||If I was expecting anything like the
previous book in this series, Hard Contact, I was sure to be
disappointed. The author took the characters from being naive commandos
to fighters with a full year of experience, as well as removing their
The book is very long, in that it drags
on for a long time before anything happens. The reader has to sympathize
with the characters, and really enjoy their company, because this book
is a full character novel. The story takes second place, and I think it
hurts because of that: it needs more balance. Plus, I didn't like many
of the characters.
Omega squad has returned in this book,
along with Etain, now a Jedi Knight. In addition, we get Skirata, the
person who taught the clone troopers all that they knew, and was like a
father to them, and of whom we heard so much in the last book. I didn't
like Skirata as a character, but he was written well enough that most of
the time I could tolerate him and his fanaticism. However, the lengths
to which the author has pushed the Mandalorian culture is worrying,
especially since she gets to deal with Boba Fett in the Legacy of the
Force series. I hope this fanaticism gets toned down for that series.
I wonder if the author realizes that
she has created a cult among the various characters presented in this
novel. Etain and Jusik are in so deep, and care so much for their
soldiers as people, and will protect them at all costs. They believe all
the Mandalorian ideals, Jusik even more than Etain.
Etain has become a powerful Jedi, but
her bond with the clone troopers has made her the same as them. Instead
of the fresh perspective that Hard Contact brought to the Clone Wars,
this book is more along the lines of all the others of that series.
We've seen Jedi disobey the Jedi Council. We've seen Jedi travel towards
the Dark Side, or maybe a grey side that is whatever we saw in
Shatterpoint. We've seen Jedi question their beliefs about everything,
especially the war. The military tone of the novel is the same as the
rest of the others. Why bother having this story? It sends us the same
message that all of the other Clone Wars novels have sent: war is hell.
Over and over and over again. I am tired of it (thankfully I only have
one more Clone Wars novel left to read, because I have not enjoyed the
series at all).
Still, the novel was well written, as
well as Hard Contact. My only objection to the writing style, and it is
a big one, was the overindulgence in tech-talk, acronyms, specifications
on weapons and vessels, and way, way too much Mandalorian dialog. I have
never enjoyed giving alien languages in their original tongue, even in
The Lord of the Rings. I tend to skip over it, and there was a lot of it
here. There was also a lot of swearing in this book, which may be
accurate for military squads, but is inappropriate in a Star Wars book.
The swears weren't what we are used to calling swears, but are instantly
recognizable for what they are. I would like to see a reduction in that.
There are a lot of new characters in
this novel, and none of them get the short shift. There is delta squad,
which adds some mystery to the clone culture. Are there more stories
about this squad? Each of them has a unique personality, and apparently
they are one of the few (the only?) squads that has kept its original
members since the start of the war. Then there is Ordo, one of the first
clones of Jango Fett ever created. The first seven were considered to be
defective by the Kaminoans, but Skirata took them under his wing, hating
the Kaminoans ever since. They are more aggressive, and only follow
Skirata's orders -ever. For that reason alone I didn't like the
character. He was always annoying, very selfish.
Through the book, we learn more about
how Skirata loves his clone troopers. And then we are shown again and
again, so often that it got repetitive and boring.
This got me to wondering, though, if
Skirata and Vau (one of the other Mandalorian trainers) retired from
commando training, then who is training the young clones that we saw in
Attack of the Clones? Here, we are told that the clones age at exactly
twice the rate of normal people. I always assumed that they were rapidly
aged until they were some age (say about ten), then the aging slowed
until they were adults, after which they aged normally. I see no reason
for the aging process to be constant, and twice seems wrong. We only saw
two age groups in Attack of the Clones. If they aged at a constant rate,
I would have expected to see many more. Regardless, apparently two of
the best trainers are no longer on Kamino, and if one of the master
cloners is being hunted by Ordo's brothers, then they might not be
producing more clones for the Republic. Are the Null troopers (Ordo's
group) better trained because they have been alive longer, while others
are younger? Who will train the new batches of clones that the Senate no
doubt ordered, after such high losses in the first year?
I liked the early part of the story,
where we see Etain extracting another doomed mission, refusing to
abandon even one live clone trooper, and where Omega Squad boards a
pirate vessel, only to have their oxygen and escape ship blown away.
Once the story moved to Coruscant,
there was a lot of manipulating of the characters, locations, good guys
and bad guys. Skirata arranges a black ops mission, as well as shore
leave for regular troopers, as camouflage. They set up in a Hutt's
hotel, and start looking for shipments of explosives, in a long waiting
game. Once they discover a dealer, they make contact and set up a point
of sale. Once they deliver, they attack, and take out the terrorists.
There is no real suspense, as everything goes as planned, more or less.
The interest is supposed to come from the characters, but by that point,
I was just ready for the mission to be over.
In Hard Contact, I wondered if Etain
and Darman would have been able to figure out how to have sex, because
they were both naive about the world around them. I guess it wasn't a
problem, after all, as here, they have lots of it. Strange that the
characters can swear in alien languages, but the sex has to happen
off-screen. I would rather have it the other way. Inevitably, Etain gets
pregnant -I had never thought about it, but I suppose I assumed the
clones were sterile, because they would have no need of reproduction.
Etain keeps it a secret from everybody except Skirata, and he she only
tells at the end. So there was a short moment of suspense in the final
attack, when Darman gets caught on fire. That sacrifice would have made
the story more compelling, but apparently the commando armor is much
stronger than anything we saw in any of the movies, as it repels not
only fire and projectiles, but all sorts of powerful laser blasts. I'll
bet the regular troopers wish they had that armor!
Darman is not the only commando who
gets female attentions. The clones are growing up. This allows Etain and
Ordo to act as a couple out for a stroll on one mission. There, they
trap a Gurlinan, the same one from Hard Contact -how coincidental is
that? Tension is supposed to come out of that scene, because Etain uses
the special "check" command on him, for which he will apparently never
forgive her. I don't see the problem with it, especially as she
prevented Ordo from killing Jinart -she used it properly. Contrary to what Etain says, Ordo
said nothing that explained why she shouldn't use the command.
When they bring Jinart back to their
headquarters, they all get stupid, discussing all of their plans right
in front of her, even knowing that she is telepathically linked to her
partner and is likely relaying all of the information to him at that
moment. They trust her implicitly, not even knowing that she might be
working for the separatists, now, or could use the information she
gained to blackmail the Republic even worse. The Gurlinans have been
waiting less than a year for humans to leave, and it doesn't sound like
the Republic has full control over it, anyway. Other planets had to wait
I was fully interested in the clone
culture when the book started. As we got deeper in, I realized how much
of a cult it was. Neither Skirata nor Ordo were fully correct in any of
their assessments, just from their only very selfish points of view (which Skirata
fully admits). So often, Etain things "Kal was absolutely right", and
she is so wrong. She is just so deep into his cult that she can't think
objectively. He chews her out for getting pregnant, and she just stands
in front of him, taking every word at face value. I would be happy if,
in the next book (assuming there is one), she would realize how her
desire to like Skirata and to have him like her tainted her views.
So often I wanted Etain to take Kal's
head off, but she is so insecure, even though she thinks the opposite
and even the author seems to think so. But she "knows what the Force
wants from her," whatever that means. More like she selfishly knows what
she wants, which is more believable, and more acceptable. I have never
found the Jedi "no attachment" rule to make sense, so I have no problem
with the Jedi breaking it. I fully expect Etain and Darman's son to
appear in the Legacy series.
The copy of the book I have came with
the short story "Targets", which takes place before Triple Zero. Because
of that, it is fully enjoyable as omega squad still retains some of that
naiveté they displayed in Hard Contact. They have not been forcefully
matured because of what they had to do and go through in the black ops
mission. The story tells us exactly what happened during the "spaceport
siege" that we hear about a lot in this novel. There was a group of
terrorists taking over spaceport, as we would expect, and the squad is
called in to take them out without harming a Senator. Many of the major
characters from Triple Zero are introduced here, including Skirata and
the head of Coruscant security. Here, Fi jumps onto a live grenade,
saving several members of the police force. He won't get the drink they
owed him until the end of Triple Zero. It turns out that the terrorists
actually wanted a different hostage to be killed by republic forces, a
member of CorSec, the Corporate Sector Authority member, which would
have had dire consequences for the Republic. But wasn't the Corporate
Sector set up by the Emperor? And CorSec has been used for Corellian
Security in the expanded universe. Oops.
So while this novel was written well, I
found that it dragged on for far too long almost throughout, and there
were many characters that I didn't like. How many times can we see a
Jedi turn against the Jedi way? War is depressing, especially for the
people doing the fighting, but can't we have another type of story? I
certainly hope that upcoming novels can take a different tone.