Shatterpoint by Matthew Woodring Stover

Mace Windu is perhaps the most intriguing and mysterious character in the Star Wars prequel films. He is a character that is just about on equal level with the revered Jedi Master Yoda, after all, Mace is the man who took out Jango Fett, via your regular garden variety decapitation. Jango Fett, the father of Boba Fett and the guy Obi Wan Kenobi couldn’t quite handle in Attack of the Clones. One would be hard pressed to find a more appropriate author to pen a story centered on Mace Windu, a revered Jedi, a “Hero with a reputation.” Though Matthew Stover has been writing speculative fiction for a few years now, he has been gaining a distinguished reputation, both from fans and critics as one of the premier voices in the genre thanks to his marvelous Acts of Caine saga, currently comprising Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle, great works of Heroic Fantasy. He made a bold mark in the Star Wars universe with Traitor, a novel of the New Jedi Order. A novel many fans, both Star Wars and general Speculative Fiction fans, have hailed as one of the strongest novels both in that saga and a fine novel in its own right. Mace Windu, like Stover’s Caine, is considered, in his own universe as perhaps “the deadliest man alive.” There is a notion in SF that media tie in novels are generally a step below those works considered original. With Lucas’ recruitment of top genre authors in recent years, this notion is all but irrelevant. Moreso with Shatterpoint, Stover’s latest contribution to the Star Wars saga. This novel kicks off the Clone Wars set of novels set immediately after Attack of the Clones and leading up to Episode III. Stover has surpassed any expectations, both of his own work, and that of the Star Wars universe of novels. Since the novel immediately follows the events of Attack of the Clones, having not read previous Star Wars novels should pose no problem. That said, the novel stacks up admirably on its own and outside the SW universe.

Stover expertly reveals the intricacies of Windu’s character. We follow the revered Hero in circumstance with which he thinks he is familiar, but soon realizes is much different than what the surface would lead him to believe. In one sense, Shatterpoint tells the story of a man on a quest for redemption, the redemption of a close friend. Mace questions his own character, the paths he has chosen, when news of Depa Billaba, his padawan and a woman he nearly considers his daughter, is received from their home-world of Haruun Kal. She sends a cryptic message hinting that she may be turning from the path of the Jedi. Mace immediately leaves the company of Palpatine and Yoda to save his friend and answer his own questions. While Mace continually struggles to save his friend Depa, he is also learning more about himself, his true beliefs and convictions.

Upon Mace’s arrival on Haruun Kal, he is thrust into a chaotic situation, where he and the reader have difficulty in distinguishing top from bottom, right from wrong. Mace comes into the company of resistance fighters, a band of Depa’s followers. Getting to Depa, both physically and psychologically, is one of the main thrusts of this novel. Mace struggles to get to the root of the problem, that is, what could have caused Depa to deter from her path as a Jedi. Along the way, Mace collides with Kar Vastor, a man much like himself, shrouded in mystery and power. Vastor is the high head on the totem pole causing the problems on Haruun Kal, the Summertime War-a seemingly endless cycle of war that many on Haruun Kal have experienced their whole lives. Vastor not only measures up to Windu’s power, he just may be a physical match for Windu. The interaction and confrontations between Windu and Vastor are the highlights of the novel. Not only their physical fights, which Stover is a more than qualified expert at illustrating, but the psychological confrontations as well, an arena of battle he is equally adept at illustrating. Mace uses both his physical powers as a Jedi as well as his intellectual powers as a Jedi against Vastor. Fans of Stovers Caine novels may see echoes of Ma’elKoth and Caine in these two characters, most readers will also see two well crafted characters, two strong alpha characters facing off in momentous mêlées and confrontations.

Like any good novel should, Shatterpoint can be judged, and very favorably at that, against predecessors in the Star Wars Universe of novels, Matthew Stover’s own previous work, and as a work in the greater canon of Speculative Fiction. I think one of the best qualities of this novel is how extremely well Stover has captured the voice and character of Mace Windu. Reading the novel, structured as it is with the narrative of the story interspersed with outtakes from Mace Windu’s private journal, works extremely well. I could literally hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice of Mace Windu in every word in the journal. It is not always an easy task to capture a film character on the written page, but Matthew Stover has shown to be a more than qualified writer in this, and genuinely all aspects of the novel. If a reader comes to this novel thinking they are going to read simply “another media tie-in” they are in for a feast of reading pleasures. Stover has fired up his storytelling guns, set the volume to the proverbial eleven and written a novel that surpasses most of the previous media fiction I have read. Shatterpoint stands on equal ground with the quality of his own work and unquestioningly and admirably stacks up against the best the genre has to offer.

Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford

© 2003 Rob Bedford

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