Star Wars

Suvudu Gateway Series: Jump Into The EU With Shatterpoint


Suvudu Gateway Series: Jump Into The EU With Shatterpoint

The Clone Wars era of the Expanded Universe is vast, and there are many “angles” to take when exploring the conflict. Suvudu’s previous gateway novel, Republic Commando: Hard Contact, told the story of love, loss, victory, betrayal, and strategy from the perspective of an elite Republic clone trooper squad. This month’s gateway pick looks at the Clone Wars from the perspective of a senior member of the Jedi Council and a fan-favorite Jedi Master of the Prequel Trilogy. Matthew Stover’s Shatterpoint focuses on Mace Windu as he takes on his most disturbing mission yet: investigating the disappearance and possible fall to the Dark Side of his former apprentice on his long-forgotten jungle homeworld.

Characters like Mace Windu offer some of the richest storytelling opportunities in the Expanded Universe. These are the people whom the films barely developed, whose personalities we barely glimpsed as they played secondary roles in the events onscreen. Mace Windu is well-known for being a strict and uncompromising Jedi; another word for him rhymes with “card brass.” Still, there must be a more complicated individual beneath that impenetrably tough outer persona, right?

Absolutely right. And Shatterpoint gives readers a close (and sometimes worrying) look at that previously-unseen side of Mace Windu as he faces challenges that are uniquely suited to both his greatest talents and his deepest fears.

Before I discuss what makes Shatterpoint such an accessible novel for EU newcomers, here are some key details about the book.

Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover

An initial hardcover, was released in paperback on June 3, 2003

Set in the Clone Wars era, 21.5 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin, the destruction of the Death Star as seen in the original film)

Characters

Publisher’s synopsis

“The Jedi are keepers of the peace. We are not soldiers.”
—MACE WINDU
Star Wars
Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Mace Windu is a living legend: Jedi Master, senior member of the Jedi Council, skilled diplomat, devastating fighter. Some say he is the deadliest man alive. But he is a man of peace—and for the first time in a thousand years, the galaxy is at war.

Now, following the momentous events climaxing in the Battle of Geonosis, Master Mace Windu must undertake a perilous homecoming to his native world—to defuse a potentially catastrophic crisis for the Republic . . . and to confront a terrifying mystery with dire personal consequences.

The jungle planet of Haruun Kal, the homeworld Mace barely remembers, has become a battleground in the increasing hostilities between the Republic and the renegade Separatist movement. The Jedi Council has sent Depa Billaba—Mace’s former Padawan and fellow Council member—to Haruun Kal to train the local tribesmen as a guerilla resistance force, to fight against the Separatists who control the planet and its strategic star system with their droid armies. But now the Separatists have pulled back, and Depa has not returned. The only clue to her disappearance is a cryptic recording left at the scene of a brutal massacre: a recording that hints of madness and murder, and the darkness in the jungle . . . a recording in Depa’s own voice.

Mace Windu trained her. Only he can find her. Only he can learn what has changed her. Only he can stop her.

Jedi were never intended to be soldiers. But now they have no choice. Mace must journey alone into the most treacherous jungle in the galaxy—and into his own heritage. He will leave behind the Republic he serves, the civilization he believes in, everything but his passion for peace and his devotion to his former Padawan. And he will learn the terrible price that must be paid, when keepers of the peace are forced to make war. . . .

An exclusive first look at a scene from the novel painted by Chris Scalf. The painting will appear in the book Star Wars: The Essential Reader's Companion.

An exclusive first look at a scene from the novel painted by Chris Scalf. The painting will appear in the book Star Wars: The Essential Reader's Companion.

Why is this a good gateway book? Why does it “matter” to Star Wars?

As a huge fan of Mace Windu, I wasn’t sure what I liked best about this book: the fact that we learned so much about Mace that made him a more nuanced character, or the fact that the those revelations (and his experiences in the book) have such huge ramifications in the Prequel Trilogy. Right from the start of the novel, we see him fraught with concern and guilt about the uncertain fate of his former Padawan, Jedi Master Depa Billaba. These emotions are not ones we would normally associate with a character portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, whose alternate initials could very well be “B.M.F.,”. In essence, Shatterpoint shatters the clean, simplified picture of Mace Windu that the films presented.

By the time the book is over, readers will know a lot more about Mace Windu’s personal history, but more importantly, they will better understand why he, more so than any other member of the Jedi Council, harbored suspicions and misgivings about Anakin Skywalker’s place in the Order. While Shatterpoint takes place after Windu first expresses these doubts, his mission to Haruun Kal gives him occasion to muse about the Jedi way and the dangers of sidestepping or abandoning it. It is these musings that surely guided him in The Phantom Menace, just as it will be the Haruun Kal that reinforces those musings in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Shatterpoint begins with an excerpt from Mace’s private diary that explores his regret at not taking certain actions on Geonosis as the war broke out. The book as a whole opens up his character in a way that the Prequel movies never did. It shows us his regrets, his self-doubts, his fears, and his temptations. Ultimately, Shatterpoint exposes Mace Windu in ways that would have seemed unthinkable after watching him deliver my personal favorite line of Star Wars dialog, “This party’s over,” and subsequently roaring into battle on the Geonosian sand. The juxtaposition there –– between his impressive performance in that battle and the regrets he has about missed opportunities on Geonosis –– forms a central component of the book’s depiction of Mace Windu. This perilous new time for the Jedi Order is also a time in which Mace is constantly second-guessing himself, and his encounter with Master Billaba on Haruun Kal only makes things worse in that respect.

A corollary to the way that Shatterpoint explores Mace is its unique perspective on Yoda. His relationship with Mace was always an intriguing aspect of the prequel trilogy films –– just how did the two most powerful Jedi on the Council interact? Even though Yoda isn’t a main character in the novel, the fact that his interactions come to us through Mace’s eyes means that we see a unique side of him here. The way these two Jedi Masters converse about the Dark Side –– especially how it’s strangling their Force sensitivity –– is core to understanding the state of the Jedi Order at this point in history. Mace seems to be the only man with whom Yoda has these conversations about the future of their Order, and because of how candid and serious their discussions are, Shatterpoint offers readers a new window into the decay and uncertainty that have seized the Order.

In addition to exploring the less-publicized sides to Mace Windu’s character, the book also connects the Clone Wars to the fall of the Jedi Order, in that it explores the interference of the Dark Side in the Jedi way of life. Given that the “shroud of the Dark Side” that Yoda mentioned in Episode II is emanating from a hidden Sith Lord for the purpose of controlling the war, the Dark Side’s effects on Jedi generals has major ramifications for the outcome of the conflict. Even though we already know how the war ends, it’s great to have books like Shatterpoint that delve deep into the specific consequences of militarism on the Jedi way of life.

The novel’s premise –– that an experienced Jedi loses herself in the jungle and seemingly becomes the very kind of evil that she sought to root out –– is both a fresh storyline for the Clone Wars era and a clever metaphorical frame that gets to the heart of the galaxy’s eternal conflict between light and dark. Depa Billaba says, “I have become the darkness in the jungle,” and that remark haunts Mace for the rest of the book. Where did he go wrong, he asks himself. How could the darkness have swallowed such a promising young Jedi? What was so appealing about life in the jungle? Most importantly, is it possible that the jungle of politics and strike teams and death tolls and acceptable losses will soon swallow the entire Jedi Order? These are the questions that Master Billaba’s disappearance raises in Mace’s mind, and his numerous journal entries while on the hunt for his former Padawan show us that he’s grappling with them.

Mace’s adventure on Haruun Kal reinforces what he told Chancellor Palpatine in Attack of the Clones: “We’re keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” For all of the action in Shatterpoint, there is also a lot of contemplation. Mace reflects, mostly through his journal entries, on how his mission is changing him and how (or even if) he can hold onto his identity in the midst of what he is seeing and doing. The action scenes were enjoyable enough, but these internal monologues were what really impressed me. One of my favorite things about the Prequel Trilogy was watching the Jedi grapple with their new role as military leaders and seeing how their ability to adapt pretty well to that role ultimately compromised their core values. Shatterpoint is a case study in Jedi militarism taken to the extreme and the consequences of that behavior.

There are clear lessons for the Jedi Order in the outcome of Mace’s Haruun Kal mission. It isn’t spoiling anything about the plot to say that Mace undoubtedly grew more suspicious of Anakin Skywalker after returning home to Coruscant. From his black robes to his embrace of Jedi generalship, Anakin represented dangers that Mace had just recently experienced firsthand. Any fan who has closely tracked Anakin’s many mistakes and failings will see more than a hint of his future in the actions of Master Billaba. Using the menacing physicality of the jungle and phrases like “blood fever,” Matthew Stover explores what it looks like when a Jedi allows the ends to justify the means and chooses gratification over control. Consider this warning that Mace receives and carries with him throughout the novel: “You don’t use pelekotan. Pelekotan uses you.” The sinister nature of this pelekotan –– which literally means “jungle-mind” –– makes it a perfect stand-in for (or perhaps minor permutation of) the Dark Side of the Force. By submitting completely to the pelekotan, Master Billaba essentially foreshadowed Anakin’s most egregious mistake.

Set in the middle of the Clone Wars and drawing heavily from an Apocalypse Now vibe, Shatterpoint goes beyond the simple good-Jedi-gone-bad theme and explores the psychological effects of anger and violence on a peacekeeper’s psyche. If you like thought-provoking Star Wars books with great but underdeveloped characters, Shatterpoint is the Expanded Universe gateway novel for you.


Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He reviews The Clone Wars TV series and manages social media for Star Wars fan site TheForce.Net. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.


5 Responses to “Suvudu Gateway Series: Jump Into The EU With Shatterpoint”

  1. Es says:

    This is the best one yet. (applause)

  2. Andrew Jordan says:

    I’m not sure I entirely agree. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of it, but i only read the first 114 pages of it. It was hard for me to get through the rest, so I just put it down and decided to read Cloak of Deception instead. That was a pretty god novel as well. You meet a lot of the members of the Jedi Council that are in Episode 1. Though I’m not a huge fan of the novel, I do understand how it could be a gateway novel. Maybe not the best gateway novel, but defiantly a possibility.

  3. J Burns says:

    I couldn’t disagree more, actually. I had just recently read both of Suvudu’s recommendations for this & Hard Contact as I have been getting back into the EU after a several year hiatus. Hard Contact was great, but this… is something else entirely. At a whopping 410 pages, this novel could have easily been cut in half. And what a snore and a half it was! I’ve not had this much trouble getting through a SW Novel since The Crystal Star.

    Mace continues to make one bad decision after another at the expense of others lives. ‘Why didn’t I kill Count Dooku?’ He makes the same exact mistake with the Kar Vastor character here! And it seems as though Mace continues to over complicate things in the name of ‘keeping the peace’, yet he has no problem getting into several physical altercations & border line ‘blood fever’ the entire way.

    The overall message was not worth this long-ass read: War is Bad. The only interesting insightfulness comes from the crazed Depa BiIllaba when she states that War will kill the Jedi, as it is against their very beliefs. The POV journal entries were entirely unnecessary. If you want a good POV novel, pick up I, Jedi.

    NOT recommended for the casual reader, especially as a ‘Gateway Novel’.

  4. I agree with your assesment – at first, I thought \no way is this a gateway book\ but you’ve convinced me. It’s one of my favorites for it’s complexity and blunt question.

    What happens to peacekeepers when they are forced to make war?

    Thank you for your review!

  5. Sigmund Shen says:

    Nice essay — I agree that it’s an excellent gateway novel and a great story period. My only reservation is that after starting with such a high point, a lot of other books in the wildly inconsistent EU will seem shallow and boring. A point is deducted for saying it has an Apocalypse Now vibe — that’s true, but it would be more accurate to give credit to Joseph Conrad.

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