Previously, this blogger expressed great affection for Wedge Antilles, one of the best known third tier characters in the Star Wars franchise. She also stated that she wished to read more of his Expanded Universe adventures someday, not only to “get to know him better,” but to see his future wife. Iella Wessiri Antilles was little more than a name and an image in the books I had read at the time I wrote about Wedge and that was a situation I hoped to rectify.
With help from Mr. Bookstooge, this author managed to do just that. Hunting up the X-Wing novels, she has bought and read seven out of the eleven books in the series. Number eleven, Mercy Kill, is not on my TBR list because it is set after the Yuuzhan Vong War. Both that War and the New Jedi Order storyline are, in this author’s opinion, not written in the spirit of Star Wars and are therefore not worth her time.
Since this opinion has been expressed elsewhere in greater detail, I will not rehash it now. It suffices to say that all of the X-Wing books reviewed here at Thoughts will take place before the Yuuzhan Vong War. Also, as seen in previous Star Wars posts, there will be Warning for Younger Readers attached in each review. This way those younger fans who want to begin exploring the old EU can do without worrying about stumbling on mature material they wish to avoid. It should also make coming back and enjoy an older Star Wars adventure when they are prepared to do so easier.
All right, with these items covered, we can get down to business. Star Wars X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is the first novel in the series of the same name. Set two years after Return of the Jedi and three years before the Thrawn trilogy, the book begins with a training simulation. Corran Horn is working to become a new member of Rogue Squadron, and he has arrived at his final test: the Redemption scenario.
The simulation is based on Rebel rescue missions performed prior to the Battle of Yavin. Medical shuttles and the corvette Korolev bring their wounded to the Alliance ship Redemption. In the middle of the offloading process, the Imperial frigate Warspite pops into the system and drops off several wings off TIE fighters. These fighters attempt to take out the X-Wing pilots and/or destroy the vessels they are protecting.
Everyone dreads the Redemption scenario. It is the toughest examination a fighter pilot faces in training, and failing to pass would mean exclusion from the Rogues and other elite units. Corran is no less nervous about his score than the others, but he is determined to take the test. “Flying in” with wingmates Oorl Qyrgg, Nawara Ven, and Rhysati Ynr, they get set up in time to see the TIE fighters appear. Controlled by their fellow Rogue Squadron candidates, the simulated TIEs swoop toward the X-Wings to begin the practice battle.
Corran and the rest put up a good fight, but the other pilots are “killed” and Horn is left dead in space. Believing he lost the exercise, the former CorSec officer is startled when Rhysati explains that he actually won. Thinking he beat Bror Jase, a Thyferran and the other top pilot in the running for the Squadron, Corran receives a second shock when an officer with brown hair and blue eyes congratulates him on his performance. Simultaneously impressed and worried by the stranger’s skill, the Corellian cannot help wondering just who almost beat him.
Elsewhere, Wedge goes to discuss the Rogues’ contenders with Admiral Ackbar and General Salm, the commander of the training facilities which the new fighter squadrons are using. Though happy with most of his candidates, Antilles has a couple of pilots he wishes to add to the team. Both are opposed by Salm and, while Wedge knows he cannot change the man’s mind, he also knows Ackbar likes him enough to potentially give him what he wants. If he plays his cards right, Wedge will get these pilots on the Rogues’ roster without too much fighting.
He starts the meeting off by explaining that Gavin Darklighter, the young cousin of Biggs Darklighter, has personally asked to join Rogue Squadron. While not as close to Biggs as Luke, Wedge considered him a good friend. In honor of Biggs he wants to bring Gavin into the Rogues. Salm has refused on the grounds that the Tatooine farmboy is sixteen years old and therefore far too young to join a military unit.
After a little back and forth, it is agreed that Gavin will be admitted to the Rogues only if he passes the Redemption scenario. Confident the boy will not fail, Wedge makes his second request. He wants Tycho Celchu to be the Executive Officer for his squadron.
Tycho Celchu of Alderaan and Rogue Squadron
Salm absolutely refuses. Though the Alderaanian pilot has had a distinguished career in the Rebellion since Hoth, a recent mission put his loyalty in question. Captured by the Empire during an undercover assignment to Coruscant and taken to the elusive Lusankya prison run by Imperial Intelligence, Tycho escaped some time later.
Normally, this would be cause for celebration, but past experience with those held in Lusankya has made the Alliance cautious. While no one knows where the penitentiary is, what is clear is that Lusankya is both a detention center and a brainwashing facility. When they have a person thoroughly under their influence, Imperial Intelligence director and current Empress-wannabe – Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard – lets one or more prisoners “escape” to rejoin the Alliance. The mind-controlled minions feed information to the Empire before Iceheart orders them to assassinate, sabotage, or otherwise destabilize the nascent New Republic.
Tycho cannot remember his time in Lusankya, which makes him automatically untrustworthy in the eyes of Salm and the Alliance. Although Celchu, Wedge, and their close friends are sure he was not brainwashed or broken, Tycho has no way of proving this certainty to the brass. Without evidence to demonstrate that his free will is intact they cannot trust him, and thus they have to keep him under observation at all times since his escape.
Wedge won’t have it. He won’t allow his friend – a man he considers his brother in all but blood – to have his name tarnished by the Empire. Not when he has done so much for the Rebellion, and not when his training techniques can help keep the new pilots in Rogue Squadron alive. He actually startles Ackbar when he lists off the limitations Tycho has agreed to abide by if he becomes the Rogues’ XO. Summoning Celchu to the meeting, the Admiral points out that the boundaries set for Tycho equate to slavery, something he would know since he was held as a “pet” for five years by Grand Moff Tarkin.
Acknowledging the admiral’s point, Tycho insists that he wants to fight the Empire. If this is the only way he can do it, then he will put up with the constraints the brass insists on. He wants to stay in the fight war however he can – even if he has to sacrifice his freedom to do it.
Moved by his answers, Ackbar takes a gamble and assigns Celchu to Rogue Squadron. When he asks Tycho’s opinion of the new pilots he trained just minutes ago, the Alderaanian is succint: if the candidates for the Rogues are any indication, the Squadron will be ready to go in two months. And after that, they will become the Empire’s worst nightmare.
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is a clean book. There is no gratuitous gore and no descriptions of romantic liaisons to disturb Young Readers. The Twi’lek Nawara Ven and the human woman Rhysati Ynr are stated to be a couple but do not do anything overt to hint at it.
One of the women in the Rogues, Erisi Dlarit, does her best to attract Corran’s eye as well. He makes a comment about how her hair rests on the back of her neck, along with the fact that she left the front of her flightsuit open so he could see more of her than he should. She also tries to corner him in his cabin, but Corran holds her off until Mirax arrives, forcing Erisi to leave. These mild, brief moments and the villain’s vain attempt to have a lustful reaction to Ysanne Isard are the only troublesome items mentioned in the prose. They are easy to skip and therefore do not stay in a reader’s mind.
All in all, I enjoyed this X-Wing novel a great deal. The space fantasy aspects of the franchise take a backseat to the more mundane military sci-fi tropes of the Rebellion, which is a nice change of pace. It is fun to see the X-Wing pilots’ day-to-day lives and missions as they fight for the New Republic, and it helps a reader get to know old favorites (namely Wedge and Tycho) better than a novel following Luke, Han, or Leia’s ongoing adventures would.
I definitely recommend reading X-Wing: Rogue Squadron at the earliest opportunity. A strong installment in the old EU, it carries the same feel as the original movies, albeit with a different focus. If you ever wanted to be an X-Wing pilot, readers, this book is one of the best chances you will have to get in the cockpit! And remember –
“The Force will be with you, always.”
The Mithril Guardian