From water we’re born, in fire we die. We seed the stars.
-Funeral for a clone trooper
The Clone Wars continue….
The war is going well for the Republic, but the fabled Jedi Knights are being stretched thin, called upon to do too many things. For example: Obi-Wan Kenobi is called back to Coruscant, capital world of the Republic, along with his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker. However, the two are parted as they have separate paths to walk: Anakin to study at the Jedi Temple, and Obi-Wan is to attend a demonstration of a new style of battle droid. This type of droid is a JK series droid; some believe that JK stands for “Jedi Killer”. Obi-Wan, along with Kit Fisto-another Jedi Master on the cover of the book-is about to be sent to the world of Ord Cestus to attempt to engage in diplomacy with the manufacturers of the JK droids to prevent the sale of such droids to the Confederacy of Independent Systems. This is the lead in to the story of The Cestus Deception, a novel set six months after the events of Shatterpoint.
The missions of the two Jedi have a similar end goal, but a different means to achieve them. The Supreme Chancellor does not want the Confederacy to get a hold of those battle droids, machines capable of matching the skills of a Jedi (Kit Fisto does a good job on demonstrating that a Jedi can defeat such a droid very early, but war is rarely one-on-one battles). Obi-Wan attempts the diplomatic approach, with the assistance of Doob Snoil, a barrister from the Coruscant College of Law, as he tries to wade through planetary law and the Five Families of Cestus Cybernetics, the producers of the droids. He also needs to send the message that Count Dooku is not the best fellow to throw in with. Kit Fisto has a somewhat different plan, and it’s meant to go into effect if Obi-Wan fails: basically, he’s going to quietly set up a popular revolt among the poor farmers against the Families. To help him, he brings along a small group of clone troopers, including one Advance Recon Commando-one of a dozen elite troopers, one of the few trained by their genetic template, Jango Fett.
Unknown to the Jedi, though, they aren’t the only ones going to Ord Cestus. A commander of the Separatists is also there-one who has a special hatred of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and is known for using a pair of lightsabers….
Unlike Shatterpoint, this book doesn’t center on the brutality of the war; this one’s more intrigue, because warfare isn’t going to get either the Republic or the Confederacy what it wants. Obi-Wan’s portion of the book tends to center on the diplomacy aspect; and to be fair, he does a reasonable job considering it’s not his strongest point. Unfortunately for him, he’s got to deal with the intrigues of the Five Families and the aforementioned commander behind the scenes, and they’ve had more practice. Kit Fisto, in comparison, has it easy: he has a real gift for rabble-rousing! His covert activities give him a flexibility that Obi-Wan can use if he needs it.
The strongest point of this book is one I’ve been hoping to read on ever since Episode Two came out: the point of view of a clone trooper-in this case, the ARC trooper using the designation A-98 (or “Nate”). Through this character, we see some of the conflicts a clone trooper goes through-more, we get to see the opinions they have of the Republic, the Jedi, and Jango Fett (it’ll come as no surprise that they don’t know everything about Jango). Nate also undergoes a crisis of his own when he meets someone from Fett’s past. The ARC trooper’s mindset is unique (well, not totally-it’s shared by a million or so clones), but as the story goes on, he finds that he questions some very basic assumptions about who he is…and who he wants to be.
I found The Cestus Deception to be a less intense book than Shatterpoint, but closer to what I’d consider a traditional Star Wars novel, at least for this era. It doesn’t take place on the front lines of the Clone Wars, but it demonstrates that the war proceeds on many fronts, and the battlefield is only one part of it.