I’ve finally reached the first batch of X-Wing books and there was much rejoicing! Obviously we here at Tosche Station are very pro-X-Wing books and I always enjoy getting to read them again. So sit back and enjoy me gushing about the first four books focused on the flyboys and flygirls of Rogue Squadron as they do the impossible which is absolutely what they do best.
I love these books. I really do. But WOW IS CORRAN HORN AN ARROGANT PAIN IN THE BUTT in this book. I do like him as a character especially with some of the character development he’s gotten over the years but he is infuriating to read about in this book. The arrogance and the monologuing do get a bit old after awhile. At least I know he gets better. Corran will always have some of that arrogance because that’s just who he is and I appreciate that but it’s at an all time high here. (Editor’s Note: NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR DEAD DAD, CORRAN.)
I do enjoy reading this book though because it’s a solid read that offers both a good story and some great characters. It simultaneously tells the story of the squadron’s reassembly and also sets up the overarching plot for the next three books. (Editor’s Note: But it’s also the weakest of Stackpole’s initial Rogue run.)
With the exception of certain arrogant Corellian and a certain Bacta Queen-who-was-clearly-a-traitor-the-whole-time-in-retrospect, the characters are rather enjoyable! (Okay, maybe I was a little harsh grouping Corran with Erisi there. That was mean, I’m sorry, Corran.) I always love getting a chance to look into Wedge Antilles’s head and Stackpole does such a good job of it. I also enjoyed getting to meet such great characters like Tycho Celchu, Mirax Terrik, and Gavin Darklighter. Poor Tycho though. Like his backstory wasn’t already tragic enough without adding in the ‘he might be a traitor’ thing. At least Mirax gets to balance it out by being sassy.
I think that this might be my favorite of the Rogue Squadron books. Sure it doesn’t have as much dogfighting as some of the other Rogue books but we DO get to see that the Rogues are probably the worst spies ever which is kind of adorable in its own way. At the same time though, they’re efficient enough to get the job done with a little help from some seriously capable ladies named Winter, Iella, and Mirax.
(Editor’s Note: If anyone ever decided to do fanart of Winter, Iella, and Mirax like the Schuyler Sisters, I would totally lose my shit in the best way possible.)
There are a lot of little things I love about this book. I love the chat that Wedge and Leia have at the beginning because it’s such a subtle yet clear way to show that they are friends. I love that Corran and Nawara are both a little cranky about freeing these political prisoners. I love Asyr and Gavin’s first encounter. I love any time that Wedge has to be in disguise. And I love Pash Cracken in general.
The one thing that always makes me cringe is when Corran goes off on one of his little rants when discussing Tycho’s life with Winter. To quote my Twitter, “Corran. Corran, STOP. Your life is not more tragic than Tycho’s. Really, this is embarrassing.” This is the only point in the books where I actively dislike Corran.
I also love how this book ends with a good cliffhanger. Sure, they’ve liberated Coruscant but what about Corran? And what about the Krytos Virus? If that doesn’t leave you wanting to read more then I don’t know what will.
The Krytos Trap
I’m going to go about this review backwards and proclaim that this book has the BEST ending ever. Corran breaks out of the famed Lusankya prison, figures out he’s actually on Coruscant, we find out that Lusankya is actually a freaking SUPER STAR DESTROYER as it lifts off from where it’s buried beneath Coruscant, Corran arrives at his murder trial and proves that Tycho is innocent, Erisi’s the traitor, and OH WAIT all of Rogue Squadron just resigned to declare war on Isard all on their lonesome. Of course, the crowning moment of awesome comes from how Bantam and Stackpole trolled everyone originally and let people think the Rogue books were going to be a trilogy. You can’t see it but I’m giving Stackpole a standing ovation for that one.
The book does a good job of balancing all three plot lines: Corran’s incarceration in Lusankya, Tycho’s trial, and Wedge and the rest of the Rogues doing squadron things. We also get a chance to get into the heads of some characters that we haven’t gotten to know quite as well yet, namely Nawara and Asyr. Even Diric Wessiri is an interesting enough character and I always feel so bad for both him and Iella at the end. I’d actually really love to see some sort of short story involving both of them and Corran from when they were back on Corellia (aside from that one in the comics.) (Editor’s Note: I’m not laughing in the wake of Life Debt, you’re laughing in the wake of Life Debt.)
I also really like how Stackpole is able to work continuity so seamlessly into his books. The entire sequence where Corran escapes from the Imperial Palace is a lovely shoutout to the Thrawn books. The references to Zsinj and Hapes are also great foreshadowing for the next few books to come.
Oh. And if anyone was previously doubting that General Airen Cracken is in fact a genius? Doubt no more. His plan to flush out the traitor in Rogue Squadron is basically brilliant. Let’s just let the Crackens take on the entire Empire themselves. I think they can win. (Somewhere, Karrde is offering odds on this very scenario.)
(Editor’s Note: Fun fact: This was actually the very first X-Wing book I ever read. Look, I just grabbed whatever I could off the Star Wars shelf at the library, okay?)
The Bacta War
Spoiler Alert: The Rogues win. Rogues: 1, Thyferra: 0.
Nothing in this book makes me laugh harder than when Corran tries to pull the “Hey do you know who this is? This is Mirax Terrik!” line to Booster. I actually start laughing about it pages before it happens. Although it does strike me as odd that Corran can’t recognize someone like Booster given the rivalry he had with Hal.
Tycho’s Return ceremony to the ruins of Alderaan might have made me choke up a little. Shut up, I just have something in my eye. Like a stick or something.
I love all the little cameos from Karrde to Elscol. I also love that we finally get to know Gavin a bit better than before partially due to getting to briefly meet his family back on Tatooine. And we can’t forget the good old “Reality Check Hour with Wedge Antilles” where he dishes out some common sense to Corran and Booster. Honestly, I think this might be the problem with the Star Wars galaxy. The Force gave Wedge too much common sense and deprived everyone else of it.
As far as villains go, it’s always gratifying to see Isard go down in flames or at least for now. I also found Flirry Vorru to be a great bad guy. In the three books he appears in, he normally seems to be nothing more than a smart old man who knows how to get things done for the Empire but every now and then, you get to see glimpses of how dangerous he actually is and I find that fascinating.
I really do love the plot too. You would think that it’s impossible for a handful of people and spaceships to end up beating the Empire and winning an entire planet but the Rogues make it work. It’s great how Stackpole keeps the story moving at a decent pace while also laying out a way for the Rogues to win that isn’t ludicrous. In short, this book and all the Rogue ones? A great showing all around and I don’t know why everyone hasn’t read them yet. (No seriously: what are you waiting for?)
And that’s a wrap for the Rogue Squadron books! Next up are the Wraith Squadron books by Aaron Allston. Praise the Sweet Baby Yoda that we have finally arrived at these books because I think they might be my favorite ones in the Expanded Universe.
Originally published at Tosche Station on February 5, 2013