Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: Wraith Squadron” by Aaron Allston

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron marks a departure for the series as Aaron Allston takes over for Michael A. Stackpole. Wedge has moved to a different task. Instead of leading the elite-of-the-elite in a squadron to be commando-pilots, he is taking on the castoffs and problem children of other squadrons, whipping them into shape, and making them into, er, commando-pilots.

The idea is a fine one, and it gives the series a slew of new faces. The best part of the book is all the side characters getting so much development. I was blown away when a certain event happened, showing characters in this series are actually vulnerable. It was quite well done, especially the aftermath.

The plot is a good thread, as an Imperial Warlord continues to meddle with Wedge’s affairs. There are plenty of well-written space battles (caveat being you have to accept the complete absurdity of Star Wars space battles–no; physics and common sense need not apply) to be had. What bogs the story down is some of the more commando parts in which the pilots are out of their various spaceships. There are many scenes that are apparently supposed to be a kind of spy-action type thing happening, but instead just feel slow. They’re throwaway scenes as far as the plot goes, too. One can almost feel Allston waiting to get pilots back into their fighters.

Wraith Squadron is another good read in an excellent series. I continue to enjoy my first-ever read through of this series, and I’m glad I’ve been able to circle back and read them at last.

The Good

+Great space battles
+A villain that at least has some mystery to how he acts
+Many side characters introduced
+Actual consequences for characters in the book

The Bad

-Gets bogged down in action scenes that aren’t in space
-A bit too much standing around talking with each other

Cover Score: 5/10 – They basically just mashed as many fighters on the cover as they could

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: B Allston takes over the series with hardly a hiccup.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: The Bacta War” by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: The Bacta War by Michael A. Stackpole

I believe it was around when this novel came out that I realized something dreadful when I was at the bookstore. I had missed out on the earlier entries, and as I cast about trying to find the earlier books in the series, they weren’t available. I was both a kid and a human who lived before Google and so had no concept of going to the desk to ask them to order it for me or to do so at the library. I figured I’d just have to wait for the other books to show up someday, and it never did. So this is actually my first ever reading of the novel.

I do recall other Expanded Universe books having mentions of the Bacta War or Bacta shortages, so one of the things I love about this book right off the bat is that it has wider ramifications. Too often, events in one book are either ignored by others or tie directly into the next book in an endless parade of sequels. Here, though, the Bacta War ripples out to books that aren’t even in the same series, showing a more ambitious form of storytelling than before.

The plot itself is fun, too. We’ve got the now splintered off group of pilots seeking to build their own resources in the first quarter or so of the book. Then, the middle portion is found with Corran Horn et al. playing a cat-and-mouse game with Isard. Finally, the latter part focuses on an epic final showdown. It’s all pretty solidly done, and the conclusion is satisfying.

There are plenty of great character vignettes as well. Stackpole has done well writing characters in other universes (eg. BattleTech), so it’s fun to see him unleashed in Star Wars. He does so with grand impact, showing off several side characters who get more development than any did earlier in the EU novels.

On the flip side, our villains are once again very one-dimensional. Isard is evil for evil’s sake and power hungry is the icing on the cake. Her erstwhile allies and supporters do everything but diabolically laugh as they watch her defeat or quiver in fear if she gets angry. Also, one specific scene talks about how the Empire continues to underestimate the power of a snub-nose fighter with torpedoes. I know it’s a weird sticking point, but it annoyed me that this is the case. You’d think after the first Death Star, they’d be all over that. The Second Death Star can be forgiven for being incomplete when it got rocked. But after that, if I were the Empire I’d be investing all my resources into building something like the anti-fighter/corvette missile destroyer from the video game Homeworld. Just imagine a huge ship that has effectively limitless guided missiles to track down fleeing fighters. That’s what I’d be building by the dozen. Instead, they underestimate fighters again? Come on.

Overall, though, The Bacta War was everything I was hoping it’d be. It’s got tons of Star Wars space fighting, solid character relationships, and a glimpse at broader implications.

The Good

+Great action sequences
+Development of many side characters
+Wider repercussions exist

The Bad

-Villains continue to be very one-dimensional

Cover Score: 7/10 A solid cover with iconic ships and explosions.

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: B+ Worth going back and reading as a fan.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read Through: “X-Wing: Rogue Squadron” by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole

Michael A. Stackpole is one of those writers who spends most of his career writing in other people’s universes. Some people call authors like that “hacks.” I think that’s stupid. Let people enjoy things. Stackpole is actually quite good at capturing the feel of multiple different franchises. His BattleTech novels are fantastic (especially the Warrior trilogy). Here, he opens the Star Wars universe up far more than any other author has done so far.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron follows the story of a squadron of, well, X-Wings that is brought together to fight the enemies of the Rebellion. The name Rogue Squadron has become legendary, and they are the sharp edge of the sword for the ragtag Rebel fleet. Familiar faces show up in droves, with Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar being the most prominent. Readers who have explored more of the series know a certain Corran Horn is kind of a big deal, but in this book he’s a fresh face fighter pilot who gets commended and chastised for his daring bravado.

The plot includes some of the political meanderings and in-fighting of the Rebels that become par for the course in later development. Stackpole handles these scenes well, using them as true tension-building rather than info dumps. He also writes excellent action scenes. The final few battles are quite fun to read, and just as crazy and campy as one would expect from the flashiest Star Wars film.

What makes the book most impressive, though, is its lack of reliance on the big three characters (Luke/Leia/Han) and building its own core of names, some of whom go on to much bigger and better things.

I had actually never really delved into the X-Wing books before this read-through. I somehow missed the vast majority of them as they launched and by the time I noticed them there were enough that younger me was perplexed with how to find them before the preponderance of finding and buying things on the internet. So I came at X-Wing: Rogue Squadron fairly fresh and was very happily surprised by it.

For me coming at it the first time, the biggest strength of the novel is how strongly it evokes the feeling of Star Wars. What I mean by that is the novel has that sense of awesome wonder that the first few films truly bring out. It’s as if anything can happen. Heroes are heroes, enemies are evil but might have some lingering complexity. I don’t know how to describe it. The sense of “space opera” with heavy emphasis on the “opera” part is what I’m getting at. It feels like something far larger and grander than it truly is.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is a top-tier Star Wars novel that manages to really shine with many characters. Stackpole knocks it out again.

The Good

+Great action sequences
+Tons of new characters and side characters developed
+X-Wings
+Captures Star Wars-esque feel

The Bad

-Enemies are largely comic-book villains
-Droids- see below

Best Droid Moment

Very little characterization of droids here.

Cover Score: 7/10 – captures some great Star Wars action but largely lacks camp or 80s-esque characters faded in the background.

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: A “Stackpole delivers an excellent novel that incorporates many, many side characters into a coherent whole.”

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.