Republic Commando: Hard Contact

May 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

contactRepublic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss


In Hard Contact, a Jedi Padawan has been abandoned on a strange planet after her Master is killed, leaving her hiding from the local militia. She’s not confident in her abilities, and when she encounters an elite clone trooper who is working to get back to his unit, she finds herself reluctantly pushed into the role of commander for the unit. She and the unit must work together to destroy a nanovirus being developed by the militia to target and kill the clone troopers without harming other humans.

That summary suggests that the story is about the Padawan, but really, the story is about the members of the unit. The book opens with the main character, one of the clones, losing the rest of his unit in a battle and being forced into a new unit made up of three other clones who have also lost their units in battle. Traviss spends a lot of time writing about what it means to be a clone, a human, and a soldier, giving identity to a group that, in the movies, is expendable and nameless, more tool than individual. It’s extremely well done, making the story more readable due to its realistic characters, while also getting the reader to think more about the clones themselves.

Traviss walks a fine line in this novel, glorifying soldiers without glorifying war. She reduces the battles down to the individuals without whom the battles couldn’t be won, and makes the story very personal. According to her bio in the back of the book, she spent time as a defense correspondent, and was a military journalist after having served in the military herself, and it shows in her fiction. She brings a level of detail and realism to the story that can’t be duplicated without her level of experience.

The down side of that experience is that Traviss uses a lot of jargon that may not be clear to every reader. Her Jedi character serves as a reason for explaining a lot of the jargon to readers. Traviss avoids using info-dumps, bringing her explanations smoothly into the story. She focuses on her characters and their mission instead of getting bogged down with too much detail.

I’ve read some articles about the author and her disdain of Jedi while glorifying Mandalorians, but I don’t see that in this book. The Jedi is green, and feels unfit to be a commander, but isn’t unlikable, and the antagonist in the book is himself a Mandalorian. This attitude may change in other books by Traviss (and based on interviews with the author, she doesn’t deny that this is her attitude toward the Expanded Universe), but I didn’t see evidence for that criticism in Hard Contact.

Star Wars has always been more fantasy than science fiction, but Hard Contact is definitely science fiction, of the military variety. In some ways, it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars novel, but at other times it feels exactly like one. Readers who like Heinlein or John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series would find a lot to like here.


1 Comment

  1. 2016: A Review | Veni Vidi Verkisto said,

    […] Republic Commando: Hard Contact […]

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