Friday, August 28, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: X-Wing: Rogue Squadron

This week I decided to review Star Wars: X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole. 

The story opens with Corran Horn facing the Redemption Run, a training simulation based on an old battle which will be instantly recognized by many players of the original X-Wing PC game. The mission is to protect a number of ships delivering wounded to a medical frigate. After barely achieving the mission when he and the final TIE fighter mutually cripple each other and the TIE is hit by a previously launched torpedo, Corran has a brief discussion with his wingmates and the pilot of the final Imperial fighter in the simulation. 

Meanwhile, Wedge Antilles has a meeting with Admiral Ackbar and General Horton Salm, leader of a bomber wing training at the same base as the reformed Rogue Squadron. Wedge wants to make some changes to his unit’s roster, replacing one of his pilots with Gavin Darklighter, whose cousin died during the battle to destroy the first Death Star, and his executive officer with Tycho Celchu, the pilot of the final TIE from the simulation that opened the book. But General Salm doesn’t want Tycho anywhere near a combat unit because Tycho was once captured by the Empire and escaped leaving many--including Salm--to believe he is really an Imperial agent. 

In the end, Wedge gets his wishes but, elsewhere, Kirtan Loor, former Imperial Intelligence liaison to a Corellian Security team Corran Horn once belonged to, has spent years chasing the team because he claims they aided the rebellion by refusing to focus their police efforts on his preferred targets. Loor catches the team’s leader, who dies in interrogation, then is recalled and assigned to destroy Rogue Squadron. After rushed advanced training, the Rogues are moved to a forward base, but stumble upon an Interdictor cruiser ambushing a New Republic-allied smuggler, and it is later revealed that the smuggler is Mirax Terrik, both a childhood friend of Wedge’s and the daughter of the rival of Corran’s father. 

After a mission to rescue the crew of a disabled New Republic scout ship Loor manages to locate the squadron’s base, and a stormtrooper unit sent to scout the base raids it instead, inflicting the first fatality suffered by the new Rogues. And soon, after a retaliatory strike turns into a desperate battle against a Lancer-class Frigate, a warship specifically designed to combat starfighters, the Rogues are assigned to attack a base codenamed Blackmoon. Blackmoon is well positioned to serve as a staging area for operations against the Imperial capital, but the Imperial general commanding the base has a moneymaking operation on the side which has allowed him to both double the strength of his fighter force and enhance the base’s defenses. 

The attack on Blackmoon is a disaster but Whistler, Corran’s R2 unit, manages to figure out where Blackmoon is and pinpoint a flaw in the enhanced defenses. But with New Republic forces spread thin, it will fall to Rogue Squadron, reduced to six X-Wings and eight fit pilots, alone, to cripple the defenses despite being badly outnumbered and having little time in the mission area due to limits on the fuel supply of their craft.

I give the book 8 out of 10. The battles are great but there are some mistakes in characterization like Wedge thinking that he enjoys combat. He definitely enjoys fighting but the stories involving him make it clear that he hates combat rather than liking it. While I like the details like including one of the missions from the original X-Wing computer game as a training simulation, and even including an in-setting explanation for the most annoying allied AI quirk in the game, some information in the book is wrong and spotting the errors should have been easy. For example, in one battle, Corran’s ship is disabled by an Ion Cannon hit despite none of the ships in the engagement having ion cannons. Also, ion cannons seem to alternate between disabling ships--which is their function in almost all Star Wars stories that they appear in--and outright destroying ships (sometimes doing both in the same battle). And, in a third example, Wedge explains that the shuttle attached to the Rogues doesn’t carry missiles because it has been modified to fit the profile of an assault gunboat despite the fact that the gunboats not only carry missiles, they carry a massive amount of missiles for a craft their size. 

Still all in all it is a great start to the series, and in my opinion within the top 4 of Stackpole’s Star Wars-related works.

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