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A novel by Michael A. Stackpole (1996, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of the X-Wing Novels
6.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Rogue Squadron goes to Coruscant to scout out the possibility of taking the planet from the Imperials, who are devising a trap for the Rebel forces.



3 stars

Read October 29th to November 7, 2000  
    Not as good as the previous adventure, but still an essential part of the Star Wars mythos.  The team sent in to infiltrate Coruscant could have been anybody, but it makes sense to have such an important part of the story told from the point of view of people that we know.

  I think Rogue Squadron is put to best use in the skies, and in space.  Anytime they are flying, I am truly engaged in the story.  When they gather after the fight to brag and discuss it, I love it.  But I'm not sure if they are the kind of subtle personalities required to do this kind of a job on the ground. 

  Even though this is only the second book, it feels as if we have been building to the battle to take Coruscant for a while now.  Maybe we have, since I've been reading the comic series concurrently.  And this is the only logical way they could have taken the planet and still kept the support that they have through the galaxy.  If they had engaged in a battle like on Hoth, or most of the other skirmishes we've seen, much of the planet would have been destroyed, similarly to what happened in Dark Empire

  From the New Republic point of view, the problem is taking out the shields, so that an attack can take place, in stead of a siege, which they can't afford.  They are essentially fighting a war on two fronts, since Warlord Zsinj is becoming more and more powerful.  References are scattered throughout the book, including the name of the ship Iron Fist, which is the title of a future book.

  From the Imperial point of view, Isard reasons that the New Republic has to attack now, and she cannot afford to fight a war when the full might of the Republic's navy is at her doorstep.  So she takes Loor and Derricote, who proved to be minor masterminds in the last book, and applies their skills to creating a virus that will kill aliens.  The cure is bacta, which will stretch the New Republic's resources, while they try to save everyone they can. 

  Corran's battle at the beginning is very well staged.  He uses his gut feelings to figure out that a trading vessel is actually an Imperial scout ship, intent on either reconnaissance, or if possible, bombardment of the new Rogue Squadron base, captured in the last book. 

  There is a political side, where the rivalry between Admiral Ackbar and Borsk Fey'lya begins to take form, in preparation for Heir to the Empire.  There must have been a lot of planning in this series of books!

  And after all the debate, Rogue Squadron is sent in to investigate the Coruscant, to probe for its weak spots, and to gauge the population in its support. 

  The first step is to free some Black Sun criminals, and send them to Coruscant, to distract Isard.  Rogue Squadron detests this, but the government feels that it needs them.  I'm not quite sure, for there was really very little mention of them afterwards, except for the one man who tried to kill Corran (because Corran's father sent him to Kessel). 

  The main part was Rogue scouting around on the planet.  The main complaint is that they are all sent to the same area.  Coruscant is a very large planet, and to take the shields down, the strike should have taken place all over the planet.  But our spies are sent to the Imperial Palace (Corran and Erisi -I still think she's the spy), Imperial City (Wedge and new recruit Pash), and Invisec (Invisible Sector, where the aliens live, for the rest of the squadron, including, for some reason, Gavin). 

  Corran and Erisi meet up with Winter -I knew it was her the moment they met her, though they didn't discover it until much later.  They nearly run into Loor in the Imperial Palace, as they admire the trees that Thrawn later used to spy on the New Republic. 

  The adrenaline of their near-discovery nearly makes Corran and Erisi sleep together, but Corran remembers Mirax and goes stomping off to cool down.  There he is attacked by the Black Sun member, but flees on a speeder bike.  At that same bar, he was sure he saw Tycho and Loor talking together.  The speeder bike chase is pretty well written, but I thought I was reading a Kevin J. Anderson book when he just happens to ram into the building where Wedge is talking with Winter, as they discuss Mirax's appearance on Coruscant (her cover was blown, and her ship was seized). 

  The next instant I thought came straight out of Anderson's pen was the whole Invisec scene, where Gavin (the only human in the group) insults a stormtrooper, then gets captured by an alien group, set to make an example of humans because of all the alien disappearances lately.  The people disappear, of course, to become test samples for the virus Isard is designing. 

  It is a given that the new Sullustan Rogue will be taken captive when Derricote asks for Sullustan test samples.  Corran just happens to burst into the warehouse Gavin has been taken to, as an Imperial force arrests all the aliens there.  Corran and Rogue Squadron get away (minus the Sullustan), along with their new alien friends, but the Imperials take some captives. 

  The Rogues were supposed to be anonymous, but this never really worked.  Their disguises were neat to enter Coruscant, but once they were shed, these people must have stood out in all Imperial holonets.  Mirax sure found Wedge quickly, though she was not supposed to know if he was even there.  Wedge said he didn't know if any other Rogues were there, but changed his mind quickly.  And pretty fast, everybody's together again.  But when they discuss plans, and Loor tries to find out what is going on, I find it convenient that Erisi was not invited to the meeting. 

  They plan out a technical scenario with way too much detail about how they can gain access to the computer (a single computer!) that controls the shields, but the plan was leaked.  At the last minute, they decide to conjure up a giant storm, which they've seen in action, and which has the capability to bring down the shields. 

  Although a single storm covering the planet and bringing down the shields within minutes is stretching it a lot, the action surrounding the takeover was great.  Reprogramming the construction droid, entering the computer complex, which used Ooryl to extremely good effect (except for the explanation at that moment that he doesn't breathe), the redirection of the mirror to target the aqueduct and free the storm, and especially Corran and his flight's defense of the entire operation were pulled off extremely well. 

  I could have done without Admiral Needa's son, who feels like he needs to redeem his father for the events in Empire (about which too much detail is realistically known), as well as the secondary shield control station (which felt like a cheat for drama's sake).  But the space battle, in which Ackbar secures at least one more Star Destroyer for the New Republic, was well done, and it covered Isard's retreat very well. 

  For Isard planned all along to give Coruscant to the New Republic, and plans to take it back after they stretch their resources too thin trying to save all the aliens from the virus.  She leaves Loor in charge, to harass the conquerors, while she traps and kidnaps Corran as he spots her ship making her getaway. 

  If we want to avoid destroying half the population on Coruscant, this is definitely the way to go.  The battles have to be minimal, in order to keep the populace from rising up against their new saviors.  And the way it was done make up for the lackluster middle of the book, and keep it in the three star range. 

  I'm not sure how I feel about the throwaway line about sending the captain of a botched mission to Thrawn's command.  I don't remember anything about Thrawn's reappearance, but it seems that he didn't know about the state of the Empire.  Or perhaps was it this captain who told him about the situation, and convinced him to come back..  At first I wondered why, if Isard knew about him, she didn't send for him, but then I figured that she's probably afraid of him grabbing power.  If she knew about him at all, she must know that he's a master strategist. 

  At least we know that Emtrey is not the spy.  The confidence the author gives to the characters is stupid, so I have to believe that it is the author saying Emtrey is clear.  We learn in detail that Tycho escaped from Isard's personal torture camp, the same place Corran is headed at the end of the book!  Corran does not trust him afterwards, and to make matters worse, Tycho is arrested at the end, for Corran's murder.  That convinced me once and for all that he is not the traitor, and that Erisi is.

  I think that covers it.  I enjoyed the toying at the beginning, could have done without the middle, especially the sub-par Invisec section (I still can't figure out why Gavin would be sent with the aliens), and enjoyed the end, aside from a few minor complaints.


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