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The Mandalorian Armor
Book 1 in The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy

K.W. Jeter
Bantam Spectra Books, 400 pages

The Mandalorian Armor
K.W. Jeter
Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1950, K.W. Jeter holds a degree in sociology and a Master's degree from the writing program at San Francisco State University. He is the bestselling author of many novels, including Dr. Adder, Wolf Flow, The Edge of Human, and Replicant Night. He and his wife make their home in Oregon.

K.W. Jeter Website
ISFDB Bibliography
K.W. Jeter Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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You probably don't want me to go into a rant about series books, do you? Oh -- you do? Why, how accommodating!

When I agreed to review The Mandalorian Armor, I wanted to do so precisely because I'm biased against series books. I'd be scrupulously fair about it for that very reason, I said. I know my biases, and I don't let them get in my way. If the book was good, I said, I'd say so, and if it was bad, I'd say so.

Well, The Mandalorian Armor isn't bad. But it isn't particularly good, either. Now, don't get me wrong -- I really enjoy the Star Wars franchise films, I own videotape copies of them, and I'm eagerly awaiting Episode 1. I know it'll be an exciting no-brainer, and I'll probably want to see it more than once.

And that speaks to the root of why I am biased against series books. What I object to with these things, these Star Wars series books in particular (although I'm happy to tar Star Trek books with the same brush), is that the characters in the films function largely as archetypes and really have no character per se other than what is required of them by the exigencies of the plot. In other words, they're constructed of cardboard that can't stand up under the weight of things like angst, guilt, regret, lust, and so on. They seem to do fairly well as chess pieces, with some basic emotional content grafted on to them: love, hate, loyalty, greed, and friendship (is that an emotion? And they never get horny. Why is that?). The movies are full of swashbuckling, weird creatures, cool effects, and lots of explosions. The characters have easy-to-understand motivations, and don't vary from their expected roles. All of which makes for good lowbrow filmmaking. (I like 'em, so I must have a low brow. Oooga booga!) But when transferred to the written page, there is a lack of depth to these stories for which no amount of intricate plotting can compensate.

Clearly, however, this is not a problem in the marketplace. These suckers get snapped up and gobbled down like popcorn at the movies. The Mandalorian Armor was very easy to read, made absolutely no demands on me as a reader, and ended with a nice cliff-hanger.

And I didn't buy a bit of it.

I can't fault K.W. Jeter's for this. He's a fine writer. I can prove that by pointing at the few very cool characters and devices of his own that he contrived for the book. They were much more interesting than Boba Fett or Bossk or any of the other more "familiar" characters, all one-noters, pretty much, populating the rest of the book. I know Jeter must've made some halfway decent coin for this effort, although it suffers from occasional sloppiness and reads like it was hacked out. Try to convince me it wasn't! Believe me, I do not mean to dis K.W. Jeter -- he does good work. He wrote this for the bucks, and it shows, that's all. He had to hammer out a tale that fits within the strictures of someone else's world -- in this case, George Lucas'. That's not easy for any writer.

The plot? I dunno -- it has something to do with Prince Xixor and the Black Sun crime organization trying to destroy the Bounty Hunters Guild by getting the members to fight against each other. It explains how it was that Boba Fett survived being ingested by the Sarlacc (why is that capitalized, by the way? Do we capitalize Tiger, or Mosquito?), and the enmity between Fett and Bossk. (Did you know there was enmity? Did you give a big rat's keister?) One curious omission: if you're looking for some back story on Boba Fett, such as what his youth was like, or how he came to be as he is and so forth, forget it -- there's none of that here. We don't even get a good physical description of him with his armor off.

I'm not even sure what the title has to do with anything; it's true that the armor that Boba Fett wears is referred to as Mandalorian, but it's not a plot point in any way. Let me put it like this: I've read some other Star Wars series books. After two I gave up and didn't bother to finish the third, which was the final volume of a trilogy. I just did not care what happened.

Bottom line? If you like Star Wars books (lots of chases, laser battles, intrigues and double-crosses), this delivers the goods. If you don't, The Mandalorian Armor won't change your mind.

(One bit of humor that has nothing to do with the book -- my spellchecker kept trying to change Fett to Feet.)

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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