Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hard Contact by Karen Traviss

Quite a while ago, I read The Star Wars Trilogy omnibus. Afterwards, I wanted to read more books in the Star Wars universe, and then it never really happened. I picked up a couple of books, but just never got to them, but when Christmas gift cards rolled in, I picked up a copy of Hard Contact, the first volume in the Star Wars: Republic Commando series, by Karen Traviss. I had heard quite a bit of good about her work on this series, and wanted to give it a look.

Republic commandos are the elite troops of the Grand Army. They work in small groups to achieve goals that no one else can. They grow up and train with the other four members of their unit their entire lives. However, when four commandos each lose the rest of their unit, they are put together into Omega Squad. The four soldiers are sent to Qiilura, where the Separatists have a nanovirus facility working on creating a virus that will kill all clones it contacts. When the mission set-up falls apart in the process, the plan changes, and the four soldiers must struggle to complete their mission and protect the entire army of the Republic.

One of the most entertaining parts of Hard Contact is that, despite being emblazoned with Star Wars all over the cover, it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars book. I always had minor problems with jedi, who could do anything with the force, because they seemed too filled with deus ex machina potential. However, Hard Contact focuses on the men who are on the front lines, the “normal” people who aren’t imbued with supernatural powers. Traviss does an excellent job making each clone humanized, and she addresses the hard question of morality when it comes to cloning an army of cannon fodder. Traviss touches on some deep topics, and makes this far more than a video game tie-in, but instead a deeply thought out saga of four very fallible men.

That does mean that occasionally the story’s speed seems to slow a bit, and a couple of times I felt that it lagged more than I would like. This was always made up for with strong plot and characterization.

Hard Contact is a solid first novel in the series, and I will be looking for the next book, maybe not immediately, but one day.


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