Guest Review: X-wing: Rogue Squadron (Star Wars) by Michael Stackpole

July 20, 2013

Book Review X-wing Rogue Squadron (Star Wars) by Michael Stackpole

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4/5 Rancors – Michael Stackpole’s first book in the X-wing series, Rogue Squadron, was an exciting breath of fresh air when it was published in 1996. Bantam Spectra had offered a variety of novels focusing on the main characters from the Original Trilogy, but Rogue Squadron brought us an almost completely new group to follow. The story begins as Wedge Antilles, the only survivor of both Death Star runs (Luke was preoccupied with his father and the Emperor during the attack on the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi), is reassembling Rogue Squadron two-and-a-half years after the Battle of Endor.

Wedge has been touring around the New Republic as a political figurehead, helping convince worlds uncertain of their allegiance to join the new government founded by the Rebellion. The fledging diplomatic corps is anxious to assemble a Rogue Squadron that has broad representation among various key constituent worlds, meaning Wedge can’t quite assemble the exact team he would desire. Squadmates Hobbie and Janson from the Battle of Hoth are off training squadrons of new recruits, so Rogue Squadron’s new roster is comprised entirely of non-film characters.

The array of new characters gives Stackpole a superb opportunity to add significantly to the Expanded Universe and he seizes it. His focal point is Corran Horn, a Corellian and ex-member of Corsec who has been on the run from the Empire for a couple of years. Corran is a superb pilot and also possesses keen investigative skills from his years in Corsec, hunting down smugglers, spice dealers, and folks on the wrong side of the law, including members of the Rebellion. There are places in the book where I felt Stackpole verged on focusing on Corran to the exclusion of other intriguing characters; however, I understand the need to maintain a steady focal point. The cast is quite large and Corran gives him more room to develop a character than if the novel was focused on Wedge, for example.

Naturally, a series named X-wing would be expected to contain liberal amounts of starfighter action and Rogue Squadron does not disappoint in this regard. Whenever there’s a gap between space battles, Stackpole throws in an occasional chapter with the pilots in simulators, so anyone who enjoys visualizing X-wings going head-to-head with TIE fighters will be more than satisfied. I admit, there were places where I glazed over a bit on the details mid-combat, but I found that when I slowed down and paid close attention, Stackpole did an excellent job of depicting complex battles in down-to-earth language.

The Empire has been existing in a state of disarray since the Emperor’s death at Endor, but there is still a nominal government holding together substantial pieces of it. The government is led by Ysanne Isard, a devious Imperial Intelligence officer who has clawed her way to the top by a path which included betraying her own father, the prior head of the Intelligence division. The rise of Ysanne Isard is one of several stories told in the Rogue Squadron comic books series published by Dark Horse. Stackpole took a writer’s role in the comic series, making it an excellent prequel to this novel and something I highly recommend reading.

Assisting the Empire in its efforts is Intelligence agent Kirtan Loor, a survivor in the truest sense of the word. Kirtan and Corran have history dating back to Corsec days, when Kirtan was the assigned Imperial officer for Corran’s division. There is no love lost between the two and their antagonism adds an intriguing personal touch to the Imperial/Rebel conflict throughout this book. Loor is scheming and ambitious, but it remains to be seen if he has the backbone to carry out the more unpleasant aspects of his job.

This first volume’s purpose is largely to introduce the large cast of characters and lay groundwork for a bigger storyline, which is how the Rebellion managed to take over Coruscant and legitimize themselves as the galaxy’s government. Stackpole succeeds in creating a new cast of interesting characters without relying on the films much or on the archetypal Jedi/Sith conflicts. Rogue Squadron is a great kickoff to the X-wing series.

Buy this Star Wars Book inpaperorelec­troniccopy*

Orig­i­nally pub­lished at:

5/5 RancorsX-wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole is an outstanding first book in the series about the Rogue Squadron. Rebel hero Wedge Antilles has been given the task of rebuilding the legendary Rogue Squadron – a team of pilots charged with using their X-wings in the most difficult assignments that the Rebel Alliance has to face. Rogue Squadron exemplifies heroism to the Rebel side and fear to the Imperial side. This first book kicks off the series in a rousing fashion. The time period is two and a half years after the Battle of Endor. Isolated, but still powerful remnants of the Empire are scattered throughout space. These pockets of evil must be dealt with before they can act to overthrow the Rebel Alliance.

Wedge Antilles faces a huge task in reestablishing the Rogue squadron. The original squad of pilots defeated the Death Star, and the new pilots will face challenges equally as daunting. Wedge first has to mold a band of young, rowdy, undisciplined pilots into a well-oiled fighting machine. How this is accomplished is the primary basis for this first book in the series.

Rebel Alliance leadership has determined that the most effective approach to destroying the Empire once and for all is to capture the planet of Coruscant, the ultimate symbol of government power and authority. Instead of just launching a massive, all-out attack on the planet, the plans developed involve a stepping-stone approach of capturing a string of planets ever closer to Coruscant. Wedge Antilles is brought back from a propaganda tour and restored to active duty to form the new Rogue Squadron and lead the campaign against Coruscant.

The bulk of this first book is devoted to the formation of the squadron and the training of the pilots through simulators and actual flying time. The reader develops a whole new appreciation for the skills and the psychological makeup needed to be a successful X-wing pilot, i.e., to remain alive against overwhelming odds. Wedge is charged with training an unusual assortment of characters from different species with differing backgrounds and unique personalities. That he succeeds in getting the job done is impressive, and his methods are very interesting to read about. The action scenes in the book are outstanding, a touch of humor moves the tale along, and you find yourself pulling for the characters – Wedge Antilles (human male from Corellia), Tycho Celchu (human male from Alderaan), Corran Horn (human male from Corellia), Mirax Terrik (human female from Corellia), and a number of others. On the opposite side, the bad guys are exemplified by Ysanne Isard (Director of Imperial Intelligence) and Kirtan Loor (Imperial Intelligence Agent).

X-wing: Rogue Squadron is a great beginning to a series that promises to bring hours of reading pleasure to the Star Wars aficionados. Highly recommended.

Buy this Star Wars Book inpaperorelec­troniccopy*

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