Medstar II: Jedi Healer
by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
Published by Del Rey
Scott's Rating: 2 out of 4
Mike's Rating: 4 out of 4
Nick's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Michael's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Medstar II: Jedi Healer is set about 2 years after Attack of the Clones. It is the second book in a two book series.
As the war for the bota rages on, a new surgeon - the young, talented Uli Davini - arrives in Rimsoo Seven to replace a comrade lost in the recent Separatist incursion. As the climate takes an unlikely turn, Jos Vondar's relationship with Tolk le Trene hits a mysterious snag, all while hidden Black Sun and Separatist agents pursue their own goals, which may not mean good things for our favorite medical personnel. All this, plus: can droids get drunk?
First off, I have to say I liked the art cover by the uncredited artist. The Star Wars twist on the Mary and Jesus statue by Michelangelo was a nice touch.
I think the thing I liked most about Jedi Healer were the two new characters added to the story. First off you have Uli Divini, the young surgeon from Tatooine. He?s kind of like Dr. Carter from E.R.. He?s enthusiastic, talented, and untested. He also seems to have a little bit of a crush on Barriss Offee though that is never developed to its full potential. Joining him is Admiral Erel Kersos, Jos? uncle. Like Jos, he fell in love with an offworlder woman. Meeting Kersos is like seeing what Jos could be like in the future if he followed through on his relationship with Tolk. He brings some nice tension to their romance and brings the cultural differences between the star-crossed lovers to full light. He?s definitely a welcome addition to the cast.
Back in my review of Ruins of Dantooine, I talked a bit about the different archetypes an author can use when writing a spy character, and how I felt the spy in that story had been mishandled, not so much because it didn't follow an archetype as because there was no apparent logic behind the path it did follow. This story is a perfect example of how to successfully handle a spy.
And yes, I'm about to address the identity of said spy, so if you don't want it spoiled, you'd better avert your eyes.
It could be argued justifiably, and Scott does so, that Klo being the spy was preditable. A short way into the book, we're all but explicitly told that it has to be either Klo or Tolk, because they're the only two onboard Medstar when the explosion occurs. Distancing yourself from the narrative and looking at this situation from the point of view of the authors, you're left with two possibilities: either Klo is the spy, and everything wraps up neatly, or Tolk is the spy, and Jos is left a shattered husk of a man. Clearly they wouldn't end the story that way, so obviously it's going to end up being Klo.
But then, upon their return, Tolk is acting strange in a way that jives well with how we expect the spy to be acting at this juncture. Might she actually be the spy? We're given no other reason for her new attitude, so the likelihood is at least considerably stronger than it was at first. Indeed, it's safe to say that that's pretty much the sole reason the whole thing with her and Jos' uncle was included; Reaves and Perry realized that her actually betraying the Republic would be too much of a long shot in the eyes of readers, and they had to take steps to confuse things (including, perhaps, the occasional forum post...).
Speaking of Jos' uncle, the change in Tolk's attitude ends up being the result of Kersos telling her Jos is better off if she leaves him alone, which is actually part of an intricate plan to test the depths of Jos' feelings for her. Some people may feel that this is a bit hokey, but as someone who's seen a good deal of M*A*S*H episodes, I'd say it fits right in, and it serves the dual purpose of keeping the spy plotline interesting while also spicing up what could otherwise be a stale romance.
Anyway, once we find out what's really up with Tolk, it's pretty much a certainty that Klo will end up being the spy (which Barriss figures out for herself soon afterward), but simply the fact that they took the time to work this in belies a commendable interest in keeping us guessing. Maybe I'm just gullible, but even after Tolk's situation was cleared up, I still wasn't ready to rule her out as the spy completely. Yeah, it would've been a shockingly cruel blow to the other characters, but this is Reaves and Perry we're talking about; each author concluded their sole previous Star Wars work with the death of their main protagonist (okay, so Dash Rendar didn't really die, but for all we've seen of him since then, he might as well have). If anyone was capable of going through with such a gut-wrenching twist, if was these guys. In fact, it was a lot like reading The Unifying Force a year ago. Of course on some level I knew Luke & Co. were going to survive, but simply the fact that I'd accepted death as a possibility made the story that much more engaging. I didn't really expect Tolk to be the spy, but I was just unsure enough to be concerned about it, which is a big achievement in the generally sunny world of Star Wars.
But like I said; maybe I'm just gullible.
Now that I've addressed all that ad nauseam, there isn't really a lot more I feel I need to say. As always, Reaves and Perry continue to bring a level of personality and charm to the GFFA that I have yet to see from anyone else in the EU. And speaking of things I haven't seen, Barriss overcoming the closest thing the EU's ever seen to a drug addiction was a very interesting idea, one that may have deserved more attention.
What the ending seems to be implying about the events of the forthcoming Coruscant Nights books is, quite simply, exactly what I was hoping for. Those stories' potential is now through the roof as far as I'm concerned, and Reaves is the perfect man for the job. Now if only we can get a new Perry story bridging the gap between the Black Sun of Medstar and that of Shadows of the Empire (or any new Perry story, really), I'll be happy. I really can't say this enough; why LucasBooks waited six years to invite him back is a complete mystery to me.
In Jedi Healer, Reaves and Perry repeat the formula that worked so well with the first novel of the Medstar duology. All the surviving doctors and inhabitants of Rimsoo Seven return to the fold, thoroughly matured from their experiences of Battle Surgeons: the triumphs, the progressions, and of course, tragedy in the death of Zan Yant. The book introduces several new characters, although none really struck a chord with me as well as the original cast other than young Uli Divini, boy genius. Once again, I enjoyed the introspection a great deal and was happy to see that I-Five finally achieved the impossible and got drunk. Good for him.
I?m happy to hear that Reaves has a trilogy of novels covering the dark period following Revenge of the Sith. It?ll be nice to have a veteran return to share some tales from one of Star Wars darkest periods. Here?s hoping he?ll bring Den Dhur and I-Five along for the ride.
I don?t think I commented on the first book?s cover, but I enjoyed them both. Although I hadn?t noticed until Scott pointed it out, Dave Seeley?s cover indeed appears to be a recreation of Michelangelo?s famous Pieta. Excellent work, sir.
This would have to be the first Star Wars novel that really touched me personally with the themes explored in the book. I had recently gone through a relationship break-up, and was experiencing many of the same feelings and asking the same questions that Jos was, when he was having trouble with Tolk. From memory, this is the first Star Wars novel that has brought up the emotional themes of depression and suicide, which was great to explore. Given the entire franchise is basically about war, it is strange that depression has not been explored before in characters. Likewise, the theme of drug addiction is a first in a Star Wars story. Sure, we have had spice smuggling, drug peddlers, etc... before, but not as intimately associated with a main character... and a Jedi to boot. This was an interesting way to test a Jedi Padawan through glimpses of the Dark Side brought by the intoxicating nature of drugs. I congratulate the authors for bringing all theses new human emotional themes to Star Wars in one book. Coming into this novel, I had read a few negative reviews, stating that it would be just a rehash of the first novel. I couldn't disagree more. Whilst the first was a great book, I believe that the second was even better, through the character development and plot resolution.
I have to agree with Scott, I also too liked the cover art, and a tip of the hat to Scott, a very good pickup with the Michelangelo analogy.
I enjoyed the exploration of the traditions of relationships of the Correlian culture. I assume that by the time of the Classic era and beyond, the stereotypes on Corellia have been shattered, as is seems that many Corellian characters marry people from off-world, ie: Han & Leia. The introduction of Admiral Erel Kersos, the uncle of Jos, was a great way to explore this theme as he provided paternal advice to Jos. I think it was great storytelling how Kersos was reliving his choices through the eyes of Jos. It would be great to read follow up stories featuring this characters, when they return to Corellia to face prejudice and stereotypes.
The subplot featuring the droid I-5 and his relationship with Den Dhur, with the goal of Dhur getting the droid drunk was enjoyably humorous. I believe that elements of humour was a great way to balance a medical wartime story.
I found the revelation that the Republic was testing a superlaser that would eventually be a component of the Death Star to be really interesting. Episode II showed that the Separatists were working on the plans for the Death Star, and now the Republic is working on a superlaser?! Really shows how Palpatine is playing both sides to his own benefit and goals.
I have really come to enjoy Star Wars novels that are written by co-authors. First we had the Force Heretic Trilogy by Sean Williams and Shane Dix, and now the Medstar Duology by Reaves and Perry. I believe that it is a great experiment by LFL / Del Rey to take on this approach, as authors get to work off each others strengths and weakness'. Let's hope the trend of great co-authored books continues with Jedi Trial.
While I enjoyed the first Medstar novel, I wasn?t as taken by its sequel. The story took quite a long time to get rolling and when it finally did, the stories didn?t pull me in the same way that they did before. And when some of the sub-plots showed promise, they didn?t end up having a satisfactory resolution for me.
This book featured five major subplots. The first of them was the continuation of the mystery of the spy in the midst of our heroes. As the book starts, it quickly becomes obvious that there are only two possible characters that could be the spy. If the character ended up being one of them, it would be a dark, depressing ending. If it was the other, you would have a typical happy ending. Needless to say, it didn?t take much to finally figure out who it would be. Unfortunately, it takes the other characters in the story much longer to come to the same conclusion. In fact, Barriss Offee narrows it down to those exact same characters on page 273 of a 302 page book. If the reader is that far ahead of the characters, then you see why it can be a problem.
The second major plot involved Barriss Offee finding strange side effects of the local bota drug on Jedi. This was a clever new twist for the Jedi and it was pretty well explored. The idea of a Jedi with drug addiction was quite intriguing and its side effects had consequences that could affect the balance of power in the war. However, this sub-plot had no satisfactory resolution and it was left with a little bit of a cliffhanger that probably won?t be resolved in future books. What would happen if Yoda got the drug? Or Palpatine? We?ll probably never know.
And if one spy wasn?t enough, the second spy, Kaird, was at the center of the third subplot. He ended up having no real impact on the story this time around despite a significant number of pages being devoted to him. He never interacts with the ?Column? spy. He has no real impact on our heroes. Finally, his fate isn?t revealed at the end of the story. It?s like a lead into another novel. His character showed promise but was ultimately unsatisfying.
Speaking of unsatisfying, the fourth sub-plot continued the romance between Jos and Tolk. In order to shake things up, their growing relationship is threatened by Jos? uncle. This brings some interesting tension into the situation, but all the drama is quickly defused and they are inevitably back together again before you know it. It was a little too fast to be satisfying for me.
The final major sub-plot involved Den?s efforts to get the droid I-Five drunk. This was dragged out a little long with little payout, but at least we got to see the droid?s arm ripped off by a Wookiee.
Jedi Healer unfortunately lacks what made the first book so entertaining. The M*A*S*H-type setting is more or less dropped. There are no more deep philosophical discussions about clonetroopers. There are very few new characters introduced that the reader can latch onto. The whole book seems like it should have been integrated into the first book and been one novel with a few parts from this second act trimmed. Instead this is a weak finish to the Medstar series and too much of the ending seems like a setup for future adventures with the characters.
On a side note, I know a lot of characters get their names from real world names being flipped backwards, but I think the trend should end soon. Naming the lead of the USO-type tour ?Epoh Trebor? after Bob Hope was a bit much.
Obviously, my perfect rating implies a lack of any serious complaints from my end, but there are a few things that I felt I should mention. I can't call them problems, because I don't think the book was any worse off because of them, but at the same time, it might have been better without them...if that makes any sense.
My issues with the book are all basically related to the amount of attention given to each part of the story. Kaird, as much as I enjoyed the character, seemed to be given an incredibly large amount of "screen" time, considering how little his exploits really affected the overall story. Sure, he was responsible for the whole bota mutation problem getting out the way it did, but would things really have been that different without his interference? The Republic would have found out sooner, but it's not like they didn't make out pretty well in the end anyway.
Similarly, as I alluded to earlier, Barriss' bota plot might have been deserving of more attention. I say "might" because it would depend largely on what else they did with it; take the addiction too far, and any complete recovery within the timespan of the book would've been implausible. But if they didn't actually progress her addiction any further than they did, what else might have happened? It's because of my uncertainty that I can't really fault the book for going the way it did, it's just somthing that I wonder about. I seem to remember reading somewhere that they were billing this and one of the hardest trials ever, and while I can certainly believe that it was, I can't help but think more could have been done to bring that across in the narrative.
Lastly, I think the relationship between Barriss and Uli could've been given more attention. I enjoyed their scenes together a great deal, and would've liked to see where the relationship went from there, but again, there was only so much more they could have done with it, so it almost seems like the romantic undertones were a wasted effort, when all the story ultimately required of Uli was for him to be a sounding board for the bota problem. Here's hoping their plot thread somehow manages a little more closure later down the line; in a throwaway line in Coruscant Nights, at the very least.
Wow. I wonder how much more I would've had to say if I hadn't loved the book.
The Medstar duology is a series that is sure to draw two major crowds: those that thoroughly enjoyed the unique change of pace and those that hated the lack of action. Thankfully, I fall into the former crowd. The people hankering for a huge planet-wide conflict will be disappointed again. However, I was hoping for a more fulfilling ending to Jedi Healer. I successfully guessed the spy?s identity early in the book, so it wasn?t much of a surprise when that revelation unfolded. The problem I had was not with the revelation of his identity, but rather of his motives. I would have much rather preferred gradual insight into the source of his hatred of the Republic, but instead I was treated to a single exposition of his world?s fate.
Although it didn?t prove to play a major role in the story, I felt distracted by the whole bota-as-a-Force-enhancer subplot. Had Bariss become addicted to the bota in the first book and had that thread carry over to Jedi Healer it might have worked better. I understand it?s purpose, as it served to test Bariss and offered her brush with the dark side, but overall it didn?t work effectively enough for me to accept.
As a few people have mentioned, the resolution of the spy plotline became a little bit predictable with a little detective work, given the clues in the book.
Realising that this book was a wartime medical drama, nonetheless, it still would have been great to have read some action / combat scenes featuring the clonetroopers, and perhaps Barriss Offee leading them on a few missions as a break to her medical duties. We have read from previous adventures featuring this character that she *can* fight.
I agree with Scott, that in a way, the Bota plotline was not entirely wrapped up, but on the other hand, due to the ever increasing interconnecting nature of Star Wars novels, not all plot points have to be wrapped up in a single point. The bad thing though, is that the reader just has to wait for the resolution.
Apart from these points, I couldn't find many problems with the novel.
More bowel surgery. Ack!
Coruscant Nights #1: coming to a bookstore near you in, oh, about 19 months.
Even more graphic war wounds. Delicious!
Nothing to add here.