into the trap of introducing too powerful tech (hello force sensitive droid troopers) that just have to be forgotten by continuity as they're too strong to allow for the creation of drama in future tales. I didn't mind Asajj so much since I'd by then gotten used to each depiction of her seeming like a completely different character... There seemed to be little consensus on this woman by EU authors... My favorite Asajj depiction was easily Dark Rendevous...

    Medstar: Easily one of my favorite EU series. It's the rare EU tale that is heavy on character and, frankly, a bit light on story (Was there a story? Oh, yeah, a spy of some nature). This is one of those series I was sorry to see end since I really felt, on an emotional level, I was going to miss spending time with the ensemble of characters. Like feeling sad when friends move away. The Corellian culture part WAS strange (I explained this away in my own mind by remembering how many separate cultures and sub-cultures there are on a place like Earth) and I loved getting into Kaird the Nedij's mind, another character I felt was poorly represented in "Coruscant Nights."

    Again, thank you for the reviews!

  3. Shatterpoint I love, but it's Stover so that should go without saying.

    Jedi Trial I remember not liking much, but I'm rereading ti soon for my own retrospective blog, so we'll see how it fares this time.

    The Medstar duology is an interesting set of novels. The first one is good, but ultimately flawed in ways that stopped me from completely engaging with the story. Jedi Healer is a great novel though one that fully develops its characters in a way that is immensely engaging. Barriss Offee quickly vaulted to near the top of my favorite characters list. Her thoughts on the Force filled me with happiness, and I'll take her way of looking at the Force every day of the week over the dogmatic view of characters like Yoda.

    Keep up the great work. 🙂

  4. Pingback: EU Retrospective: Legacy of the Force Part 2 | Tosche Station

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