This is going to sound kind of random, but 2008 looks like a comeback year for "Star Wars" storytelling.
Episodes II and III got lambasted - rightfully so - for their handling of the Anakin Skywalker-becomes-Darth Vader arc, but the broader story of the Clone Wars quietly provided a nice setup for some excellent spinoffs.
Karen Traviss' four "Republic Commando" novels (2004-08) get my vote for best "Star Wars" book series ever. The author takes us into the lives of the grunts - her thesis is that while clones are grown, not born, they are all individuals who deserve full human rights. She also delves into the hypocrisy of the Jedi Order and gives us a completely realized Mandalorian culture (the clones come from Jango Fett, a Mando bounty hunter).
About 20 major characters come and go, but the headliners are clone Darman and rogue Jedi Etain, who find forbidden love, and hard-bitten Mando Kal Skirata, who legally adopts his clone charges.
In the latest (and perhaps last) entry, "Order 66," we see the clones' perspective on Palpatine's order for soldiers to kill their Jedi leaders, who are allegedly making a power play (we readers know "Palps" himself wants to become Emperor). Our clones have a healthy mistrust of Jedis, criticizing revered figures like Yoda, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi as old-fashioned blowhards.
We know from the "Clone Wars" TV series that Yoda respects clones as individuals, so such criticism is off the mark in his case. Still, it's nice to see characters who don't blindly accept the mythology of the Jedi Order, the Republic and even the war itself - the clones' views are shaped by their experiences, and that's what makes them human - and compelling characters.
George Lucas only scratched the surface of these intriguing gray areas in the prequels. Traviss took the ball and ran with it, and showed the full potential of "Star Wars" storytelling.
- By John Hansen,
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