You are viewing calmer_sky

Previous Entry | Next Entry

BOOK REVIEW: Wild Space

rose byrne
WARNING! Mild spoilers contained within.



Somewhere towards the beginning of Karen Miller's The Clone Wars: Wild Space (the second spin-off novel from the Clone Wars animated series, and Ms Miller’s first Star Wars novel), Bail Organa, the senator from Alderaan, mulls over a concept known as buyer's remorse.

This is a real psychological condition sometimes experienced by people after the purchase of an particularly expensive item. A luxury apartment on Coruscant, for example. This feeling of guilty regret - of not wanting to have made a mistake - hits Bail when he first sees the vast clone army which will eventually be instrumental in both the extinction of the Jedi Order and the downfall of democracy. Yeah. Maybe not such a great buy, then.

But in fandom, and, arguably, in Star Wars more than any other, there exists another phenomenon I would like to call fan's remorse. By this I mean the reaction of a fan to a new, officially endorsed branch of fandom which doesn't live up to their very high expectations. The emotion that made Simon Pegg want to burn his Star Wars collection after watching The Phantom Menance. The angry regret at ever-bothering-to-get-so-excited, experienced, in turn, by some of the generation whose love of SW began with that very film, when they sat in the movie theatre and watched the animated feature-length Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

It is a reaction stemming, perhaps, from limitless, unrealistic childhood imaginings of how amazing something can be. Or from the bitter, entirely arrogant disappointment of discovering what is presented isn't exactly what you had personally envisioned. Or possibly from anger at the humiliating knowledge that, while you care deeply for your fandom, its creator simply doesn't care too much about you. What a fool you are, to love it so.

It must be pretty terrifying to be tasked with writing a Star Wars novel. In a post to her LJ, Karen Miller talks about her desire with Wild Space, to get it right, to please everyone, and the disappointing inevitability that of course, she couldn't. One thing is unequivocally true: there are many different kinds of Star Wars fans.

Some of us do not concern ourselves, particularly, with explaining away those glaring continuity errors. Do not worry about finding a reason for why Leia can remember her mother (although we might spend some time thinking about it). Are only mildly perplexed by Ashoka's existence, and only bothered at all because it contradicts a key plot point in Matthew Stover's skilful treatment of Revenge of the Sith . But hey, Ashoka's pretty cool. Leia kissed her brother, after all. No problem. It's not an instant fail. We'll cope.

But I digress. What I was meaning to say was, for us, okay, for me, personally, it's all about the characters. They are my fandom. Give me Anakin: powerful, headstrong, arrogant, insecure, desperate to love and be loved. Give me Padme: self-possessed, intelligent, feminine, wily, but in some ways, naive. And give me Obi-Wan, with his own brand of arrogance, rational, intimidating, perhaps, but witty, self-effacing, conflicted… and so the list goes on. You get the point. Give me my characters. Outline them. Colour them in. Add those features that make them recognisable. Get them wrong, New York Times best-selling author Karen Traviss, and I’ll become upset and wish I'd never bought your book. This is my fan's remorse. But get them right, and you could probably transplant them into an episode of Red Dwarf - I’d still be happy.

Also true: the GFFA is imperfectly described in canon. That's just one part of the fun of writing fic in this fandom. And fanfic is available by the megabyte-load. It's free, sometimes poorly-written but it's occasionally of astounding quality. Moreover, you can find any combination of characters you desire, and, if you are so inclined (and we are, of course), any combination who desire each other. So why bother with the EU at all?

Here's the answer. Because it's difficult to top the joyful, fannish thrill of finding the characters you love, skilfully portrayed by a talented author, resting between the shiny, clean, white cover of an official Star Wars novel.

Not resting, in fact, but brought, laughing and hurting and crying and loving, so perfectly to life, that you have to exclaim your approval out loud, making your family think you’ve gone slightly mad, and you have to stop yourself from racing to finish the book like Mario collecting ding-ding-dinging nuggets of delighted agreement, because you don’t want it to end.

That you have to write an overly-effusive review, in order to communicate this joy, so you don’t explode.

Please excuse me. I love Star Wars.

And I loved Wild Space.

The novel kicks off right after the battle of Geonosis, deftly sketching in our characters before jumping to the aftermath of Christophsis, where a still relatively freshly knighted Anakin, together with his anomalous padawan are sent on a mission to chase General Grievous. Obi-Wan, riding, (well what do you think he might be riding, fellow McGregor fans?) gets himself involved in a bit of an RTA combined with a terrorist bomb, so he’s forced to remain on Coruscant to convalesce. When good old senator Bail Organa alerts the Jedi to intelligence from a source so mysterious it can only possibly be a trap, Obi-Wan is sent to investigate, and, fancying the idea of himself as an adventurer, Bail insists on going too.

Two stubborn men. One tiny space ship. It's a recipe for conflict, grumpiness and bickering, of that kind that, if this were fanfic, would have to end in sex. And that's before they get stranded on the remote (wild space) planet of Zigoola. But this isn't fanfic, so all we get, in the end, is manly, silent, mutual respect. And that's okay by me. I've always thought the getting there should be the good bit anyway.

Putting Bail and Obi-Wan together like this is a clever idea. First, we get to learn more about Leia's adoptive daddy: a hero in his own right, a man born into privilege who still feels the need to prove himself. Second, we get to see the Jedi, and Obi-Wan in particular, from an outsider's point of view. And third, we witness the genesis of the trust and friendship Bail and Obi-Wan must have by the time of Episode III. This makes their arguments entertaining, instead of annoying, because we know they must end up liking each other.

The book isn't perfect, of course. Obi-Wan and Bail's adventure is a little repetitive, or monotonous in places, and a handful of words get repeated oddly too. Bail says vape a lot. People consider each other a lot. And I don't quite believe Padme really would have been sent into such dangerous territory to collect her two beleaguered ‘boys’. Although I'll ignore the niggle of doubt, because it's worth it just for her to call them that. And to see her reaction to the state they're both in.

As I mentioned, there's plenty of those little ding-ding-ding nuggets of joy. A likeable Palpatine. One of those "Obi-Wan's fighting Anakin" Matrix-eqsue scenes you know must have happened. Moments of humour too. Bail's wry thought to himself when he finally reaches the Sith Temple after three days of hell: if the kriffing thing’s locked, I’m going to look like a fool. Obi-Wan's two words to Anakin, describing what must have been one of the worst experiences of the Jedi Master's life. Moderately uneventful.

It's tempting to list them all, but on the off chance you're reading this to decide whether to get the book, I won't. I don't want to spoil it for you.

I'd just like to quote one more line, from Obi-Wan’s frustrated musings while stuck on that claustrophobic ship, away from the centre of action, unable to help his fellow Jedi.

The life of a contemplative is certainly not for me.

Oh Obi-Wan. And there you have it: the heartbreak referred to in the book's dedication, in that single, poignant, resonating line.

Possibly more heartbreak than the novel's evocative description of a close-to-death, nearly mad, Force-deprived Obi-Wan, struggling valiantly to beat the Sith voice whispering, like a lover in his ear, for him to DIE JEDI DIE.

Which reminds me. A lover, Obi-Wan? And how would you know what one sounds like, eh?

You old devil. ♥

Buy this book. Read this book. Fan's remorse? I can't guarantee you won't get it. We all have different opinions, after all. But if you hate this book, don't bother coming to tell me. You are definitely wrong.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
char_usa
Jan. 7th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Hi Anne----I think you loved this book, Anne----
I hope I get the chance to read it...

Thanks for the recommendation....
calmer_sky
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
How could you tell? Heehee.

Hope you enjoy it!
noobianrose
Jan. 8th, 2009 05:19 am (UTC)
Wow. What an exciting review. And a wonderful insight into the SW fandom and the fans that surround it. I couldn't agree more with the latter. I hope to read the former ASAP!
calmer_sky
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I was a bit giddy when I wrote it :)

I'm sure you'll love it!
pronker
Jan. 8th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)
Exquisite review! And I stand in agreement. I'm still on a high two days after finishing it.

"for me, personally, it's all about the characters." (in literature, and the special effects, visually. Give me an orange sky and I'm happy.
Someday there'll be an underwater live-action sci-fi movie that meets my criteria. With Merbiwan in it, per icon.)
calmer_sky
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
OMG. That's cool... and terrifying.

Other than the characters I ideally like stuff to be set as far away as possible. So I get your orange sky thing.
generale_kenobi
Jan. 8th, 2009 09:43 am (UTC)
I still have to read the book -- I was informed yesterday by Amazon UK that it has been shipped -- but I totally agree with you on a point: books, especially when they are 'spin-off' of movies or series, are all about characters.

That's one of the reasons I usually prefer to read fanfiction instead of professional novels. Many a time in the past, as a SW lover and a former Star Trek fan, I read professional novels that disappointed me terribly, for the authors didn't flesh out the characters I wanted to read about. They didn't give the readers nothing new, merely repeating what was saw in the movies/series or, worse, created original characters that ended up being the real "heroes" of the tale.

The same goes with movie novelizations...One of my greatest disappointment so far has been the "Gladiator" novelization, which adds absolutely NOTHING to what was seen in the movie (which I loved). To the contrary, Stover's ROTS novelization is a masterpiece...because it is all about the characters.

Fanfiction stories sometimes might be badly written, be OOC, or sport "Mary Sues" but, usually, they are all about the characters we, as readers and fans, want to read about-- and this is why I read them.

I look forward to getting this book!
calmer_sky
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
I think in sci-fi there's a tendency against fully-fleshed out characters, and more towards clever ideas or settings. Having said that, it's seeing the characters in action that often makes me love them in the first place.

Gladiator is one of my favourite films, but I haven't read the book. So now I know not to bother! I love Commodus, and have even read some fic about him, but never get very far.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just as bad as people who read celebrity magazines, wanting to know about the personal lives of my heroes. :) But I suppose, the difference is, they're heroes, so it's fair enough to be intrigued as to what makes them tick.

Enjoy the book! I think your characterisation of Obi-Wan matches it more closely than any other fanfic writer I've read. In fact I'm in the middle of reading your latest, and when I writing this I couldn't remember whether some of the bits I remembered were from your story instead!
generale_kenobi
Jan. 8th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder if I'm just as bad as people who read celebrity magazines, wanting to know about the personal lives of my heroes. :) But I suppose, the difference is, they're heroes, so it's fair enough to be intrigued as to what makes them tick.

I don't think so...Aside the fact we are talking about fictional characters, there is nothing bad in wanting to read about them and wishing to see them written in a convincing way. There is nothing wrong in wanting to read more about them... thoughts, emotions etc. When they are written well, they become more real. I care about the characters I love and I wish to know more about them...I feel a great emphaty toward certain fictional characters and I have this need to know more about them and to get myself in their shoes, so to speak. Just a few minutes ago, I watched an episode of my favourite TV series ever, "NCIS", on Youtube (season 6 is airing in the USA, but I won't see it here in Italy till next autumn) and almost burst in tears when it my favourite character remembered how he met his late wife...I was totally in sync with his emotions... Emphaty is good to me as a writer but makes me sooo emotional when I find a character that really moves me...

And speaking of Gladiator, you know, my first ever SW story was a crossover with Gladiator...Due to an abnormality (oh, how I love sci-fi!!!) Obi-Wan is sucked in our Galaxy and meets Maximus. It's amazing how many things in common these two men have!

Enjoy the book! I think your characterisation of Obi-Wan matches it more closely than any other fanfic writer I've read. In fact I'm in the middle of reading your latest, and when I writing this I couldn't remember whether some of the bits I remembered were from your story instead!

Why, thank you! This is a great compliment! :) Oh BTW, did you remember when you mentioned the desire to read a Sith! Obi-Wan story with no redemption in the end? Well, I've just finished it...I think I might end dedicating it to you, since you first put the idea in my mind. ;P
calmer_sky
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
I remember that Gladiator crossover story! It was one of the first I ever read. I was probably lurking back then, and not commenting. But I remember enjoying it!

Oh wow! There's not enough sith!Obi-Wan stories in this world... and without redemption, well, that's very exciting. And you might dedicate it to me? Aww, no one's ever done that before, thank you! :)

Haha. I've used far to many exclaimation points in this comment... :D
calmer_sky
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, and Stover = genius.
jedisakora
Jan. 8th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Brilliant review. I absolutely agree with you and what your saying about about fans having certain exceptions of characters. I just finished reading the movie adaptation of the clone wars movie and it was horrible! I've liked some of my textbooks more.

I'm only in the very beginning of Wild space and i already loving it. I love it how Karen Miller is bringing about some information that was in the Jedi Apprentice book ( although some parts of the series i like to pretend didn't exsist cough *siri* cough.) I'm also liking no-nonsense Yoda. He's really telling it like it is. The only thing that confusing me so far is the Jedi Healing trance. I've never seen it mentioned before and it's thrown me off. Course i'm just now getting back into the fandom after being absent for 7-8 years because of Harry Potter so it could have been mentioned before.
calmer_sky
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's amazing how much variety there is. I've not read many of the Jedi Apprentice books at all, far more fanfiction in fact so I'm not sure about the trance thingy... I suppose it just seemed plausible to me so I went with it.
generale_kenobi
Jan. 19th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
Got the book...
...and I'm liking it a lot so far.

I've read up to the scene where the Councils say to Obi-Wan he can go and see Dex.

Up to this, I especially liked the Geonosis aftermath (when Obi-Wan, going against Yoda's orders decides Anakin needs a friends)and the sparring session in front of Ashoka.

Instead I would like to:

1) hit Yoda with his gimer stick for telling Obi-wan it is HIS fault if Anakin has hots for Padme because he did not prevent it, when, in ATOC, Obi-Wan is basically told to shut up by Yoda and Windu when he says Anakin is not ready to go to Naboo, alone, with Padme.

2) I would like to shake Padme so hard her teeth would rattle. I never liked her very much -- I just tollerate her in well written Obidalas -- but now, after reading how she behaved when Obi-Wan told her to stay away from Anakin, I despise her. She has lost all my respect. What an idiot! If, at least, she had told Obi-Wan what had happened on Tatooine!

You know, she deserves what happened to her, I'm just sorry the Jedi had to pay the price of her stupidity...
calmer_sky
Jan. 28th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Got the book...
Hee! Cute icon.

So I suppose you've probably finished it by now (I've been away). Good point about Yoda, I noticed a couple of other places were it's carefully pointed out that he's responsible for certain things that we know lead to problems later. Someone has to be responsible.

Oh no though, poor Padme! I know what you mean, but I think she behaved like that a)because she's hopelessly in love with Anakin and b) she has no respect for the way the Jedi live, how detached they have to be, and I agree with her actually, to a certain extent. However, after Obi-Wan literally admitted he loved Anakin (♥), I'm surprised she didn't give his advice a little more credibility. I like her flawed though, or even totally screwed up. Makes her more interesting!
lealynnkenobi
Apr. 1st, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
You're review is awesome!

I finished reading the book, and still at night when I lay down to sleep, I open up and re-read pages here and there.

I think I should of invested in a hardback, considering that it is getting to look like a worn out book. LOL

Karen Miller is an A+ author. And I honestly can't say enough good things about "Wild Space". I can't believe she has an LJ site. OMG, I'm still freaking out, after reading that.

*still looking for your story*
calmer_sky
Apr. 1st, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I love that book so much, I actually had to write stuff in the margins like OMG Obi-Wan/Anakin LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!. Hee.

I can't wait for her next CW book, whenever that will come out. I might even read her none-SW books!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )