Monday, January 17, 2011

Republic Commando: Order 66

*Note: I wrote this two years ago with the release of Karen Traviss' Republic Commando: Order 66

The other day I hit the halfway point in ORDER 66 and I stopped reading for a moment to marvel at how carefully crafted the book was. Any Star Wars fan who pays half-attention to what’s going on in the SW universe (because I know there are a few ‘fans’ out there who’ve only seen EpIII once or twice or even not at all) has seen Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and sat in that movie theater (or home) and seen that scrolling text go by and thought “holy frak, this is it, the beginning of the end”. When EpIII was first coming out everyone was all uppity about theories about the movie and what was going to happen and how. To me what mattered was that it was over; and I don’t mean the end of all Star Wars movies, because I KNEW George wouldn’t leave us hanging for very long, and anyway there were always the books to keep me going. No, I knew that the Jedi had to be killed, and I knew that Palpatine had to declare himself Emperor, and of course I knew that Obi-Wan and Anakin would have some great face-off and Anakin wasn’t going to be in one piece by the end of it (no pun intended… well, maybe a small one…). However, it was entirely different to sit in that movie theater (at midnight surrounded by a bunch of other crazy nutters who still had to go to work and school the next day) and see the scrolling text start and hit that point in the movie when Palpatine is talking to Anakin and finally reveals he’s a Sith… I don’t know about anyone else but I was sitting there wanting to scream and cry all at the same time. Because at that point it was nearly over. There was nothing anyone could do to change anything because, well, we were watching history. Everything that was going to go wrong already had, we have the Original Trilogy to prove that.

But anyway I managed to hold it together until Anakin is waiting in the Jedi Council chamber looking out through the buildings with that beautiful sunset in the background and then… yes, ok, I ADMIT it! I cried. A lot. Damn you, George! I’m usually so good at movies but this was just… nothing could change it, you knew Anakin was going to make a terrible mistake and a LOT of lives were going to be lost because of that shabuir (excuse my Mando’a). In fact I’m pretty sure I cried through most of the rest of the movie, between Mace dying, Anakin being named Darth Vader, the entire fight sequence and finally Padme’s death and the birth of the twins.

Now, you’re probably wondering what my recollection of EpIII has to do with ORDER 66. Well, everything. I go back to how I mentioned I stopped to marvel at how carefully crafted it was. The thing is, that none of the clones or Jedi in the story are ‘mainstream’ characters. They’re all nice and original, and Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Mace, Padme are just people who happen to live in the same universe with these people and there’s absolutely no direct contact with them, though they do get mentioned at times (Palpatine more than the others, but that’s just cause the clones talk about how they want to gut him). So the thing with this book is that you, the reader, are once again sitting there reading going “holy frak, this is it…” except you’d think that it’s different since there’s no real interaction with the other characters. Wrong. Which is why it’s carefully crafted. You see, for the first half of the book everything is fairly standard… except for the fact that you’re reading, waiting for those three fateful words. And then about a quarter of the way through the book you’re wondering “what exactly is going on, this doesn’t even remotely FEEL like any of the EpIII events yet”. That’s because it’s not. It’s not until you hit that half way point and suddenly – WHAM!

There are CIS fleets over Coruscant and all the clones are scrambling to make sense of the invasion. And you, the reader, breath a sigh saying “yes, this I know, I know what’s going on now” except that the sigh quickly turns into a groan when your mind races ahead of you and reminds you “Psst… the end is near, oh so near…” You would think that at this point without any major characters to guide the way you’d be lost amid the chaos of the war, but as I said, Karen Traviss really is a wonderful writer. By using her very original characters she keeps tabs on the main actors, Obi-Wan, Palpatine, and Grievous. Really the only people we care about. Because once Jaing hands over that information that he knows Grievous is hiding on Utapau suddenly you remember Palpatine telling Anakin “My clone intelligence units have discovered Grievous hiding on Utapau” and you are able to keep track. I don’t know about anyone else but I could almost hear the clock ticking…

And then some clone throws in a mention how “Kenobi killed Grievous” and you sit up going, “osi’kyr, this really IS it!” and then it’s there… Those three little words you’ve been waiting for and dreading appear on the next page.

“Execute Order 66.”

Fierfek. That’s when the osik really hits the fan.

But I won’t go into much detail, you know, spoilers and such. Let’s just say that I’m not even sure how I managed to finish reading the book considering how often I went for the tissues.

It’s an awesome book. The Republic Commando books steadily got better over time. Karen Traviss definitely got used to these characters, and her work on The Legacy of the Force books certainly helped her become more familiar with the Star Wars universe in general I think. I’m emotionally exhausted from this book, so I’ll leave my comments and thoughts on some of the Mandalorian stuff for another blog. Let’s just say that Kal Skirata is… well, to quote Fenn Shysa, “You’re a good decent buir, Kal, so you are.”

(To save you all some trouble scouring the internet, buir is father (and mother because they don’t specify gender) in Mandalorian)

And just because I can’t help myself…

Gar taldin ni jaonyc; gar sa buir, ori’wadaasla.

Nobody cares who your father was, only the father you’ll be.

- Mandalorian saying

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