||It's hard to read a book when you
really don't like the characters, or the attitudes the author is
presenting. Such is the case with this novel, which feels overly-long
because of it. On the other hand, I give the author points for good,
detailed writing, and consistent characters.
Aside from the fact that these guys are in
a war, this is a character story, which means the characters need to be
good, because the action isn't going to hold the story on its own. And
when you don't like the characters, it's hard to get invested.
In terms of plot, not much happens,
because it really is mainly about the characters, and their feelings.
And the feeling that is unanimous across all of the characters is that
the clone troopers are being treated like separatist droids. They think
believes they have any feelings, or lives outside the war, and they
don't even get paid. It seems that somebody is griping about one or all of
these things on almost every single page of this book. And when they
aren't, they are complaining about how bad, immoral, or unfeeling the
Jedi are. As with the last two novels in this series, starting with
Triple Zero and into
True Colors, the author seems to be telling us that Skirata and his gang of Nulls are the good guys, while the Jedi are the
bad guys. It's not just about the characters thinking such things. There
is no room for other ways of interpreting the theme in this book.
It seems strange that I can half-agree
with the author about the Jedi. It was a bad mistake for them to become
Generals in this war, which they were manipulated into, of course. But
from before the war, they
are portrayed as arrogant, self-righteous, manipulative, thieving, and have no
concern for the welfare of others, despite what they profess. They
think they can see the bigger picture, and think this justifies it, but they are
just as short-sighted in Yoda's time as a non Force-sensitive person.
It's no wonder that the clones don't
hesitate or even think twice when given Order 66. By this time they hate
the Jedi, and are almost at the point of trying to kill them anyway,
without the order -at least according to this novel. They have no
trouble at all believing that the Jedi could turn against the Republic.
On the other hand, they hate Palpatine just as much, and believe he is
just as corrupt -and they accept his word that all the Jedi must be
I saw a trend right from the start, and
in hindsight from the last book also, that the author was going to try
to blame the execution of the Jedi on Palpatine's new clones, saving Skirata's
troopers from the responsibility. But though some of his most beloved
troopers got out, others did take part in the slaughter.
All the regular players were present,
from the Nulls like Ordo (who marries Bessany), Darman (who marries
Etain, and has the expected reaction when he finds out the baby is his),
Fi (who marries a Mandalorian woman who helps bring his motor and mental
functions back from the brink after what happened last book), Skirata
and Vau, who try to find a way out for clone deserters. Bessany finds
more information about new clones and starships, as well as a projected
date for when they will be deployed. She nearly gets in trouble for it,
but the clones save her. She also survives an audit when security finds
mole programs the clones have set up.
There are a bunch of other characters,
one of whom gets left behind after he is separated from his squad at
Kashyyyk -he is sacrificed specifically by Yoda, because that is the
Jedi arriving, and who needs the cannon emplacement destroyed. This
generates more hatred for the Jedi, and shows us, the readers, how
callous the author thinks he really is (and I can't blame her, either,
based on his behavior in the prequels). It's just not necessary. The
sacrifice does highlight the difference between Delta and Omega squads,
though, in that Delta left one man behind, while Darman wouldn't leave
Niner, and so he sacrificed his chance to desert with Skirata. It's a
wonder any clone squads survived, with that attitude. I'm sure they have
to leave comrades behind all the time in the situations they get into.
Skirata has set up a nice homestead in
the far north of Mandalore where they can retire unobserved. We get a
lot of talk of how Mandalorians are the most honest people in the
galaxy, being mercenaries they tell you exactly what they plan to do and
how much it will cost. Their family values can't be criticized because
they are so wonderful -they'll adopt anybody, and even search for
blood-relatives who have disowned them. If they kill, it might be
personal, or not. They don't mind collateral damage -sorry, but they're
honest about it when they break the law. It seems that physical violence
really is the best way of settling disputes in the most civilized of
places, after all. Because nobody is expected to control themselves, and
fists are all humanity knows, anyway.
I just roll my eyes and try to get
through these passages as fast as I can.
The author has dumbed down the Jedi,
too. General Zey can be easily fooled, because The Force only gives
vague feelings, or so Etain and Jusik have told Skirata and Vau. Ah,
yes, Jusik. Become a Mandalorian and given up his Jedi heritage. Why
can't he have both? Why does he have to put his Force powers away? It's
like Tenel Ka's desire to use only her physical strength rather than
supplementing it with her Force ability. At least that action had
consequences, in that she lost her arm. Being privileged enough to have
that ability, I don't understand the desire to not use it to help where
possible. I'm sure Jusik could help Skirata's movement more using his
powers. On Mandalore, of course, they distrust Jedi because of Jango's
experience with them in Open Seasons.
I do like the way the author gives one
of the characters the idea that Jango, who they all thought sold his
soul for the clone army, was playing the long waiting game to get back
at the Jedi. It's actually Palpatine who does this, as I seriously doubt
Jango even knew why the army was being created. The idea is that only an
army of Jango's could defeat the Jedi the way the Jedi defeated the
Mandalorians in Open Seasons -a complete slaughter.
And then there's Etain... She started
out as a little girl, a Padawan who didn't think she was a good Jedi
back in Hard Contact. She may have warmed to the clones over the next
three books, but I don't think she's much smarter. She was bullied by Skirata into keeping her pregnancy a secret from Darman back in
Zero. Here she's so close to the clones that she goes out to every small
outpost to reassure them, which is good (and something she learned from Skirata), and she never visits the Jedi Temple anymore, causing her to
lose sight of her roots (not so good). She is as brainwashed as the clones. It was
inevitable that either she or Darman would die by the end of the book,
because they are Kad's parents. Her death is supposed to be a huge
emotional fiasco, and the characters certainly treat it as such.
But I see it as just one more stupid
thing on a list of stupid things Etain has done. In the climax, as she
is trying to sneak through a security station in plain clothing, a small
group of Jedi is trying to do the same. So the clones close in on the
Jedi, who act in self-defense and try to kill as many clones as they can
to get away -anybody knowing lethal force was about to be used would do
the same. But Etain can't bear to see another clone harmed, so she jumps
in front of a lightsaber blow intended for a clone. She reaches for her
weapon, but either she's forgotten it's hidden (unthinkable, even for a
half-Jedi like her), or she's too slow (which is also unthinkable since
it's a youngling or Padawan on the attack). Since she used Force-speed
to get there, wouldn't it have been smarter to Force-push the attacking
Jedi? There are any number of things she could have done, but the story
required that she die, and so she did -stupidly, just as she lived her life,
as far as I can tell.
There were a number of nice touches in
this book, making it not as bad as it might seem from my comments above.
One was Callista, who shows there is another sect of Jedi who do not
live under the Council, and who have families. Etain was thinking of
joining them. The story also picked up a little when meshing with the events of
Revenge of the Sith, starting with the deployment of the additional
clones when the Chancellor is kidnapped and the Separatists attack
Coruscant. This brings in a huge number of clones to patrol the streets
of the capital world, and enables them to march on the Jedi Temple when
the time comes. The Nulls are the ones who report that Grievous is at Upatau, allowing Obi-Wan to chase after him. But it seemed that they
knew where he was all the time, so why did they not report it earlier,
or go after him themselves? They take part in the defense of some
Coruscant buildings (including, strangely, the single building that
houses all of the holonet news service headquarters -don't they have
other places where they could broadcast from?) when the Separatists try
to land. They see the fire from the Jedi Temple and react to the idea
that the Jedi could try to kill the Chancellor and take control. And
they take the attack as a distraction to rescue Jango's sister (whose
daughter would appear in
Invincible), a gene scientist (the one who was captured in
Hard Contact), and the woman who was
framed for Bessany's espionage.
As an aside, the clones often complain
that the Jedi are outside the government, but that is not how the
prequel movies make it look. In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon asks the
Chancellor to call a meeting of the Jedi Council. It is the Chancellor
who ordered the Jedi to Naboo in the first place. In
Attack of the
Clones, the Senate passed the law creating the clone army (after it was
discovered), and it is implied that the Chancellor put the Jedi in
charge (though they were the presumed generals from the start, according
to the Kaminoans). Then there is a turnaround in
Revenge of the Sith as
Mace Windu states that the Jedi will have to take control of the
government, which makes absolutely no sense. It is that "reality" which is taken
for Truth in this novel.
Short action sequences involve Omega
squad being nearly stranded after successfully completing an ambush on a
local leader siding with the Separatists, breaking several people out of
high-security Republic jails (as mentioned), and a few others.
Now this series ends, with almost a
cliff-hanger where we wonder about Darman and Niner, as well as the rest
of Delta squad, who didn't make it to the sanctuary, and what Skirata is
going to do to get them back, especially now that there is an Imperial
base on Mandalore. All of that will be taken up in the next series
(which I understand has been truncated to one book), Imperial Commando.
Hopefully it will have a different theme.