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.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 8 : Shadows of the Empire
I remember reading this book way back when the video game adaptation came out for N64. I was maybe ten or eleven years old at the time and I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. It was pretty much the epitome of 90’s cool to me. I was one of the biggest Star Wars nerd kids you could find at the time, obsessed with collecting the old red and green card Power of the Force figures. I had a remote control that was a replica of Luke’s lightsaber from Return of the Jedi. So you can imagine how this book was like crack to me. It wasn’t intimidating in the way the few other Star Wars expanded universe novels I’d seen on the bookshelves seemed to be. It was light reading by comparison, and I tore through it fairly quickly.
It’s been a while since then and going back and re-reading it has cooled my opinion of it a little bit. Xizor isn’t the amazing villain I thought he was back in the day and the plot tends to drag on a little bit. It’s not that it’s a bad story it’s just that the telling of it seems to be a bit off kilter and has the pace of a record played just a little bit slower than it needs to be to sound right. There seem to be a lot of scenes that are just re-hashes of previous scenes that are left in only to fill out the page count and none of the characters are particularly well defined outside of Xizor. The new side-hero Dash Rendar is basically a Han Solo clone and nothing else is added to his character. He’s got a backstory and an attitude and that’s about it. The ending is also rather anticlimactic, given how hard the book works to establish Xizor as an ultimate badass you wouldn’t expect his eventual defeat to be so underwhelming.
But the end point of the book is basically to connect parts V and VI of the original trilogy and in that regard it succeeds by filling in the gaps that everyone needed to know, ie. how Leia got that bounty hunter costume.
There is a danger in writing a book like this. In 2007, 30 years after the release of A New Hope, author Michael Reaves fills us in on the story behind the space station of death that could at first be mistaken for a moon. Retroactive continuity is something that comic book fans have a love/hate relationship. Sometimes it gives us interesting storylines that fill in appropriate holes but other times we get The Sentry.
With Death Star, Reaves gives a day-to-day look at what life on the Empire’s final solution was like. We get the perspective of the TIE fighters, of Grand Moff Tarkin who oversaw it’s implementation, of the architect who helped oversee the construction and of the man tasked with pulling the trigger on Alderaan.
It’s a compelling read. I got through it in a day I was turning the pages so quickly. The first 3/4 of the book are prologue to what we see in the first film, and the last quarter deals with those events through the eyes of the people on the station. We learn things that were left out of the film. Such as the fact that Alderaan was not the first target that the Death Star destroyed. We get a better look at the mindset of the Imperial officers with regard to the Emperor and more so towards Darth Vader who at this point is a mystery to most of the military.
Definitely worth a read and a real welcome pick-me-up after feeling so bummed after reading Imperial Commando and getting saddled with a cliffhanger that’ll never see a resolution.