When I first started this reread, I couldn’t decide if I was looking forward to or dreading getting to the Republic Commando books. It wasn’t because they were controversial in some circles of the fandom but rather because I knew they were going to kick me in the gut with feelings. (Editor’s Note: They kick me in the gut with feels just thinking about them.) Omega Squad and Etain Tur-Mukan found their ways into my heart and never left. Needless to say, I was absolutely not looking forward to rereading Order 66 but more on that later. At the end of the day though, I think I’m rather glad that I took the time to reread these four books because gosh do I still love them even if they did make me have an emotional meltdown on Twitter. (Editor’s Note: It was dramatic. I tweeted selfies, threw the book down like ten times in a row, and cried a little.)
Overall, Hard Contact remains a solid action book. I think it could serve as a decent starting point for someone who’s really interested in the Clone Wars. There’s not much continuity that you need to know outside of the films especially it’s only peppered with the Mandalorian culture that fills the next three books. In short, it can stand alone and that’s a good thing in the epic Expanded Universe.
I still really like how Karen Traviss gives each of the clone commandos a distinct personality. It’s been a while but I think that this might’ve been one of the first Clone War era novels I read that really did that. At the same time, she doesn’t shy away from presenting the mentality the clones are raised with: they are soldiers who follow orders and they are expendable. Plus, these are the early days of the war and the Jedi and the clones are still trying to figure each other out. It’s some nice insight into that thought process.
I’ll also freely admit to loving Etain because I am a total sucker for the underdog. Heroes of the Jedi Order are great and everything but I like seeing the everyman too. (Sorry. I’ll stop giving Anakin a hard time for being the Chosen One some day. Maybe.) She’s a good kid who just wants to prove herself to the world and you have to respect that. (Editor’s Note: Etain baby. ETAIN YOU’RE SO CUTE AND ADORABLE.)
Triple Zero is another solid book that shifts attention away from the front lines to the more subtle war at home. The commandos get to do some intelligence work and oh gosh would you look how all these authority figures have suddenly become deaf and blind about what they’re up to. It’s also the first time we really get to meet Kal Skirata after hearing hints about him all through the previous book and he’s certainly a… vivid character to say the least. Actually, I find him intriguing. He’s definitely what the commandos described but he’s not what you would expect a hardened Mandalorian mercenary to be. Without a doubt though, he’s a good father figure to men who otherwise had none and I absolutely respect him for that. On the other hand, I’m currently having some conflicted feelings about him but more about that in a paragraph.
I liked the contrast between Omega Squad and Delta Squad. Different sergeants, different experiences, different attitudes but hey, war will do that to you. I also found myself becoming fond of Ordo all over again. He’s a good kid and was my favorite Null for awhile.
It’s hard to talk about this book without discussing the elephant in the room or rather the baby in the room. First, I’m still thrilled every time Darman and Etain finally act on their feelings for each other because dangit they deserve to have at least some happiness. I’m not a person who tends to loudly insist on many ships anymore (Editor’s Note: L O L. Okay this was true up until Space Married and Kylux.) but I often wish for that happy little alternative universe where Etain and Darman get to live out their days as a ridiculously happy couple. That said, the baby storyline does irk me because I honestly think Etain knew better than to wind up pregnant in the middle of a war. Furthermore, Skirata’s reaction to the pregnancy makes me mad and I thought it was fairly out of line. Everyone just took a lot of stupid pills where this was concerned. But Darman and Etain are still adorable.
Completely unrelated to the previous paragraph but boy has the number of times that I used the word ‘fierfek’ or wanted to add the ‘ika’ suffix to someone’s name really skyrocketed in the couple of days I’ve been reading these books. Kandosii, right?
This is the Republic Commando book that I can never remember the plot of. It’s probably because this is the first book where there isn’t an overarching plot line that has potential consequences for the Republic. Instead, it’s the hunt for Ko Sai and it’s all for personal reasons. But hey, who can really fault them for wanting to chop her into tiny pieces because is anyone really fond of those creepy grey aliens? Clearly, this is the book where you have to make the decision whether or not you are emotionally invested in what happens to characters. If you’re not, get off the train now. I, obviously, am invested. I missed that overarching plot line because I do love a good battlefront book but I did also feel rather smug when they did succeed in their mission.
There was a line I found a lot more intriguing this read through: “Your Chancellor wanted me to use my research into aging to prolong his own life indefinitely.” After reading Darth Plagueis, this line had a lot more of an impact and makes me think that Palpatine might have never expected the answer to eternal life to come from the Force but rather from science especially since Plagueis focused mostly on midichlorians and failed.
As far as characters go, Mereel has taken over as my favorite Null due to his charming personality and I also liked Commander Levett, aka Commander Tactful. Darman, on the other hand, just needs a hug. And then there’s Fi who… Fi just deserves so much better life than he gets. He’s a bit like the Wes Janson of Omega in that he seems to eternally be in a good mood and is the jokester but he has an incredibly serious side to him. Basically, he is my favorite and I hated seeing him a mere stumble away from death.
I also just wanted to take a few moments to comment on the Mandalorian culture that Traviss helps illustrate because at its core I honestly do find it incredibly appealing. Blame it on some of my own cultural upbringing but a lot of those notes rang true with me. The idea of your family being more than just blood and being the people you choose and who choose you is far from being a foreign one to me and I can also appreciate the concept of dar’manda. You have to be knowledgeable about your culture to really be a part of it or even to appreciate it. Do I like all parts of it? No, but these aspects definitely speak to me and connect with both of my own cultural upbringings and I respect that.
I can honestly say that each and every time I have reached for this book, I have dreaded reading it. The very first time I read it, I recall having this intense fear that Omega Squad would be the ones to kill Etain. What actually happens is only a little bit better but I still find myself actually shouting “ETAIN NO!” every time. (Editor’s Note: Only a very very very tiny bit better. Like barely any better.)
Let’s start with the positives. It was a relief to see Fi get better and have it be a miracle but also a slow process. Thankfully, my favorite Omega did not end up being the sacrificial lamb because that’s usually what happens to my favorites. (Editor’s Note: No see it’s funny because now even MORE of my favorites die.) Delta Squad also gets a bit more character development, especially Scorch. The war finally seems to really get to him, more so than his squadmates, and having to leave Sev behind really doesn’t help things. I’m also relieved every time when Etain finally tells Darman about their son and I find his angry reaction to be completely reasonable. I’m also glad that they get to have a brief family moment before… well… you know what comes next.
Because then we get to Order 66 or, as I like to call it, the part where Karen Traviss absolutely rips your heart out and stomps on it several times for good measure. From the very moment you read the title, you absolutely know what’s coming BUT Traviss spends 346 pages building up a sense of optimism and hope that maybe all your fears are just silly and that everyone is going to make it out just fine. They’re prepared for this. It’s just a slight change in timetable but they can adapt. Or not. Everyone takes their stupid pills and now Etain’s dead, Niner barely makes it, and Darman is just a mess because his wife is dead and he stayed behind to make sure his brother survived. All of this just breaks my heart. A part of me is relieved that most of the group made it out okay but for those few who didn’t… yeah. And then poor Boss and Scorch at the very end when they see that Darman made the sacrifice to stay with Niner. Heartbreak all around. There is a reason this is only the third time I’ve read this book since its release in 2008.
I still really like these books but man do I sometimes wish I hadn’t fallen in love with the characters like I did. These are some of the 86 toughest pages to read in the Star Wars universe. I opened and slammed the book about six times before I could convince myself to read it and even then it took an hour to get through it. My poor Etain. Ow my feels. Send help.
Next up, Mace Windu gets put through hell and Matthew Stover is flawless. So, you know, something nice and cheery to help lift the mood.
Originally posted at Tosche Station on December 10, 2012.