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The Approaching Storm

A prequel to the upcoming movie, “Star Wars(: Episode II, ” this exciting Jedi adventure–written by beloved “Star Wars” veteran Alan Dean Foster–features a new character from the new film. “The Approaching Storm” opens as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are dispatched to the planet of Anision to deal with border disputes.


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    Crystal Starr Light

    Ansion is considering seceding from the Republic. Because of its many important alliances, the Republic fears a mass exodus. The Jedi react by sending Obi-Wan and Anakin to join Luminara Unduli and Barris Offee on the planet Ansion and negotiate with the Anwali.

    NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

    When I first read this book, eons ago now, I had a hard time getting into it. I was reading, wondering when the story “started”. It took me a bit to realize that the journey to the Borokii, the travails

    NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

    When I first read this book, eons ago now, I had a hard time getting into it. I was reading, wondering when the story “started”. It took me a bit to realize that the journey to the Borokii, the travails on the prairie was the story. But once I realized that, I was able to settle into the story and rather enjoy it.
    That was back in 2002 when I thought that The Phantom Menace was a brilliant piece of art and not an over-edited mash-fest. How would I think on this book now that the shutters have been lifted from my eyes?
    As I listened to it (first time on audiobook, second time I’ve “read” the novel), I was totally pumped. There was the cool plot–Shu Mai and her Confederates using Ansion’s many alliances to pull away from the Republic. Brilliance. It’s simple, it’s realistic, and it’s unique (no more superweapons! YAY!). I was totally on board.
    I was even more pumped when some of my favorite characters appear. I’ve been a big fan of Luminara and Barris for some time, so if there is a novel with them in it, I’m on it (and there aren’t many, let me tell you). Luminara Unduli makes a fine impression with her subtle, yet stern approach to fend off a leering customer in a restaurant. And Barris has this wide-eyed inquisitiveness, yet femininity (looking at jewelry and other tokens) that I can completely relate to.
    You know, I was even okay when Obi-Wan and Anakin appear on stage. Authors tend to shoe-horn in Movie Canon characters into their books, sometimes making little sense or feeling awkward (Outbound Flight and Darth Maul: Shadowhunter are two that come to mind). But here, it isn’t bad and sort of makes sense. I mean, it still seems weird, if the Jedi are really that spread thin that two Master-Apprentice pairs would go to a hole-in-the-wall planet, but Shu Mai did explain at the beginning how important Ansion was. So I believe it.
    The two ladies leave the restaurant and are set upon by wave upon wave of baddies–sent by Soergg, whom Shu Mai must have hired (I might have missed that part). They are nearly overwhelmed when Obi-Wan and Anakin arrive. The two pairs of Jedi then go to the Unity of Community, the absolute worst name I’ve ever heard for a government agency, which tells them in order to keep them in the Republic, the Jedi need to speak with the Borokii.
    A part of me inwardly raised an eyebrow. The Jedi only need to speak with one tribe on this planet to secure them in the Republic? On a planet, there is only one tribe that needs convincing? (I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, since almost 99% of planets in SW-landia have one climate and one native alien.) The first thing I thought of was American presidents campaigning in states with high or strategic electoral votes. This just sounds a little un-Jedi like to me. Maybe if the book makes a point of how the Jedi are becoming un-Jedi like to secure planets, that would be cool, but that concept never appears.
    I also notice that Obi-Wan and Anakin’s personalities seem a little off. But I’ve read far worse and I’m optimistic. Plus, it still could go anywhere.
    But this is about that point where I wanted to tear my eyes out. Soergg hires two Alwari and makes mention how they are mentally retarded for the–get ready for this–sole purpose to be able to “foil” the Jedi Mind Reading). WTF? Jedi can’t read the minds of mentally disabled people? When did this Force restriction start? Star Wars EU has been around since 1991 and you would think that this major flaw would have been established much earlier (particularly with some of the psychologocially warped villains that have graced the pages).
    So this plot contrivance leads to the two Alwari idiots (not meant as an insult to mentally challenged, these guys *are* idiots) capturing Barris, a twenty-something Jedi Apprentice, in one of the most obvious kidnappings ever. I think American five-year-olds would have seem this ploy coming, yet it never passes into our Jedi’s cranium. Obviously, Jedi need to watch more TV. Barris is really turning out to be a great Jedi…somehow, the extinction of the Jedi seems a lot more plausible now.
    And because mentally retarded people are uncool, Barris is able to use her Jedi healing abilities (cool, but better showcased in the MedStar duology) to handwave the mental retardation of the two Alwari away. Oddly enough, this removal also makes them almost immediately change from being Bad Guys to Good Guys…and NO ONE EVER QUESTIONS THIS. So, I guess what I am supposed to take from this is

    Mentally Challenged = Bad Guy
    Not Mentally Challenged = Jedi ask no questions and have no problem with you joining them on their highly sensitive mission.

    Great moral, people!
    Pre-Barris kidnapping, my initial rating was a solid 4 stars. Post-Barris kidnapping, it was on the rapid decline.
    Two Alwari guides later, our Jedi ride off into the sunset on suubatans, a combination of a camel, a horse, and a cheetah. I must admit, Foster was pretty creative and this scene did show some of Anakin’s character, his affinity for machines over animals.
    Now, before I go further, I don’t mind journey novels. They can show a lot about a character (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, etc.). But this journey did absolutely nothing for any of the characters. I mean, I’m glad we didn’t see a billion “OMG, Anakin is gonna turn to the Dark Side!!!” moments, but neither did any of the characters seem to grow either positively or negatively. In fact, most of the characters (particularly Luminara) remained as dull as potatoes. And the journey went on and on and have the absolute dumbest “obstacles” ever. A hive of “killer bugs”. A caravan of Qulun who capture the Jedi (more later). An attack of some sort of animal that leaves Luminara in a nightie holding onto Anakin (why have a potentially sexual encounter and not even hint at any sexuality?).
    But all this, and I still hadn’t seen the worst. No, the worst was yet to come…
    Even back when I first read this book in 2002 and enjoyed it, there was a scene burned in my memory that haunted my worst dreams. That memory was…The Talent Show.
    At one point in our Jedi’s Journey, they must win the approval of Random Alwari Tribe #286 (but this tribe isn’t necessary to secure the planet???). So what do they do? They give a talent show.
    First up is Barriss, and her big talent is to toss her lightsaber around and jump around like she has ants in her pants. Yup, this is Barris’ big talent. You would think she would take one of the tribe’s sick and heal them, but nope, apparently, she has been practicing her lightsaber stunts for such a time as this. The crazier thing is that the tribe is actually entertained.
    Next up is Anakin. His talent is to sing a song his mother sang him. I just envisioned Hayden singing “Ave Maria” and threw up a little in my mouth. Why doesn’t he do the lightsaber trick? Isn’t he supposedly a better swordsman than Yoda? Better yet, why didn’t Barris and Anakin duel? But you know what’s crazier? The tribe is STILL entertained by this.
    Now we have Obi-Wan. What is our straight-laced Jedi going to do? Oh, he tells a story, but not just any story. It’s a story about heroes, heroines, romance, and adventure. His story is so AWESOME that everyone laughs at the right times, everyone cries at the right times and, yes, everyone is on the edge of their seats at the right times. Two questions: How long is this story (I don’t see how such a magical tale could be told in the relatively short time they have) and, more importantly, how did Obi-Wan get this knowledge to tell such an amazing story to a bunch of nomads? Obi-Wan was raised at the Jedi Temple all his life; he didn’t have his father telling him stories when he went to bed or his mom telling him stories as she cooked. Did Dexter Jettster tucked Obi-Wan into bed with this story?
    Our last contestant shows up: Luminara. What could this Jedi do that would show what is close to her heart? Apparently, Luminara’s hobby is sand collecting because she makes a big deal out of being able to levitate sand and herself. I think I reread this part like eight times to figure out A) what was going on and B) if I was actually reading about Luminara levitating sand. If this was on America’s Got Talent, it wouldn’t have made it past the cattle-call stage. This would be that contestant that the audience snickered at behind hands, and posted youtube videos of with titles like “Worst Talent Ever”. But these tribesbeings must be hardup for entertainment because, yes, they are entertained.
    How do these events show that the Jedi “have souls”? Why are the Ansionians so embracing of these human forms of entertainment? And most importantly: WHY MORE FILLER?!
    Again and again, Jedi are unable to perceive the most basic of plot devices that kids who’ve been weaned on cartoons can see. Let’s see how you fair next to the Jedi in this novel:

    What do you do if someone holds out perfume for you to sniff and you only just met him/her?
    A) Politely decline
    B) Sense his true motives and draw your lightsaber
    C) Sniff, then walk around drunk, bemused that this has happened and pass out. After you pass out, you find yourself bound and gagged but don’t use any of your Force abilities because the bad guy tells you not to.

    If you are a sane human being, you would choose A). If you were a Jedi in most other novels, you would choose B). If you are one of the stupid Jedi in this book, you would choose C).
    I think one of the most disappointing aspects was how Foster drags us through this journey…and then totally skips over the negotiations. The Borokii tell the Jedi to fight their enemies, the Jedi outwit both sides, they sit down…and a few days later, after Obi-Wan has talked, it’s over. What a let down! What did Obi-Wan (who hates politicians, even though he kinda acts like one in this book…) say that made both sides change their minds? We will never know. Apparently, it was more important to showcase each talent in the talent show and not what convinced the Borokii to side with the Jedi. Not like the Borokii siding with the Jedi was, like, the whole point of the book after all…
    To make matters worse, Foster has written this novel to the lowest common denominator by inserting the most juvenile, inappropriate, and disgusting toilet humor. One character picks his nose, Barris makes a rude noise (perhaps a fart noise). But it was at the point when Soergg passes gas, I had to take a break from listening. I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t watching some stupid kid cartoon where the jokes are based on how much poop some character fell in (although Star Wars tried to cheapen itself to that level with Jar Jar’s antics in The Phantom Menace).
    That’s not all, Folks! We also have annoying characters! The Alwari, as I mentioned before, but they cannot stand next to the power of…THE TOOQI! For those of you who think Jar Jar is nasty, well, there IS someone worse. I dare you to read one thing Tooqi does and call him, “Cute and charming” like idiot Barris.
    That’s not all, Folks! Foster then writes in this very strange, almost overly formal style. He’ll describe Seorgg passing gas along with including a lot of nice, long, college vocabulary words. His sentence structures are strange, his narrative unwieldy, and his dialogue! ACK! Characters walk around saying the most absurd things, things no one in real life would come close to saying, such as: “I fear those who would keep us from delivering our report to the Unity Delegation know where we are.” English Translation: “I think someone is on to us”. Imagine every character needing a Foster-Dialogue to English Translation. Now you know why I had a massive migraine finishing this novel.
    I must also add that while this is an interesting story (yes, in between the toilet humor, the talent show, and Tooqi, I did find myself enjoying the novel), it is by no means as valuable to understanding Attack of the Clones. Yes, there are some characters you see (Shu Mai, Luminara, Barris), and we do get to see the mission Mace mentioned in Clones, but don’t expect any huge revelations or clarifications. You will be sadly disappointed–just like me.
    …more

    Lindsay♫Sings

    So there are some books where you sit and wait and wait and wait for something to happen. No, this book was the opposite. This book was one where something happens every five pages and its just too much. There is always a battle or an argument or a dispute or something or other going on….and not in a good way.

    Mike

    Jun 25, 2009

    rated it
    did not like it

    Appropriate that the book that ‘sets up’ the worst Star Wars movie of the 2 trilogies is the worst Star Wars book that I have read. It is not entirely fair to say this book is bad, as the author is clearly a good writer, (he uses words like ‘festooned’), but this book falls down in many areas.

    Namely, despite the claim of setting up Episode II, it doesn’t. Unless of course you were wondering about the backstory to when Mace Windu says “Obi-Wan could do that, he just got back from a border dispu

    Namely, despite the claim of setting up Episode II, it doesn’t. Unless of course you were wondering about the backstory to when Mace Windu says “Obi-Wan could do that, he just got back from a border dispute on Ansion.” Unfortunately, the story of this book doesn’t deal with any border dispute (although it does take place on Ansion).

    Apart from other failures (such as the repeated use of befriending your enemies and kidnappers as the main form of confrontation in the book… “lets just be friends!”; or the fact that the entire plot of book is based upon the most critical function of keeping a handful of planetary systems from leaving the republic, and yet Episode II begins with the claim that thousands of systems have already left!), the book does have some redeeming features. For example, Anakin continues his family’s long standing singing tradition by singing a song!

    What? You didn’t know about the Skywalker’s great singing tradition? Well, not only did Anakin’s mother sing, but so does Anakin’s daughter, Leia! What? You’ve never seen Leia sing? Well, then you must go to You Tube and type in “Star Wars Holiday Special”. Or just go here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXcb7VPw5

    Suffice it to say, this book is better than the 1978 Holiday Special, but not much.

    (Note: it appears the Holiday Special in its entirety has been removed from YouTube. The original show was 2 hours long! ouch.)
    …more