Wow, that one took forever to get through. Not because it was a bad book but because it was so freaking dense. I think the first-person narrative had a lot to do with it, and to date it’s the only novel in the expanded universe to utilize the format. I suppose it took a while to get into because it effectively retells major parts of the last three books that I just read over the course of the first half and while the different perspective is enough to keep it fresh, there’s just not enough new information to make it a real page turner until our protagonist leaves the Jedi Academy and strikes out on his own.
The book is effectively an unofficial X-Wing novel, centering around Corran Horn and his quest to rescue his kidnapped wife. Over the course of nearly 600 pages he joins Skywalker’s Jedi Academy, leaves for Corellia and learns of his family’s history, joins up with a gang of pirates and works his way up the chain of command ultimately landing him a potential position as the female Admiral’s sexual consort, launches a terrorist campaign as a “ghost” jedi, and stages a daring rescue attempt in the denoument. There is a LOT going on in this novel and it takes a while to cover it. The French version of the book splits it in to two separate novels which I think may have been a wise choice for the American version as you begin to wonder if they couldn’t have edited this thing down a little bit around page 300.
The last half of the book is thoroughly enjoyable and reads a lot better than the Jedi Academy stuff does, mainly because the Jedi Academy stuff didn’t work too terribly well for me the first time around. The last half of the book does feel a little bit like familiar territory if you’ve read the X-Wing novels but then again when it’s the same author and you’re utilizing the same character it’s hard to avoid such problems. But considering that I liked those books and I like this character it seems unfair to use the term “problem” anyway.
Honestly I’m just glad I was able to finish the thing because the first few hundred pages felt like a real slog. Hopefully the next entry will be a little bit more breezy.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 20 : X-Wing Isard’s Revenge
I actually finished this one back on Saturday but spent the day at Buzzfest in the Woodlands yesterday and therefore could not be arsed to do a writeup on the book until now. I actually am almost halfway through the next entry and should be done with the whole Jedi Academy Trilogy by the end of the week at this pace.
Michael Stackpole returns to the X-Wing series after a brief interlude took us through Han and Leia’s nuptials and the Thrawn crisis. Things are decidedly different in Rogue Squadron following Wedge’s promotion to the rank of General after Admiral Ackbar notes that his stubborn refusal to move up the ranks is inspiring his people to take the same stand and his bull-headedness is only hurting their careers. Wedge accepts the promotion and just about everyone else moves up as well. Corran Horn and his squadmates all get the credit they deserve but in the midst of their celebration an old face from Corran’s time spent detained in the Lusankya shows up and promptly suffers a fatal accident triggered by a mental implant.
What follows is an intricately interwoven narrative that seems reminiscent of Dark Force Rising where so many factions are playing off of each other that you’re left guessing the motives of certain parties involved. The return of Ysanne Isard and the reveal of exactly how her escape from Thyferra went down leads into an interesting storyline that sees her aiding the New Republic in a supposed quest to truly disappear. The political implications of the alliance are not subtle and yet the endgame is never truly fully realized until the denouement hits the reader in the face.
The book does falter in the same manner that many of the expanded universe books do; the all to familiar problem of everything seeming like it was written by a fanboy and uploaded to the internet. Once again we have deus ex-clones and emotion-bating death reversals. It works within the context of the novels, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. That having been said, it wasn’t as egregious in this entry as it was in The Last Command.
Anyhow, expect a review of Jedi Search very soon.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 13 : X-Wing Wraith Squadron
I was wondering where the series was headed after the last book. “The Bacta War” was a satisfying end to the Rogue Squadron’s saga and so when the next novel started, under the direction of new writer Aaron Allston, what stories could be mined from Wedge Antilles and his X-wing fighters? It turns out that Allston knew that continuing with the members of Rogue Squadron as the principle protagonists wasn’t going to cut it if he was going to make his own mark on the series and instead opted to create a new group of rag-tags to exploit. This new group, code-named Wraith Squadron, is essentially the Dirty Dozen or the Inglourious Basterds of the Rebel Alliance. Cultivated from the washouts and lost causes of other units, Wedge Antilles puts together a team of commandos to fly X-Wings, turning Rogue Squadron’s initiative of pilots who do commando work on its ear.
The action picks up not long after the last book ended, with the primary focus of the New Republic fleet being the destruction of Warlord Zsinj, a portly renegade admiral who has slowly been consolidating his power away from the control of the now defeated Ysanne Isard. The novel moves at a brisk pace beginning with the formation of the squadron and along its missions where they end up in control of an Imperial ship and pose as its crew to get close to their enemy. The novel is thoroughly entertaining in its progression because of the sort of pilots who make up the group. The most interesting characters are the ones that are flawed and here everyone is vying for the title of most dysfunctional with only Wedge and his second in command Wes Janson truly having their game together, which makes for some interesting scenarios when the group has to work together to accomplish their goals.
I have to admit that while it was a really good novel, it took a while to get acclimated to the new cast of characters, because the flaws that are designed to make them interesting at times makes them come off as unlikeable. Kell Tainor, for example, is stepping up to take the place of Corran Horn who was the lead protagonist in the previous four novels. Much like Corran he has some issues with his father’s death, but Corran didn’t come off as emotionally crippled as Kell does. Corran had a tangible ability for revenge for what happened to his father whereas Tainor refuses to understand the circumstances that led to his father’s death and it takes a while to take him seriously as a character and not an archetype.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable read that does well to get it’s major flaws resolved by the end of the book so that they don’t take up any time in the following installments. Or at least I hope that’s the case.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 12 : X-Wing The Bacta War
Michael Stackpole hands the series off to a new writer following this entry wherein his story for Rogue Squadron comes to a satisfying conclusion. Leaving off on somewhat of a cliffhanger in The Krytos Trap, Imperial baddie Ysanne Isard has taken control of Thyferra with the aid of a traitor in Rogue Squadron. Blocked from staging an attack by the government of the New Republic who are firmly against interfering in the internal politics of unaffiliated worlds out of a fear that doing so would alienate future converts to the cause, the pilots of Rogue Squadron resign their commissions and become independent freedom fighters hoping to topple Isard’s government on their own.
Much like Wedge’s Gamble had thematic ties to The Empire Strikes Back, the fourth book in Stackpole’s X-Wing saga has more than a few thematic similarities to Return of the Jedi. The simplest comparison comes from the fact that both tie up their respective sagas. Fortunately, The Bacta War is better constructed than Return of the Jedi was. There isn’t a huge tone shift from the previous book to this one, as there seemed to be between episodes V and VI, though genres are once again hopped and we return thematically to the same sort of narrative that was present in the first and second books, with the focus being on military combat and covert insurgency this time around. Stackpole realizes that he has to tie up everything and he does so quite well. The book could very well have been anti-climactic but the finale is quite well developed and leaves the stage set for later installments.
The part I found most appealing about the book was the character growth shown by more than a few of the main cast. The events of the series have really helped to shape and define them as organic characters and as such we get some nice moments where the reader sits back nodding, excited that something that has been clear for several books is finally acknowleged and the time put into reading the books has paid off.
All in all, a fine finale to the first chunk of the series.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 11 : X-Wing The Krytos Trap
The thing that strikes me the most about the expanded universe novels I’ve been reading since starting this little project is how books in the grand scheme of things, and even on a smaller scale within the context of their own saga, can jump from genre to genre with such amazing frequency. The first novel in the “X-Wing” series was a straight up military adventure story, a sort of Top Gun for Star Wars in many ways. I had anticipated the rest of the novels following a similar structure. The second novel, Wedge’s Gamble, took a different turn altogether, playing itself out as a spy/espionage thriller that read in many ways like a James Bond novel set to a sci-fi setting. Once again the series hops genres and this time plays itself as a John Grisham courtroom drama mixed with a little bit of The Great Escape thrown in for good measure. Incidentally, I found it to be the most engaging novel in the series thus far, with the twists and turns of the courtroom drama moving at such a brisk pace and in a manner that invited a great deal of speculation on the part of the reader. At the end of the previous novel, we are left wondering about the guilt of Tycho Celchu’s involvement with the supposed death of a Rogue Squadron member, and the revelation that he was captured and not killed by Ysanne Isard in the epilogue of book two does nothing to sway opinion either way, so the court case is handled with the reader not having concrete evidence either way, making the drama around the proceedings all the more potent.
With the secondary plot of the supposedly dead pilot trapped in the infamous Lusankya prison, the tone is evocative of films like The Great Escape, with our rebel pilot having a twinge of Steve McQueen in his character from the get-go, the comparison is more than adequate. His escape attempt, in which we learn that he is in fact descended from Jedi stock could have been considered a bit cliché if not for the fact that hints had been dropped since the first book in the series that this might be the case. There is of course a tendency to want to tie things to the Jedi in the Star Wars universe, and the revelation could have come out like badly written fan fiction if the writer had decided out of the blue to make one of his main characters a Jedi on whim, instead we get a major plot point that informs the climax of the novel and sets up the next installment. The choice of either becoming a Jedi and abandoning Rogue Squadron or remaining with the team and making good on promises made earlier in the narrative becomes the crux of the denouement here and leaves the reader energized to read the next installment, almost knowing that things that have been building over the course of three books and 1,000 pages worth of story will seemingly get a final payoff.
The next book in the series is the last for the author and the saga is taken over by perennial Star Wars writer Aaron Allston for books five through seven, so there is an expectation of closure with The Bacta War. Whether that holds true is yet to be seen, as it could be much as it was with the Republic Commando series and only leads further down the rabbit hole.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 10 : X-Wing Wedge’s Gamble
Here marks the tenth book in my quest to read through as much of the expanded universe as I possibly can before the end of the year. The second installment of the X-Wing series in many ways mirrors the second film in the original trilogy in that it’s much more engaging than its predecessor and ends on a cliffhanger with one of the principle players in the hands of the enemy. I don’t think that tactic was in any way accidental, I think the author was hoping people would see the parallel and understand the fact, much as I have, that the stories in the Star Wars universe are inherently cyclical. There is an element of history repeating itself over and over again in this universe and while it never becomes repetitive it does become easier to understand the actions of certain characters.
The book deals with the undercover insertion of Rogue Squadron into Imperial Center, formerly Coruscant, in the hopes of weakening it enough for the rebellion to overthrow the government and take control of the planet. They do this by liberating criminals from a prison planet and re-establishing a smaller scale faction of Black Sun, previously crippled with the death of Xizor in Shadows of the Empire, to destabilize the government. What results is a tense espionage style thriller set in the Star Wars universe that seems to resonate particularly well in the times of strife we see in the middle-east today. There is an aura of truth to the political warfare waged in this book, on both sides. The Empire is an enormous propaganda machine with museums dedicated to the deceased Emperor’s glory and his views on the history of the Jedi and the Old Republic. The Rebellion knows it has to sacrifice it’s core values and employ less than desirable elements to help with their cause. It’s all very much like the way our real world works and as I’ve said before, that’s the cornerstone of great sci-fi.
I’m really looking forward to jumping into the next book but it will probably take me a while to finish as I have two other books that need to be read by next week for classes at the university, but I may try to sneak in a chapter every day just to break up the monotony.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 9 : X-Wing Rogue Squardron
As I type this review, I’m already about halfway through the second book in the series. I’ve been a bit under the weather as a result of what I estimate to be a catastrophic influx of pollen in the air as well as stress induced from mid-terms this semester. When you start caring about your grades, university work becomes a bit more intimidating. As such, I’m sorry for the manner which these updates have been prepared but such is the way of life.
After the disappointing Shadows of the Empire I was happy to get back into a book that followed the strategem that works so well for books like the Republic Commando novels; one that focuses on the inner workings of the military in the Star Wars universe. This book takes a look at the squadron of x-wing pilots touted as the best of the best following the destruction of the second Death Star. While the Emperor is dead, the war isn’t over and things are really only heating up in terms of military operations. This particular novel focuses on Wedge Antilles, leader of rogue squadron as well as Corran Horn, a hot-shot pilot and a new addition to the squadron. Horn has a checkered past from his time in the Correllian Security force that had him working alongside Imperial Intelligence and his new stance in the Alliance is one where he has to re-evaluate his positions on certain enterprises, such as the practice of smuggling which he was tasked to halt while in CorSec, and come to terms with his new role in the galaxy. Really this is the first book in the timeline that I’ve read that really deals with the political elements of the galactic civil war in real detail. Horn has some reservations about a pilot from Kessel, a penal colony that he sent some criminals to himself, operating in Rogue Squadron and there are several other instances of internal race relations that make the novel seem more realistic in its depiction of warfare and political strife than it truly has any right to be.
This series is definitely off to a great start and I think that I could come to put this particular saga on the same pedistal as the Republic Commando series if things continue as well as they’ve started.