In storytelling, nothing is a given, the astonishing becomes commonplace, and one learns to expect the unexpected. But when people of understanding and goodwill come together, a happy ending is usually assured.
I was speaking of storytelling, Master. Not reality.
One is but a reflection of the other, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell which is the original and which the mirror image.
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight, and his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker
As I write this, there is a little over two months to go before Star Wars Episode Two is released to theaters. In anticipation of that, we have what could be considered the introduction to the movie in the form of the newest hardcover, The Approaching Storm. From what the inside cover flap seems to indicate, this books ends about two minutes before Attack of the Clones begins.
Another interesting aside is that this book is written by Alan Dean Foster. He has an important place in Star Wars fiction-if I recall correctly, he wrote the original novelization of Star Wars, and wrote the first original novel based on that movie, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. So it’s pretty neat to see him write a new Star Wars book after all this time.
It has been a number of years since the death of Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul, since Anakin Skywalker entered into the service of the Jedi Knights. Now, Anakin has grown up, and has become strong in the Force under the tutelage of his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi (although still a Padawan learner). The Republic, on the other hand, is continuing a slow deterioration, in spite of the best efforts of the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Several worlds are on the verge of withdrawing from the Republic, and there are some in the Commerce Guild and the Senate who would like to hurry the process along…so that they can increase their own personal power.
Key to that strategy is the world of Ansion; an unimportant world on the surface, but with key alliances that would pull many worlds away from the Republic if it were to withdraw itself-an event which is beginning to look certain. To try to avoid this, the Jedi Council sends two of its order (along with Padawans) to see if they can’t find a way to keep Ansion from seceding. Needless to say, Obi-Wan and Anakin are among them. Also needless to say, there are those who not only want them to fail, and are willing to go to some effort to insure that result.
The Approaching Storm is a rather enjoyable novel; it sets up the upcoming movie nicely without giving me much in the way of clues as to the full plot of what’s coming (anyone who does know, don’t bother emailing me! I’d like to keep the surprises intact), and it gives us a good peek into not just Obi-Wan and Anakin’s personalities, but also the personalities of other Jedi Knights-in this case, Luminara Unduli and her Padawan, Bariss Offee. Foster does an excellent job of showcasing the different personalities, even though they have the same goals. And while one might expect serious foreshadowing of Anakin’s dark fate, we don’t get anything so obvious here; we get in fact an image of a young man who is something between a Jedi and a typical young adult who is still growing up.
Foster also does a nice job on fully realizing the world of Ansion; not just of the civilizations on it (although conflicts between city-dwellers and nomadic folk are often staples in fiction), but of the natural world. Indeed, some of the toughest problems that the Jedi face are not evil Senators or Sith Lords, but the native wildlife. We also get a good sample of a couple ways to try to deal with Jedi if you don’t exactly agree with them (one method I’d actually seen before in-of all things-a David Eddings fantasy book).
All in all, I found this book to be rather approachable, and an excellent setup for Attack of the Clones. I’ll be most interested in seeing how neatly it fits into the movie when it is released. I’d have to say that this is the best of the Old Republic novels to date, and well worth reading.