- Author: Steven Barnes
- 398 pages
- Published in 2004
- Placement in Timeline: 21 BBY (About one year after Attack of the Clones)
What It’s About:
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Kit Fisto are sent on a mission to Ord Cestus, a seemingly insignificant planet that has suddenly become important to both The Republic and the Separatists. The Republic has discovered that Cestus Cybernetics has created a “JK Droid”–a Jedi Killer droid that makes use of native eels that are Force-sensitive (weird, but okay). These droids, if sold to the Separatists, could turn the tide of the Clone Wars against the Republic.
Obi-Wan and Kit are sent to Cestus to speak with the rulers of the planet to keep them from selling the droids to anyone, let alone the Separatists, but their government is complicated, and their economy is dependent on Cestus Cybernetics.
The planet is mostly run by the ruling Five Families, who control various aspects of the manufacturing business on the planet. There is a High Council led by G’Mai Duris, an X’Ting (a native insect-like species who are the original race of the planet), but she doesn’t have much real power.
The plan is to have Obi-Wan go to the city of ChikatLik to speak with G’Mai and the rulers of Cestus to try to come up with a solution diplomatically; he is accompanied by Snoil, a snail-like being called a Vippet, who is some sort of legal genius. Meanwhile Kit is dropped off with a small contingent of clones in the desert outside the city. Kit is to make contact with Desert Wind, a resistance group that has traditionally fought against the Five Families and their control of power. If Obi-Wan’s diplomatic efforts fail, then Kit is to use Desert Wind to make trouble for the Five Families in an effort to get them into a position to negotiate.
But all of their efforts are continually foiled by Asajj Ventress, who has secretly come to the planet on behalf of Count Dooku, who not only wishes to utilize the JK droids in the war, but to also convince Cestus to secede from the Republic and join the Separatist cause.
This is a big, complex book with a lot of characters; usually books like this frustrate me or I don’t like them very much, but I really liked this one. It doesn’t hurt that it heavily involves Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is why I bought the book in the first place (along with two other Obi-centric books, Rogue Planet and The Approaching Storm. There aren’t many Canon books that deal with Obi-Wan besides Master and Apprentice, so I must turn to Legends).
I haven’t read much concerning Kit Fisto, either, so it was nice reading a book that showcased this interesting Jedi that I only knew vaguely from the movies. He and Obi-Wan work well together, and are similar in many ways: a strong sense of honor and integrity; thoughtfulness, wisdom, insight. Excellent lightsaber skills, of course. The usual things that make Jedi, well, Jedi. But Kit seems a bit more enthusiastic about combat, or at least possesses a more pronounced readiness to engage in it, than Obi-Wan.
I also loved that we get a point of view character from one of the clones, a commando called Nate; I love any insight we get into the clones, their psyche, their modus operandi. Nate meets a woman named Sheeka Tull, a Republic contact on Cestus, and she challenges his idea of who he is, what he’s meant to do, even his entire existence. Soul-searching clones are fascinating to me, simply because of the very nature of their existence: one of millions that are genetically identical. How do you find a sense of self in such a situation? The clones have a strong sense of brotherhood, and differentiate themselves by choosing names, and making small changes in their appearance. But the fact that they were “manufactured” for a single purpose–war–makes for some interesting existential questioning. I loved his story arc.
I found the X’Ting a fascinating species, in that every three years they switch genders. How’s that for challenging your sense of self? The X’Ting are a strong, proud, capable people who have endured centuries of decline as offworlders slowly took power from them (Cestus was originally a prison facility, and the other denizens of the planet are descended from them) and they decreased in number.
G’Mai is Regent of Cestus, but it’s an empty title; she’s merely an instrument of the Five Families, as are the members of the X’Ting High Council. She comes to like and trust Obi-Wan, and vice versa, but in the course of negotiations, Obi-Wan is forced to deceive her, which leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Throughout the book, Obi-Wan continually has a bad feeling about the mission, about the way the Republic is dealing with it, and with politics in general. As usual, he gets the feeling that there’s something rotten in Denmark, but he can’t put his finger on it. The Republic, and the Jedi, are losing their way, and we know how it will all culminate.
Asajj Ventress is basically there to throw a wrench into the Jedi’s plans, and she does this admirably. She’s a great character, and I wish there was a bit more of her here.
Anyway, I thought this was a great book, entertaining, insightful, with plenty of action throughout. I have to mention here, however, that–again–there were some native giant spiders that lived in the mountains. What is it with Star Wars and the giant spiders???? Enough already! Despite this, I give it four lightsabers.
Rating: 4 out of 5 lightsabers