Customer comments on this Youngstown Ohio Book
Exceptional Novel, 'Star Wars' or Not
I'm from the younger generation that didn't grow up with the original films, and really don't see what all the hoopla is about. Star Wars is pretty good but more so (or at least in my day) a marketing machine that incessantly seems to bleed into more crevices of creative expression (e.g. books, cartoons, cereal, Pez dispensers, etc.).
However, I thought it would be fun to paint the Star Wars universe according to my imagination through a novel rather than having one of the films do it for me. Essentially, I decided to give this book a try based on subjective reasoning: I like Yoda (who doesn't like the wise, ugly little elfin-man who sports a graying hair cul-de-sac?); I like Count Dooku (he's very evil); and I thought the story described on the book's back cover sounded enticing. Basically, the `Star Wars' logo had no effect in persuading me to purchase and read this novel - I still would have read it without the `Star Wars' logo gracing the front cover.
Amidst the exceptional reviews the book received, I was expecting it to be just an average novel, especially considering that although I had never read a Star Wars novel before, I did know from reading around that the lot of the novels rank from below average to literary garbage collected between two covers. (This is probably due to the fact that nowadays, Star Wars is less a movie (series) and more a cash-cow and marketing "empire" - pun intended.) I was surprised: Dark Rendezvous was actually a very good book, and not because it's Star Wars but because Sean Stewart is an excellent writer whose detail and depth are nothing short of superb quality. In Stewart's hands, the militaristic and overly technological nature of science fiction staples (weapons, armies, training, defense techniques, jets, speeders, piloting aircraft, military tactics, etc.) come to life, and glow with a richness and depth that is left to be seen in many books of the same genre.
I found this novel to be particularly enticing to myself because, as readers are aware, having the chance to imagine everything in the book for yourself is a joy that you simply can't mimic in films (although I'm not knocking film adaptations either - they're just different mediums, that's all). To have your mind hear the laser blade ripping out of the lightsaber's hilt; having your brain make it hum; and imagining oversized aircraft zipping through outer space makes this novel really etch itself into your mind while you make the trek to the final pages.
The actual story is pretty good as well: essentially, Count Dooku (under the auspices of his master Sidious) uses a young padawan at the Jedi Temple as a gateway to lure his former teacher, Master Yoda, into what appears to be a gesture of peace but turns out to be a trap. As in the films, Count Dooku's character here is pretty menacing, as is his equally dark and vile potential apprentice Asajj Ventris. In one chapter in the midst of an entire ship and a couple Jedi masters she has laid to waste, Ventris expounds her philosophy of the dark side to two young Jedi padawans who must maintain their allegiance to the Jedi way in the face of her killing two masters - she relates that the dark side is akin to the vastness of space, and the only light there is are the tiny specks of light (stars) that blink over the blanketing darkness.
We revisit the memories of an aging Dooku when he was a younger padawan under the tutelage of Master Yoda, when his master relieves him saying, "Dooku, when you fall, catch you I will." In the middle of the storyline, Yoda travels with two padawans and two Jedi masters to take Dooku up on a potential gesture to claim peace and end the current war, and Yoda is disguised as a very likeable and familiar robot that everyone loves...the parts with Yoda in disguise are simply hilarious!
My only complaint is that the teenage Anakin Skywalker makes a few cameos in the novel. Although his character does add to the story to move it along, I don't particularly like pre-Darth Anakin: he's an arrogant, whiny brat (which is further exemplified in the horrible first two prequels) who suffers from a supreme case of chutzpah, and although there are a couple more Star Wars novels I plan on reading, they do not involve Anakin as the main character at all. However, this is not really a complaint because again, Anakin's character adds to the storyline (probably more so because his annoying ways are balanced out by Obi-Wan's levelheaded manner).
Although I wouldn't recommend any other Star Wars novels (mainly because the only other one's I plan on reading are Shatterpoint with Mace Windu and Triple Zero with the clone soldiers), I do highly recommend this one - whether you're a Star Wars fan or not, I think you'll love it as the story is replete with familiar and memorable characters, some cool new additions, Star Wars staples (Jedi philosophy, lightsabers, speak of the dark side, etc.), and Stewart's capable writing style. Have a blast with this one, you will.
Yoda finally comes into the spotlight
While this book is not the best Star Wars book you'll ever read, and it's not without flaws, it is definitely very entertaining. It doesn't quite cover as much background on Dooku as I would have liked, (although some more is available in 'Labyrinth of Evil'), and even less background about Yoda. But it is written in a way to really make you care about the characters and their actions. It vividly plays out in your head and is overall very hard to put down. I'd recommend it and give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
An entertaining story in the lead up to RotS...
30 months after Geonosis, 6 months before ROTS, this is a story of not only Yoda and Count Dooku but also of two Padawans. Whie, aged 13 (and who has a part in ROTS -- Hyperspace members can see his photo here), is a gifted student with abilities beyond his age. He is compared favourably with Anakin Skywalker. Scout, aged 14, is not so gifted but has considerable determination to prove her worth. Whie is apprenticed to Master Maks Leem. Scout has yet to be chosen by a Master and is at risk of being transferred to the Agricultural Corps.
The book opens with Jedi Master Jai Maruk returning to Coruscant after surviving a battle with Asajj Ventress. It becomes clear, however, that he did not survive through use of superior skill, but because Count Dooku wanted him to pass a subtle message to Yoda.
Yoda recognizes the message as an indication that Dooku wants to meet to discuss returning "home", but Yoda also recognizes that this is likely a trap. Nevertheless he decides, after meditation and consultation with an old colleague, to risk meeting with Dooku in case there is a chance of bringing an end to the War.
Yoda, Whie, Scout, Master Leem and Master Maruk embark undercover (including Yoda being hidden inside a R2 unit) on the journey to meet Dooku, followed by two unusual droids, Fidelis and Solis. They encounter more difficulties than expected along the way before the final meeting between Yoda and Dooku takes place.
This book is extremely well written and is a fabulous entry to the Star Wars universe by author Sean Stewart. It has a perfect balance of solemnity and humour, with Yoda's character being extremely well portrayed, often appearing from both perspectives as we remember him from TESB. His use of his cane with droids and sly sense of humour are well utilised along with his display of enormous wisdom, both with the Padawans and with Dooku.
Dooku's character is also very well developed, with us being given more insight into his motivations and how he ended up heading into the dark side. There are brief occasions when we even feel some sympathy for him and wonder if he may be able to be redeemed by Yoda.
A theme that runs throughout is that the Jedi, whilst all a part of their collective family, are all rejected children - or, as Dooku says:
"Every Jedi is a child his parents decided they could live without". There is also the corresponding theme that the Jedi were kidnappers - taking young children from their families. There is no easy resolution to these themes, but they do make you think about the broader subconscious issues that would have to play on every Jedi's mind when tempted by the dark side.
Anakin and Obi-wan, and even Mace Windu, Padme, Palpatine and Sidious, have small roles to play, filling in part of the path to ROTS.
Along with Rogue Planet, which I read because of its link to the NJO, and Republic Commando: Hard Contact which I read because its author will be writing a third of the 2006-2009 9-book series, this is one of the few PT EU novels I have read, and the first of the "Clone Wars" series. It might just have managed to inspire me to go back and read the earlier ones in the series.
Hopefully Sean Stewart will return to the EU again sometime in the future.