The Clone Wars: No Prisoners

August 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

prisonersThe Clone Wars: No Prisoners by Karen Traviss

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This story is about attachment, and how it affects soldiers. The Jedi aren’t supposed to be soldiers, but their training and philosophies suggest they were, long before the Clone Wars began. Attachment gets in the way of soldiers making the right decisions for the greater good, so the Jedi teach that attachment can lead to the Dark Side. We already know that this is true of Anakin, but is it a false premise? He seeks that attachment, yes, but does he fall because of that attachment, or because he’s never developed the maturity to cope with loss? In the movies, his relationships with other people always rang hollow, like he was pretending to care for people when in fact he didn’t really care for them except for how they made him feel. That question of attachment — is it a bad thing or a good thing? — hovers over this novel.

Traviss straddles this line pretty well in the story, showing the troopers as being driven by their attachments, but at the same time recognizing their bias toward an individual for that same attachment. The main plot of the story involves a captain who goes on a mission to save a Republic spy, partly because it’s his mission, but also because she’s his fiancee. Later, we see how the death of a soldier affects the rest of his team, again because of their attachment to the soldier. The story concludes with the idea that attachment is what makes us want to do better, to fight for those we love, and that the cold distance that comes from non-attachment only separates us further.

I had a hard time following parts of this story. In one section, one of the characters was talking to another, and then all of a sudden there’s a third character mentioned as if I should have know he was sitting there, too. I went back to that section of the story and read through it to see where I’d missed it, but it didn’t exist. This guy just popped up out of nowhere.

I also had difficulty with the way Traviss wrote for Ahsoka. She’s portrayed on the show as being young, dressing like a contemporary young adult in short skirts and midriff-baring tops. In the very beginning of the novel, Ahsoka joins the crew of a military ship, and the first thing that happens is the captain makes her cover up in a bulky sweatsuit. The captain claims that it is to fit in with the crew, but he also mentions that her dress will prove to be a distraction. It’s odd to find something like this in a Star Wars novel to begin with, but I was surprised even more to find it in a novel written by a woman. It’s disappointing that the novel perpetrates the idea that a woman is responsible for how a man responds to her body.

I still think Traviss is one of the better EU authors so far, and I enjoy her theme of viewing the clone troopers as people, but I’m kinda getting tired of it, too. I’ve said before that I like the way Alan Moore’s writing focuses on deconstructing and humanizing myth, but the more of his work you read, the more you realize that it’s all he does, and I’m feeling the same way about Traviss’ themes in her novels. I get it: they’re people, they’re noble, they’re Mandalorian. But the stories have reached the point where she’s beating that theme into us over and over again, and it’s tiresome. I would prefer her stories have more variety than this, and it concerns me that there are two more books of hers ahead of me involving the troopers.

On the bright side, she puts the Jedi to use in this story, instead of making them cold, hapless commanders. Aside from Anakin and Ahsoka pulling their weight, we even encounter a sect of Jedi who believe in attachment and have families. They all prove to be useful in the plot, which is something new for Traviss.

The story is decent, and self-contained, but I’d like to see Traviss attempt something else with her fiction. I still look forward to reading the rest of her Republic Commando series, but at the same time, I’m hesitant. Here’s hoping she can make it a little different from the rest of her stories.

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