Hard Contact by Karen Traviss

Hard Contact book cover
Rating 7.8/10
Go inside the white helmet of the clone/storm trooper and find out what makes them tick.

Set: 22 BBY

As the Clone Wars rage, victory or defeat lies in the hands of elite squads that take on the toughest assignments in the galaxy—stone-cold soldiers who go where no one else would, to do what no one else could….

On a mission to sabotage a nanovirus research facility on a Separatist-held planet, four clone troopers operate under the very noses of their enemies. The commandos are outnumbered and outgunned, deep behind enemy lines with no backup—and working with strangers instead of trusted teammates. Matters don't improve when Darman, the squad's demolitions expert, gets cut off from the others during planetfall. Even Darman's apparent good luck in meeting a Jedi Padawan vanishes once she admits to her woeful inexperience.

For the isolated clone commandos and stranded Jedi, a long, dangerous journey lies ahead, through hostile territory brimming with Trandoshan slavers, Separatists , and suspicious natives. A single misstep could mean discovery … and death. It's a virtual suicide mission for anyone—anyone except Republic Commandos.

With the advent of the prequel Star Wars movies came a new lease of life for novels set prior to the Battle of Yavin, and more specifically, before the Emperor took complete control. It also allowed authors the chance to look into characters who had hitherto gone unnoticed or were simply ignored. One of the most obvious examples of this were the stormtroopers/clone troopers, who until recently have just acted as cannon fodder for the majority of Star Wars stories.

Karen Traviss thus entered the fray to begin writing her Republic Commando series, starting with the novel Hard Contact. It is an innocuous story with no obvious traits that would suggest a series was being created from this one novel. It is one and done, and though the characters are able to pick up in the second book, there’s no need to keep reading.

The book focuses on a Padawan named Etain Tur-Mukan, who is stranded alone on a planet after her master was killed by the local warlord. Four clone commandos, Niner, Darman, Fi and Atin, create Omega Squad, who soon finds itself on the planet and under Etain’s command, much to the young woman’s surprise.

From there the story focuses on their attempts to deal with the warlord, save the native people, and struggle through their own problems. For Etain that involves accepting the death of her master and her role as leader, and for the commandos it is accepting one another.

I really enjoyed this book, as it gave an insight into something we’d never thought of before as Star Wars fans. We get to go inside the white helmet of the clone/storm trooper and find out what makes them tick. And with no galaxy spanning import to distract the characters from their own problems, it is a good look at the personalities of some new Star Wars characters.

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