Author(s): Karen Traviss
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: May 19, 2009
Era: Rise of the Empire era
Del Rey is publishing a series of five tie-in novels to accompany the highly successful Clone Wars cartoon series, which kicked off in the fall of 2008. Authorial duties are rotating between two Karens: Karen Traviss, notable Star Wars author with a penchant for clones and Mandalorians, kicked things off with an excellent novelization of the feature film. Karen Miller, a newcomer to the Expanded Universe, followed up with Wild Space, a harrowing but overlong tale of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa journeying through the galaxy in search of a Sith planet. Now Traviss delivers the third novel, No Prisoners, coupling an intriguing exploration of differing Jedi philosophies with a juicy dose of clone and battle droid action.
One striking feature of the three novels published to date in this particular mini-series is the juxtaposition of their serious and introspective tone with the light-hearted adventure of the TV show. I appreciate that the authors are working to deepen the EU by not simply offering shallow tales of Jedi heroics. At times I find it a bit challenging to marry the TV show to these stories in my mind, but overall this is a great strategy and sometimes makes me see the TV episodes in a new light. For example, clone officer Captain Rex is given a meaty and provocative role in No Prisoners. He wrestles with some fundamental issues concerning the role of the clone army, what their purpose is in life, and whether there is any hope for them to be something more. These themes will be familiar to readers of the superb Republic Commando series, also by Karen Traviss, but playing them against the adventurous fun of the cartoon made them more poignant than ever, at least for this reader.
Beyond the intellectual examination of Rex and his clone squad, there are many intense action sequences scattered throughout. One particularly vivid scene involves the clones rescuing one of the main characters who is being held hostage. The pace at which they take over the situation and Rex’s brutally firm leadership make for compelling reading. Traviss deftly paints the clones as a military force to be reckoned with and the saga is all the richer for it.
Readers of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy will be interested to know Captain Gilad (new first name!) Pellaeon is a featured character in No Prisoners. In fact, his forbidden relationship with intelligence agent Hallena Davis and what he’s willing to do to save her from danger is the prime driver of the plot. Their relationship echoes the forbidden marriage of Anakin and Padme. Pellaeon is portrayed as a smart and capable officer. Arguably, he is portrayed as TOO smart and capable: I found myself picturing the old, experienced, post-Thrawn-and-Daala Pellaeon more than a young officer making his way through the ranks. There are an awful lot of years between the Clone Wars and the Thrawn Trilogy in which he doesn’t seem to have grown much, but still, it’s a treat reading his interactions with Anakin, Ahsoka, and Rex.
Another place where the book veers tonally away from the show is in its treatment of Ahsoka. Many characters here are surprised or even shocked that a half-dressed fourteen-year-old has been given a leadership role. Pellaeon even forces her to change into military-issue clothes in an awkward little scene. Ahsoka also undergoes some mental turmoil when she is introduced to a rogue sect of Jedi who permit relationships and do not fear attachment. These Jedi, led by Master Djinn Altis and featuring Callista Masana from the Bantam novels, go against many of the precepts she was raised to unthinkingly accept.
These challenges to Ahsoka’s beliefs (and later in the story, to Anakin’s as well) underscored a theme I see woven through the Traviss stories. She seems to favor book characters over movie ones, and her anti-Jedi Order viewpoints are a strongly recurring motif. While there are times I feel she is excessively weakening characters like Ahsoka to demonstrate the Order is rotting from within, I do appreciate that she is willing to introduce and flesh out alternative views of the prequel era. She is correct that many people would likely have more negative views of the Jedi than we as movie viewers tend to, and certainly there is fertile ground to be plowed with the bred-to-fight and enslaved clone army. So while I don’t always agree with the viewpoints she espouses, I value them highly.
No Prisoners presents a balanced mix of philosophical musings about the nature of clones, Jedi, and warfare with gripping action sequences and a fast-paced storyline. Karen Traviss has made quite a mark on the Expanded Universe and shows no signs of letting up, and I am pleased Del Rey is open to publishing stories such as hers that don’t necessarily toe the line of the other media including the cartoon. No Prisoners is highly recommended.
4.0/5.0 Kath Hounds
Reviewed by Andrew P.
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