Republic Commando: Order 66

September 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

66Republic Commando: Order 66 by Karen Traviss

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As I was reading the Republic Commando novels, seeing the Null troopers bond with Jedi, get married, and sometimes even marry Jedi, I wondered what was going to happen when Order 66 came down. It didn’t hurt that I knew this book was ahead of me, where I would find out, but it set me up with a sense of dread for how this novel would end those relationships. Because, like reading a novel set in Poland during World War II, chances are good that things will not end well for the characters.

It doesn’t help that Traviss telegraphs that future doom by having all of her main characters finally get to settle down to a somewhat normal life. Even if I didn’t know what Order 66 meant in the Expanded Universe, the way she sets the characters up early in the book is a clear indication that it won’t last. She sets up a false sense of security from the start, leaving the reader to wait for the plot to collapse around the characters. Along the way, the characters have their own trials to overcome, making the turn that much more tragic when it comes.

The thing is, it works remarkably well. Traviss is still my favorite of the EU authors so far, not just because she writes stories one wouldn’t expect to find in Star Wars, but also because she’s a fine writer. The tension of the story builds incrementally, moreso because we’ve already spent three books with these characters, knowing what they would ultimately face. In True Colors, we saw the first hints of the ARC troopers uncovering the truth behind the Clone Wars, and here we see them start to figure it all out. Unfortunately, as they get closer to the truth, those on the inside suspect there’s a leak, and as things begin to fall apart for the Republic, so do they fall apart for the troops.

Traviss makes her characters feel human here, which is something unique to the Star Wars novels thus far. Among all the alien species, the superhuman Jedi, and the hyper-evil Sith, it’s easy to lose the humanity of the stories, but Traviss stays focused on her troops and their commanders. Sure, they’re almost perfect in all that they do, but we’ve been with them for three books up to this point, so as the story begins to wind down at the end of the war, we find ourselves connected with them, rooting for them. As such, when tragedy does occur, it hits us hard, and we feel it.

I haven’t had this kind of emotional response to a Star Wars story since Deceived. I know there is one more book left featuring Traviss’ characters, and I’m eager to see how she concludes the arc (as much as it can be; I understand the Imperial Commando series was supposed to be two books long).

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