I have been anticipating these stories for a long time, and perhaps
that is why I was a little disappointed with the first book. There
are three or four main action scenes, fairly evenly spaced through the
book, and the characters are well developed, but there were moments when
I thought the characters were being too introspective, simply for the
purpose of telling the readers what was going on.
This book, according to the credits at the beginning, was based
on the exploits of the pilots in the PC video game X-Wing, from Lucasarts
Entertainment. And I could see the inspiration immediately.
I spent many hours at that game, and destroyed the Death Star once in an
x-wing, and again in a b-wing in the second supplement to that game.
There were some tough runs there, and it took a lot of skill (read as experience
-meaning many hours) to figure out how to get through many them in the
The author shows this clearly in all the battle scenes.
The pilots shift their shields around, shunt power from one source to the
other, link their weapons, shift throttle, set up targets and cycle through
them to obtain the one that they want, or select the target closest to
them. It was like running through a segment of the game, which was
great. Unlike the last chapter in Dark Forces: Soldier
for the Empire, the game sequences were told with real emotion, and
it felt like more than just a game. There were even traces of the
sequel game, TIE Fighter, in which TIEs have a detection system that alert
them when missiles are being fired.
But the story is really about Corran Horn, and I was completely
surprised by that. I did not know that he was a major player in Rogue
Squadron, and I thought he was made up in I, Jedi,
or at least in the last Rogue books. Fortunately, I like that character,
and Stackpole is very good at writing him. The first battle scene
is really a simulator, where Corran tries to make it into the squadron
in the first place. It is well written, and introduces Tycho nicely.
But Tycho does not have a nice history. After being in the Rogue
Squadron comics, or perhaps in the last issues, Tycho is captured,
and sent to an Imperial prison. Now the higher up officials wonder
about his escape, and think he has been brainwashed.
Of course, from the Imperial point of view, we know that there
is a traitor in the squadron, so our suspicions are supposed to go directly
to Tycho. But I think it is another character, Erisi. She is
one of two humans from a bacta-producing world, which has not pledged loyalty
to either side of the Galactic Civil War. But I did not get suspicious
of her until the last mission, where she pleads to know where they are
going to attack. She lost her x-wing on the previous mission, and
it hasn't been replaced. She makes up a lame excuse about wanting
to place a memorial marker there if nobody comes back, but I'm sure she
would have alerted the Imperials.
My previous suspicion about the traitor was the protocol droid, Emtrey, because he behaves in a suspicious manner. Tycho seems to
have discovered how to get information out of the droid (which maybe makes
him even more suspicious), but I'm still not sure that I trust him.
I love the idea of giving two Imperials main character status. Ysanne Isard was well-developed in the comics, and here she is fleshed
out into person even more evil (or perhaps desperate?) than the Emperor.
She used to be director of Intelligence, after her father (the previous
director) was killed. The other character is Agent Loor, who has
been charged with destroying Rogue Squadron. Of course, he used to
be stationed on Corellia, where he was Corran's supervisor. He has
been hunting Corran and his two associates for two years now, with limited
success. Isard gives him the more worthy goal. Both of these
people are very intelligent, and I can see them believing in what they
do, and being able to wound the squadron.
The characters get to know each other, but not well enough that
when their base is infiltrated, and one of them is murdered (the rest barely
escape), that I was shocked at her death. She seemed a potential
love interest for Corran, but nothing more. I didn't get the feelings
for her that I think I should have. But Corran has plenty more love
interests. Erisi (my suspected traitor) lusts after him. But
his heart is already stolen by the freighter pilot Mirax Terrik, though
he doesn't know it yet. Their fathers were rivals, and Corran's father
even sent Booster to Kessel for some time. But they are married in
Jedi, and so far, the relationship is proceeding at an incredibly realistic
rate. I am truly impressed. They met while en route to their temporary
base, as they were pulled out of hyperspace by an Interdictor Star Destroyer.
Mirax's ship was caught smuggling, and Rogue Squadron saves her.
Of course, we know from the comics, and it is reiterated here, that Mirax
and her father took care of Wedge after his parents were killed.
Rogue Squadron goes after vengeance after the attack on their
base, and the scenes there are really well done, until the end. Corran
ends up saving everybody by making a very gutsy move, and when they arrive
back on their docking ship, Erisi desperately wants to sleep with Corran.
But he refuses, knowing that it is just the adrenaline from the near-death
experience. He enters his room, and finds Mirax there. She
needed a bunk, and thought Corran would be sleeping in Erisi's room.
They share stories, and fall asleep, taunting each other, wondering how
a smuggler and a security man could possibly be friends. That sealed
Erisi's fate, as far as I was concerned. She has to die, and I'm
afraid Corran will be the one to discover that she is the traitor.
Unfortunately, that makes for less interesting drama than if he actually
had to make a choice between the two women. But I'll leave that for
now, because it is definitely possible that she is not the traitor.
The failed mission that destroys half of Rogue Squadron is pulled
off very well. After several fights, and no losses on Rogue's part,
I was beginning to wonder if we were going to live with Main Character
Syndrome, like Star Trek and the rest of
the Star Wars books do (other than Vector
Prime), in that the main characters cannot die, and the squadron would
be at full force (personnel-wise) for the duration of the series.
Their mission is the first step in taking Coruscant away from
the Imperials, which would go a long way in making the New Republic seem
like the legitimate government. Unfortunately, to Wedge and the rest
of the squadron, it looks like a suicide mission. If they take the
planet that they are after, they will have a base with easy access to the
Core, which makes the Capital that much closer. As usual, the Bothans
are sure that all the intelligence they have uncovered will be enough to
ensure victory. But there are things about the planet that even the
Imperials do not know about, including a second, and stronger, power source,
for the shields, and an extra wing of fighters. And so the mission
goes horribly wrong, because the Imperials let the shields go down, and
draw the New Republic Star Destroyer in closer, only to pummel it with
ion cannon blasts and raise the shields to 200%.
Tycho is the hero here, because he takes his unarmed shuttle
into the thick of the action, and rescues the ejected members of Rogue
Squadron. His shuttle is unarmed because the high command levels
do not trust him, yet, and even the rescue does not change that.
Corran's R2 unit takes detailed scans of the planet before they
pull out, though, and that leads to the discovery of the hidden resources.
Rogue Squadron then leads a three pronged attack that eventually captures
the planet. We only get to see the Rogue part of it, and that is
enough. Things go according to plan, but Corran is left without enough
fuel. But that's okay, because Mirax convinced Tycho that the mission
was at risk, and flew out there, hid until the mission was over, and ended
up rescuing Corran.
Those were two things that I disliked. I don't like the
concept of fuel in tanks in the x-wings, partly because in the game, fuel
was unlimited, and second, I was under the impression (right or wrong)
that they were fueled by reactors (nuclear), which could power them indefinitely.
Also, Mirax's discovery of the security slip regarding the mission seemed
very forced, as if the author tried very hard to put it in, instead of
letting it flow naturally.
I can see a lot of setup here. General Derricote
I remember from (I believe) the Young Jedi
Knights: Rise of the Diversity Alliance. A brief glimpse into
the Star Wars Encyclopedia shows that he designed the Krytos virus, which
is mentioned there in connection to the viruses that the Emperor designed.
Obviously, the title of book 3 shows that the Krytos plague will affect
this storyline. Also, the mention of the Bacta Cartel foreshadows
book 4's title, The Bacta War. What still remains a mystery is how
everything is connected.
So by the end of book 1, we have moved the New Republic closer
to the Core (and Coruscant), and Rogue Squadron has a new base on that
planet. Several relationships have been established, and the characters
are fairly well drawn out. There are many points where the characters
talk to themselves too much, explaining things that were explained several
times already, or trying to convince themselves that such-and-such a thing
is right or wrong. It got tedious at times. But all in
all, it is a very good introduction to the series. There was a lot
of continuity between these books and the books that come later in the
timeline, including Warlord Zsinj and the Hapan Consortium, from The
Courtship of Princess Leia, the Diktat from the Corellian
Trilogy, and many others, which I liked immensely. Here's hoping
the next book of the series brings an even better story, now that we know
the characters so well.