Tuesday, 19 May 2009

‘No Prisoners’ – Karen Traviss (Del Rey)


Could this week be turning into ‘Tie-In Week’ on the blog? Not quite (I’m reading ‘Give Me Back My Legions!’ and there’s another ‘Goon’ review in the offing) but I am reading another Warhammer book, and am considering bumping the ‘Transformers’ and ‘GI Joe’ movie novelizations up the reading pile, so it could happen yet... :o) In the meantime I’ve been reading Karen Traviss’ latest offering in the ‘Clone Wars’ setting.
I wasn’t too keen on ‘Aspho Fields’ (Gears of War) but I’ve always found that anything of Traviss’ that has clone troopers in it is more than well worth a look. Traviss is one of those authors who really get what it means to be a soldier on the front line and this can be seen in her writing, especially in the Star Wars universe. ‘No Prisoners’ is more of the same standard but this time round I was left feeling a little disappointed. Let me explain...

‘No Prisoners’ is the tale of a shakedown cruise on a newly refitted assault ship (ironing out the bugs and so on) that suddenly becomes a lot more when a Republic Undercover agent goes missing on a nearby world that has just fallen to the Separatists. This isn’t just any agent though, Hallena Devis is the lover of one Captain Pellaeon and it’s his ship that’s on shakedown when the call comes through. Can Pellaeon reconcile his duty, to his crew, with his love for Devis and do the right thing by both parties? Can Padawan Ahsoka and Captain Rex come through this mission without the help of Anakin Skywalker (and how will they cope with the questions they must face)? All this will be decided in space and on the war torn streets of a planet under siege...

‘No Prisoners’ sees Karen Traviss set out to do what she does best, giving her readers a dose of galactic warfare that’s second only to actually being there yourself. Space and ground based manoeuvres are detailed meticulously with bursts of action (and tense build ups), in all the right places, that lend the story fresh impetus and keep things flowing very smoothly. There’s no filler here, everything in ‘No Prisoners’ is there for a very good reason and the end result is a solid and well presented story.

While the Star Wars prequel films just gave us a set plot (and expected us to swallow it, despite its flaws) the thing I really like about Karen Traviss’ ‘Clone Wars’ books is the way that she questions all the plot holes, fleshing out the Star Wars universe in terms of giving us characters that actually question their circumstances instead of blindly follow orders. Is it really the done thing to declare war on planets that want to secede from the Republic? A clone may be bred for war but is it right to throw them up against huge odds complacent in the knowledge that you can just make some more? Come to think of it, am I the only person who thinks it weird that someone placed an order for a clone army years before there was any hint of war? These are the questions that you are likely to come across in ‘No Prisoners’ (along with some interesting thoughts about the perceived hypocrisy of the Jedi Order) and it’s these questions that make Traviss’ Star Wars books so easy to get into. The Star Wars films hint at a wider universe. Traviss actually engages with that wider universe by questioning its faults and the result is a work that I think is potentially better than the films themselves.

Having said all that, ‘No Prisoners’ suffers in that it’s only two hundred and fifty seven pages long. In the same way that Traviss’ ‘Clone Wars’ novelisation was a length that reflected the length of the film I wonder if ‘No Prisoners’ was written to be a length that reflects the length of a weekly ‘Clone Wars’ episode... The relative shortness of the mission is best covered in a low page count but this brevity doesn’t allow us to get into the characters heads as much as we would like too. What we get then, are hints of potential that aren’t allowed to expand. This made for a frustrating read that I knew could have been so much more, perhaps another couple of hundred pages would have done the trick here...

‘No Prisoners’ does its job well considering the restrictions it’s working under. It’s a good read but if you haven’t read one of Traviss’ ‘Clone Trooper’ books already then you’d be best off starting with ‘Hard Contact’, the first book in her ‘Republic Commando’ series. This series will give you a much better idea of what Traviss is all about...

Eight out of Ten

5 comments:

Luke Forney said...

I can't find this G.I. Joe novelization anywhere on amazon. What is it called? Who is it by?

Luke Forney said...

Nevermind, not sure why I was having such difficulty with Amazon this morning.

James B said...

This wouldn't be the same Paelleon that ultimately becomes Thrawn's right hand, is he?

Graeme Flory said...

It's 'G.I. Joe: Above and Beyond' (a prequel to the movie actually, I should have mentioned that before...) by Max Allan Collins.

James - It's the very same guy.

macfantasie said...

Thanks for the review Graeme, my copy (alongside 'Order 66') should be waiting for me at the house when I get home, but I'm just now starting up 'True Colors' so, unfortunately, it'll be awhile yet.

Can't wait though, love these books!