Welcome to the Multiversity Star Wars Book Club! Based on a conversation in the Multiversity Slack, Matt Garcia and Brian Salvatore decided to start up this column, where we will be reading and discussing a Star Wars every month or so. So come, enter the ancient library and join us!
Brian: After a longer than planned hiatus, we’re back! Today, we are tackling the first ever audio-book only Star Wars release, Dooku: Jedi Lost. The book does a bunch of connecting the dots type activities, filling in blanks from The Clone Wars, Master and Apprentice, and the prequels in general.
Count Dooku is seen by many, including myself, as an incredibly wasted character in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and so I was initially excited to check out this book to get a better sense of the character. And while I certainly got that, I found the book a little hard to get through, due to the inherent cheesiness of the audiobook voice acting. What say you?
Matt: Actually, one of my first questions for you was whether you’d consider this a book at all, or more like a radio drama? And, if so, does that change the way the story? Do you think that would change the way you feel about the story? Would this have worked as a text? Does it even work as a radio drama?
But to answer your question: I guess I thought the cheesy voice acting was just a part of the experience. It’s goofy and operatic and, for the most part, I thought it worked in the context of the scene. It probably only worked in the context of the scene. Like, everything had to be conveyed aurally, so the emotions and performances simply had to be bigger, more involved, and bordering on ridiculous. But at the same time, that’s the Star Wars life force in general. It’s a universe so rooted in its pulp beginnings, something like this feels like it could be part of it.
I did have a hard time getting through the action sequences, though. The medium worked fine for building character relationships, navigating the stories-within-stories, and I guess helping connect with the person. But I found myself drifting most when there was a high octane scene happening. The transition into them was awkward, if it happened at all. I listened to this mostly while I walked my dog and there were times I looked up and was like, “Oh, this city’s falling apart,” or “Wait, who’s this person Dooku’s j’accusing?” Often times, these scenes featured people yelling, “Oh nooo!” while sirens blared and the soundtrack was filled with explosions or something. I don’t know if it was the medium’s features or simply a weak script but I never got thrilled or put on the edge of my seat for these.
Brian: That’s precisely the problem I had with the audio experience. Sure, the cheesiness was groan-inducing in parts, but not more than a lot of radio drama stuff. But I found the action sequences were incredibly clunky due to the lack of an omniscient narrator. Sure, you could have either Ventress or Dooku describe the action, but both were after the fact, and led to some poor writing to get their narration to make sense. Obviously, not all books need third person narration, but describing an action sequence months or years later didn’t really work for me.
As for whether this could work as a prose work, minus the audiobook, I don’t see why not. I think it would have afforded Cavan Scott more leeway with how to tell the story, and not rely so much on things like Ventress literally reading a journal out loud. I’m interested in why this was presented solely in this manner, instead of also being a book. Is there something inherent to this story that is more pleasing/effective in an auditory way? I don’t really think so; do you?
Matt: That question constantly ran through my mind while listening to this. And there were, I dunno, two or three parts where I thought the auditory experience benefitted the story. Whenever Dooku starts fiddling with the Dark Side or diving deeper into the mysteries of the Force, there were these audio montages of soundbites and effects and music. A mosaic. I don’t think they were used enough to justify this being only an audio experience — and they certainly never reached the ambition or effect of some podcasts I’ve listened to — but that was the closest I came to understanding why they approached it like this.Continued below
We’ve talked a bit about the experience of listening to it, but we’re also sort of burying the lede. What did you think of the story? Did this fill in any of the blanks about Dooku or does he still remain an enigma? Because I know I’m not sure if the story fully bridged him from stellar apprentice to Darth Sidious.
Brian: The cynic in me says that the biggest takeaway from this book is “oh, that is why he is ‘Count’ Dooku!” A more measured take is that, essentially, he was turned to the Dark Side by the same things that turned Anakin, which is to say an intense attachment to others and problems being told what the ‘right’ thing to do is, when your heart feels otherwise.
This is not unimportant, as I think it underscores how easily any of us, in Dooku’s circumstances, could have been turned to the Dark Side. It also continues the 20 year mission of Lucasfilm to strip us of any illusions of the wisdom of the Jedi. But that is not the same thing as presenting a compelling or illuminating story, though I think this story flirts with being compelling.
To me, the broad strokes of this story fit nicely, in terms of giving us the basics of Dooku’s history, his conflicts with the Council, and his eventual leaving the Order. However, was it just me, or did it seem like his leaving came somewhat out of the blue? Sure, he was struggling, but it didn’t seem like it was ‘stop being a Jedi’ level of doubt. In addition, we didn’t really get to see him take the turn towards the Dark Side in any real way, aside from meeting Palpatine and questioning the Order. I’m not sure if there’s enough meat on that bone for another book, so why not have included that here?
Matt: I wondered that too. Because it wasn’t even a fall from grace as a This isn’t where I’m at, emotionally, right now plot line. I agree with you about it coming out of nowhere. We don’t even get a “Noooooo” moment or a scene where Palpatine goes, “I shall call you . . . Darth Sidious” or whatever. There’s a lot of questioning and going against the Council, but I wouldn’t say any of that was necessarily bad, or even presented like it was a bad thing. As Star Wars viewers, we know exactly where Dooku’s going to end up so I’m not sure why the story skirted around that beat so much. It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes or so we even experience anything close to the Dooku we know.
I think part of the reason we chose this book was because it felt like the sister story to the last book we discussed, Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice. The focus in that was Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship. What did you see different in the Qui-Gon in Dooku? Was there anything in Qui-Gon and Dooku’s relationship that connected dots in the other story?
Brian: We got relatively little of Qui-Gon, Dooku, and Rael Aveross together – though I did laugh out loud at Rael’s John Wayne-esque vocal pattern – but I suppose it filled in a few blanks. We saw Qui-Gon uncomfortable with Dooku’s recklessness, which is both understandable from a padawan and somewhat of a hint at how Qui-Gon himself would go rogue at times.
But we didn’t see Dooku break rules and benefit from it, at least in front of Qui-Gon. All his defiance just led to…well, not much. It’s not like Qui-Gon looked at him and said “Ah, that’s how you get shit done as a Jedi.” Which, again, seems like an odd choice. Why show them together if you’re not going to have their interactions tease out future stories?
I know you wanted to talk about Yoda. What was it about Yoda’s appearance in this story that sparked discussion for you?
Matt: Maybe it’s because when were introduced to Yoda, he was someone Obi-Wan trusted whole-heartedly and whom Luke devoted insane attention toward. He’s been the series’ moral center, its truthful voice, and guiding presence. And Scott sort of sets him up to be the Yoda we know and trust, but the nature of the story has him acting sort of out of character? Like, there was an arc in the comic series a few years ago, where he goes to this world with child gangs. He assesses the situation and tells the kids he’s there to learn or something. Also consider his scene in Last Jedi.Continued below
You could argue that this story is told through Dooku’s perspective, and he’s moving away from his mentor. You could argue that it continues the trend of undermining the Jedi that we’ve been getting since the prequels, though Scott sets up Yoda as a mediator and bridge between scenes, so I don’t think that holds as much water. But the characters don’t have the same reverence for him that I’ve seen literally everywhere else. There’s a fear generated around him. They’re constantly like, “Oh, this is going to piss off Yoda.”
Brian: I wonder if that is due to two factors: one, the relative youth of the characters in those scenes, and two, as you said, Dooku’s perspective. It seems like Dooku was never truly comfortable as being only a Jedi. He was constantly looking for more out of his life, whether that is his relationship with his sister, a greater understanding of Sith texts, etc. Yoda represents the most purely Jedi-focused life we can imagine; I don’t believe in the current canon there is anything resembling an origin for Yoda, so we are more or less presented with him as a fully formed Jedi, living in the Temple, instructing others. For Dooku, this is torture.
As for the youth of the people fearing Yoda, I think that somewhat tracks with any learning institution, right? Kids have unease with their teachers and, especially, administration. I think that, until someone gets to know Yoda, see his more playful side, you may be afraid of him. Though this somewhat contradicts the best scene in Attack of the Clones, where we see Yoda being quite gentle and pleasant with the younglings. But Star Wars contradicting itself is built into the fabric of the stories.
Anything else you want to add before we get out of here?
Matt: I think it was an interesting experiment, if not an entirely successful one. It’s like some higher up at LucasFilm thought, “You know what these kids like? Podcasts. Let’s try one of those.” (But podcasts are typically free and they’re not going to put this much production value into something anyone can download.) The story was trying to be so many different things at so many times and it made the whole thing sort of confusing and meandering. If they attempt something like this again, I hope it has more focus and better understanding of how to create tension through audio.