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An ebook by Timothy Zahn (2004, Ballantine Books)
20 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

A group of stormtroopers from the Empire of the Hand's 501st joins with an alien whose planet they are trying to free from a warlord.




Read on September 29th, 2009  

This book tells the tale of the stormtroopers of the Empire of the Hand that boarded the expedition to see Outbound Flight in Survivor's Quest. It is a quick tale, which essentially tells of how an alien native of a planet the 501st was working on became a member of their squad.

What ever happened to the Empire of the Hand, anyway? I don't remember hearing about it all throughout the Yuuzhan Vong war, and neither the Chiss nor the Imperial Remnant seemed to mention it during the Swarm War or the Legacy of the Jedi series (that I recall).

Regardless, here they have been called upon to dislodge a warlord from Eickaries' homeworld. The natives are given remarkable history and culture in the 60 pages of this ebook, and I quite enjoyed them. The stormtrooper squad, made up of Twister, the lead, Watchman, Cloud and Shadow, encounter a group of Eickaries as they approach the warlord's fortress. The natives show the troopers a secret way in, but ask that they free Eickarie prisoners of war before they capture the warlord. Twister can make no promises.

On the way, as the warlord's mercenaries block the way, the leader of this band of Eickaries, Su-mil, feigns changing sides, which is an obvious ploy that the reader can spot easily, even though Su-mil has been set up as a potentially untrustworthy figure. I liked the way he assumed Twister was intelligent, however, playing with the left- and right-handed comments (lies and truth, respectively), and suddenly let Twister and his backup ambush the mercenaries.

Su-mil then showed his leadership skills by listening to orders about the booby traps and how to disable them. When his people (the former prisoners of war) surged in to help destroy the sentries, they lost many bodies to weapons fire, but they still understood what they were doing. Then Su-mil showed that he understood how to follow orders even when he didn't understand them. His people wanted vengeance, but he held them at gunpoint to keep the warlord alive.

The warlord ends up being an unknown species, which is a little disappointing. I don't remember if Survivor's Quest revealed his nature. Regardless, the story is a very interesting account of Su-mil, who eventually becomes a stormtrooper when his world joins the Empire of the Hand.

I liked the way this story unfolded. It kept everything simple, but managed to give the characters some depth and the aliens some culture. In such a short story, I found that remarkable.


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