Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Book 31: Republic Commando: Triple Zero

Let me be frank. Even though I have read a fair number of Star Wars novels I am by no means steeped in the Star Wars geekery and minutia. I could not tell you the difference between the different classes of ships or most species that get mentioned or why some planet may be important if it did not make a major appearence in one of the films. Some things I can remember, but I will not be reading the Star Wars Encyclopedia. To be honest, I just don't care that much. I am entertained by the stories when they are well told and it is a real game of hit and miss. It is with this in mind that I can say that Republic Commando: Triple Zero is quite possibly the best Star Wars novel written. I only say "quite possibly" because there is still another 30 or so novels which I am working my way towards, but few of those stand up with general acclaim. But Triple Zero is not simply a standout among Star Wars novels, it would still stand out if it were not Star Wars. Yeah, it's that good. Karen Traviss's first entry into the Star Wars Universe was Republic Commando: Hard Contact and it was a very fine entry and even then, one of the best...but not necessarily head and shoulders above the entire series, just right up near the top. Triple Zero is good military science fiction, emphasis on the military. This is about the troops doing the dirty work and not getting the respect, not about the Jedi and not about the overview of the war.
Delta Squad and Omega Squad are brought back to Coruscant to try to stop the war being from being waged on the homefront. To say the mission is to go undercover would be inaccurate because they are clones and commandos, there is no mistaking what they are. But they are still to operate in a vasty different and unexpected capacity on Coruscant. Still with them is Etain, a young Jedi we first met in Hard Contact. Now she is somewhat older and disillusioned but she fights not for the Jedi Order or the Republic, but for the commandos, those she knows as men and not just clones.
What Karen Traviss does so well is get the reader into the head of the clone troopers and let us see them as men. They have distinct personalities and they know they will die young because the age at an accelerated rate and all they know is war. This is what they were bred for and trained for and the only thing they know how to do. What happens to the clones when the war ends? Is it fair that they have no future and are led out to fight and die with no one ever knowing or caring about them. We care for Darman and Fi and Ordo and Atin and all of the troopers we meet. We meet the man who trained the best of the best and learn why he cares for them and what he sacrificed taking the job. We see a different side of the Clone Wars and who the brutality truly affects and what the real sacrifice was. It isn't the Jedi who know what they are fighting, more or less. They can still choose the fight. It isn't the civilians who still get to live a normal life. It is the clones themselves who will never get a choice or a chance at any sort of a real life. It's sad, but Traviss doesn't linger on the unfairness, she acknowledges it and uses it but still tells a tightly wound story about counter-terrorism and a human story about the clones.
This would be a stellar novel no matter if it were Star Wars or just another novel set in a galaxy not so far far away.

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