Thursday, 8 November 2007

‘True Colours (Star Wars, Republic Commando)’ – Karen Traviss (Orbit Books)

Like many others I grew up on Star Wars, my friends and I would act out scenes in the playground and I would watch it (constantly) at home. Fast forward a few years and my seventeen-year-old self was so pleased when he realised that there were new Star Wars books that followed on from the Battle of Endor. The future looked bright for Star Wars fans the world over but then things went wrong, badly wrong. Despite some good attempts nothing quite matched Timothy Zahn’s originals and the other books descended into a formulaic mess of ‘brave rebels destroy the empire’s latest superweapon and Luke learns more about the Force’. This on it’s own would have been ok but then the prequel films were released to the sound of a million childhood dreams shattering (maybe not that bad but I have recently renewed my poetic license!)
The books keep on selling though and recently it’s been the turn of the clones themselves to get star billing. ‘True Colours’ is actually the third book in the ‘Republic Commando’ series and tells the ongoing story of three clone commando units battling Separatist forces while also trying to find their own way in a universe that regards them as ‘non-people’ with no rights at all.
‘True Colours’ is a difficult book to jump straight into if you haven’t already read the first two books in the series, there are a lot of references to past events and a whole load of names to get used to very quickly. Give it a chance though and before you know it you’ll be caught up in what I reckon is one of the best (if not the best) Star Wars series currently running.
Although the same high ideals are being fought for, there is a ‘gritty’ feel to this book that I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else. Fans of military science fiction are going to love this book with all its talk of detailed troop movements and impressive sounding ordinance. Regular fans though may find themselves tapping their fingers while waiting for the action to kick off (note to author: firefights and space battles are always going to be more exciting than the ‘cut and thrust’ of audit trails, there’s just no arguing against it). When things do kick off, it’s in fine style and the well-drawn characters added an extra dimension to the proceedings. A lot of care and attention is paid to each clone, they may all look the same but each one is an individual with a part to play that emphasises the plight of all clones. The relationship between the clones and their adopted Mandalorian fathers (Skirata and Vau) is a quest for redemption on both sides that is surprisingly poignant in places.
What really got me though was the number of pertinent questions raised, by the clones, about the direction the war is taking. I’m not sure if this is part of an ongoing plot thread or if a point was being made (by the author) about gaping plot holes in the screenplay. Either way, it is good to see these issues being addressed rather than us being expected to just accept whatever the films throw at us.
‘True Colours’ is intelligent military sci-fi that still manages to capture the spirit of Star Wars. If you’re a fan then you really need to read this.

Eight out of Ten

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