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A novel by Karen Traviss (2009, Del Rey)
Imperial Commando, Book 1
Set 19 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Two clones plan their escape from the Imperial Army, as those who already deserted take up residence in their secret location and find their loyalties tested.



Read May 10th to 30th, 2012, in paperback  
    After all the Republic Commando novels, this one was about as expected. The author can write great detail, emotions, and action. But as with most of the previous ones, I just didn't like the characters, the story was not very engaging because of that, and I get very tired, very fast, of all the Jedi-bashing. At least in this case, the Jedi who left the Order starts questioning who he is.

Spoiler review:

After writing this book, this author took exception to the way Mandalore was being portrayed in the Clone Wars TV series, and stopped writing the series altogether. Was it only because of the Death Watch plot, which is given about ten pages, and which clever re-writing could have corrected? Or was it about the planet itself, which was portrayed as technologically advanced, not farmland as in this series and the Legacy of the Force series? Either way, although many people seem to enjoy these novels, I find myself happy that I won't be tempted to read another one, to sit through more of the same just to find out what happens to Darman and Niner, Jusik and Skirata, as well as Altis' Jedi offshoot (of which Calista is a member, as we saw in Order 66). I realize that's selfish, but it takes me forever to get through these books, and it's not the same just reading a summary in Wookiepedia or other online forums (I've tried with the Legacy comic series).

The novel picks up months after Order 66, when Niner is healed of his injuries, Darman is still in shock from losing Etain (and now he's really upset at any Force-user in the galaxy, except Bardan), and Skirata has relocated his closest clones to Kyorimut on Mandalore, the most obvious place to look for them, though the Empire doesn't search there.

Darman starts the book completely withdrawn, going through the motions, barely interacting with his fellow commandos. The person who gets him to come out of his shell is surprisingly not somebody who was part of his old Mandalorian family, but a new commanding officer who hates all Force-users. I don't remember how the clones found out that Palpatine was a Sith, but they don't divulge that information. Their new commander comes from the same planet as the Prophets of the Dark Side from the young reader Ken series. I wonder why the author decided to drag something from that up here... Regardless, Darman is brainwashed into seeing only part of the truth, that any Force-user is a threat, and could reform the Jedi Order. His damaged brain tells him that any such cult would eventually come and take Kad away from him, to indoctrinate into their new Order.

By the time the rescue is mounted by the Nulls, Darman has come to the conclusion that he must stay with the 501st Legion, Vader's best, in order to help wipe out all Force-sensitive people, so he doesn't get to go back to Mandalore. There is a nod here to the Whiplash organization that popped up in the Coruscant Nights series, which smuggles Jedi and rebel sympathizers off Coruscant. Darman and Niner are sent on a mission to obtain their contact list. They do manage to retrieve it and kill the Jedi guarding it, losing one of their men in the process. But the chip was erased, so they have to get it to Jaing (one of the Nulls) to reconstruct it.

The Nulls activate an ultra-secure link to Darman and Niner, which I think is the most unlikely thing ever. I can't believe any signal is completely untraceable. Somebody should be picking up stray signals. But this allows Skirata to obtain all sorts of intelligence, and keeps Niner and Darman in the loop.

It's only when Darman hears that there are Jedi at Kyorimut that he snaps. I don't know if he'll ever forgive Skirata, now. He decides to betray the Jedi sect that Etain met in Order 66, of which Callista is a part, and would have returned to Mandalore to do it in the next book, had there been a next book.

On Mandalore itself, people still come to the safe haven that Skirata has set up. But there is an Imperial garrison there, too, a prelude to the Empire's interest in beskar, the stuff that can stop lightsabers. Do they really think it is Palpatine himself who has directed every single thing going on in this book (oh, I mean "Palps")? There is talk about open rebellion (and some Death Watch members, too, in a reference to Jango Fett: Open Seasons, certainly not the Clone Wars TV series), but this book seems like it's only really setup.

More important to this book (and all the Republic Commando/Imperial Commando books) is the sense of family that Skirata has impressed on his clones, and the guilt he feels about those he has abandoned, such as Darman and Niner, and another lost on Kashyyyk, and others. He picks up a potential girlfriend in Ny, who helps smuggle clones and supplies to him, and the love grows slowly, quite realistically, given the events preceding this book. She also brings two Jedi to him, one a Kaminoan (unheard of previously, and a thousand years old), who is put to work supplying information and genetic samples. The young girl is Scout, and forms a bond with the geneticist who tried to wipe out the clones way back in Hard Contact, and who develops an antidote once the poison is unleashed on her home planet by "Palps"..

Then there is the sister of Jango Fett, who apparently became part of Death Watch, and who is going crazy now because of it. Bardan Jusik, who rounds out the cast of characters as the rogue Jedi who abandoned his Jedi ways to become a mandalorian, attempts to use the Force to heal her, or at least forget the parts of her past that she can't bear to remember. Jusik brings his former commander, Zey, back, making Skirata realize how soft he's become. They decide to ship the Jedi off to Callista's group, after wiping their memories of Kyorimut, but while also preparing a backup site.

There is so much character work here that if I actually liked the characters, I would probably really enjoy the story! But it is too grim, too heavy, and too anti-Jedi for my liking. But the book still gets lots of points for doing so much, making the places so very real. In the end, it was obviously setup, though, for things to come, and which may never come, now. As such, it did have some emotional arcs, but didn't actually go anywhere.


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