SW Insider #65
The Clone Wars: The Pengalan Tradeoff
by Aaron Allston
Published by Paizo Publishing
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
This short story was published in the Star Wars Insider magazine. It takes place after Episode II.
In the beginning of the Clone Wars, Joram accompanies a squad of Clone Troopers on a mission to Pengalan IV. He has been sent to evaluate their effectiveness and determine if the Republic should order more from Kamino. They soon discover that they have fallen into a trap and they are shot down. Stranded in enemy territory, Joram and the Clone Troopers are on their own.
By default, Joram ends up being their leader. They decide to try and find transport off of the planet, but they must evade hostile Confederacy droids first. Along the way Joram learns more about the clones and how the live and work. He also learns a disturbing secret about the nature of his assignment and why he was sent.
Aaron Allston is one of my favorite authors, so it is quite a treat to see him tackle one of the first tales of the Clone Wars. He gives us some of our earliest clues about who the clones are, how the act, how they behave in battle, and what they do when left without the military chain of command. It's an odd brotherhood that is both amusing and tragic at the same time. The clones are so single-minded and, for the most part, humorless that you can't help but feel sorry for them. Yet Allston gives them personalities and over time you start to see them as individuals.
I also like the fact that Allston hinted at some of Palpatine's workings underneath everything. His rise to power is often either glossed over or ignored altogether in the spinoff books, so it's good to see more attention paid to it.
I've also got to mention the nice artwork by Tommy Lee Edwards. I've been a long time fan of his work and it's nice to see his stuff more often. His artwork for this story is pretty cool.
Overall this is a fun little adventure and a great entry into the Clone Wars saga.
Some of the nicknames for the clones were a bit goofy - Tooth, Digger, Mapper, etc. I suppose Allston meant them to be somewhat silly, but surely there were better options!
This story also brings to light one of the potential pitfalls of a Clone Wars series - the clones. So far all the stories I've seen with them portray them as straight men for whichever main character is around. What little bits there are to explore about them is already being covered. That makes them potentially rather boring and doesn't leave other authors much to work with. That could become and old formula fast. It's going to take a bit of work to keep them interesting characters.
You have to wade through the rest of the otherwise unentertaining Insider to get this story.