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Shatterpoint
by Matthew Stover

Published by Del Rey


Scott's Rating:   3.5 out of 4
Nick's Rating:   4 out of 4
Mike's Rating:   4 out of 4


This story takes place six months after the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones.

Mace Windu is called by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Yoda to deal with a crisis. On Windu's jungle homeworld of Haruun Kal, Depa Billiba has been aiding rebels fighting Separatists off the planet. Billiba is not only a Jedi Council member, but Windu's former Padwawn. The rebels she leads, called Korunnai, are also unique in that it is believed they are descended from Jedi marooned on the planet many generations before. Each of them has some degree of untrained Force potential.

The rebels have been successful in ridding Haruun Kal of Separatists, but a new problem has emerged. The Korunnai have begun to settle decades old scores with the remaining settlers. Republic Intelligence believes that recent slaughters of the settlers are the work of the Korunnai under the leadership of Depa Billiba herself.

Mace Windu is called on to investigate the situation and deal with Depa Billiba as necessary. Has Billiba gone rogue? Is she leading the Korunnai? Is she being set up? And can Windu kill his former Padawan if necessary? To answer his questions, Mace must first make his way to Haruun Kal and face his past, the savage jungle, and the horrors of war. But how will he be affected by what he encounters?



Scott:

    I like the idea of these stand-alone novels featuring only one character. Rather than trying to jump in on the middle of a 20 part story like New Jedi Order, people can pick up Shatterpoint and begin reading with knowledge of only the movies. (However, there is an interesting reference to the New Jedi Order in a vision Mace has. It's a nice touch that EU fans will appreciate.) It's also cool for us to get a glimpse of what happens during the Clone Wars between Episodes II and III.

This story is one of the darkest of any of the Star Wars novels. It's one of the few that drives the "War is hell" message home. Stover goes into great detail describing wounds, horrible deaths, terrible smells, and more. He even depicts children getting killed in fights. It's a rather grim picture he paints. It's wrapped up rather nicely in a package very similar to Heart Of Darkness (or Apocalypse Now). He builds up a great deal of anticipation as Mace Windu makes his way through the jungle to find Depa Billiba. What will he find? The woman he considers his daughter or an insane Jedi?

Mace Windu is the star of this novel and I believe Matthew Stover nails his character perfectly. While we saw little of him in the films, this book gives us great insight into his character, his origins, and what goes on inside his mind when he fights. His ability to find weaknesses, or shatterpoints, is a focus of the book. Windu is tough, no nonsense, and insanely bold. You can almost picture Samuel L. Jackson delivering some of his cheesy tough guy lines. Stover also adds the nice touch of having Windu feel a bit of racism against him. Looking like a Korunnai, people in the settlers community look down on him with bigotry. It was an interesting twist to have him be seen as a second class citizen rather than a revered Jedi Master.

The new characters are excellent as well. Stover comes up with an interesting new villain in Kar Vastor, the leader of the Korunnai. Windu needs a powerful nemesis in this story, and Kastor fits the bill. He's strong in the Force, filled with hatred and rage, more than a physical match for Windu, and completely untrained. This makes him a wild card in the story and you never quite know what he's going to do next. I hope they keep this character around and team him up with Palpatine at some point. Nick Rostu is also an interesting, Han Solo-like character that is the survivor of the story. His rise from lowly jungle native to Major in the Republic army is somewhat reminiscent of Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. I hope he pops up in future stories. It would be cool to see him appear in Episode III.

I'm a big fan of action and Shatterpoint delivers. The battle scenes are almost non-stop and there's rarely a moment to catch your breath. The final battle even rivals the Battle of Geonosis in AOTC. However, the quiet moments are thought provoking as well. Mace Windu must consider the fact that if the Jedi are to fight in a war, they must give up some of their principles if they are to have any hope of winning. The very nature of war goes against what they believe in. Mace Windu is also haunted by the fact that he killed Jango Fett. His decision constantly haunts him and he's reminded of it throughout the novel. Seeing as how he seemed to kill Fett without a second thought, it's an interesting glimpse of what is going on behind that cool exterior. Windu's interaction with Palpatine at the end is also a chilling glimpse of what will happen in Episode III.

Overall, Shatterpoint is one of the more satisfying Star Wars reads I've had in a while. A great effort by all involved.


Nick:

    Shatterpoint is easily the darkest Star Wars novel to date, even more so than Traitor, Matthew Stover’s previous foray in the Expanded Universe. The only other books approaching the darkness of Shatterpoint are the previously mentioned Traitor and Troy Denning’s Star by Star. But whereas those two novels at least had inspiring endings, Shatterpoint leaves nothing but true feelings of despair, a sense of dread of things to come.

Through the character of Mace Windu, Stover takes us to the world of Haruun Kal; a planet embroiled in a civil war between the natives and off-world jungle prospectors. The larger warring factions of the Clone Wars have exploited these forces; the Republic having recruited the native Korunnai and the Separatists the prospector Balawai. Neither truly cares what happens to the galaxy at large; they have simply become pawns in a larger game of dejarik. In the end though, it is the Korunnai and the Balawai that pay the ultimate price.

Stover paints a vivid picture of the Haruun Kal crisis, with each word serving up a new sensory detail. Every one of my senses, not to mention my emotions, was brought into the story as Mace plunged deeper and deeper into the jungle, and with it, the depths of the human psyche. As such, Shatterpoint offers up a story very reminiscent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the movie it inspired, Apocalypse Now.

While we get to see Mace Windu in action in Attack of the Clones, we didn’t really get to see inside his head. Additional material, such as Emissaries to Malastare, has explored his character, but we haven’t really gotten a deep look until now. Stover does a spectacular job detailing Windu, particularly his relationship with Depa, Haruun Kal, and his ability to see weaknesses. These ‘shatterpoints’ play a crucial role in the story, and Mace’s ability to see and exploit them is critical.

Besides Mace Windu, Stover explores a diverse cast of characters, all of whom are touched by and have a different outlook on the horrors of war. We know Depa Billaba as Mace Windu’s former padawan-cum-Jedi Master, a woman with whom he shared a near father-daughter relationship. However, her experiences in the jungles of Haruun Kal have brought her to the brink of insanity and the dark side. Her story is perhaps the saddest of all.

Kar Vastor is the immensely powerful leader of the native Korunnai, a being that rivals, and in some ways surpasses Mace Windu’s Force potential. Vastor is a name whispered by the Balawai and all enemies of the Korunnai, for his shear brutality is unmatched. He is filled with hatred and rage for the Balawai, and for those that would help or protect them. Vastor is a living conduit to the jungle, and with it, the Force. His lack of training and raw power makes him an incredible foe, which he proves when he savagely beats Mace Windu in an unarmed fight. When the two finally get a rematch, Mace knows his only hope is to outsmart the massive Korunnai. The resulting conflict has an unexpected, but wholly satisfying outcome.

Another new character I thoroughly enjoyed was that of Nick Rostu, a rogue with a rough exterior and a good heart. Sound familiar? Nick’s promotion to brevet major of the Grand Army of the Republic was unexpected, but a welcome twist to the story. His quirky sense of humor left me with a strong hope that we’ll see him in future novels.

As always, Matthew Stover’s background in the fighting arts shows in his action scenes. Shatterpoint offers some of the most unique battles ever seen in a Star Wars novel, ranging from a midair battle between Mace Windu and a Balawai gunship to the all-out brawl between the Jedi Master and Kar Vastor. Shatterpoint delivers in a big way.

Although I love the New Jedi Order, I am glad that Lucas Licensing is taking a different approach with the Clone Wars. For one thing, the Clone Wars are a multimedia project, whereas the New Jedi Order has been limited to books and some light comic book support. And while Shatterpoint and the other upcoming novels will each tell an important part of the Clone Wars, they won’t be as highly structured as the nineteen book New Jedi Order series. The best part about the whole project? After all these years, we are finally getting to see the Clone Wars unfold.

“Begun, this Clone War has...”


Mike:

    Bravo. Bra-freakin'-vo.

As great as Traitor was, I suppose Stover was bound to do even better with Shatterpoint, as here he was able to formulate the entire story himself.

And better he does. I find myself struggling to even find the words to explain why this book is so good. Essentially, Stover's Star Wars is beyond anything that's ever been done before. Beyond Zahn, Stackpole, in some ways beyond Lucas. This book reads like a genuine action movie. Like a good action movie, I should say. Maybe I'm just not used to reading SW material free from the typical Luke-Han-Leia baggage. Don't get me wrong; I love those characters, but no matter how good post-RotJ EU is, you can't escape the fact that mythologically, their story is over. I'm the last person you'll see claiming Lucas' superiority over EU writers, but this is a very specific type of story we've all invested our time in, and because of the films' archetypal plot elements, there will always be something about books like this or Shadows of the Empire that the NJO will never have: mythological relevance. Maybe I'm overstating a bit, but I'll always have a place in my heart for filling-in-the-gaps EU over what-happened-afterward EU.

Nick Rostu is officially one of my favorite characters to come out of the EU. Comparisons to Han aside, the only other time someone like this has been done right in SW is Lorn Pavan in Shadow Hunter. I read a review of the new Tomb Raider movie a while ago, and to illustrate one of the main problems with the movie, the author drew a comparison to Indiana Jones as a better example of the adventurer. While Lara Croft always remained cool and collected, he said, Indiana Jones really believed he was doomed every time he got into trouble. That "oh crap, I'm in trouble" attitude is what made him such an endearing character, and it works now with Nick. We even get to see the contrast between both types of "adventurers", since Nick is pretty much glued to Mace's side the entire novel. This book would have been enormously less fulfilling if Nick hadn't been there to let out a string of expletives as accompaniment to Mace's "everything's gonna be fine" attitude.

Speaking of which, this book is a shining beacon in the history of handling profanity in Star Wars. No offense to Denning, but I'd much rather see something like "Joe cursed" over "'Bloah,' Joe said." While using virtually no actual naughty words (aside, I suppose, from "crap" and "hell"), Stover has managed to write a very vulgar book, befitting the nature of the story and of the characters themselves. The sheer number of oblique references to the F-word alone is awe-inspiring. While this may not match your personal taste, or what you like to expect from Star Wars, for me it's a welcoming touch of reality; you can't escape the fact that people swear, and goofy made-up expletives in a moment of tension only detract from the serious nature of the scene.

It's funny to see Scott bothered by the fact that so many people survived the novel; one of the biggest and longest-running complaints about the EU I've encountered over the years is that every big event is so self-contained; never-before-seen bad guy and secondary characters are introduced, then killed off or otherwise banished into limbo. While I'm skeptical that Nick Rostu and Lorz Geptun (a brilliantly handled antagonist, incidentally) will actually be seen much in upcoming Clone Wars material, I'd very much like to see them again and I'm grateful that Stover at least left the door open to the possibility. On a related note, it was also interesting that Depa didn't exactly "survive" the story, in that she wasn't taken back to her default position by the end. It'll be an interesting thread to tie up down the road, especially if she ends up appearing in Episode III.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Here's hoping Stover gets many more opportunities to blow me away like this in the future.



Scott:

    As much as I enjoyed Shatterpoint, I did recognize that it had some faults. For example, practically all of the main characters live through the ending. Killing everyone except Mace by the end would have been more appropriate to the dark nature of the story. Letting everyone live seemed a little too convenient for a story dealing with "war is hell". On the other hand, I'm glad to see they're still alive to be featured in other stories.

I must also admit that I was thoroughly confused by Depa Billiba. I never understood what drove her to walk away from the Jedi. At one point she acts like she has been held hostage by Vastor and tortured and molested by him. However, later on she acts like they are comrades. She acts friendly towards Windu, then tries to kill him. I was really baffled. I thought Stover should have spent a little more time explaining why Depa would turn away from a lifetime of training to the point of wanting to kill the man she considered her father. While I could buy that it would happen, I didn't think the story made it seem like a natural progression. Then the ending generated a similar sense of confusion as Mace Windu teams up with the local militia to fight the people who were just his allies shortly before. I got a little lost there as well.

Windu also makes it seem like the Jedi have never seen war before and that they are baffled when confronted by it. While they haven't faced galaxy-wide warfare, you'd think they would have seen their fair share of localized horrors. There are plenty of examples in the Jedi Quest and Jedi Apprentice novels where our heroes learn firsthand the horrors of war. I don't know what about this situation would have been any different.

Finally, this story is advertised as being a Clone Wars novel. However, it has very little to do with the Clone Wars conflict. While the Clone Troopers and Separatists appear at the very end, they are by no means the focus of this story. This crisis has little impact on the Clone Wars at all. The beginning made me think that Count Dooku was going to appear by the end, but that didn't happen. I think the Boba Fett young reader stories had more to do with the Clone Wars than this story.

Again, though, I liked this story and would highly recommend it to Star Wars fans.


Nick:

    As was the case with Traitor, there wasn't anything in particular that I disliked about this novel.

The only thing that bothered me with Shatterpoint is that it doesn't really give us a sense of the destructive scale of the Clone Wars, but I suppose that there are still plenty of books left to cover that aspect. However, this is the first Clone Wars novel in the adult line, and I was expecting more of a massive Clone Wars battle. I'm not disappoint with Shatterpoint, I was just expecting a different read. Instead, Shatterpoint gives us a more personal look at the horrors of war and shows us how the Clone Wars will ultimately touch even the most remote traces of civilization, those parts that want nothing to do with the galaxy's conflicts.


Mike:

    I have literally nothing to say. Stover not writing any more SW after this; that'd be bad.



Scott:

    Stover offers up frequent references to urine, blood, and infection. Just be thankful this isn't a scratch and sniff novel.


Nick:

    “The horror, the horror!”

Shatterpoint gives us a brutal look at the seemingly senseless violence of war. There are too many examples to cite here, but needless to say, Stover shows that war is ugly.


Mike:

    This book is all about the ugly, but I have to say the only moment that really grossed me out was the fungus growing on Besh right before he died. Yeeugh...


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