This week’s book recommendation is Republic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss. This is a Star Wars book, so this may only be of interest to a few million (maybe few hundred million) people on the planet. I believe this book can also interest many people who are not fans of Star Wars. If you’ve never heard of Star Wars, please tell me which planet you hail from as I am interested in interstellar travel. I am recommending this book because: 1) I like it (surprise), and 2) this Friday is May 4th, which has been deemed Star Wars day.
Now, onto the details. This book follows the missions of an elite four-man squad of commandos during the Clone Wars era. What makes it great, besides the spec ops side of the story, is the special look into the lives of these soldiers. They are clones bred for one purpose and trained excruciatingly to be the best soldiers imaginable. They are not considered human but rather government/army property. The names they are given are tied to their number designations or a reference to their specialty (i.e. the name of one demolitions expert is Scorch). When grown (they were grown not born), their genes were manipulated so they aged twice as fast as a normal human. This was done so the soldiers would be ready in half the time it would have normally taken. Because of this, almost all of these soldiers are literally ten-year-olds in twenty-year-old bodies. This accelerated aging becomes a point of interest later on in the series. Yes, it is a series of five books that starts during the Clone Wars and ends after the formation of the Empire.
This first book focuses on one squad of commandos, a Jedi, and the squad’s original Mandalorian trainer who is one of a handful who believes these men/boys deserve much better than what they were given and will fight to help them. I won’t go into the specifics of their mission in this book to stay away from spoilers. The second book brings in another four-man squad of commandos. This squad is actually the one you get to play as/with in the Republic Commando video game that came out in 2005 and was incredible. I still play it from time to time.
What I think is most interesting about this series are the conflicts that occur because these elite soldiers are clones. The way they are treated/viewed by the citizens of the galaxy they are fighting for is saddening and, I hate to say, realistic. The psychological and physical issues are staggering and can mirror many problems we face in our own, real world.
Karen Traviss (who has written books from several franchises) does a great job portraying this squad. She is an excellent writer of action/military/science fiction. If you don’t like Star Wars, try another one of her books.
I know even the fans of Star Wars are split on several issues including how the newest movies are altering the fictional world they know and not meeting some expectations (which happens). This franchise has changed the world several times over the last 40+ years. I was even a little upset when I found out that all of the books that take place after episode six were unceremoniously thrown aside and we are supposed to act like they never existed. Of course I hate that. There were many awesome stories in those books and I’m sure those authors worked hard to make those stories not only compelling but fit into the overall story of the franchise/universe. All that elaborate work seemingly no longer relevant or included. I haven’t read all of them (not even close, there are so many). I’ve only read a few. This series is by far my favorite of this franchise. Luckily it is still part of the Star Wars canon.