Star Wars Republic Commando: Triple Zero by Karen Traviss. Published 2006. Approx. 448 pages.
Star Wars: Republic Commando - Triple Zero
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I finally read a SW:EU book cover to cover without busting a seam laughing. That book was SW:RC-Hard Contact, and despite it's many shortcomings, was a fun, fluffy read. What can I say, I like books that give a face to the rank and file, and I made a mental note to continue the series someday. In March, I figured, what the hey, and went back on a trip to Cloneland.
For a quick recap, in Hard Contact, we met Omega Squad, made of Clone Commando survivors from other groups. There are, Niner, the de facto leader, Darman, explosives specialist and sentimental mush, Fi, wise-cracking sniper, and Atin, sullen computer/tech specialist. They met up with newbie Jedi Etain Tur-Makin (I just mentally refer to her as Etain Tur-Ducken), on their mission on some mining planetoid to counter a germ agent that ONLY affects clones (howsabout some butter for that slab of corn?). It was cut and dry, like the video game adaptation it was, and while there were too many 20th/21st Century military terms, it was fun enough. Darman and Etain (SPOILER!) fall in love, and in the end, everyone goes on their next missions. **1/2 out of ***** stars.
Now we have Triple Zero. Before the basic review, keep in mind that the Dramatis Personae has increased since Hard Contact. In addition to Omega Squad, and Etain, we also have Bardan Jusik, the most annoying Jedi created, Delta Squad, that squad upon which the RC game was based, Ordo, the Null-ARC, and finally, Kal Skirata. Ah, Kal. Well, let me just say that this book is a Kal Skirata book, not an RC book in any way. For those of you lucky enough to not know who Kal Skirata is, it's like this: When the Jedis decided to use Jango Fett as the sperm donor to create their clone army, apparently Jango was supposed to stay on and train them, and also bring in some people he recommended to help train. He recruited a bunch of old Mando merc friends, two of which were the cold, calculating Walon Vau (also in the book) and Kal Skirata, the tough drill sergeant with a heart of gold. He was referred to in Hard Contact as the one who snuck them sweets and tried to give them a little of their Mando culture, and it was fine at that. Apparently, Ms.Traviss has fallen so in love with this character that he straight up hijacks the book.
Now, onto the story. We start with a flashback to Kal's first day on Kamino, where he meets and "adopts" the Nulls, early test clones that are a little too Jango-y for mass-production. Instead of letting them be terminated, he takes them on as sons. The lead one, which he dubs 'Ordo', plays a big role in the book. Flash forward to the present, the Omega boys are working a checkpoint in space, doing ship inspections. Scenes like this showcase Traviss' good points, hell, if the whole book were the Omega guys doing ship searches, I'd be happy. Also, Etain, now a general, is leading clones on other fronts. Now a confident, skilled warrior, she is tolerable, unlike the unconfident Padawan she was in HC. Then, there is an explosion on Coruscant that blows a Clone barracks to bits. Since Kal does love his clones ever so much (and you will be reminded of this in nigh every page of the book), he forms a super-secret team to investigate what he assumes is a Separatist Splinter Cell and kill them before they can kill more clones. To do this, he pools Delta and Omega squads, Etain and Bardan Jusik, the two-fisted hot-rodding Jedi upstart (oh puh-leeze), and his rival, Walon Vau. There are many stake-outs, much research, and a resolution. Also a short story at the end which really blows.
Praise: When she sticks to the military stuff, Traviss is a good writer. Her action scenes, when she includes one, are decently choreographed. She has tried to flesh out Mando culture and language. And honestly, the Omega boys were interesting. However, in this book, they are seriously only background filler.
Complaints: Kal. He shouldn't be the main character. He doesn't need to think and fret like a woman. He doesn't need to try and get girlfriends for 'his boys' One Amazon reviewer stated that it got so repetitive, that you could read up to page 150, skip to 400, finish the book and not miss anything. So sad to say, it's so true. Also, still too many current terms. I don't care if the Coruscant Security Forces wear blue, calling them "the boys in blue" is modern terminology, not SW-lingo. Also, the showcasing of Kal relegates Omega to the background, and including Delta was unnecessary. The characters are just renamed versions of Omega. Fi, supposedly the comic relief, is just painfully unfunny. Bardan Jusik is a weak character. Towards the end, he dons Mando armor for the final battle. This fact is presented to us in a manner that suggests it's as shocking as your daughter coming home married to a dog. It's not. No one cares. And poor Etain; just as she was getting interesting, she (SPOILER!) gets pregnant and spends the rest of the book seeking Kal's paternal acceptance and approval. Yeah, seriously.
Ok, I can accept that there is almost no action in the book. It's commando work, not frontline firefights. But, after all the black ops work, you'd think the group they're chasing would be something special. No. Actually, the final fight is wrapped up in like 5 pages, and it's just a standard Separatist group looking to kill Republic troops. This is a shame, since the book begins with hints that the Nulls are prone to go rogue, well at least Ordo. I was kind of hoping to find one of them behind it all, see if Kal could live with taking down one of his "sons". At least it would have been compelling. Also, all the planning work for the operations is done by Kal and Vau, making you question what amount of commando-ing the commandos are left to do.
To sum it up, Traviss is best left to writing military fiction. Maybe I'll read her Gears of War work someday. I'd actually like to see her write a G.I.Joe novel, based on the 80's toyline. The next Republic Commando installment, True Colors, lays in wait in the book bin. I may give this series one more try, but if it turns into another Kal-fest, sorry Charlie.
Triple Zero, for what it is: *1/2 out of ***** stars.
Here's what it is:
Could've been, should've been. But for what it is, I hand the podium to my old friend Joel:
All of the Republic Commando covers (save Order 66) have great artwork. I personally prefer the poses rendered on the cover of Hard Contact slightly more than this one, but it is nicely done. The highly detailed, but still sketchy and somewhat unfinished look remind one of an expertly done colored pencil work. Great cover, crap book.
Cover Final Score: