I know what this has been compared to, and let’s hope it’s much better than the movie version of MASH!
Cover Art By: Dave Seeley
Written By: Steve Perry & Michael Reeves
“How blind those who did not know the Force were. How sad for them.” – Barriss Offee
The comparison I made in my lead in blurb is an obvious one. The template for Medstar: Battle Surgeons was definitely MASH, as well as the TV version, M*A*S*H. The connections to those two pieces of media is there, but thankfully, at least in the case of MASH, it is only skin deep. I found MASH to be a collection of horrendous characters whose worldview’s were perpetuated by a director, Robert Altman, who had no interest in making anything other than a vindictive, spiteful, and aesthetically unpleasing film. Luckily, Medstar: Battle Surgeons takes the template of MASH, or M*A*S*H, and presents a somewhat more open worldview. The problems are much the same, and the characters fit pretty much the same archetypes, but they feel like real characters as opposed to the prodding tendrils of a shallow director’s psyche.
That’s not to say that Medstar: Battle Surgeons is without faults. I do feel that the novel does a subpar job of dealing with the character of Barriss Offee in relation to her role in the Jedi. Michael Reeves and Steve Perry present Barriss as a person struggling to deal with the hardships of life and the realities of war. Yet, at the same time they present her as quite smug in her abilities as a Jedi and in how Jedi are better than others. The opening quote illustrates my point nicely, and the “Jedi are superior” viewpoint is supported by the text of the novel in a way that I found unsettling and ultimately troubling.
In other areas, notably that of Jos Vondar, Medstar: Battle Surgeons succeeds immensely. There isn’t much action to be found in Medstar: Battle Surgeons, but it doesn’t need a lot of action because the novel focuses on its characters so intently that they provide the suspenseful and climatic moments through their actions. We spend some quite moments with a Clone Trooper, who unfortunately is not given a name, as well as getting to spend more time with the always awesome droid, I-Five. For the most part all of the characters in Medstar: Battle Surgeons are interesting and I loved spending time with them. They enriched the story and helped to hide some of the more deficient areas found in the novel.
I did have issues with the side story involving Admiral Tarnese Bleyd. In the plainest terminology possible, it was a side story that served no purpose and didn’t go anywhere interesting. The Bleyd side story took away from time that would have been better spent exploring the other characters that populated the novel. The hidden spy aspect also felt a little too thin, but I’m hoping that in the succeeding novel, and short story, that the spy subplot will be fleshed out more thoroughly.
I enjoyed Medstar: Battle Surgeons, flaws and all. Most of all I enjoyed the characters, outside of Bleyd of course, and look forward to seeing what happens to these characters and where the authors go with them next. The story is well written, and overcomes its flaws with strong characterization and compelling choices for its characters. Medstar: Battle Surgeons was inspired by MASH, and M*A*S*H, but at least in the case of MASH I preferred Medstar: Battle Surgeons by a wide margin. Medstar: Battle Surgeons proves that there is nothing wrong with being derivative as long as something interesting is done with the material.