Jedi Trial

July 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

trialJedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg

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I’ve never heard of the authors of this book, despite their having written a popular series called Starfist. After reading the book, though, I can see why; this is a straight-up military novel, a genre for which I have little appreciation. I don’t understand much of the terminology, and the stories always seem to be more about tactics and lines of command than anything else. Jedi Trial follows that trend, and despite it featuring Anakin for a large part of the story, it just doesn’t do much for me.

The novel is set on the planet Praesitlyn, which is the location of the Republic’s intergalactic communication center. The center is the heart and brain of the Clone Wars, and when a faction take it over, it’s up to a couple of infantry factions –along with the help of Anakin and another Jedi and their clone troops — to take it back.

The characterization in this book is the weakest I’ve seen in the Expanded Universe so far. The authors capture the camaraderie of the troops, and focus attention on the importance of commanders being willing to do whatever they ask their troops to do (and, conversely, showing how poor a commander can be when he isn’t willing to do so), but individual characters are coarsely drawn. Even Anakin and Palpatine feel like shells, filled with the character traits that have been defined in the larger series. When sacrifices are made (this is war, so they’re definitely there), they feel shallow and meaningless, since we have no connection to the characters.

Also, the authors choose to have Anakin make a “sacrifice” near the end of the novel. We get the full impact of it — his loss, his fellow soldiers mourning and honoring him, etc. — but anyone reading the book knows that it’s false. Even though the book came out in 2004, a year before Revenge of the Sith, anyone familiar with, say, The Empire Strikes Back would know that Anakin wasn’t really dead. It felt like an odd insertion into the story, especially when the authors had brought in other characters who could just as easily have served as a sacrifice.

Interestingly, especially for a novel subtitled “A Clone Wars Novel”, very few clones are actually featured in the book. The authors seem to want to present a standard infantry, a mixture of personalities, races, and, at least in the case of Star Wars, species. It was out of place, especially for a story that, honestly, just doesn’t feel very significant.

I’ve always felt like military fiction is very conservative, and there were aspects of the story that reinforced that feeling. There’s a lot of masculinity thrown about, even among the handful of female troops, and at one point, the authors reinforce gender stereotypes between the male and female troops. The one main female troop in the story is capable, but by the end of the story, she seems to have been there just to serve as a love interest for a male trooper. It was disappointing, since I first saw the inclusion of female troopers as a progressive move on the authors’ parts. I don’t dislike military science fiction as a rule; John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War falls under that umbrella, but the series also has realized characters and meaningful moments.

The story is very no-nonsense, with the events continually leading the story forward, without much subtlety or nuance. It’s fast-paced (as it should be; the authors spend their time on plot instead of, say, character or theme), and it’s engaging enough, but it’s just not that interesting. It doesn’t help that when a character dies at the start of the third act, it reads more like a history lesson than an emotional scene. It happens to drive another character forward. Like I said, the story has little subtlety.

I can see fans of standard military fiction liking this book, but honestly, I don’t see those kinds of fans having much to do with Star WarsJedi Trial isn’t poorly written, but the story just isn’t that good; it doesn’t have much resonance at all. So far, it’s the strangest anomaly in the entire EU.

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