Triple Zero - Karen Traviss I did not think that I would like Hard Contact. I was afraid it would be another crappy Clone Wars novel (along the lines of Jedi Trialand The Cestus Deception). This is why it took me forever to purchase it. But when I finally got around to reading it, I was extremely impressed. Couple extraordinary characterization with an uncharted plot about clone commandos during the Clone Wars, and you have one of the best--if not the best--Clone Wars novels written. So, when I saw there was a sequel, I didn't think twice about purchasing.

A Separatist cell is discovered on Coruscant. Delta Squad along with rival squad, Omega Squad, are sent to flush out the enemies and dispel the threat. Further, Etain is reunited with Delta Squad and Kal Skirata joins the young clones he trained to aid them in their mission.

WARNING: Possible spoilers!

Karen Traviss is a good author. She writes in a clear manner and appears to actually know what she is writing about (she doesn't skip over the tough stuff and focus on the easy stuff).
It's great to see our favorite clone squad, Delta Squad, along with another squad instead of the typical Anakin, Obi-Wan, and gang. Futher, it was cool to see the men who helped train the clones and to learn more about the enigmatic Mando culture. I liked learning about the culture and enjoyed the characters using the language (but more on this later). Etain, Skirata, Ordo, and Fi--whom I greatly enjoyed reading about--have good solid characters. And the plot--a terrorist cell--was something we can easily associate with, especially after the events of 9/11.

The first chapter was good, but it quickly got drenched and bogged down in sluggish movement and introducing too many characters. Six characters are either exceedingly minor (such as Laseema, the unimportant Enacca, and Qibbu) and make you wonder how they attained a slot in the Dramatis Personae. Perhaps, it was to bear more resemblance to the established Star Wars Universe.
The plot is not convoluted--disarming a terrorist cell--yet Traviss does not seem to know how she wants to proceed. The whole plot occurs over many pages that are mostly devoted to dialogue such as "I feel guilty about making/using these boys as slaves" from Skirata and Etain. The actual terrorist cell dismantling occurs over a very short period of time, which is cut up and placed in small doses between the large amounts of talking about what people are going to do.
Which brings me to my next problem: Etain. She was mildly annoying in HC but now she is unbearable. Leaving Darman in HC, I felt they were more of friends. Now, after no contact (other than Etain's perpetual "reaching out to Darman in the Force" which she either does or talks about doing each time anything is written in her view), Darman and Etain fling themselves at each other the moment they reunite. What could have been a sweet, slow romance is ruined with the "I couldn't stop thinking of you" "Me neither--let's hop in bed" routine. And how she ends up pregnant--please. This happened in TCD and didn't work. Now, it crops up here (borderline plagiarism). Does every stinking Clone Wars novel have to contain a battle romance (although no where near as corny as Odie and Erk's romance in Jedi Trial) and an illegitimate child?
Another problem I had with this book was paradoxically also one of the few things that I loved about this book--the Mando Language and culture. While I loved learning about the language and culture, I found the in-text definition and the glossary repetitive. I almost felt Traviss was treating me like a complete, incompetent idiot who is incapable of turning a couple of pages to the glossary. Further, the in-text definition slowed down the read and felt unnatural.
Characters I longed to know more about--Atin, Vau, Jusik, even Niner from HC--were mostly neglected. Even Darman's feelings about his forbidden romance with Etain are ignored (those would have been very interesting). The entire Delta squad we know and love from HC was overlooked in an attempt to cover all 16 characters presented in the book.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Language is restricted primarily to made up Star Wars phrases. Darman and Etain sleep with each other. Violence is typical Star Wars fare.

All in all, this book does not live up to its predecessor, HC, but is no where near as bad as TCD or JT. The plot is not bad. The pacing is too slow, many of the characters are mere cardboard faces, and the Mando language is forcibly hammered into the reader's head. The book could easily have been condensed from its 400+ page format into something more enjoyable. Three stars is probably too high, but two stars (the same I gave for TCD) is too low. If I had the choice, I would give 2.75 for good writing and a new story.