First up, Hard Contact and Triple Zero, by karentraviss (*waves*).
These got on the list because:
- I went to a panel on tie-in writing, at WorldCon. Traviss was talking on it, and did a good job of it.
- mevennen made the odd reference to some of Traviss' posts, and thus I found the LJ.
- It's interesting enough for me to keep reading her posts.
- and in the depths of comments about Wikis, politicians, journalism and opals, there are the occasion posts about how she writes, and about her books. All of which made me interested in reading the books themselves.
- So I went out and bought 'em.
So there you go: self promotion works.
Both books are Star Wars tie-ins, and are set just after the battle at the end of Episode II (or, at least, I think that's when they're set; I've only seen each of I-III once). Hard Contact features Omega squad, a group of four Republic Commandos, and is formed from the tattered remains of four other squads, following terrible combat losses. It follows their efforts to carry out a search-and-extract mission which rapidly goes to pot when their ingress vehicle comes apart in mid-air, and both squad and equipment are scattered.
Also in the mix is a Jedi-to-be padawan, trying to survive on the same planet after her master misses the point of "undercover" and gets himself killed and her cut off.
The point here is that, as per the Clone Wars, Republic Commandos are all clones of Jango Fett. Thus, Traviss introduces details about what life is like in service when the military ideal of all soldiers being field-replaceable parts goes beyond "same uniform, same hair" and becomes "same DNA, same face". Naturally, they're not all the same person. Triple Zero takes this point further when Omega squad, along with many other clones, are stationed back on the home planet to deal with a terrorist threat; the local population sees them as little different from droids at first, but the clones are all unique. Countering the general view is Delta Squad, who are legendary among Republic Commandos, and fiercely individual.
This focus on individuality is unfortunately the books' failing, IMO, because - if I'm honest - I didn't learn enough of the characters in the two squads to really distinguish between them. Given a conversation between the eight members of the two squads, without name clues, I wouldn't be able to tell who was talking. I wouldn't be able to imagine what, say, Fi would do differently from Niner or Scorch.
That didn't bother me during the reading, though, just in the post-read analysis. Both books are enjoyable page-turners, entertaining military adventures which touch on deep subjects but don't get drawn into them. I liked Etain the padawan - far more than I liked young Anakin - and I'd read more.
They did make me want to watch Episode's I-III again, to see how much of the books' environment was reflected in the films, and they did make me more favourable towards those movies - probably because reading the books was more enjoyable than watching the films, so they've affected my memories.
So, in summary: these aren't great books, but they're enjoyable. Having bought both together, I read the second because I wanted to read more about the characters, not because I felt I should, having bought it.