The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes is full of intrigue, adventure and deeper themes behind the Clone Wars. Starring Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kit Fisto, a secret (but familiar) enemy it also introduces new characters that are well rounded and interesting. It’s a real page turner, and gets even faster and harder to put down as one gets past the halfway mark. The stakes are high, the fate of a world if not the galaxy is in their hands.
I really loved how it gave deeper insight into the questions the war raises, and seeing the Jedi’s attempts at navigation. It gives even more depth to Obi-Wan and adds some to the lesser explored Kit Fisto. The new characters are really well rounded with challenges of their own and history. The culture of the X-ting people and of Ord Cestus really is well thought out. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the book exciting.
The Movie Heroes
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Kit Fisto are the Jedi heroes of the Cestus Deception. This is our first good look at Kit Fisto’s character in any media, and a great exploration of Obi-Wan. This story is full of deceptions and this challenges the Jedi because while they will do so to prevent death, they aren’t necessarily comfortable with it.
Oh yes. General Kenobi, the Negotiator.General Grievious in Revenge of the Sith
This book showcases Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ethics beautifully, preferring to trick than to kill, to do damage to a critical location and yet avoid lethal solutions whenever possible. We get to see his negotiation skills in all their famous glory even as his foe turns out countermeasures. Oddly enough, Anakin, still his padawan, is left out of this story to study at the Jedi Temple. Perhaps this is because the Cestus Deception is full of intrigue and subtlety and Anakin for all his brilliance as the opposite, an expert in direct, often brash action.
Kit Fisto showed up in the Clone Wars microseries and in Attack of the Clones as someone who clearly found pleasure in his work. He had a good sense of humor, but he was also clearly a masterful warrior given that few Jedi survived Geonosis. Here he gets to play at undercover work and becoming a local rebel leader against the Cestian Five Families whose greed is a threat to both the locals and the Republic. He is the more aggressive Jedi of the two.
SPOILER. Click for the Secret Enemy.
Asajj Ventress is Dooku’s chosen agent to deal with the Cestians. She has a grudge against Obi-Wan from their previous two encounters and is thrilled to go against him again. Her presence chills the blood of even her allies and the fact that the Jedi are unaware of her arrival gives her the advantage.
The Original Characters
Jangotat or Nate is an excellent exploration of the whole ethics of a Clone slave army. Few clone troopers ever contemplate the right or wrongness of being born to be soldiers, literally created and genetically modified in this fashion. As an Arc trooper, he has a bit more independence than the average trooper and even more intense training. But in Cestus Deception, everything he knows about life gets turned upside down. His enlightenment is crucial to the story. While the Jedi interaction with this is limited, what we do get suggests the discomfort they feel at a genetically modified army raised as slaves without choice.
Sheeka Tull is Cestus Deception’s temptress to truth. She knew the original Jango Fett and her motives aren’t completely pure, as she did love him. But meeting the clones, in particular Nate, leads her to influence him. She wants to find the real man in the clone, and it will change his and her life forever.
G’mai Duris is the official leader of Cestus, but in reality the insectile Cestian woman is merely a puppet. She wishes to do what is best for her people but is hindered by the power of the Five Families who are the economic powerhouses of the planet. A misstep could be fatal, challenging them is dangerous. But to simply acquiesce to the Five families means bringing the Republic’s war down on their world.
Doob Snoil is a vippit. This is one of few species to call Hutta home, the most famous being the Hutts. But unlike the hutts Snoil (and possibly vippits) are a more noble breed. His specialty is the law. He bears a certain resemblance to a snail, having twin eyestalks, a shell, and moving on a single foot. But he can dig into treaties, legal agreements and rout out the hidden secret behind the Cestus Deception – at least the oldest of them all. Doob isn’t meant to be a hero, but he is pulled in deeper than he expects and is an incredibly loyal ally.
Timing of the Cestus Deception (regarding Jabiim)
The placement according to the timeline in the book says it is after the Legacy of the Jedi story (with the events with Lorion Nod on Null) and before the Battle of Jabiim in the comics. The old archive version of the Wookieepedia says the same. This therefore implies there was more than one Battle of Jabiim. This isn’t all that unusual as the archive listing suggests more that multiple battles waged at different times on different planets. Apparently this first battle was never given further story, although Cestus Deception does suggest it was no more a success for the Republic than the second battle.
The book mentions Jabiim, but further mentions that Obi-Wan escaped from Asajj Ventress twice. Once was on Oma Dun, the gungan moon, when she unleashed a bioweapon, and the other was on Queyta where there was a secret lab with a cure. Cestus Deception does suggest the first battle for Jabiim was no more a success for the Republic than the second battle.
Other Stories with Clone Ethics
Other Clone Troopers do question their orders and creation, though not many. You can find the Republic Command novels story arc is heavy on this. There were also some in Dark Lord: Rise of Darth Vader.
While Obi-Wan Kenobi of course is heavily featured in all prequel material and in some of the original trilogy era, Kit Fisto has little. He does appear in the Clone Wars Microseries as well as Republic comics and Clone Wars adventures books.
Sadly the new characters never appear again. This seems a shame since they were an interesting lot. As far as I know Ord Cestus is never visited again, outside of the short story “The Hive” that ships with the paperback version of The Cestus Deception.