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A novel by Michael A. Stackpole (1996, Bantam Spectra)
Book 3 of the X-Wing Novels
6.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Corran attempts to escape from Isard's clutches, while Rogue Squadron tries to survive Tycho's treason trial.



2 stars

Read December 23rd, 2000 to January 2nd, 2001  
    Tycho's trial was nothing spectacular, and we all knew that he would get off in the end, anyway. Corran's imprisonment was interesting in a few ways, but was blunted by the knowledge that he would escape unharmed, also. The in-between stuff kept me interested in the story, but it was designed just to keep the squadron busy. And while the end was neatly staged, it seemed both convenient and unlikely.

I thought the New Republic was being a little too open with its trial against Tycho. The case could have been dealt with swiftly and quietly without arising suspicions that they were being like the Empire. They were trying hard to make it look like they were being fair, but the effort was very visible, and they made it look like an inquisition. 

I was afraid that something would happen at the very last minute to free Tycho, and that was exactly what happened. It could have been much more interesting if Tycho was released because of real research, instead of Isard getting sloppy. And the fact that intelligence chief Cracken knew that he was innocent of being a spy, and suddenly believes Corran when he is told that Tycho was not brainwashed is totally unbelievable. If Tycho was a good spy, he could have figured out that Emtrey (their droid) was being used for Intelligence purposes, just as Corran did. And if Corran was brainwashed, then he would definitely do exactly as he did at the end here, because that would get both him and Tycho out of suspicion, and they could operate as the perfect spies. 

I was worried about Corran's imprisonment at first, because his initial simulator runs were not well scripted. But it got better once he was thrown in with the rest of the prisoners, after being deemed "unsuitable for conversion". I couldn't figure out the use of putting Derricote (creator of the Krytos virus) in prison, until the dramatic need was presented at the very end, and for that, I am impressed. Realistically, though, if Derricote was in prison, then Isard's entire staff should be there, too. 

Stackpole had to put an interesting twist on the imprisonment, and making it upside down was a great idea. Though Corran thought it was difficult to escape, I thought he got away much too easily. It was a nice touch for him to find his grandfather's lightsaber in the Jedi museum, but I never thought the Emperor was so petty as to deface the statues. And what purpose does it serve? Not every Jedi was depicted there.  An accurate count would have been impssible using just the statues.

As for the incidentals, I still enjoy the dogfights. They are depicted the same as in the computer games, and I can still see myself fighting and dodging TIE fighters! The attack on the space station was great -I loved every paragraph. The discovery of the freighter fragments (where Zsinj attacked a Bacta convoy) was also fun, though I never really did like the Alderaan graveyard (as also seen in Shards of Alderaan). 

Imperial agent Loor got to become a Rebel in this book, in more ways than one. He harassed the New Republic, then came under the thumb of the Black Sun operative Vorru, and finally betrayed Vorru and Isard by defecting to the New Republic. I really loved the way he was killed, too. I hate the idea of having people "converted" so that they do Isard's bidding against their will, so Diric's betrayal came off a sour to me rather than sad. However, during Corran's escape, he made it look like Derricote had escaped, and dumped him into a trash compactor (the man was already dead). Isard heard that the New Republic was bringing forth a secret witness, and assumed it was Derricote, having escaped her prison! So everybody on her side was surprised to learn it was Loor instead. I suppose they found Derricote eventually. 

The fallout from the Krytos virus also made the New Republic look lucky. The water that Rogue Squadron boiled off to bring down the shields in the last book neutralized much of the virus, and projections showed that if Coruscant had been taken just a few days later, whole species could have been wiped out. The virus also seemed to kill itself out, because it killed so fast. As much Bacta was supplied as possible, but it was bankrupting the New Republic. Fortunately, some of the natives of the human-controlled Bacta world (Erisi's homeworld) came secretly to Coruscant and offered to help devise a cure. They found that Ryll spice, from the Twi'lek homeworld, seemed promising. So the Rogues went on a diplomatic mission to Ryloth. Wedge correctly interpreted some Twi'lek animosity between a warrior and a trader, and suddenly found himself with all the Ryll he needed! I wonder if we'll see the Twi'leks again. They seemed to be built up in character for such a short (but very interesting) passage.

Two more things that brought the story down were the Imperial's sloppiness during Corran's escape, and the casual return of Mirax after her apparent death with the freighters. Jedi mind tricks have to be spoken, so Corran didn't use one to escape notice when the troopers were looking for him. That the troopers were sloppy was well-explained, but belongs rather in a Kevin J. Anderson book than here. If the author had to resort to that, he should have rethought the book. Mirax's apparent death in the freighter ambush was never believable for a minute. I realize that my judgment might be clouded because she was still alive in I, Jedi, but although Wedge grieved, it never made it seem remotely real. And bringing her suddenly back in the scene just after Corran returns was too much, even given the explanation of how she secretly set up a Bacta producing facility.

As for Isard's prison being a Super Star Destroyer buried under the cities of Coruscant... I like the idea, but it is not the way of the Emperor. That is a massive and powerful capital ship, and he would never have wasted it in such a fashion. However, it did make for a spectacular final sequence. I wish I could see something like that in a movie. It looks great, even just in imagination! It was only marred by Erisi's obvious defection. I don't like the simplistic way it was done, and it made no sense for her to expose herself in that way. Surely she would know that Wedge could access her systems -he would never keep that a secret, and she didn't know that Corran had survived. She could have been useful (in her mind) if she had stayed. Her influence was subtle in the earlier books, but she was nonexistent in this one, and that's too bad. We were also supposed to be shocked at the number of people Isard killed by bringing her Destroyer to the surface, but they were presented as simply numbers -and numbers that high have no effect on people. It's too huge to even contemplate, so there can be no feelings.

So there were some definite high points, with some rather tumultuous low ones. The lows outweighed the highs, unfortunately, but the book was still kind of fun. Not even as good as the last book, but still worth reading. It takes a lot of skill to do an interesting and credible court case where we know the defendant is innocent, and more skill to do an escape from prison story. To attempt both in the same novel was perhaps not so wise. 

And as for the final scene, where Corran turns down a chance to study Jedi training with Luke? I enjoyed it, and was as frustrated with Corran as I was during I, Jedi, but in a good way. It is just his character. He resigns to go chase after Isard, who has installed herself as leader of the Bacta-controlling planet, Erisi's home world. So the rest of the Rogues follow his example and resign, with the intent of becoming a thorn in Isard's side. The New Republic can't, because it would be interfering with a planet's legitimate government (Isard was invited into power by a revolution -she did not invade), but mercenaries could definitely do the job. I just hope that the Rogues are not reinstated too easily when they return.

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