# of pages: 401
# of pages read so far: 2,588
Avg. pages/book: 323.5
I like Star Wars. From start to finish (well, at least through Episode VI, as I haven't read anything about VI-IX), I think it's a fantastic story. I think the telling of the main narrative (the movies) of the story is oftentimes clumsy, chocked full of unnecessary and awkward moments and poor dialogue, but that's okay because really, it's just supposed to be fun. And it is fun. It's entertainment, folks.
The Cestus Deception follows that mold pretty closely. It's fun. It's entertainment. It's not great literature, but it's not supposed to be. I jokingly commented to my wife that it felt like Steven Barnes hit some sort of performance bonus in his contract if he hit 400 pages (the book is 401, exactly 400 if you don't count the one blank page between the end of the story and the afterward), because right around page 300 it felt like the relatively fast-paced story suddenly found itself meandering fairly aimlessly through a series of episodes that could have been tightened up (or, in some cases, omitted entirely). The dialogue and internal monologue was occasionally hackneyed or cliched, but whatever. It's Star Wars, right? I can forgive a multitude of transgressions on that front alone.
Besides, once you've committed to reading a 400+ page book, I've found it helps if you commit to try to like it despite its faults rather than hate it because of them. Makes the journey much more pleasant.
As for the story itself, the majority of the novel splits between Obi-Wan Kenobi and clone soldier A-98, or "Nate". Nate's story is generally the more compelling and rewarding element to the book as the clone soldier who has never questioned orders before is confronted with the question of what it is to be human, and whether he really is human, and all of those sticky philosophical things that come with such journeys of self-discovery. While this storyline occasionally falls into the realm of predictability, I have to say the payoff is satisfactory, and after appearing an afterthought to what is the main coursing of the plot throughout the novel, Nate does a pretty good job of finally tying everything together at the end.
Obi-Wan's story is pretty much a stock Star Wars story, though I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the Jedi characters throughout. They just seemed a little dumber than I remembered from other Jedi incarnations I've seen. Furthermore, the Force appears to be a very fickle weapon. (I've always thought this, though; for example: why, in the beginning of Episode I, do Qui-gon and Obi-Wan use light sabers to battle the first several battle droids they meet, but when reinforcements come Qui-Gon just waves his hand and disables them. Why not do that in the first place???) Seems there were certain things Obi-Wan and Kit should have had no trouble with that, for dramatic reasons, were suddenly worthy adversaries.
But whatever. It's Star Wars, right? ;-)
Finally, I have to imagine it's great fun for a writer to be given permission to play in another creator's sand box, especially one so iconic as Star Wars. (Barnes speaks to this effect in the afterward) I mean, I'd go crazy if Marvel asked or allowed me to write an original story in an Avengers novel, especially if it were to become part of Marvel canon. (Admittedly, Marvel cannon is far more complicated than Star Wars canon, but you get the idea) You know, now that Disney has bought Marvel, I can't help but think that a Spider-Man and Wall*E crossover novel may just be a necessity to North American pop culture...