The fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars began on September 29th, and fans are anticipating more action, more character development, and more drama than ever before. (If you’ve seen the trailer that debuted at Celebration VI, you’ll know what I mean.) Anyone who has seen the preceding four seasons is well-prepared for the fifth, but the Expanded Universe offers several literary “hooks” into the animated action that enhance the weekly stories. With the new season of The Clone Wars just under way, Unbound Worlds is highlighting Karen Miller’s tie-in novel The Clone Wars: Wild Space. The book is jam-packed with extra information about major characters and storylines, first-person perspectives on some of the enduring conflicts of this era, and nods toward the drama that is unfolding in the series.
Anakin and Padmé’s secret marriage? That’s in here. Obi-Wan’s complicated relationship with his headstrong “Chosen One” Padawan? That’s in here too. The slow corruption of the Jedi Order and the role of the elusive Darth Sidious in its downfall? Wild Space has some of the best exposition of that topic in the entire Expanded Universe. In short, this book is an excellent read for diehard fans of The Clone Wars and Star Wars literature newbies alike.
Before I launch into why you should start your EU experience with Wild Space, here are some key details about the book.
Wild Space by Karen Miller
Available in trade paperback and eBook formats.
Set in the Clone Wars era, 21 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin, the destruction of the Death Star as seen in the original film)
- Mas Amedda
- Padmé Amidala
- Jar Jar Binks
- CT-7567 (“Rex”)
- Vokara Che
- Adi Gallia
- Dexter Jettster
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Eeth Koth
- Talia Moonseeker
- Bail Prestor Organa
- Breha Organa
- Oppo Rancisis
- Anakin Skywalker
- Ahsoka Tano
- Saesee Tiin
- Mace Windu
- Wullf Yularen
The Clone Wars have exploded across the galaxy as Republic forces and Separatists struggle to gain the upper hand. But while the Jedi generals work tirelessly to defeat Count Dooku and his rebels, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is hatching his own dark plans.
The Separatists have launched a sneak attack on Coruscant. Obi-Wan Kenobi, wounded in battle, insists that Anakin Skywalker and his rookie Padawan Ahsoka leave on a risky mission against General Grievous. But when Senator Bail Organa reveals explosive intelligence that could turn the tide of war in the Republic’s favor, the Jedi Master agrees to accompany him to an obscure planet on the Outer Rim to verify the facts. What Obi-Wan and Bail don’t realize is that they’re walking into a deadly trap concocted by Palpatine . . . and that escape may not be an option.
Inspired by the full-length animated feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the brand-new TV series, this thrilling adventure is filled with provocative, never-before-revealed insights into the characters of Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padmé, Yoda, Count Dooku, and many other Star Wars favorites.
Why is this a good gateway book? Why does it “matter” to Star Wars?
If you enjoy Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network, this book is, quite simply, a must-read. It’s a great companion novel to the animated series because it features a feast of back-story, character development, unique insight, and explanatory material. Major themes that resonate throughout the Clone Wars era but are only briefly glimpsed on the show will receive detailed treatment in this book, and the format allows fans to get much more depth and insight from those moments than is the case in the course of a TV show.
Before the story’s main mission is even underway, the novel delves into themes and aspects of the Clone Wars that play essential roles in the era. The Anakin/Padmé love story receives heavy attention, with the focus mostly on its secrecy and how that is affecting all parties –– not just the lovers, but the Jedi Order and the Galactic Senate themselves. How much do the Jedi know? This book goes into that, just as it seems The Clone Wars Season 5 will.
In a point of extreme foreshadowing, Yoda orders Obi-Wan to talk to Padmé and tell her to end whatever she has with Anakin. This action immediately raised several questions in my mind, questions that I think it is important to consider as we prepare for the confrontations of TCW Season 5. Why did Yoda not send Obi-Wan to Anakin? What does it say that the Jedi think that Padmé is the more mature one in the relationship? Do they already fear triggering Anakin’s known attachment issues?
Branching off from the conversation in which Yoda gives Obi-Wan this order is another excellent plotline that has received little attention in the animated series but that is crucial to understanding the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi during this time period. Yoda tells Obi-Wan that he was nervous about Obi-Wan training Anakin because Obi-Wan shares his apprentice’s flaw of attachment. When Yoda sends Obi-Wan to talk to Padmé, he says that Obi-Wan knows firsthand how important it is to break off these types of engagements. He cites the example of Siri Tachi, a memory that stirs a sense of urgency in Obi-Wan: he knows he must help Anakin avert disaster just as he averted it himself.
Yoda’s role in the Obi-Wan/Anakin story is central to the opening chapters of this book. He advises Obi-Wan about how best to help Anakin once he realizes that he cannot continue seeing Padmé. However, he also reprimands Obi-Wan for failing to pay closer attention to the two of them and says he should be a Master to Anakin, not a friend. Overall, in the first part of the book, the aftermath of Geonosis –– the physical and psychological damage –– is fresh in a way that you don’t see in most books set during this era. And that’s just Part One!
Part Two of Wild Space is chock full of great material that sets the stage for later seasons of The Clone Wars and ultimately Revenge of the Sith. Several broad brushstrokes branch out from the initial pages of the main portion of the book. For example, there are Obi-Wan’s reflections on the state of the Jedi Order. His thoughts are similar to Mace’s –– he too senses that the Order has lost focus –– but readers also get to hear his thoughts on Mace himself: “He has changed since Geonosis,” Obi-Wan observes during a Council meeting. “Dooku’s defection to the dark side has changed him. And the deaths of so many Jedi, whom he could not protect. I have never known him so cautious, so suspicious. So willing to see danger in every shadow.” In that same Council meeting, Obi-Wan senses that the Order has been thrown off-balance by the recent betrayal of Count Dooku: “The echoes caused by Dooku’s willing fall were a long way from fading.”
As the focal point of so much activity in this novel, it’s only natural that Anakin would receive an immense amount of character development within its pages. Fans of the way that Anakin is changing on The Clone Wars will appreciate the fact that Wild Space offers a chance to step back and look at the way a younger Anakin handled emotional challenges. His attachment issue becomes clear when he rescues Obi-Wan from a terrorist strike. His internal monologue during that scene reflects his fear of losing the closest thing he ever had to a father: “He wasn’t going to apologize to anyone, not even Yoda, for caring enough about Obi-Wan to weep for him.”
The tension between Anakin and Mace Windu crops up again when Mace tells Anakin that he is wrong to fear for Obi-Wan’s life. Anakin, in his head, responds with a line that summarizes his entire journey in life, a line that provides nice color to the changes taking place on The Clone Wars: “Everything I do is wrong. But you still expect me to save you, don’t you?”
Through it all, of course, we have Ahsoka tagging along, still working out her relationship with Anakin. Their relationship has not yet been strengthened by subsequent developments in the animated series, and in Wild Space, Anakin is figuring out how to deal with this spunky Togrutan kid. I’m on the edge of my seat whenever the immense weight on Anakin’s shoulders gets highlighted on The Clone Wars, so I found it fascinating to see inside his head as he juggles his many responsibilities in this book. It’s not often that fans get the chance to hear Anakin’s private thoughts as he reacts to the twists and turns of the war.
One of Wild Space’s unique and thrilling features is that it offers up a starring role for a minor character with a major legacy: Senator Bail Organa. His relationship with Obi-Wan, which starts on uncertain feet but quickly strengthens out of necessity, becomes a highlight of this book. Bail rarely appears on The Clone Wars because few stories require his presence, but in Wild Space, he proves to be an excellent vessel for the reader to witness the changes taking place in Obi-Wan, Padmé, and the Jedi Order.
In addition to numerous passages documenting Bail’s thoughts about Obi-Wan, there are also some interactions between him and Padmé before he leaves on the book’s central mission. Bail’s place in the whole mess that leads to Anakin’s fall is an interesting one. We rarely consider how he felt about Padmé, whether romantically or otherwise. We know he trusted her, but how much did he respect her? How often did he wince at her naivety? What did he really think was going on between her and Anakin? This book addresses some of those questions in a really intriguing way. As we prepare for a season of The Clone Wars that promises to closely examine Anakin and Padmé’s relationship, it’s worth revisiting how Bail, as one of Padmé’s closest friends, sees things developing between them and between other key players of this era.
The book’s biggest star, though, may be Obi-Wan. His thoughts about Bail, like the Alderaanian man’s thoughts about him, change as a result of certain circumstances throughout the book. Fans get inside his head as he examines this friend of Padmé’s, this man whom she describes as more than a simple politician. Wild Space does an excellent job of connecting two characters who rarely meet up on The Clone Wars but whose interactions provide a rich source of material.
One of Wild Space’s central themes is Obi-Wan wrestling with the Dark Side during his mission to Zigoola. His nightmarish experiences on the planet will be somewhat familiar territory to those who witnessed him take a beating in TCW Season 4. However, the added dimension of having the Dark Side itself torture and assault him –– as opposed to some henchman –– is that his reactions show readers the strength of his trust in the Jedi philosophy. Wild Space is a great book for people who enjoy seeing the psychological toll of the Dark Side and for people who enjoy watching Obi-Wan wrestle with impossible evil. In that sense, the book’s appeal is similar to that of Unbound Worlds’s previous Gateway novel, Shatterpoint; both explore the cost of prolonged exposure to pure evil.
I love me some Anakin angst and some Obi-Wan reflections, but for me the crowning achievement of Wild Space is how accurately it portrays the man behind it all. There are hefty doses of Palpatine plotting throughout this book. The way his machinations spill out from the darkness and onto the pages of Wild Space will enhance fans’ appreciation for what he does in The Clone Wars Season 5, no matter what that is –– his depiction here is just that good. There are so many great scenes of him standing in the office of the Supreme Chancellor musing on the state of the war, his use of Dooku, and his plans for Anakin. There are even scenes where he dons the black robes and gets down to business from behind the desk of the Republic’s resolute steward.
There are still other great scenes where Yoda, Bail, and other Republic and Jedi bigwigs bring him information about their plans, forcing him to think carefully about how to disrupt them. These scenes reminded me a lot of the novel Outbound Flight, in which Sidious, as Palpatine, engineered events to hasten the destruction of the Jedi Order while secretly beating back the attempts of the Jedi and the Republic to keep the peace. In that book, he had to pull Anakin and Obi-Wan away from their deaths aboard a fleet of doomed colony ships. In this story, he has to engineer a distraction mission for Anakin so that he can send Obi-Wan and Bail off to their deaths.
The main plot of Wild Space –– Obi-Wan and Bail going on a deadly mission together –– represents Sidious’ attempt to both destabilize Anakin by having his Master killed and remove a uniquely pesky legislative thorn from his side by eliminating Bail. The possibility of killing these two particular birds is evidently too tantalizing for Sidious to resist. His grand plans would go more much smoothly if he had one fewer dissenting voice to worry about, and killing Obi-Wan to further unbalance Anakin would set him on a dark path down which only Sidious could guide him.
One of the best scenes in the entire book is only a few pages long, but it represents some of the best exposition of the “state of play” during the Clone Wars that I have ever read. Palpatine is piloting an airspeeder through Coruscant to survey terror bombing damage, while inwardly Sidious considers Bail and Padmé, who are riding in the speeder with him. With cunning and ruthlessness, he analyzes Bail and expresses his low regard for the man, but then he muses on how Bail and Padmé work closely together and whether he can trust Bail to sway Padmé’s feelings on important legislative proposals.
Some of that persuasion happens in the airspeeder. The conversation that takes place in there as the Chancellor and the two Senators consider the need for even more stringent security and surveillance measures is a perfect microcosm of the overall problems with the Senate. Bail says of the new security regime, “It’s the lesser of two evils … and to save lives, we’ll have to live with it.” Sidious thinks to himself, “The more entrenched is a society in its comforts, its safe routines, the more easily is it disrupted. The more swiftly does it fall.” In that one conversation, fans glimpse the entirety of Sidious’ manipulations. Palpatine uses the optics of terrorism to urge Bail (and by extension, the rest of the Senate) to support his new policy proposals, and then Bail convinces Padmé (and in a broader sense, other skeptical and resistant politicians) of the necessity of giving up more liberty in exchange for promised security.
It is scenes like this in which the Rise of the Empire-era Expanded Universe truly shines, and there is a lot more of that brilliance in Wild Space. I strongly recommend that fans of The Clone Wars read this book, both because of its strong connections to the series and because of the extra dimensions it adds to Prequel Trilogy characters, machinations, and conflicts.
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.