You’ll know that I’m a fan of the Republic Commando series of novels if you’ve read Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles. That story has many a reference and lifts a lot from the lore introduced in that series. But while Republic Commando is Karen Traviss’ most popular contribution to Star Wars, she also had a few other novels within the franchise. One thing you wouldn’t expect, considering the type of story she writes and her history, is that she wrote The Clone Wars novelisation for the film. Yes, all this is old news – with ten years separating then and now – but while I will be getting around to talking about the Republic Commando series, I felt starting with the novelisation would give me a chance to flex my reviewing skills in terms of books.
The novel starts with the kidnapping of Jabba’s son, told from the perspective of Jabba. There’s a number of scenes featuring Jabba, focusing on what measures he takes to find his son – as well as going into why this is so important to him. Palpatine and Dooku get some scenes, and the interesting thing with Palpatine is that this novel keeps no secrets about him also being Sidious. It’s an interesting move to outright say it when other novels usually just hint at some dark secret he has, and for this I’d say it works. The action at Christophsis is where we get Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Rex, and the clones and droids fighting it out. And the reality of war is present and correct here. The relationships between characters on a real and personal level are here. Everything has the sort of logic you would expect from something grounded in realism. An early example of such being when Ahsoka arrives. The droids retreat because they think reinforcements have arrived. It’s a natural thing to do.
Anakin – you really get the feeling here that he’s conflicted and struggling to deal with his past. And at first he takes it out on Ahsoka when she first arrives. He comes to realise that’s being harsh, and gives her a chance – thinking back to his own first questioning by the Jedi Council and how he’s doing the same to her. Rex gets focus the way clones under Traviss do. He still feels like Rex, but with an awareness of just who he is and his place within the world, and finding himself relying on the only things he knows because he knows nothing else. And a touch of the advanced clone culture that the Republic Commando series had. And speaking of connections with Republic Commando, Anakin does draw a certain parallel to Bardan Jusik – in that he knows there’s something wrong with the system but feels duty-bound to stay for his comrades.
Teth brings Ventress into the story, with her point-of-view showing why she has something against the Jedi and the lengths she will go to complete a mission. This point is also where the strengths show the most. Everything still goes exactly as the film plots, with extended Anakin and Rex scenes with the more grounded and logical actions still working well. Take the ‘evidence’ presented to Jabba. In the film, it’s just Anakin and Ahsoka struggling with Rotta as Anakin says he hates Hutts. Within the novel, it becomes a marvel of editing skills to fake the evidence from an entire conversation held upon the two reaching the Huttlet. However, it definitely feels that Traviss – for all she knows of wars and camaraderie – avoided anything to do with getting inside the feelings of the ‘lawful’ Jedi. I can’t really blame her for shifting the focus from Jedi to the everyday soldier when that’s what she knows best, but Obi-Wan feels very much a side character. True, he didn’t get much focus in the film either, but it feels like he has even less here, and it would have been nice to see the events from his perspective – even if just for one scene. Since the details of Ziro being involved were shown at the start, the action within his palace is reduced from what we see in the film. The important parts still remain, and we even see more of Palpatine being a manipulator as he subtly brings Padmé into the action.
This one is definitely a good read, offering a different tone and perspective from the film. There are also a lot of references to the Republic Commando series, such a mention of the Coruscant Security Force, Gaib and TK-0 being brought in by Jabba, and a scene near the end mirroring one at the beginning of Triple Zero. As I’ve said, the inner workings of the clones are explored to great effect here, so anyone who loved the focus episodes they got within the TV series are in for more of that here. Anakin also has a great focus here, really drawing on his thoughts and feeling of his past all the way through. Again, this is a great one to read.