"Republic Commando: Hard Contact" is a video game tie-in novel which is set in the Star Wars Universe during the Clone Wars. While other Clone Wars novels have given us glimpses into the lives of the clone troopers, none have given us this level of detail, though "The Cestus Deception" comes close at times. This is a novel completely about clone troopers and even though there is a Jedi Padawan in the novel it is a reversal of the norm as she is dependent on the clones.
Four clone commandos, an elite fighting force, are sent to a planet controlled by the Separatists. The mission is to attack a chemical weapons facility which is making a virus which targets and kills only the Clones. If used, it would turn the tide of the Clone Wars against the Republic. "Republic Commando: Hard Contact" is a covert mission of the Clone Wars and one that features almost entirely clone commandos (the Jedi are secondary and far less important than the commandos). We are given the opportunity to see how the clones relate to each other and how they truly are individuals. They are just bred to fight and serve the Republic, but they have hopes and fears and distinct personalities despite the fact they are genetically identical.
Karen Traviss is an exciting new author. As a Star Wars author, one the strength of one book, she is already one of the best. There is a level of authenticity that runs through "Republic Commando: Hard Contact" that just feels right. Traviss gives us an intelligent, exciting story of one small squadron of elite clone commandos and she succeeds in humanizing them both to the reader as well as the Jedi apprentice in the story. Karen Traviss is one of the few Star Wars authors who did such a good job that I want to read her non-Star Wars work. This is a story which does not feature any of the main Star Wars characters, but it is easy to relate to Traviss's characters and fit them into our picture of the greater Star Wars universe.