This is a big one – my first Star Wars novel.
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is based on eight unproduced episodes of Clone Wars and features Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos in a secret mission to assassinate Count Dooku. I was half-expecting something that was poorly written, but this was high quality, fast paced and I really enjoyed reading it.
However, and this is a general issue nothing to do with Dark Disciple in particular, t’s actually pretty weird to read Star Wars in prose like this. Each of the various other Expanded Universe mediums that I have consumed Star Wars in – TV series and comic books – are like ersatz film experiences. Both inherently rely on visual storytelling (and also – visual comedy, non-verbal cues, etc) as well as place the reader/viewer in the position of an outsider looking in. Rather than events just happening on the screen/page for us to perceive and decode, a book requires a character or narrator to explain to us these events, which explanation is inevitably tinged with the perceptions and biases of that character. I mean, that’s not absolutely true, visual media can play with our sense of objective reality and a novel can potentially describe events in such a way without a ‘middle man’ – but reading a Star Wars novel in the Star Wars universe is a qualitatively different experience to, say, reading a comic.
For one, we’re privy to a character’s thoughts and feelings in a way that I wasn’t used to. It was strange, for instance, to have Obi-Wan spell out his misgivings and affection for rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos through his internal monologue, because I’d had a totally different interpretation of their relationship from Clone Wars. I’d thought Obi-Wan straight up disliked him but grew a grudging respect for him, however in Dark Disciple its clear that while he finds him unconventional he has quite alot of respect for him.
Two, the issue of the countless alien species and planets of the Star Wars galaxy is sort of frustrating. If you’re like me then you don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Star Wars lore then you’re going to get confused when they start talking about Chagrians and other random species, starships and the like. Sure, you can look them up, but in this case author Christie Golden has introduced a new species which is central to the book called the Mahran. I am not the only one who went searching for a pic to aid my imagination when reading the book. Unfortunately, I found only one example of what the Mahran look like, and now I think they are curvaceous, furry versions of the Flying Purple People Eater. And you miss cool things like, oh Ventress has hair now, what does that look like?
A still from an unfinished story reel from the episodes that became Dark Disciple
Anyway, as I say, Dark Disciple is a a great read and a worthy successor story to the Clone Wars. Its sort of explored towards the end of Clone Wars that the Jedi start to use some methods that they wouldn’t perhaps have used at the start of the war – training terrorist insurgencies for one – and now a straight-up assassination is ordered. Dark Disciple explores the ramifications of that for Vos.
[SPOILERS] The one fault of the book I could point to is more a factor of the overall plotting. Vos is mentioned by Obi-Wan as participating in some battle or other at the start of Revenge of the Sith, his Clone Wars character was built off the back of that reference. Now, the spoilery bit is that Vos falls to the dark side at one point, and actually murders two Jedi knights along with a truckload of clones. The issue I take with this is that he is forgiven by the Jedi (and he always had to be in order to be once again fighting for them at the start of Revenge. There were justifications, however I just didn’t buy these and think the overall trajectory of the story was that Vos, along with Ventress, were both going to die at the end, but Vos was saved by Obi-Wan’s comment.