"An order was an order. And orders had to be followed, or else society fell apart."
The last book in the Republic Commando series! There was no way you could keep it from me. How would the clones that Karen Traviss has spent the last three books developing deal with this time altering order?
The clones from the last three books gear up in the final days of the war. Kal Skirata, den father, as it were, delves deeper into finding if the age acceleration can be reversed. Drama occurs between Ordo and Besany, Atin and Laseema, Darman and Etain, and Fi and Parja as they all deal with the "relationship" question. And pressure from the outside might force our courageous commandos to go into hiding far before the end of the war.
I tend to get a bit rambling here, so I want to streamline it for the ease of the reader and for the ease of the writer:
1.Karen Traviss pulls no punches. Right off the bat, not a page into the book, she has one of Jusik Bardan, who left the Jedi Order because of the hypocrisy of it, face another Jedi. Through his eyes, we see how desperate the Republic is to use a Jedi commander of such a young age, how, to the citizens of Coruscant (much like the citizens of America), life goes on as if there was no war, how maybe not everyone thinks the Jedi are peaches and cream, like so many Star Wars authors paint them, and how the Jedi are no better than the Separatists, if they are willing to resort to slave labor to fight their war. And this is only 4 pages into the book! Traviss continues this line into the book, showing the gray to the Jedi that most authors refuse to do, and revealing the errors, arrogance, and hypocrisy of the Jedi Order.
2.The Republic Commando books are thinking books. I love my brain candy, don't get me wrong, but sometimes, I think Star Wars authors try to hard to make brain candy and don't really sit to think through the situation. I would have loved to see Traviss write a book set in the New Republic era, when all the Empire attacks were occurring. Would she show how silly the New Republic was? How little better they were to the Empire that they were so against
1.Why do the clone troopers have no problem turning on their Jedi commanding officers? This has been a question that has plagued me ever since I saw it on screen. Why? Was there no devotion, no growing attachment? Here we learn A) that Jedi aren't the all-loved beings that every other Star Wars novel paints them, B) many (I refuse to believe only Jusik and Etain treated their clone troopers like human beings) Jedi treated the clones like property, sub-beings, and C) the troopers are drilled to obey orders. So when the order comes through, they truly believe the Jedi are traitors to the Republic (which they were bred to serve). And because they are always told to follow orders, they do. I appreciate how KT solves this conundrum.
2.Etain realizes why the Jedi disapprove of attachment. In the previous books, Etain kept wondering why and then barrelling headlong into a relationship with Darman. Here, she learns, through relations with her son, why the Jedi don't like it. I appreciate Traviss even mentioning it (it would be very easy for her to have her characters refuse to admit there was a problem at all).
3.Trying to fit in other Star Wars Expanded Universe lore. Traviss brings up the horrid creation, Callista, from the horrid books by Barbara Hambly. I liked her thoughts, but would have enjoyed even more. I liked the foreshadowing of Order 66 with the revelation of 150 contingency orders. And learning why Jango sided with the Jedi, his mortal enemies, was very insightful indeed.
4.Once the words "Execute Order 66" appear on the page, the novel really goes into high gear. The pace picks up, the tension is high...who will come out alive and who will die?
5.Karen Traviss isn't afraid of killing off her own characters. After Michael Reaves copped out of having Darth Vader kill Jax in Coruscant Knights (sorry if I spoiled that for you), I was relieved to see KT wasn't like that. I won't say who or how many die, but she is realistic.
1.Walon Vau. Man, this guy gets some of the best quotes, one of them being very similar to the one I used for the title of this review. I can really understand his mind, how he thinks. He may be apparently cold and emotionless, even the Jedi who feel him out think he is, but Walon Vau doesn't just do something because it feels right. He uses his mind. He calculates. And that is why I find him so fascinating!
2.Mandalorian culture. Again, Traviss imbues her novels with Mandalorian culture. I rather liked the marriage "ceremony" (though the frequency with which it occurred, I must disagree with), how is is a line said between the man and the woman together. And that is it. It fits with their culture well. Also, I like the warrior/family angle. It's nice not to have yet another pacifistic culture in the Star Wars universe. I know Star Wars is a big universe, but you have Alderaan and Camaas. You don't need Mandalorians too.
3.Favorite characters: Scorch (perhaps because he too holds himself, but isn't afraid to speak up about the injustices), Mij Gilamar (because it's too cool to have a Mando doctor, particularly one that reminds me of Dr. McCoy from Star Trek), Niner (whom I liked from HC, but can't get enough of), and Maze (because he is dedicated, he reads, and he endeavors to do his best at his job, doesn't want to desert at the drop of a hat).
I Didn't Like:
While I have a lot to admire about this book, I also have some complaints:
1.Unclear sense of morality. I love how so many characters (Kal, Besany) are considered "moral" when they still commit crimes. Espionage, treason, embezzlement, breaking and entering, impersonating Republic officials...those are crimes. Those are against the laws. Those are "wrong". Those are immoral. So, I would love for Traviss to be a bit more clear when she says Kal and Besany and whomever are so "moral". Does she mean that the characters want justice? What sort of justice? Who dictates what this justice is?
2."Let's get everyone married" mentality. Last book, it was "let's get everyone a girlfriend". Well, today's trend is marriage. Tomorrow's will probably be children. Nonetheless, while I enjoyed the marriage ceremony, I think doing it three...four...a billion times in the book (or mentioning it that many times) really deadens its impact. Make the ceremony special. Don't have everyone rushing out to get married to his/her significant other just before everyone dies. Some people will die without ever being married to his or her partner. Showing otherwise, in such a realistic book anyway, is fantastical.
3.Besany. I so don't like her, she gets her own bullet point. I am sick to death of her "so beautiful, it's a curse" characterization, so sick of hearing how quickly she helped out the Mandos, and how easily she can handle the fact her boyfriend/husband murders. She isn't that smart, clever, or anything. All she is is a girlfriend for one of the many clones. And her sudden attachment to Jilka and not wanting her to be blamed for Besany's treason? Where did that come from? When did she turn out to be a person who cared about someone who wasn't Mando?
4.Mandos are good, Jedi are bad. I do have a deeper appreciation for this, and am beginning to see the other side (and see that that view is often pushed by characters like Kal Skirata), but nonetheless, I wish that Traviss would tone down the Mando God complex. There is nothing the Mando's can't do. They are moral, they are strong, they are thoughtful, they are great warriors, they are great husbands, lovers, boyfriends, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and second-cousins twice removed, they are honorable, they are God incarnate. On the other hand, the Jedi are arrogant, demeaning, hypocrites, and oblivious. They all are glory-seekers, they all act like they know better, and they all treat clones like sub-humans. Again, I realize that many of the most guilty sections were written by Mandos, but still, I wish the virtues of General Zey and his actions were held in higher regard. Remember, Mandos are willing to be bought to fight someone's war. I do note that the Jedi fight the war to "save" the Republic, because they are arrogant enough to think they know what's best for it.
5.Etain and Jusik don't feel any sorrow for knowing many of their friends died in Order 66. Etain is too busy trying to leave and get to Darman and her son (understandable, but still, does she not have any pain or sympathy to her fellow Jedi?), and Jusik is too busy rallying the forces to care about Order 66. Even if they both disagree with the Jedi and their tenets, I have a hard time believing they would feel no sorrow, no loss, no tremors in the force as the people they loved and cared about died. What happened to the Obi-Wan feeling from "A New Hope", of a thousand voices crying out in terror being suddenly silenced? Jusik and Etain still use the Force, but can't feel the Jedi die through the Force? SPOILER: Jusik ought to feel something when Maze kills Zey, but no, nothing is ever mentioned. Because Zey was a good(ish) Jedi, not a Mando, and thus, not worthy of remembrance. END OF SPOILER.
6.The book is engaging enough, but the first part is pretty darn slow. I didn't realize it until the "Execute Order 66" line, but I wish KT could infuse a bit more action into her books, like she did with Hard Contact. Also, the Order came late into the book, and while I know the first part sets up for the second, I wish that the book focused more on the actual execution of Order 66 and not the prep.
As always, the language is mad-up Star Wars (in this case, Mando) language. In some cases, it is pretty obvious what the "English" term would be.
Ordo is Besany's lover; Etain and Darman had a baby together. Laseema is oogled. Rather tame, on the whole.
The book is about commandos, so expect some gunplay, explosions, serious injuries, and character deaths.
People have called these books many a thing, from the best thing to happen to Star Wars Expanded Universe to complete and utter heresy. But one thing remains: people talk about them endlessly. And how could you not? These books aren't like most of the Star Wars "dreck": they make you think. They force you to find your opinion and defend it. They bring to light parts of the Jedi that many don't like to see, but that are obvious, even if you only watch the movies.
So, in this final chapter of the Republic Commandos, I think I've finally gotten an idea of what the proponents of Karen Traviss' divisive books are talking about. Life is messy. The Jedi are messy. There is no easy answer. And anyone who says otherwise is lying to him or herself. For Triple Zero and True Colors, I voted three stars because of the slow story, huge cast of characters, and the Mandos are better than Jedi mentality. But in Order 66, I feel these problems are not so great. For not failing to point out the faults, for lighting the unlit, and for, above all, being entertaining, I give Order 66 a four stars.