The Clone Wars

August 17, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

cloneThe Clone Wars by Karen Traviss

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I recently watched The Clone Wars, the animated movie that falls between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It’s universally reviled, and for good reason: It’s a pretty terrible movie. It has wooden characters, poor animation, annoying character traits, and a baby Hutt named “Stinky”. I watched the movie after watching all of the Cartoon Network The Clone Wars shortsand wondered why Lucasfilm didn’t just take those two collections and make one movie out of them.

This book is the novelization of the movie, and to say I went into it with trepidation is an understatement. The only saving grace for me was that Karen Traviss wrote it, and I’ve enjoyed her books in the EU most of all. I was pleased to find that Traviss avoided much of what made the movie so terrible. She gives Anakin and Ahsoka more depth, along with Rex, the commander of the clones. The latter isn’t surprising, really; Traviss has made it clear that she has more interest in the clones than the Jedi, and while the story isn’t about the clones, she does bring that sentiment to bear as much as she can with the novel. It works well.

Traviss’ other books also have an anti-Jedi sentiment to them, which she also brings into the story. It works surprisingly well, given that Anakin’s struggle between the Light and Dark Side of the Force makes him a prime candidate for talking about how much he dislikes the council. It also doesn’t hurt that she revisits the theme of clones being seen as more like droids than people, and that the generals who view them as people first get the most respect from the clone troopers.

The story is about the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s son by Count Dooku in an attempt to frame the Jedi for it. The two factions are working against each other, each trying to make sure that Rotta makes it back to Jabba by their hands, not just to prove their reliability over the other group, but also to secure the hyperlanes to the Outer Rim that are controlled by Jabba.

In the movie, about one-third to one-half of the story is about the assault on the temple where the Huttlet is being kept; in the novel, it takes up about 80% of the entire story. I’m not surprised (Traviss likes her war stories), but it made the rest of the story feel rushed and insignificant. In fact, as I was reaching the end of that part of the story, I found myself thinking, Shouldn’t there be another hundred pages after this? How are there only twenty?

In addition, Traviss chooses to interpret Anakin differently than he is in the movies. He still has his doubts about the council and is still an impassioned, impulsive character at times, but first and foremost he’s a respected general to the clone troopers he commands. There’s nothing in the canon to suggest he wouldn’t be, but there’s a disconnect because that kind of behavior suggests a stronger dedication to the Light Side than the Dark Side. Maybe that’s my own interpretation of Anakin interfering with hers, but I feel like Anakin should be — and has been — portrayed as someone more prone to his passions and self-interests more than he is for others, and Traviss’ interpretation is at odds with it.

On the other hand, this is one of the few books in the EU I’ve read so far that doesn’t try to pretend like Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Sidious are two different people. In fact, she goes a step further and gives the reader a glimpse into Sidious’ thoughts as he’s playing the role of Palpatine. Even in Darth Plagueis, which was mostly about Sidious’ rise to power, the author kept those two personalities separate, though he didn’t try to be sly about their being the same person.

The book is a good read because it’s written by Traviss, but it doesn’t overcome how plain the underlying story is. I have to give the author credit for going deeper than the movie, and for giving the story a heftier theme (though even a light theme would have been heftier than the one in the movie). I can’t help but wonder, though, what a novelization of the Cartoon Network shorts would have been like.

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