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Clone Wars: No Prisoners by Karen Traviss

01/05/2011. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

Buy Star Wars: The Clone Wars: No Prisoners in the USA - or Buy Star Wars: The Clone Wars: No Prisoners in the UK

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars: No Prisoners by Karen Traviss. pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 257 page enlarged paperback. Price: $16.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50899-7.

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The trouble with reading ‘Star Wars’ tie-in novels set before the original trilogy began with ‘A New Hope’ rather than after the end of ‘Return Of The Jedi’ is that I can’t pretend the prequel films don’t exist. I’ve had some very enjoyable reading experiences with the extended adventures of Luke Skywalker and company, but whenever I attempt to get into the exploits of his father Anakin, the taste is soured somewhat by the terrible plotting of those prequels.

For the majority of Karen Traviss’ ‘Clone Wars’ novel ‘No Prisoners’, I was left with the uncomfortable juggling in my head between the good writing of the novel and the inexplicably bad setup that the films had provided. Now, Traviss is one of the best tie-in writers, with #1 New York Times bestseller status to her name, so if anyone has a chance to fix the problems of Mr. Lucas, it’s her.

‘No Prisoners’ is set mid-way through the Clone Wars, so after much of the animated series and between Episodes II and III. it still baffles me why the war, which was built up so much by the original movies, has so little screen time in the prequels, but that’s a topic for another day. In this novel, we’re mainly dealing with another of the poor design choices of the prequels, George Lucas’ inexplicable decree that Jedi cannot have relationships or attachments.

This law by the Jedi Council, which contradicts much of the events of the original films and their tie-ins, was the central line of conflict in the prequel films, despite very weak justification and little pushback or discussion by otherwise wise Jedi Masters. It’s the entire reason Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side and the fuel for his downfall into one of the most iconic bad guys in movie history and it is a really lousy idea.

Traviss decides to put the idea right up front in ‘No Prisoners’. As a thematic correlation, the main plot-line of the novel surrounds Gil Pallaeon’s illicit relationship with an intelligence officer, Hallena Davis. Palleaon, the naval officer who became such a powerful figure of the Imperial Remnant in the tie-in novels set after ‘Return Of The Jedi’, is a nice choice to bring continuity to the franchise and give fans a glimpse of the younger days of one of the most interesting characters not introduced in the films. It’s a topic that has been the source of a lot of internet discussion recently, as ‘X-Wing’ author Michael A. Stackpole sparked a discussion on a number of blogs about whether Bantam/Lucasbooks should link minor characters from spin-off series into the main storyline more to generate more interest in the earlier books of the canon. It’s nice to see that happen here and Pallaeon is easily the most interesting character here.

Pallaeon has just assumed the captaincy of a new proto-Imperial Star Destroyer, the Leveler. With Anakin Skywalker on a secret holiday with his lover, Padme Amidala, Pallaeon agrees to take Anakin’s padawan, Ashoka, and the clone Captain Rex on the mission. When the planet that Pallaeon’s lover Hallena is on gets taken by the resistance, the characters (plus a rapidly returning to action Anakin) attempt a daring rescue.

This is a fairly good book with some nice action sequences, but I felt a lot of the way through Traviss was really having to work extra hard to dig herself out of the hole Lucas had put her into. Anakin’s grapple with love and duty never really works in any of the ‘Star Wars’ canon and although Traviss introduces a neat group of Jedi who do love and have relationships without being evil, rather than help clarify the issue it merely makes the original idea seem even more inexplicable.

The moral questions posed to Anakin at the end do help alleviate that somewhat and there are some nice moments of characterisation, particularly with Pallaeon and Captain Rex, but overall I feel this is a book struggling so hard to get out from under the baggage forced on it that, through no fault of its own, it struggles to convince.

Tomas L. Martin

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