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Order 66 (Star Wars: Republic Commando) by Karen Traviss
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345506184
Date: 16 September 2008 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Clone Wars are entering a new and unexpected phase. For the clone troops under Kal Skirata and Walon Vau, this could be a good thing... or a disaster. Skirata and Vau have plans of their own, which might not involve the Republic or its disturbing Chancellor Palpatine.

Loyalties will be tested to their limit, secret plans will be exposed and lives changed forever--once Order 66 is invoked.

Karen Traviss' STAR WARS: Republic Commandos series reaches its climax in the hardcover Order 66, which chronicles the shattering final days of the Clone Wars.

Kal Skirata, Mandalorian drill sergeant to a brigade of clones, has only one goal: get his boys out alive. He's far from perfect, but there is nothing he won't do for the extended family of clone troopers he has adopted, including finding a way to overcome some serious problems in the cloning technology.

He's aided by: Walon Vau, a fellow Mandalorian and former enemy, whose code of honor sometimes frustrates Skirata's plans; Bessany Wessen, a Republic bureaucrat who's learned some very alarming things while auditing procurement records; Etain, a young Jedi who's followed her heart to some very un-Jedi places; Bardan Jusik, former Jedi and converted Mandalorian; and a cast of roguish, fun-loving clone troopers who are anything but identical. Trained in Mandalorian fashion (a society of warriors much like the Spartans), the clones are the toughest soldiers in the galaxy--but under those bucket helmets, there's a lot going on.

Skirata and his troops realize that the droid army cannot be anywhere near as large as they've been told. Further, the deployments make no sense; the Jedi are scattered around the Rim in positions that maximize their vulnerability. A trooper even remarks that they couldn't be better placed to fail if the Republic Command had tried. (Hm.)

But that is not their chief problem. The troops intend to get out of the army while the getting is good. What concerns them is a fresh flood of new clones--who are these new guys and where are they from? Not only that, but Skirata's got issues with his biological family cropping up at a bad moment. He has to deal with that, a wounded-in-action trooper named Fi recovering (and falling in love) on Coruscant, and some love interests that could complicate everything--not to mention a baby that starts attracting lots of unwelcome attention.

Amid the larger themes of love and death, Traviss weaves a story of the Republic in its death throes, as tyranny discards the veneer of civilization. The clones are seen as mere tools by their commanding officers (many of them Jedi) but reveal themselves as human under their white armor; they may all look the same, but don't judge a book by its cover. They hurt, they suffer, they fear for their future (whether or not they survive the war)... and some are ultimately given the choice between heroism and survival.

Although it focuses exclusively on Traviss' own group of clone troopers, abundant references are made to the larger events of STAR WARS: Revenge of the Sith, such as discussing Gen. Grievous and his escape from the siege of Coruscant (an event that dominates the middle of the novel), as well as the troopers' opinion of Gen. Kenobi and Jedi in general.

Of course, the penultimate moment--and the source of the book's title--arrives at last. Order 66 is the command issued by Palpatine to execute all Jedi on sight. The aftermath of this order is wrenching in its emotional intensity; many of Traviss' strongest scenes involve the chaos unleashed by this edict.

Readers should not begin with this novel--there is far too much story that goes ahead of these events--but fans of the series will be greatly rewarded by this culmination of an entire series. Traviss not only handles the Star Wars universe like an expert, she deftly creates characters who will stay with the reader long after the final page.

Recommended.

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