About the Author:
Matthew Woodring Stover lives in Chicago with artist and writer Robyn Fielder. He is a student of the Degerberg Blend, a form of jeet kune do.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4.5 out of 5
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith
The novelisation of George Lucas' final Star Wars film. The story opens on the massive Battle of Coruscant, where, in the darkest hour of the Clone Wars, Count Dooku and General Grievous have captured the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. As the Clone Wars continue unabated, tensions grow between Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi Council, with Anakin Skywalker stuck in between. Finally Palpatine reveals the truth about himself, he is the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and leads Skywalker down the path that will culminate in the creation of Darth Vader.
George Lucas' overall story is much improved over the first two prequels and the dialogue is far less awkward and corny. To this strong foundation, Stover adds what he does best; deep insights into the minds of the characters. As each major character, even those we know well, is introduced in the story, Stover pauses to give a detailed summary of that character's history, feelings and goals, making them far more accessible to the reader. This insight continues throughout the story, explaining Anakin's internal conflict over his loyalties to the Jedi, to Palpatine and to Padme. There's also a great bit where Obi-Wan's character is broken down and it is explained that simplicity is his greatest asset and, in fact, he is a master of it.
The tension builds brilliantly througout the book, although Anakin's sheer stupidity makes for frustrating reading. Then, suddenly, all Hell breaks loose. Anakin becomes Darth Vader (without the mask and armour at this point) and in a tragic sequence, leads Clone Troopers into the Jedi Temple to kill the Younglings. Elsewhere, the Clones turn on Jedi all across the galaxy. The story becomes so dark that at times it makes for uncomfortable reading; which is exactly as it should be.
I was a bit disappointed by certain elements that feature in the film but didn't appear here, particularly the Wookiees (including Chewie) fighting on Kashyyyk. There are no other real downsides to the book, even going so far as to poke a little fun at the film's failings (there's a scene where Dooku scorns the silly way Anakin and Obi-Wan lead droids in and out of turbolifts, seeming to express Stover's own feelings about some of Lucas' awful 'comic relief' attempts).
Sadly, Jar Jar Binks does make an appearance, but thankfully he just sits still and doesn't talk.
Followed by James Luceno's 'Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Luke Skywalker And The Shadows Of Mindor
A stand-alone novel set in the year following 'Return of the Jedi'. Luke Skywalker, Jedi and General of the New Republic, leads soldiers against the forces of the powerful and treacherous dark sider Lord Shadowspawn in the Battle of Mindor.
The framing premise of this book is a brilliant idea. Basically, following the events at Mindor, Luke orders an investigation into his own conduct, believing himself guilty of war crimes, but the investigator decides to make money off of his report by turning it into a holothriller (hence the slightly cheesy title of the book). This concept allows the author to really explore the whole 'certain point of view' thing in a fascinating way.
I'm always a bit wary of Luke stories this early in the timeline (I love him as a Jedi Master further down the line though) because he usually has an annoying naieve optimism. Here, however, we're shown a Luke who is haunted by the actions his role as a General has forced him to take and struggling to come to terms with the balance between being a military leader and being a newly-minted Jedi Knight.
When you throw in elements like Fenn Shysa's Mandalorians, Rogue Squadron, the Emperor's Hand Blackhole and characters from Stover's Clone Wars novel 'Shatterpoint', you end up with one of the finest Classic Trilogy era novels there are.
Followed by 'The Glove of Darth Vader' by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Shatterpoint
The first novel of the Clone Wars series, set six months after 'Attack Of The Clones'. This book features one of the most popular characters introduced in the Star Wars prequels, Jedi Master Mace Windu (AKA Samuel L. Jackson) as he returns to his jungle homeworld in search of his former apprentice Depa Billaba.
Stover focuses on the main character, rather than the events and as such, we get a deep insight into Mace as he is faced with the possibilty that everything he believes about the Jedi path is wrong. I really enjoyed the book when Mace was sticking to his guns and refusing to play by anyone else's rules. Sadly, the character's implacability suffers when suddenly his will breaks and he starts doubting everything. Although this allows the character to consider his life in-depth, it just really didn't fit with Mace's established character.
The writing in general is very good, brilliantly conveying this 'dirty' war in which right and wrong are unclear. However, the book has two major flaws, the first being that the story is based on the novel 'Heart Of Darkness' (famously rewritten and made into the film 'Apocalypse Now'). This copying of a previous plot leads me to the other flaw, the story cloning is pretty much all this book does to earn it's 'A Clone Wars Novel' subtitle.
Followed by Karen Traviss' 'The Clone Wars: No Prisoners'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Traitor
The thirteenth NJO novel and Stover's first foray in the Star Wars universe. His writing talent lies in his focus on a main character, making other characters and events secondary. The character in question here is Jacen Solo, who fell into the hands of the brutal Yuuzhan Vong at the end of 'Star By Star' by Troy Denning. Jacen encounters the mysterious Vergere, who becomes both his teacher and his torturer, believing that no lesson of worth is bought without pain.
The book is Jacen's journey of self-discovery as Vergere and the Vong force him to confront painful truths and overwhelming challenges. I've never liked imprisonment storylines, so I didn't start getting into this book until Jacen starts to turn the tables, subverting the Vong's Worldbrain and, in a scene reminiscent of Leto II and the sandtrout in Frank Herbert's 'Children Of Dune', convincing a swarm of amphistaffs to bond to him like armour.
Later in the book there is also the best-written death scene of any in the Star Wars franchise as a character who has come on in leaps and bounds since Michael A. Stackpole's 'Onslaught' faces down an army of Vong warriors with the words 'None shall pass' and goes on to have a place in the Vong consciousness as the giant that guards the gates of death.
I've only given the book four out of five simply because, although character development is important, in a series like the NJO I would've liked for some kind of significant event or battle as well.
Followed by Walter Jon Williams' 'The New Jedi Order: Destiny's Way'.
4 out of 5