It’s like Star Wars meets Enter The Dragon, only without the awesomeness!
Cover Art By: Steven D. Anderson
Written By: Steven Barnes
“I do not mean to insult you. I merely state a fact: Jangotat was behaving oddly before the attack.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The above statement speaks to why The Cestus Deception is not a well written book. It doesn’t really speak to why The Cestus Deception doesn’t work as a Star Wars book, but I’ll get into that later. As to why the above statement speaks to the low quality of the writing in The Cestus Deception; that statement is a flat out lie. At no point prior to the attack Obi-Wan is mentioning does Jangotat/Nate act any differently than he always acted. That statement is put there to try and plant a red herring and to continue the evolution of Jangotat as a character. However, it’s a statement that is not in line with the reality of the book. The Cestus Deception suffers much, and ultimately is not a well written novel, because of how inconsistent it is in its prose and its characterizations.
When I speak of consistency I’m not referencing other works within the Star Wars universe. No, I am merely writing about the internal consistency of The Cestus Deception as a fictional novel. There is no consistency to The Cestus Deception. The characters aren’t handled consistently, nor are they used consistently, and the story as a whole comes across as hodgepodge and full of the sort of holes found in inconsistent writing. Many of the beats of The Cestus Deception exist as if in a vacuum, with no reason for them occurring within the story other than Steven Barnes not knowing how to get to the next point in the story. The way in which The Cestus Decpetion was written and the inconsistencies found within the writing made getting through The Cestus Deception quite difficult.
Getting to the point of The Cestus Deception not really fitting as a Star Wars novel. Mr. Barnes wrote the type of novel he wanted to write, but in doing so he wrote a novel that is too mystical martial arts and not enough Star Wars. I understand that the Jedi are inherently mystical, but the way Mr. Barnes wrote them wasn’t just mystical, it was laughably mystical. This comes forth most tellingly in the action scenes where he eschews actual combat for the sort of combat still taught in Ta Kwon Do classes around the world. The sort of combat that when employed in the real world results in the practitioner getting their ass handed to them. Star Wars has never delved into the martial arts side of things, most of the hand to hand combat that the universe shows is grounded in a brawling reality. The way Mr. Barnes chose to convey fighting, and the mysticism of the Jedi, in The Cestus Deception does not fit with Star Wars and it did not make for an interesting or compelling read.
Another factor that took away from The Cestus Deception was the rhythm of the story. I am not a fan of half page, one page, and two page chapters. Those are not chapters and I find that they create a very choppy reading experience. I had a hard time finishing The Cestus Deception because the book lacked the necessary forward momentum to keep me turning page after page. While I know most of this was due to the lower quality of the writing I also feel that the presentation employed by Mr. Barnes was also a factor in my inability to engage with the story.
The Cestus Deception is not a Star Wars novel that is highly regarded, and I can see why. Everything about the story in The Cestus Deception is highly forgettable. The presentation was not for me and the writing style left a lot to be desired. I did not have a good time with The Cestus Deception, I struggled to get through this novel because of all the factors I listed above. There’s no reason to make the time to read The Cestus Deception, just flow drill your way right past this unnecessary entry in the Star Wars universe.