Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Cestus Deception
Yoda – Dark Rendezvous
Del Rey Books
Within the Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels, there are all sorts of wonderful mini-categories. Last week’s review focused on the Republic Commando series and was a rip-roaring success, if I do remember correctly. This week’s mini-category is The Clone Wars. There are, in fact, seven books that receive this tagline on their covers and spines, of which I have read 3 and a half.
Set after Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and just before next week’s Revenge of the Sith mini-category, which itself includes Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars series of books continue to add to the seemingly endless amount of story set between these two movies.
Not only have we got these books, but there are also some comics, the Cartoon Network cartoon series that ran a few years back, and the upcoming Clone Wars animated series to which I am “counting down.”
The first two books in this series, Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover and The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes, are both wonderful books. I read them some time ago, so my brief touch up thanks to my old friend Wookiepedia has reminded me just how much I enjoyed them. Shatterpoint focuses entirely on Mace Windu, and is one of those novels that — in addition to a well-crafted story — manages to impart a lot of extra information. In this case, information on lightsaber fighting styles and Windu’s own history.
The second book, The Cestus Deception, is less of an information-gathering session and more just a great story. Starring our favorite Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin, the pair are joined by Jedi Master Kit Fisto, five clone troopers, and a Vippit barrister, Doolb Snoil. Their missions are two-fold with Obi-Wan and Doolb to settle a growing crisis through diplomatic means and Kit Fisto and the troopers to create a local rebellion if Obi-Wan fails.
A great story, focusing on one of my favorite characters, and with a wonderful background romance between an unlikely pair, this book is definitely worth your attention.
The three and a half books I haven’t read include The Hive by Steven Barnes, MedStar I: Battle Surgeons, and MedStar II: Jedi Healer by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry.
Now you’ll be wondering about the “half,” no doubt, and that is due solely to what can only be called horrendous writing on the part of David Sherman and Dan Cragg, who wrote the book Jedi Trial. The whole travesty was summed up for me by the line “Great balls of fire!”; a line uttered by Paige Tarkin, which seemed to me to exemplify the total inability these two authors seemed to have for the Star Wars universe.
I do not often fail in reading through a book. I could count on my body’s digits the books that are half-read due to poor writing, and still have enough left over for a baker’s dozen. But I simply could not move forward with this book. This was sad, too, as the book starred a character who would end up being the grandfather of one Corran Horn, who you will see shine in the books taking place after the original trilogy of movies.
Thankfully, I was immediately picked back up after the disappointment that Jedi Trial was, with the last book in the Clone Wars series, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Written by Sean Stewart, this book was right on par with last week’s Republic Commando series, and goes down not only as one of the best Star Wars novels ever, but as a singularly well crafted science fiction novel.
Stewart showed a real understanding, not only of the Star Wars universe, but of storytelling itself. But more than that, and possibly what made this book so delightfully wonderful was his complete and perfect grasp of the stories main star, Yoda.
I have not seen a grasp of the character so complete since his original two appearances, in Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. He is portrayed perfectly as a wise and powerful Jedi, of course, but more than that, he is irascible. So often people just portray Yoda as the big Jedi, but his incomparable love of children, his wild and sometimes nasty streak of humor, and a child-like sense of adventure is so encapsulated in this book that it is hard to imagine anyone ever so truly capturing this character again.
We are treated to a Yoda who has no trouble making fun of his fellow Jedi — both Masters and Padawans — a man who will eat anything, does not go anywhere without his walking stick even five stories up the outside of a building and is not afraid of being involved in a tug of war match with a serving droid, all the while berating him in that high-pitched voice and smacking him with his walking stick.
Yet, this humorously wicked and agitated Yoda is juxtaposed against the wise and old Yoda, who towards the end of the book expresses these sentiments to a young Padawan who has lost much.
‘“Teach me about pain, think you can?” Yoda said softly. “Think the old Master cannot care, mmm? Forgotten who I am, have you? Old am I, yes. Mm. Loved more than you, have I, Padawan. Lost More. Hated more. Killed more.” The green eyes narrowed to gleaming slits under heavy lids. Dragon eyes, old and terrible. “Think wisdom comes at no cost? The dark side, yes – it is easier for them. The pain grows too great, and they eat the darkness to flee from it. Not Yoda. Yoda loves and suffers for it, loves and suffers.”’
And that leaves me at my last point in describing how well Stewart wrote this book. His Yoda-speak, that backward lack of grammar he is so well known for, can be so overdone and turned in to mindless babble when not done properly. But Stewart so intricately understands this character, that every sentence you read echoes in your mind, perfectly mimicking the voice you heard in the original movies.
I was absolutely mesmerized by this book, and not solely due to Yoda’s perfectness. The rest of the cast were played to a tee, and were left in no position to escape the Jedi Purge that would be enacted upon them only a little while later. It was realistic, gritty, and a masterful story, all the while with Yoda’s almost insane sense of humor underlying almost every page.
I won’t do Yoda: Dark Rendezvous the dishonor of being rated along with Jedi Trial. They score on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Yoda coming away with 9 out of 10, and Jedi Trial with a pitiful 1 (many books I will give a second chance, thus explaining the lack of unread books; this book does not deserve even that). Shatterpoint and The Cestus Deception both get 6 out of 10.
And just to finish off, I will leave you with one of the most stirring and literally spine chilling moments of the book. It sums up Stewart’s understanding of the character, and the character itself. Do yourself a favor, and pick Yoda – Dark Rendezvous; it’ll make you laugh out loud, and cry.
‘At this moment Yoda turned, and Dooku gasped. Whether it was the play of the holomonitors, beaming their views of bleak space and distant battles or some other trick of the light, Yoda’s face was deeply hidden in the shadows, mottled black and blue, so that for one terrible instant he looked exactly like Darth Sidious. Or rather, it was Yoda as he might have been, or could yet become: a Yoda gone rotten, a Yoda whose awesome powers had been utterly unleashed by his connection to the dark side. In a flash Dooku saw how foolish he had been, trying to urge the old Master to the dark side. If Yoda ever turned that way, Sidious himself would be annihilated. The universe had yet to comprehend the kind of evil that a Jedi Knight of nearly nine hundred years could wield.’