There is something very touching about them. They look like soldiers; they fight like soldiers; and sometimes they even talk like soldiers. They have all the finest qualities of the fighting man. But behind that is nothing–no love, no family, no happy memory that comes from having truly lived. When I see one of these men killed, I weep more for him than for any ordinary soldier who has lived a full and normal life.
– Jedi General Ki-Adi-Mundi, Chapter 9
The first installment of the Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss, Hard Contact, depicts the journey of four clone commandos, Omega Squad, learning to adjust with each other after the Battle of Geonosis. The story takes them to Qiilura, where the brothers have been assigned the mission to destroy a Separatist bioweapon that threatens their very existence. Along the way, we are introduced to Etain Tur-Mukan, an insecure Jedi Padawan, who doubted her own ability and role as a Jedi.
What attracted me to this book series was the focus on the clones. Star Wars: The Clone Wars helped individualize the clones and make the audience care for them. Take the Umbara arc in season four, for example. The clone-centered episodes established the various personalities and conflicting attitudes as well as providing a detailed insight into the lives and hardships of the clone troopers. Hard Contact does just that and more. It takes the soldiers fighting a galactic war–the characters that normally fall to the background–and transforms them into fleshed-out human beings with opinions, beliefs and fears.
I grew to sympathize with Atin, who has an affinity for technology. I laughed with Fi, the brother with a sense of humor and a cheeky tongue. I knew not to mess with Niner, the leader of the squad, and the one who prefers to be sure of everything before moving forward in an operation. Darman, the explosives expert of the group, is the one I had a soft spot for throughout the book mainly because of his interactions with Etain, who eventually starts to grow as an individual and a Jedi as the story progresses.
In general, my favorite genre to read is romance. I’m a hopeless romantic, so I was very intrigued to find that there was a spark between Darman and Etain. The theme of a Jedi falling in love and the forbidden aspect surrounding that sort of relationship is nothing new, but the concept comes across more enticing when the other partner in that relationship is a clone. I will admit that I was craving for a moment or a scene in which they shared space or exchanged conversation.
Lastly, in addition to The Clone Wars, the book makes you realize that the Jedi have entered questionable grounds, breeding and using clones to fight a war. Is it right? Is this the case of the ends justifying the means? The story puts you in the position to judge and form an opinion, one that would most likely put the Jedi in a negative light–at least, that’s the basis of my opinion. I’ve come to care more about the clones and their welfare, than the main characters that have made the Star Wars franchise so popular (Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc.).
My only complaint is how the antagonist meets his end. Ghez Hokan, a Mandalorian warrior with his own agenda, is a smart villain with a clear understanding of his enemy. When the confrontation finally happened, I was hoping to see a more intricate fight, but to my displeasure, it came to a concise and swift end.
Overall, if you’re looking for a militaristic perspective of the Clone Wars and a deeper understanding of the clones in general, I highly recommend this book. Traviss does a marvelous job developing each character and the circumstances surrounding them. In the end, I came away feeling like I gained a new squad of friends, and I love a book that successfully grabs my attention and my heart.