The JC Lit Reviews Special: IMPERIAL COMMANDO: 501st (Spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Oct 27, 2009.

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  1. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Imperial Commando: 501st, Karen Traviss's second-last contribution to the EU, is out and taking the Republic Commando crew into the Dark Times!

    Some rules: rate 501st on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)


    Some previous review threads:

    Republic Commando: Hard Contact, by Karen Traviss
    Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover
    The Cestus Deception, by Steven Barnes
    Medstar I: Battle Surgeons, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
    Medstar II: Jedi Healer, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
    Jedi Trial, by David Sherman and Dan Cragg
    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, by Sean Stewart
    Labyrinth of Evil, by James Luceno
    Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
    Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno
    Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine, by Veronica Whitney-Robinson
    Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning
    Survivor's Quest, by Timothy Zahn
    Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream, by Aaron Allston
    Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand, by Aaron Allston
    Traitor, by Matthew Stover
    Destiny's Way, by Walter Jon Williams
    Force Heretic I: Remnant, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    Force Heretic II: Refugee, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    Force Heretic III: Reunion, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    The Final Prophecy, by Greg Keyes
    The Unifying Force, by James Luceno
    Dark Nest I: The Joiner King, by Troy Denning
    Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen, by Troy Denning
    Dark Nest III: The Swarm War, by Troy Denning
    Outbound Flight, by Timothy Zahn
    Republic Commando: Triple Zero, by Karen Traviss
    Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, by Aaron Allston
    Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, by Karen Traviss
    Darth Bane: Path of Destruct
  2. AdmiralWesJanson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2005
    star 5
    Story: 4
    Continues the story of the Skirata clan and their fight against the Empire. Overall, not much happens. A planet is depopulated, not a big deal. (I suppose I've been reading a bit too much Warhammer 40K stuff that it seemed such a minor thing to me.) Darman goes loopy and becomes a Jedi hater, Kal has moral conflicts, and surprisingly Scout is not too badly off. Overall, not much happens. Sort of like Triple Zero, but at least this time there is a feel of leading somewhere. Action is minimal. Except for two fights with fleeing Jedi, I can count shots fired and blows struck combined on one hand (both if you count Force pushes to prefent more blows being struck)

    Characters: 3
    Most characters are pretty angst-y. Kal has moral dilemmas, Ordo has issues with being prime son, Bardan has issues with being an ex-Jedi, Ny has issues with being a liability, Zey has issues with guilr, Darman has issues with Jedi, Niner has issues with Darman, Arla and has issues being Arla. Uthuan goes from interesting villain to yet another member of the land of misfit toys. As for villains, there really aren't any worth speaking of. I like the idea that heroes are only as good as the villains they have to overcome, so there isn't much to say. Better than Order 66, with Etain getting herself killed like an idiot and the other characters playing 4 weddings and a funereal.

    Writing: 8
    Written well, as has been Traviss's strong point so far. Some typos and misspellings though. Some points are brought up over and over though, like Etains offer to join Altiss's academy (May have to see about reading the Clone Wars book where that happened. I wasn't much interested in it before, but I like continuity)

    Continuity: 6
    I was more excited at first to see expanded references, until I realized they were all to Children of the Jedi. Nice to see it coming up, but more variety would be nice, rather than one source where Traviss has latched on toone of the characters as being "good people." She seems to have adopted Pellaeon, Scout, and Altiss as characters she likes. At least from what I read, character damage is minimal. Still, Scout seemed much better treated by Yoda than Traviss seems to portray. I didn't really see any major shots at other sources this time around, like the newscasts from last book. Some of the little epigraphs bugged me though, like Palpatine telling his plans to a droid. Seemed like a Caedus-class moment, not something to be expected from the great schemer.

    Overall: 5
    I really can't give it much higher when the first though on reading it was "At least it was better than O66." The entire book was basically a big moral debate. To be fair was a pretty good character piece, but I'm so burned out on Jedi vs Mandolorians that it didn't really excite me at all. It's becoming worse than Warlord of the Week, and at least those books sometimes had good villains or non-Jedi characters.
  3. iolo_the_bard Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 18, 2005
    star 1
    I give this book a nice solid 8.

    It was a very good read, quick but not rushed. The characters were all portrayed very well, including ones from other sources like Scout. I enjoyed seeing the life of two commandos stuck behind enemy lines, and while I don't agree with Darman's reasoning, I can totally see why he made the choices that he did over the course of the novel. My two points off a perfect score come from 2 small issues I had with the book:

    The anti-Jedi propaganda was actually tolerable, since it was coming from the Empire, and Skirata. It was the pro-Mando propaganda that got to me. I've always felt that Traviss has made a small planet with a population of only a few million to be too galacticly important. At least this isn't as bad as "A Practical Man's" farce with the whole 'The third edge of the conflict between Sith and Jedi is the Mandalorians.' So minus one point for exaggerating the import of one planet compared to the rest of the the galaxy.

    My second complaint comes from the Death Watch storyline. I felt that it didn't go anywhere at all, other than being a small feud in the marketplace. I really hope that this plot line goes somewhere in the second IC book, or I'll feel even more let down. Minus one for currently pointless story arc.
  4. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Uaaaaaaaaauuuugh.

    I just don't know where to start. So I'll have to be scattershot about this. One, the romance. Good god, the romance. I've got nothing against romance. Love to see a little splash of romance; it can do a storyline wonders. It's missing from the current post-ROTJ EU; we've got settled couples and no fiery spark of romance establishing itself. But good gonk, not a single woman in this book can resist a hunky manly Mandalorian soldier. We go through the entire book, no hint, but at the end, "Oh, yeah, Ruu Skirata is totally into that one commando from Yayax Squad we never really see." Why? Because. Corr talks with Jilka for one minute, and she's into him. Why? Because we can't allow conflict in these complexity-phobic books; Jilka, the one person at Kyrimorut who really doesn't want to be there, the woman who basically got kidnapped, the woman who could add some tension and interest, falls for a clone boy and everything's nice now. Ny Vollen is into Skirata. Why? Because no woman of age can resist his grandfatherly charm, devotion to his children, murderous ways, and raging hypocrisy. Uthan, of all people, gets all hot and heavy with that dashing, ruggedly handsome, brilliant, and charmingly cynical Ymmij Gilamar fellow! Because they're both doctors, see, and he's got ARMOR! The wives are in the kitchen, and the women are falling for those rugged Mando men. Seriously, there's not a single woman in the entire story who is not involved with a clone. The only ones who don't get paired up are Kina Ha and Scout. And Arla, but she's insane, so she doesn't count. Next book, though, once she's cured, money says she hooks up with Jusik. Money.

    It's an up-armored Twilight. Except, instead of sparkly vampire skin, it's sparkly armor. Right down to the random sports-bonding scene. I suppose the Mormons do identify with Jews.

    Speaking of Jusik, he's a bitter, hypocritical, despicable asshat. Just like Kal. He saves Zey, then tells Skirata he knows the right thing to have done was to push him out an airlock. He's lost the slightest thing resembling a moral compass, yet he remains incredibly smug and self-satisfied that he's the good guy and the Jedi are evil.

    And, boy, is the Jedi-are-evil shtick laid on with a trowel here. You'd think it would be less jarring in a dark times book about Imperials; it's more jarring, because it's so far overdone. It's the worst yet for sheer petty, illogical, counterfactual venom. There's an epigraph of Kina Ha explaining why Etain was the GREATEST AND TRUEST JEDI EVER because she threw herself in the way to save a man she didn't know. Imperial Commando isn't a train; it's a lollercoaster.

    Speaking of lols and anti-Jedi sentiment, Holy Loly Roly is the most annoying character ever. He's a giant anti-Force-user bigot, which makes him a vaguely heroic figure to everyone in the book. This is because his family comes from Dromuund Kaas, where they were oppressed by the Prophets of the Dark Side (10 points for a POTDS reference; -100 points for it making no sense, and -100 more for being used solely in service of the book's universal and tiresome pursuit of simplistic 1-D psychological-trauma explanations for every single person's personality and actions, rather than making them interesting characters). He's a loathsome, tiresome caricature in the worst Traviss tradition, and he brings every part of the book he's in down with his over-the-top forbidden-wordiness.

    I'm fairly uncomfortable with how incredibly racist the main characters are, and how comfortable the book is with that. It's like "Aww, Archie Bunker you hilarious old curmudgeon"-level with its attitude to Kal's and everyone else's rabid hatred of Jedi and Kaminoans, except they're not spouting ignorant, impotent, and not particularly vicious stereotypes; they're out there wearing sheets burning crosses in people's yards. But because they find one or two they think are "Pretty OK for a ______, since they're not like all the other ______s, the bad ______s" they're really not so bad.

    The potshot at Denning
  5. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 14.2/3 = 4.73
  6. Valin__Kenobi Author: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Praji

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2004
    star 4
  7. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
  8. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    Somewhat off-topic, but I notice there's no review thread for Republic Commando: Order 66? :confused:
  9. Quinnocent-Till-Sith Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 21, 2004
    star 3
    It exists.
  10. Lord_Hydronium Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 11, 2002
    star 5
    There is, it just doesn't seem to be linked in the OP.

    EDIT: Beaten.
  11. Kol_Skywalker Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2006
    star 4
    "The potshot at Denning is just petty, unprofessional, and ridiculous. I'm amazed it got through editing, and I was vaguely embarrassed to read it. Not for me; for her."

    What was the potshot at Denning?
  12. Lord_Hydronium Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 11, 2002
    star 5
    Havac elaborates on that in the 10/28 11:08pm post of the discussion thread, and discussion of it continues from there.

    While we're on the subject, a general reminder to take discussion-type items to the discussion thread, and keep this thread just for reviews.
  13. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    Huh, I hadn't even found it when I did a Google search.

    Thanks, QTS and LH! [face_peace]
  14. Todd the Jedi Mod and Inquisitor of SWTV

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2008
    star 5
    It sure is a shame that Ms. Traviss is leaving Star Wars, as this was a very good read. There were a few disappointments, but overall it was good.

    I liked all of the references to previously established continuity, like Jax Pavan or Plett's Well. The whole inclusion of Scout and keeping her in character is a mighty feat. Definitely an improvement for this series that made it fit in better with materiel set in the same time frame. I felt most everyone was in character, but that hasn't really been a problem for Traviss. Interesting to see Kal soften up toward the Jedi, even if he's only dealing with the outcasts. I like the idea of him remarrying so that his boys have a proper mother figure. Too bad there will only be one more book, because there were some new characters here that I really enjoyed. Roly Melusar, for one thing, seems to be a good man working for the wrong people. If he knew about Palpatine, he would probably desert with Niner and Darman, and I don't think his story is over just yet. Rede is also interesting as the average stormtrooper. His characters offers up some explanations as to the huge differences between the GAR and the Imperial Army. And even though they were already around, I enjoyed the expansion of Gaib and TK-0's characters. They kinda reminded me of Lorn Pavan and I-5. If any other authors write stories in the dark times era I hope they make their way into them. The expanded characterizations for Ny and Uthan were also

    One thing that made this book a little difficult to follow at times was the vast array of characters, most of them all in the same place. It does add some dynamic to the events on Mandalore, but it also means fewer "screen time" for some characters. I felt that half of Omega and the Nulls did nothing the entire time. Hopefully all of their stories get resolved in the next and probably final installment. And even thought the anti-Jedi sentiment was toned down, I felt it was a bit out of place considering the surviving Jedi were in a much worse position than the Mandalorians. I don't think anyone at that time would ever think the Jedi would start rebuilding the Order, especially under the current regime. Most of the Jedi are either too afraid to come out of hiding or just want to harm the Empire as much as possible. Darman's motives seemed a bit extreme at times; even though Etain died by the hands of Jedi, it was not their fault entirely. I understand anyone in his situation would want to lash out and make irrational decisions, but he seems as loopy as Arla Fett, who btw seems really out of place in this story and is just Traviss's excuse to insert the name Fett all over the novel. As for Darman, I see his characterization either spiraling downhill from here, or improving as soon as he sees Kad, if he ever does.

    So I give this a 7.2 for an enjoyable read and visible improvement over some of the RepCom books, and sticking to continuity.
  15. BennyM Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 20, 2007
    star 1
    Honestly, I loved this book. It was a great pickup from O66, a great read and it makes me sad that Traviss' next book is her last.

    9/10. Easy.
  16. Jacen7878 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 23, 2004
    I am glad this is Karen no's last book. She has clearly overstayed here welcome.

    1/10
  17. LordRevan19 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2005
    star 4
    Um, her last book is Imperial Commando 2 ;)
  18. MsLanna Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2005
    star 6
    10/10 on the simple grounds that any book I read in less than 24 hours HAS to be great.

    I liked the plot, the returne of Maze was amzaing, and I really hope he gets some screen time with Zey. Those two are an unlikely team.
    Since I love Altis, I loved him showing up, not that he had much to do but agree to take some Jedi from Kal.
    Ennen and Bry had short appearances, but especially Ennen's suicide left me worried. Stress might really just start to get to the clones. Maybe there is a chance of madness ahead. Rede seems to be nice, but I trust nobody.

    Dar's downard spiral is executed well. As a clone he really started to think for himself. I fully expect him to make his own thing and kinda run away with Kad.
    IMO, that would mesh perfectly with Kal, who looks like a hamster in a running wheel a lot. Trying to achieve peace for his boys and failing time and again. I can see everything falling apart under his hands in the last novel.

    Sometimes I had the feeling there was too much packed into the novel, maybe a result of suddenly having only two of them left to put stuff into. The reemergence of Death Watch, the death of Priest, Dar going after any Jedi and especially Altis, Alra being ex-DW, Uthan wanting to wipe out Coruscant, there is so much potential, that I can't see how to wrap it all up in one novel.

  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 41.4/7 = 5.91
  20. Plaristes Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2007
    star 3
    8/10. I would have given 8.5, but the continued mangling of Spar's backstory is extremely annoying.
  21. CeiranHarmony Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 10, 2004
    star 5
    I give it a 8/10


    -1 because Spar backstory and Shysa Mando backstory chaos
    -1 because some Clan Skirata stuff I did not like while I enjoyed other parts alot
    +1 female Mandalore of the past
    +1 nice new Imperials
    +1 Scout lives
    +1 stupidity of O66 stuff acknoledged and explained (Etain, not Spar)
    +1 Biological and Chemical Warfare mentions (I might not agree with characters but nice she included it and the different opinions)
    +1 writing style and characterisations I always love... also how characters change, evolve, etc.
    +1 critique at Skiratas behaviour and decisions mentioned
    +1 anti-Jediness lessened but still continued in a way. explained more and critique on Mandalorians and way of life, too. as well as Death Watch mention and retcons

    => 8
  22. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    I really enjoyed this book, maybe not quite as much as True Colors but close.

    I loved the progression of Darman's character, the presentation of the Empire with all its "Turn in your neighbors" signage, Bry's death and Ennen's tragic end, the frightening attitudes of the Null's set against the compassion of Skirata and Jusik.

    Zey's return with Maze was huge(even though I figured it out about 6 months back;) ) as was Darman's decision to stay and work within the Empire. Both were worthy plot twists in a Universe which doesn't have very many anymore.

    I liked the presentaion of Iri Camas and Yelgo. They were both made to seem competent and dangerous even if they ultimatly died. And there has to be more to Rede than we're seeing, I don't buy that he's how the Spartii Clones are. It's to easy, a supersoldier landing with Darman and Niner. I'm thinking he may be a plant from Palpatine.

    9.6/10
  23. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 67/10 = 6.70
  24. GrandMasterKatarn Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 8, 2008
    star 4
    THE GOOD

    A slow-paced story that really help to set p the major finale of the Skirata Clan in the next novel.

    Superb use of all characters used: Jusik, Scout, Kina, Uthan, the Mandos, Obrim.. not a single one felt out of place.

    Nice tie-in to events: Plett's Well, Whiplash, K'kruhk, Jax Pavan...Karen did well to set up all ready existing EU material. Bravo.

    THE BAD

    Palps talking and revealing all to a droid.. lame

    All in all

    10/10
  25. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 77/11 = 7.00
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