Lightsaber Combat

A Sport for a more Civizied Age

Book Review: Shatterpoint byMatthew Stover

(very minor spoilers inside, but hey, this is a clone wars book, and you have seen A New Hope, right?)

Shatterpoint is a Clone Wars novel that follows the tale of Mace Windu as he seeks out his seemingly fallen apprentice on the planet of Haruun Kal, which happens to be his birthworld.

The novel is written using a composite of third person perspective and first person journal entries made by the man himself, Mace Windu. I was compelled to devour this book in the course of 4 or 5 binge reading blocks, knowing that I could not simply pick it up here and there to chip it away. No, this book demands your attention with nonstop plot movement, and epic battle scenes that can last for multiple chapters.

Aside from the exciting pace of the book, the content itself was epic, delving deep into Jedi philosophy, LightSaber lore, Jedi strategy, and the personal moral struggles of Master Windu.

This book is crammed full of existential gems. I had to stop, reread, ponder, and underline close to a hundred passages along the way. Some have notes like, “Jedi Code,” or, “on emotional wounds.”

Here, take a moment to sample some of the heaviness that is Jedi life.

“A Jedi’s connection to the Force amplifies everything about us; it invests our smallest actions with the greatest conceivable weight. It makes us more of whatever we already are. If we are calm, it gives us serenity. If we are angry, it fills us with the rage of a god. Angers is a trap. You might think of it as a narcotic, not unlike glitterstim. Even the slightest taste can leave you with an appetite that  never fades.

This is why we Jedi must strive always to build peace within ourselves; what is within will be reflected by what is without. The Force is One. We are part of the Force; it will always be, at least partially, whatever we are…” (page 279)

I told you it was heavy. Imagine having access to so much power that you would deny anger, not because it is unbecoming, but because it could infest your life and spell out destruction for those around you. That… is great responsibility.

Of course, maybe it is their idealism and self applied grandstanding that gives them such a treacherous position. Maybe they take themselves way too seriously, and when they stumble, they lack the ability to forgive their missteps, leaving utter failure as the only perceived option.

I’ve been one to criticize the Jedi Code, especially the bits about not taking on romantic love, but I can see where they are coming from. These people have denied themselves those rights that they might protect civilization from chaos. They are dedicated to the Force, the Republic, and the Jedi Order, and anything that jeopardizes those is an enemy to be guarded against. Yeesh, what a life.

At one point Mace is trying to explain the conviction of the Jedi to a guerilla fighter, saying,

“This isn’t about good and evil. This is about the fundamental nature of the force itself. Jedi are not moralists. That a common misperception. We are fundamentally pragmatic. The Jedi is altruistic less because to be so is good, than because to be so is safe; to use the Force for personal ends is dangerous. This is the trap that can snare even the most good, kind, caring Jedi; it leads to what we call the dark side. Power to do good eventually becomes just power. Naked force. An end in itself. It is a form of madness to which Jedi are peculiarly susceptible.” (page 135)

This is just one example of the many philosophical concepts thrown around between the paperback pages of what appears to be a pulp novel featuring an ice cold dude wielding laserswords and a wallet that reads “Bad Master Jedi.”

But wait, here’s the best part….

It is exactly that! This is also a book about Samuel L Jackson and his adventures in a jungle with a purple LightSaber! After reading this book, 2 things have become VERY clear.

  1. Mace Windu is THE baddest Jedi I in the galaxy. Period. When nerds joke around about all the simple and brutal uses of the force that could benefit a Jedi, Mace is the one using them. He bludgeons people with his Lightsaber, rides dinosaurs into combat, and intimidates the hell out of people without using the Force. He’s the Jedi Master you do NOT want to mess with.
  2. Samuel L Jackson does not portray Mace Windu, Mace Windu is, in truth, the full actualization of Samuel L Jackson without the bounds of own reality’s reason and physics.

This book had me in stitches from the first stages with Windu’s stone cold responses and hard ass attitude. It was Jules Winnfield resurrected in every respect, a Christ-like character, returned from his days of walking in the wilderness like Cain in the Kung-Fu. And now, he as the force, a lightsaber, and a sense of righteousness that can just BARELY be kept in check.

Another sample from the archives to prove the point:

“Mace Windu looked like he might know of uncertainty and vulnerability by reputation, but had never met either of them face to face…” (page 41)

or earlier, to a couple of cops turned thugs, (abridged)  (page 40)

Thug: What are you supposed to be then?

Mace: I’m a prophet. I can see into the future….

Thug: Sure you can, what do you see?

Mace: You. Bleeding.

Mace then proceeds to kick the crap out of the men. big spoiler, right?

The book is full of this deadpan, bad-ass humor, and I relished every bit. This is the macho Jedi we’ve been waiting for.

This unrelenting style, like all things, comes at a high cost. Mace rides the border of the Dark Side, gaining unimaginable power, but constantly at risk of slipping off the edge. He knows this, and it makes him dogmatic and unyielding. It’s the price he pays for being the best Jedi he can be for the Republic.

That is what this book is about. The price paid for peace. The fact that during war, innocents die on both sides, and in the Jedi, the innocence that they cling to can never be maintained in the face of such horrors.

Mace has the uncanny ability to sense, through the force, where things break, where systems crash, which events can change the destiny of a galaxy. These are called Shatterpoints. What Mace knows is that every person, situation, and system has a Shatterpoint, and that the big one for the Jedi, may be very war they fight in the name of peace.

Conclusion:

Shatterpoint is hands down my m0st favorite Star Wars novel to date. If you are interested in diving into this expansive universe, this is a great place to start, as the story is full of action, Jedi lore, Lightsabers, and amazing displays of the Force. It’s truly everything a 90’s nerd could ask for.

Having said that, this book is also a very heavy read in parts. Most of the story takes place in a war zone among the guerilla fighters, and it is incredibly gruesome in parts. The story unpacks ideas of good and evil, morality and warfare, and the total abandonment of humanity that can grip the surest of souls. Torture, genocide, and disfigurement are elements that cannot be glazed over. In part, this story is about surviving that darkness.

A worthy read for LightSaber junkies and big thinkers alike.

 

aside: If you’d like to read more of the exploits of Mace before buying the novel, here’s an excellent post on reddit that introduced me to the book. It’s full of little spoilers, but was so impressive that I had to buy the book to get a clearer picture of the man, the legend, the Master.

 

 

 

 

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