Wednesday, 30 July 2008

‘The Clone Wars’ – Karen Traviss (Del Rey)


I’m really bad about keeping up to date with at least 99% percent of new films coming out so didn’t even realise there was a new Star Wars film on the horizon until I saw the trailer in the cinema (we were watching ‘Kung Fu Panda’, go and see it!). It looks quite impressive and I didn’t even have to bribe my wife with popcorn before she’d agree to go with me! :o)
It was pretty cool then to get home yesterday and find Karen Traviss’ novelisation of the film waiting for me on the doorstep, not only do I get to see the film but I also get to find out what happens in advance! And therein lies the problem with this book, it’s fun to read but it turns out that I already knew what was going to happen (even if I didn’t realise it at first)…

The plot is simple (I’m guessing so that more room could be made for all the space battles and fights between clones and droids). Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped and whichever faction can get him back safely will be rewarded with access to Hutt controlled hyperspace lanes, a handy thing to have in time of war. Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are assigned to get the child back but this is easier said than done when they are up against the labyrinthine schemes of Count Dooku and his master assassin Asajj Ventress. There’s a lot more at stake than the two Jedi realise…

‘The Clone Wars’ is a fairly short book (two hundred and fifty six pages) and I finished it over the course of a day. There was plenty going on, more than enough to keep me occupied and reading. The book has all the spectacle that the Star Wars franchise is famous for; brimming with pyrotechnics, swashbuckling lightsaber fights and deep space combat. Karen Traviss also carries on looking at the clones and how they function in Republic society. It’s not as in-depth as her ‘Republic Commando’ series, mainly because the clone troopers are too busy fighting against overwhelming odds to get all introspective about their lot, but she still manages to convey that sense of feeling lost and out of place in the universe. All the clones have is each other and Traviss also does a great job of portraying that camaraderie. ‘The Clone Wars’ is military sci-fi in all but name (‘Star Wars’ sometimes feels, to me, like a genre all of it’s own even though it’s sci-fi) with little flashes of humour that foreshadow events to come, i.e. Anakin reassuring R2-D2 about Jawas, and it’s a perfectly serviceable book in this regard.

The thing is though, despite all of this Star Wars goodness before me I felt a little bit flat about the whole thing. Like… what was the point? I thought about this a bit more and realised that, through no fault of her own, Traviss was writing a story where the fate of principal characters had been determined and played out a long time ago. Is Anakin going to make it through to the end of the book? What about Ben Kenobi and Count Dooku? I’m not going to tell you because you already know the answer (hint, look at the credits for all the films). If you know what the eventual outcome has to be then is there really any point in carrying on with the book? There are still bits and pieces that maintain a level of interest (the kidnap plot for example) but like I said, there’s no real urgency or sense of anticpation. I guess this is a pitfall of filling in the gaps between various films and books in the franchise, maybe they should look at films etc with none of the main characters at all?

I also got the impression that Traviss’ writing was hindered by having to work to the plot, already written for the film, instead of take her own directions. I’ve only read ‘True Colours’ but in that book it felt like she had more scope to do her own thing, unlike ‘The Clone Wars’ where she was just fleshing out what will be happening on the film…

I’ll still be going to watch ‘The Clone Wars’ on the big screen but it just felt like things didn’t quite work in the book. I guess, in this instant, that bright lights on the big screen can cover up a lot more than words in a book…


Six and a Half out of Ten

4 comments:

tomlloyd said...

There's a new Star Wars movie coming? Ah man, how the hell did I miss that?!

Graeme Flory said...

Can't remember exactly when it's out but I think it's fairly soon...

tomlloyd said...

Have now realised it's a cartoon version, so more understandable that's I didn't hear about it I guess!

ThRiNiDiR said...

Great review Graeme; I actually haven't read any of the SW books, but when that time comes around I'll probably go for the Zahn's Hand of Thrawn, any of the two Matthew Stover's books or Traviss' Commando trilogy.