Sunday, April 28, 2002

Review: "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" by R.A. Salvatore

A lightsaber duel written by R.A. Salvatore. Do I need to say anything more about this book?

Not for anyone who understands Salvatore's writing style and his flair for combat scenes. But that fight is only one of the highlights of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."

Ten years have passed since the end of "Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Anakin, training under Obi-Wan Kenobi, is well on his way to becoming a Jedi Knight. Padme is now the senator from Naboo. They haven't seen each other in a decade, but after a failed attempt on her life, seemingly by opponents of her political stance, Anakin and Obi-Wan are assigned to protect her. That's a task that proves more complex than it sounds.

The assignment sends Anakin and Padme into hiding on Naboo and Obi-Wan across the galaxy on a search for a mysterious bounty hunter named Jango Fett.

At the same time, Anakin's mother has been abducted by Tusken Raiders and his dreams have been calling him back to Tatooine. There's also an important vote expected in the Senate. Many of the Republic's leaders want to form an army to deal with a perceived threat from separatist systems.

Without giving anything away, I have to say that there are some scenes in this book that I can't wait to see on the big screen. The frenzied finale should be especially impressive.

That's good, because I was beginning to worry a little. The book started slow, allowing Anakin and Padme to get to know each other again - and allowing the reader to learn more about the changes the last decade have wrought on the characters. There's some political maneuvering and a touch of romance, interspersed with a few spikes of action.

Anakin is no longer the sweet little boy of "Episode I." He has grown into a brash, hotheaded and slightly arrogant teen-ager, who questions many of the Jedi ideals. Padme is questioning her life of public service and wondering what else life has to offer. Obi-Wan is questioning his sanity for taking Anakin on as a Padawan.

"Episode II," at least the novel version, shows more depth and character development than any previous installment. The first half of the book focuses largely on Anakin's inner turmoil and the uneasy relationships he shares with his master Obi-Wan and his love interest Padme. It's something that perhaps has been lacking in previous "Star Wars" episodes.

But that doesn't mean there's not plenty of action, adventure and wonder. It wouldn't be a "Star Wars" movie without exotic locales, swashbuckling lightsaber duels, daring rescues and plenty of other derring-do.

For those "Star Wars" fans like myself, who have some misgivings about this movie, the novel is a relief. If the book is any gauge, "Episode II" will be much better than some of the trailers have led us to believe.

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