Imperial Commando: 501st

Author: Karen Traviss
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: October 27, 2009
Pages: 434
Era: Rise of the Empire

*Special Note: 501st is the final Novel of Karen Traviss’s SWEU additions.

The Jedi have been decimated in the Great Purge, and the Republic has fallen. Now the former Republic Commandos — the galaxy’s finest special forces troops, cloned from Jango Fett — find themselves on opposing sides and in very different armor. Some have deserted and fled to Mandalore with the mercenaries, renegade clone troopers, and rogue Jedi who make up Kal Skirata’s ragtag resistance to Imperial occupation. Others — including men from Delta and Omega squads — now serve as Imperial Commandos, a black ops unit within Vader’s own 501st Legion, tasked to hunt down fugitive Jedi and clone deserters.

For Darman, grieving for his Jedi wife and separated from his son, it’s an agonizing test of loyalty. But he’s not the only one who’ll be forced to test the ties of brotherhood. On Mandalore, clone deserters and the planet’s own natives, who have no love for the Jedi, will have their most cherished beliefs challenged. In the savage new galactic order, old feuds may have to be set aside to unite against a far bigger threat, and nobody can take old loyalties for granted.

Karen Traviss strikes back!  This time she strikes with Vader’s Fist!  501st is the fifth commando novel penned by Traviss, and the first to carry the Imperial Commando banner.  So far it’s managed to pull its way up to #8 on the NY Times Bestseller’s list in less then a month, and out sell the series previous books.  Not bad Karen, not bad at all.

Now for 501st; this story is a survivor’s tale.  It gives us the point of view of Clan Skirata as the days of the Empire spell out the shape of things to come.  And as all this change is forced on the group, it has also forced the people involved to really focus on their lives, and where they will be going from here.  It’s clear that no one has the answers, and that the times are very uncertain.  Kal Skirata still needs an answer to his clone sons’ rapid aging.  And to make matters worse he’s up to his arms in Jedi!

As the story progresses, Kal and many more are forced to answer tough moral questions.  And we discover that life sometimes leaves us hypocrites.

While Mandalore has become the base of Clan Skirata, what’s left of Omega and Delta Squads are finding life in the new Regime to be very different.  Niner especially is feeling “big brother” is watching, and is no longer confidant in speaking openly.  This makes matters between Darman and him tenuous since Niner’s unsure how to broach the subjects of Etain, Kad, and desertion.

After a failed desertion attempt, the still active members of Omega finds serving the Empire leaves them in a position to gain valuable Intel for the Clan, but is the price too steep?

Palpatine meanwhile continues to tighten his reign through fear, and unleashes Uthan’s unfinished clone virus on her home planet, killing its population.  This drives her more into Kal’s camp, and into helping Mandalore by creating a vaccine.

Meanwhile more deserters are coming in, and one brings Jedi with him.  This adds fire to an already explosive issue, and forces Kal to decide what he’s going to do with all the Jedi he’s been collecting.  He decides to send Jusik to find Master Altis Djinn, and seek out an arrangement.  It’s conditional of course- Jusik has to mind wipe the Jedi or the only answer is to slot them.  Altis agrees to help, and they set up a contact between the groups that is mutually beneficial.  Arla Fett’s beginning to come out of her drug induced coma, and is starting to paint a picture of what her life was before Jusik rescued her, and it’s NOT pretty.

After Omega is tasked to hunt down Altis, the story ends with Darman realizing he truly does need to be with Kad to protect him, and that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to do just that, including openly going to Mandalore…

What will Darman do?  You’ll have to wait till the series finale book to know….

So I gave this one a 5 of 5, it brought the same thing I’ve loved about Karen’s works, and managed to soften the “Anti-Jedi” feel.  We still have a feeling the Jedi are not heroes, but it’s also pointed out that to these people in the story- NO ONE IS.  This book’s only issue is that it leaves little room for it all to be wrapped up in one more novel.

Then December 09 came and we learned that this was Karen’s last work in the SWEU.  So will 501st get a sequel?  As of now they are looking for another author to finish the series.  All I can say is “Good Luck” to whomever it may be.