Monday, 10 October 2011

Star Wars - Republic Commando: Hard Contact

Bad news on the reading front, after 180 pages, I have abandoned Star Wars – Republic Commando: Hard Contact 
[Spoiler Warning]
In many ways, this book turned out to be the exact opposite of my expectation. I bought the book thinking it would be a bit of light, action-packed pulp fiction with mediocre writing. What I got, however, was a well-written, but somewhat dull, novel.
Having read plenty of purple-prose in my time, I can honestly say that Karen Traviss is a much better writer than many who make their life churning out tie-in fiction. She has a smooth, easy style and shows considerable restraint in using unnecessary literary devices.  Normally, when reading a book, I go by the 100 page rule. If I am not interested after the first 100 pages, I don’t bother to finish the book (there are too many other books I could be reading), but Karen’s good writing kept me going for an extra 80, even after my interest in the story began to wane.
The problem with the book was the general lack of plot. Essentially a team of four clone commandos is dropped ‘behind enemy lines’ with orders to kidnap a scientist and destroy her work. As a secondary objective, they are to locate a missing Jedi. The plan almost immediately hits a snag. The commandos' insertion vehicle is damaged during the drop, and one of the four clones is separated from the rest of the team. This lone clone eventually teams up with the missing Jedi’s padawan.

It all started pretty well, but then the novel seemed to come to a stand-still. For the next hundred or more pages, all of the characters seem to just wander about in the woods and fields. There is a little bit of action, but it is quick and lacks tension. 
Also, the book includes one of my least favourite story-telling devices. It spends long sections of the book following the bad guy (a rather one-dimensional ruthless Mandoloran).   Having not finished the book, I can’t say for certain that these passages weren’t necessary, but I have read far too many books where sections showing the bad guy were obviously used to pad out a story that otherwise wouldn’t be long enough to be considered a novel.  Bad guys in these stories are rarely interesting and almost never sympathetic, so why bother showing them? Tell the story from the protagonist’s point of view. Let us learn important facts as he learns him. Sorry, minor rant over.
Perhaps those who read a lot of Star Wars fiction are used to a certain pace and style of storytelling, and this book will be right up their alley. For me though, good-writing not withstanding, I need a bit more plot and a lot more action in my tie-in fiction.

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