“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”
It’s been a heck of a long time since I first read those words…and I’ve been captivated by Star Wars, in one form or another, ever since. Star Wars was just one of those experiences that ingrained itself into so many facets of my childhood that I’ll forever have the fondest memories of the characters, the music, the ships, the games…everything. It was just about perfect to my young eyes, and that same excitement still wells up inside me as an adult when I stumble upon some new SW announcement that resonates with me (granted, not all of them do).
The latest trilogy, comprising Episodes I-III, has certainly seen its fair share of “cheers and jeers” since its release and I can’t say that a lot of the negative criticisms of those SW films aren’t warranted, but I also found an awful lot to like in them and find them to be highly enjoyable films if you can get past the…Jar Jar’s, Christensen pouting, etc. For me, one of the most interesting concepts to come out of Lucas’ more recent efforts has been the Clones. Be it their “never say die” devotion, strong historic connections to Boba Fett, his father Jango, the Mandalorians, the “cool” armor or sheer scope and possibility of their contributions to the Star Wars universe – the Clones have become a favorite of mine and I sat up with interest when I found out that there were  books by Karen Traviss (with a [4th] coming) tying into the Xbox title Republic Commando, though chronicling the adventures of another elite group of Clone Commandos, the Omega Squad. Their mission, to take out a dangerous nanovirus facility on the planet Qiilura. A mission put in jeopardy when they crash land on the planet and are separated as a squad.
I’ve never read a Star Wars novel, and I know that they’re probably not all for me, but having enjoyed what I’ve read so far in Karen Traviss’ novella Boba Fett — A Practical Man (reading from a computer screen makes this one a little slower going for my eyes unfortunately) and hearing the rave reviews about Traviss skill with technical jargon, battle scenes, military themes — and most importantly — character building, I thought that I’d give the first installment a try as well, and boy am I glad I did!
“These are the guys who die anonymously and unmourned, and that troubled me, ” Traviss explains. “All I could think when I saw the clone trooper fall from the gunship with Padmé in Attack of the Clones was, ‘Is he okay?'”
“As a clone commando, I’ve never been in the outside world,” Traviss describes. “Every moment of my life has been spent training, being force-fed information, carrying out exercises in artificial environments; but however thoroughly I’m trained, however genetically superior I am, I’m still human. I have the same basic wants and needs and fears as anyone else. But I’m ten years old in a man’s body — and I’ve seen less of life than a ten-year-old kid has. When I finally leave Tipoca, I’m going to be hit hard right in the face by real worlds that are chaotic and dangerous. I’m over-prepared in some areas and completely ignorant in others. I’m going to be under more stress than I could ever imagine. And all I have is the kit I’m carrying and my mates to rely on. You know what? I’m scared.”
“They’re not droids, yet too many people around them see them as just that: expendable units,” Traviss explains. “They’re real human beings and just like us in most ways. I introduced training sergeants like Kal Skirata in the novel because it was clear the Kaminoans wouldn’t have the range of military skills to train special forces and that Jango Fett would see the need to secretly recruit the toughest specialist fighters to train them. But the instructors have seen the real world, and Skirata feels enormous pity for his commandos because they haven’t. The commandos have trained for every eventuality under lethally realistic conditions, and they’re walking encyclopedias, but they’ve never been in the outside world. Life experience in the real world teaches you even more. He’s afraid for them. So he tries to prepare them as best he can. The three in the squad who are trained by him draw heavily on his wisdom: he’s the nearest they have to a father.”
With perspective and thoughtfulness such as this, Traviss has already taken my interest in the Clones and ratcheted it up at least 10-fold, and I’m only about half-way through the first book! The primary Clone Ccommando’s: Darman, Niner, Fi & Atin are a case study in just how much more the Clones are than just an army of accelerated soldiers for the Republic and each of them have become extremely rich, complicated characters. Throw in a young Jedi Padowan girl named Etain and a ruthless Mandalorian, among others, set on a thriving landscape in the middle of a galactic war and you’ve got one heck of a good book so far. I’ve since ordered books 2 & 3, and will certainly get the final installment, “Order 66”, given the interest I have in that whole mystery from Star Wars: Episode III of the films. If what I’ve read so far is any indication, I’ve no doubt that she will deliver in spades.
Just wanted y’all to know how good this was and if you’re interested in more on the series, feel free to hollar! I’m sure I’d be more than willing to yack about it futher.
“As the Clone Wars rage, victory or defeat lies in the hands of elite squads that take on the toughest assignments in the galaxy — stone-cold soldiers who go where no one else would, to do what no one else could…”