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A novel by Michael A. Stackpole (1997, Bantam Spectra)
Book 4 of the X-Wing Novels
6.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Rogue Squadron vows to liberate the sole Bacta-producing world from Isard.



Read January 4th to 11th, 2001  
    The author has finally played to his strengths, and to my desires! All of the military scheming, as well as computer-game style dogfights and ambushes combined to make a great and very exciting read.

The weakest parts of the book dealt with Iella and her ambush team on Thyferra, the bacta planet. They infiltrated the planet to harass Isard (who is now in charge there) and to eventually bring the Imperial government down. They have a lot of support, in the form of the majority natives and close to half the human population. Iella and her team just didn't do that much, and what they did do was insignificant in light of the story. They weren't required, except perhaps as a means to capture Vorru at the end. 

Vorru still puzzles me. In the last book, he was desperate to resurrect Black Sun, and to distance himself from Isard and the New Republic government. In this book, he was upset to be dragged off Coruscant by Isard, but once he accepts his role, he takes to it whole-heartedly. Erisi is the same way. She's happy to return home, without a doubt. Obviously, they were taken away from Coruscant in the last book so that they could be present and have some closure in this book, which was meant to be the last book in the X-Wing series. 

By the end, there are still plenty of doors open with potential. Vorru was captured, but will probably cut a deal with the New Republic, because he knows so much. Erisi crashed on Thyferra's moon, but there was no explosion, so it is possible that she survived. Isard was blown up in her shuttle, but nobody ever saw her board the shuttle. Sure, she talked to Corran during their chase, but she could have been talking by remote. Considering that there's a book in this series called Isard's Revenge, I can't rule that out at all.

The best thing this book did was bring in Mirax's father, Booster Terrik. Wedge and the resigned Rogues take up residence on the space station that they had attacked in the last book (to get the bacta away from Warlord Zsinj), and he lets Booster take control of it. Booster runs a fine operation, and knows how to deal with people. He puts Corran in his place (Corran's father sent Booster to Kessel for five years, and Corran is now dating Booster's daughter), and shows that he a softy when it comes to his daughter. He runs head-to-head with Vorru, who is running Isard's search for the Rogues. The way these two out-think each other is so well written that neither one of them has a real advantage. The game is a stalemate for a very long time. And it begins to take its toll on the Rogues. But Booster is just a little bit better.

And the Rogues are much better than Isard's troops. We can see how obsessed Isard is with destroying the Rogues. She starts off unconcerned, then as they begin to harass her bacta convoys, she gets annoyed. As they begin to give her more and more losses, she starts getting obsessed. Then, by the end, she is willing to throw everything she has at them, and in doing so, she makes poor judgment calls. As time goes on, the Rogues begin to wear out. But Isard's obsession gives them major breaks, so that even in their weakened conditions, they can still exploit her weaknesses. 

We got to travel to many exotic places in this book, but none was better than old Tatooine. Gavin's uncle lives there, and it was just wonderful to see his family in action. They were so warm and friendly. 

Isard had four capital ships in her possession at the beginning of the book. It was amazing to watch Wedge and the Rogues take them out, one by one. I was suspicious when they destroyed the first star destroyer, because an anonymous battleship suddenly and conveniently jumped out of the Alderaan graveyard to turn the tide of the battle. But I got over that quickly, because -well, sometimes these things do happen. They needed a little push. Not much of one, but enough to send the destroyer over the edge. And with so many proton torpedoes at their disposal, that's all they needed. The ship was an automated escort to the Alderaanian weapon's ship, Another Chance, where the residents of Alderaan stowed every weapon they had and sent the ship into hyperspace, to return only if their newfound pacifist nature had to be rejected. That ship had been found years ago, but an escort was missing until now. 

The second Star Destroyer goes missing because Wedge gave the captain a very generous gift to get him to sever his ties with Isard. Without Coruscant as a power base, the Captain knows that Isard is bound to lose, and he just has to find a chance to escape; Wedge offers it to him. He comes back to Thyferra to help them defeat Isard's super star destroyer at the end.

Talon Karde resurfaces in this book, as a calm and no-nonsense smuggler -compared to Booster Terrik's aggressive ways, it was wonderful to see the contrast. This was the Karde that we saw in the Thrawn trilogy, not what he developed into in Vision of the Future. Karde also provides the opportunity to remove another Destroyer from Isard's clutches. He has a traitor in his midst, and they finally let her discover the Rogues' base of operations. That lures the Super Star Destroyer and a normal Imperial Star Destroyer to the station, which has been evacuated. As the Rogues jump out to Thyferra, the SSD is caught in a tractor beam with a strength completely unexpected from a station of that size. And to make matters worse, it has thousands of torpedo launchers. 

Fortunately for the Captain, the ImpStar Deuce (as the Rogues call the normal Destroyer) dives between the SSD and the station, breaking the tractor beams. The SSD heads back to Thyferra. And, as I knew would happen, Booster captures the ImpStar and makes it his own! I wondered how he got a hold of a Star Destroyer in I, Jedi, and it occurred to me about halfway through the book that he might just get one of Isard's.

The final, spectacular battle takes place over Thyferra. It takes the two captured Star Destroyers, dozens of freighters with proton torpedoes, and dozens more fighters, X-Wings, some Gand fighters, and some Twi'lek fighters, too. And even then, it takes a long time just to collapse the SSD's shields! And even then, the Captain vows to ram the planet's surface when he can't win. Fortunately, one of his senior officers takes matters into his own hands before things go too far, and he surrenders the ship to the New Republic. For all it's worth, though, is spare parts, for it was so heavily damaged in the fighting.

The battle scenes were just like playing the computer game. This, I believe, is what Stackpole does best. The scheming back and forth also worked so very well. But I do wonder why the New Republic couldn't take control of the situation once Isard bombarded and destroyed an entire colony of people. Perhaps they weren't part of the New Republic. But it seems to me the Navy could have a good reason to step in at that point anyway. 

Corran also develops during this book. He experiments with his Jedi heritage, with mostly disastrous results. He gets cocky and thinks that he's using a Jedi mind trick on a stormtrooper. It fails and he's nearly killed. He slashes with his lightsaber, but doesn't have the technique to use it properly. It was great fun to read those moments of great embarrassment.

Bror Jace returns from the dead in this book, too. He played a minor part, but he had faked his own death to oust his rival faction from power on Thyferra. 

As I mentioned above, there was plenty of room for sequels, and the authors have obviously decided to tie some of those ends up. I would image the next book deals with the potential rescue of the former prisoners of Isard's Super Star Destroyer. Even if the last books have not been up to the best level, I'm still enjoying the series. It is a lot of fun, and there is a lot of potential here. 

The books can be summed up in the following ways. It seems like the author wanted to do a book where the squadron would be created and formed into a cohesive unit. But he also wanted to do an undercover story, a court trial, an escape from prison story, and a story about mercenaries who topple a government. Not all of these were successful, but they were enjoyable enough. 

As for this book in the series? It was great. Non-stop action and wondering what was going to happen next. It never got out of hand, though it bordered on the incredulous at times. By the end of the series, I wonder if the Rogues are going to be all human. Most of the ones to die turn out to be alien... A great conclusion to this part of the series.

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