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Saturday, 15 June 2013

CLASSIC REVIEW: 'STAR WARS - THE CLONE WARS: BREAKOUT SQUAD'



STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS


BREAKOUT SQUAD


A novel by Ryder Windham

Published by PUFFIN BOOKS UK


Reviewed by Scott Weller


It takes all sorts to win a war. And in the STAR WARS universe that saying has never been more true than during the epic three year reign of the Clone Wars conflict. In George Lucas’s diversified universe, humans, aliens and droids mix with tremendous ease, and, as the Republic and Separatists forces begin to tear the universe apart with their war of words and weaponry, all of the people caught in between have to choose a side to fight with, to believe in, to die for. So far, through the films and TV series, we have been at the very forefront of the fighting through the eyes and battle experiences of the main Jedi Council, primarily their Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, and via his Clone Troopers that serve and die for them, and the political system, for better or worse, of which they all serve believing in the greater good. Beyond that, though, are the periphery tales of the Clone Wars battles-of the other not so well known Jedi, Padawan and Master, who number in their thousands, battalions of created new soldiers who join the conflict each day, civilians caught in the middle of it all whether they like it or not (or capitalizing on it all for their own greedy desires and ambitions), spies coming in and out of the dark on hundreds of planets and Separatists enemies believing their way is the right way-also partaking in the galaxy spanning conflict that, only now, are starting to have their own unique tales revealed through the popular and, at times, creatively inspired world of the STAR WARS Expanded Universe of LUCASFILM books, comics, computer games and other avenues. BREAKOUT-the first of a new young readers novel series from Ryder Windham- highlights a diverse group of these new characters caught in the struggle between good and evil, as part of this exciting and still ripe for exploring storytelling environment.

Opening a short time into the start of the Clone Wars, just after the events of the animated TV episode Destroy Malevolence, Clone Trooper “Shinies”, led by Captain Lock, discover a connection from the ruins of the destroyed enemy vessel to that of a possible new Separatist ally-the previously isolationist Kynachi race-a planet that has connections to the Jedi-one in particular, Jedi Master Ring-Sol Ambase, who, having been born there, makes him the perfect choice, alongside the aforementioned “Shinies”, to find out what is going on at this mysterious world, and where his people’s true loyalties lie. Ambase, however, won’t be the only Jedi on this danger-ridden journey. Accompanying him is his very young Padawan learner, Nuru Kungurama (a name very fitting for a Jedi and also very Samurai sounding-perhaps a tribute to the Akira Kurosawa films that George Lucas and Gary Kurtz enjoyed in their USC days?). Adopted by Ambase after his original master was killed at the battle of Geonosis, Nuru’s partaking in the Kynachi mission soon proves essential. Only there’s more to it with this young Padawan- a member of the distant, totally alien, Chiss race (one of whom would later become the skilled Empire tactician Grand Admiral Thrawn from the still resonating 1990’s HEIR TO THE EMPIRE book trilogy), whose unique history has yet to be revealed, and, being strong in resourcefulness and Jedi power, has shown abilities which will soon receive interest from the Dark Side…

Right from the start, BREAKOUT spins a carefully built web through its main story of intrigues, lies, deceptions, and sabotage tied in with bravery, loyalty and action. It moves at a fair old pace, too-after years of writing STAR WARS adventures, Windham knows his stuff and effectively keeps the reader wanting to turn the page, and, most importantly, keeps the spirit of THE CLONE WARS animated series intact within his adventure writing…

This motley collection of new characters assembled by books end (including “Shinies” stand outs like Breaker, Knuckles and Chatterbox-to find out how they get these names you’ll have to read the book!!- and freighter captain Lola Gunn and her trusty navigation droid Teejay) are a likeable bunch with lots of promise, and the set-up reminds me a bit of Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy’s original series plans for THE CLONE WARS animated series when it was conceived with a group of all new, but familiar STAR WARS universe-type figures, rather than using any of Lucas’s own creations. We assume that Windhamhas created this new series as a kind of tribute to that intriguing early idea. To maintain the continuity, and to keep the faithful happy, familiar friends and foes appear from time to time in this first book, too. Cad Bane adds some villainy to the mission-presumably the first of many encounters to come-as do Yoda, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Count Dooku.

The Breakout Squad look set to have many exciting new adventures with Ryder Windham enjoyably at the helm to control their destinies. The adventure closes with a whole host of further book plot lines to be explored before what will likely be a grand, explosive finale. How far into the Clone Wars story-or beyond it-these characters will eventually go, however, is so far unknown.

With its great eye catching action cover by artist Wayne Lo, this is a promising start to the series, and opens new avenues within the ever expanding framework of THE CLONE WARS.

AFICIONADO RATING: A solid adventure yarn for its young target readership. 8 out of 10

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