Episode II: Attack of the Clones by R. A. Salvatore (2002, Del Rey)
R.A. Salvatore is best known among sci-fi/fantasy fans for his series of Forgotten Realms novels featuring Drizzt Do’Urden, a character that has ensured that every tabletop roleplaying group includes at least one joker who, at some point, wants to play as a chaotic good dark elf. A skilled and experienced writer of pulp fantasy, Salvatore was a good choice for the Attack of the Clones novelization.
In places where the novel sticks to the plot of the film, dialogue and action generally adhere closely to the screenplay by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales. As in the Episode I novelization, we see here that perhaps less of the dialogue’s cringe-inducing quality comes from the script than from the acting. The movie’s better performances, like those of Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor are missed, to be sure, but without Hayden Christensen’s wooden delivery (half-sincere apologies to my many Hayden-obsessed followers!), the Anakin/Padme love scenes are far less rife with unintentional comedy. Of course, nothing can save, say, the infamous “I don’t like sand” speech, and I’ve never really thought that “Begun, this Clone War has” sounded nearly as ominous as it’s supposed to, but in many places, the weaker dialogue from Episode II is helped by its translation from speech to prose.
Rounding out the length of this novelization are several sequences from the screenplay that didn’t make the final cut of Episode II and a number of original contributions from Salvatore that serve to enhance character relationships and provide deeper plot detail. These mesh quite organically with the story material from the film and, I would go so far as to say, manage to improve it a little bit.
Salvatore also has a gift for writing quick and exciting action. The most entertaining example in this novel was probably the sequence in which Anakin and Obi-Wan chase Zam Wesell through Coruscant’s lower levels. Despite Salvatore’s skill, this book doesn’t quite capture the excitement and spectacle of Yoda’s duel with Count Dooku at the climax, but anyone who’s seen that sequence (i.e. anyone reading this) can appreciate how difficult it would be to make Yoda’s acrobatics as fun to read as they are to watch.
Attack of the Clones is a faithful adaptation that isn’t so slaved to the script as to make it boring. Salvatore puts enough of his own stamp on the story to keep it interesting even for those who’ve seen Episode II multiple times. It doesn’t quite attain the heights of entertainment that its source material offers, but in many places, it makes up for that source material’s lowest lows.
Included in the paperback are seventy-six of Rodolfo Damaggio’s storyboards for the Battle of Geonosis, complete with annotations on camera movements. These are very dynamic and are a lot of fun to look at. By themselves they’re worth the low price you’d get for this book at a used bookstore.