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Star Wars: Episode IIóAttack of the Clones (the Novelization)
Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, ©

Format: Book
By:   R.A. Salvatore
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   April 23, 2002
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

This was not an easy review to write. Not only do I have to judge this book as a literary interpretation of a movie I haven't yet seen, I have to do so without major spoilers for those whose knowledge of Episode II doesn't go beyond the recent trailers.

But anyway, here goes: if Attack of the Clones, the movie, is even half as good as this novelization, then George Lucas just may have redeemed himself. No, it's not perfect, but it's a lot darker, more brooding, and far more mature than The Phantom Menace. And isn't that exactly what the fans have been clamoring for?

"The Dark Side clouds everything..."

George Lucas has said that the original Star Wars trilogy was about the redemption of Darth Vader, and that this prequel trilogy is about his fall. Unfortunately for Star Wars fans, Phantom Menace presented us with a cute li' baby-Darth who said "yippee" and made us doubt Lucas' sanity, much less his ability to convincingly portray the transformation of Anakin into Vader. The novelization of Attack of the Clones, however, makes the inevitability of his conversion to the Dark Side believable. Anakin in Episode II is a headstrong jerk, prone to rushing into battle against anyone he sees as a threat, or racing off because disturbing visions tell him his loved ones are in danger (at least now we know where Luke gets it from). Even more interestingly, he's portrayed as angrily disillusioned with the increasingly chaotic and unjust Republic and the hidebound Jedi that are trying and failing to hold it all together. It's all too easy to see how Anakin could have been seduced by the Dark Side as he's portrayed here; I'm sure we all remember what the road to hell is paved with, after all.

However, this book is not without some embarrassing flaws. I confess I haven't read many R. A. Salvatore books, but his Dungeons and Dragons novels seem to be popular, and I've heard good things about his Drizzt and Strahd books, so I'm going to attribute most of these to Lucas' story (hey, it wouldn't be Star Wars without some wince-inducingly lame plot element). The utterly pointless and juvenile C-3PO subplot near the climax, for instance, or the way the oddly-named Count Dooku was such a nonentity for being the major villain.

In some things it's harder to exonerate Salvatore. The sudden shifts in Anakin's character, while believable, are too abrupt. The growing attraction between Anakin and Amidala often verges into creepy Red Shoe Diaries territory, instead of being sweet and ultimately tragic. The "happy family" at the beginning of the story is a bit TOO perfect, balanced and blissful as only fanfic (and novelization) families can be. And while the writing style is competent and professional, it's also bland. The best thing I can really say about it is that it didn't detract at all from my enjoyment of the story.

Episode II: A new hope?

And I most definitely enjoyed the story, not least because of its grippingly dark tone, so totally at odds with Episode I. I quite literally read this book in a single sitting, one Sunday afternoon, because I was so astonished with and utterly absorbed in the often disturbing events of the plot as everything unfolded. For instance, one of the criticisms leveled at Lucas for Phantom Menace was that he made the main enemies in the film be non-living robots, so the little kiddies watching the movie wouldn't be scarred when the Jedi hacked through legions of them. Well, there's a certain scene in this book (that I hope is in the finished film, because it's a major character and plot turning point) that will definitely cause some scarring. Plus, we learn that the Fall of the Republic was the responsibility of several people whom you'd least expect, and is a much more shades-of-grey event than was hinted at before.

However, while this was a very interesting and absorbing read (despite its flaws), my enjoyment didn't actually come from the book itself. Perhaps it's a bit unfair, but what I REALLY enjoyed was the promise the novelization held out. If the characters and story here are any indication, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones will be just what we all wanted to see after the near-travesty of The Phantom Menace. It will be action-packed, it will be dark, it will be brutal, and it will definitely be tragic. The novelization gives me hope. As a novel in its own right, this book is pretty good. As a sneak peek into the next Star Wars movie, it's DAMN good.

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