Star Wars: The Cestus Deception Book Review by Michelle Lawhorn
WARNING: Mild Spoilers Below!
Newcomers to the Star Wars expanded universe may be overwhelmed with the multitude of books to choose from, but fear not! Steven Barnes’ The Cestus Deception may be right up the alleys of those who enjoy the more cerebral aspect of the franchise.
Following Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mission with fellow Jedi Master Kit Fisto to find a diplomatic solution to an increasing droid threat, Cestus delves into the world of political intrigue with no holds barred. Just as with real-world politics, there is a plethora of twists and turns that just keep complicating an already difficult task: preventing full-scale war while simultaneously persuading the thus-far neutral Cestian government to join with the Republic. Barnes navigates these obstacles beautifully with flowing description and using Obi-Wan as a conduit for the reader; like many, he doesn’t like or fully understand the politics of Cestus either, but he’ll play the part of politician if it means saving lives.
While Obi-Wan is off doing his own thing being a diplomat to the Cestian court, presided over by the strong-willed yet politically stymied regent G’Mai Duris, Master Fisto is working with a handful of clones to win over a rebel army that has become more legend than substance. Coupled with that, the deeply personal journey of clone soldier A-98, nicknamed Nate, is one of the more engaging aspects of the novel. No one outside of his test-tube brethren ever really pays much attention to what a clone thinks and feels. The exploration of self-discovery and the search for individuality is a very human aspect that is relatable on the most basic level of consciousness; any reader who feels trapped in a mold, be they teenage student or working adult, can see themselves in Nate.
What really helps round everything out is not only following our heroes, but getting to glimpse the goings-on of Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress in her attempts to sabotage the peaceful negotiations. While her dialogue gets bogged down in repetitiveness, her mere presence is powerful enough to make her a threat to the Jedi (although they don’t even interact until the book’s final act) yet mysterious enough to make her appearances seem all too short. When she and Obi-Wan finally face off, it’s a bit of a letdown. There’s the feeling that so much more could have been said or expounded upon, but Barnes decided to go solely for the action.
Normally that would be fine, but there’s so much history between these two characters that their showdown ended up being slightly anti-climactic.
The X’Ting could have benefitted from a bit more description of their physical appearance. There are quite a few references to their hair tufts, large thoraxes, and multiple limbs, but there is little to describe what their faces look like. Are they humanoid with insectoid eyes? Do they have mouths like a human’s or like a Rodian? Are their chins pointed or rounded? Do they even have chins?
Another quibble is the cover art. Although Dooku is indeed the mastermind behind Ventress’s actions (as he usually is), he never makes an appearance throughout the entire book. It would have made more sense to have his assassin or even Duris on the cover instead.
So long as the reader has a basic understanding of the Clone Wars universe (i.e. the good guys, the bad guys, and that the soldiers fighting for the Republic are all clones of Jango Fett), a newbie should have no problem diving right into The Cestus Deception. Even though it follows several different characters for extended periods, the story flows together rather nicely. This is a definite must-read for those interested in the political aspects of the Clone Wars.
About Contributing Reporter Michelle Lawhorn:
a.k.a. Stormraven, is what can only be described as an eclectic nerd. Her interests and expertise range from Doctor Who to Lord of the Rings, cosplay to comics, and Bollywood to opera to name just a few. When not raving about her fandoms, she can be found spending time with her family and adding to her ever-growing list of Things to Cosplay. She can currently be found searching for more Star Wars material to feed her newfound obsession with the Clone Wars.