Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Oolex Flotilla

Officially called the Alliance to Restore the Republic Sumitra Sector Fleet, the small group of vessels assigned to the region including Tierfon is more commonly known as the Oolex Flotilla. Taking their name from an early rendezvous location in the sector, the Oolex Pulsar, this collection of ships is under the same standing orders as other Alliance Fleets: avoid direct confrontation with the Empire.

The head of the Oolex Flotilla is Rear-Admiral Iluna Tanik, a human female originally from Alk’Lellish. Her flagship is a brand new Mon Calamari MC40a light cruiser called Insurgence.

The rest of the Oolex Flotilla includes ten former Corporate Sector Marauder-class corvettes, eight aging CR90 corvettes, and a dozen DP20 frigates. These capital ships are supported by many smaller craft, including dozens of civilian freighters and over one hundred starfighters.

The major vessels most commonly seen in and around the Tierfon system include:
DP20 frigate Tocan Sun, Commander Adira Serth (Human female)
DP20 frigate Geedon, Commander Ren Xergo (Nautolan female)
CR90 corvette Abundance, Commander Var Ferran (Zabrak male)
Marauder-class corvette Starflare, Captain Kylath Landala (Human male)
Gray Squadron (Y-wings embarked on the Starflare)
Marauder-class corvette Triumph, Captain Boz Zarkot (Duros male)
White Squadron (Y-wings embarked on the Triumph)

8th Starfighter Group [Sumitra Sector]:
1 Wing (3 X-wing squadrons)
Hawk-bat Squadron: X-wing, based on MC40a Insurgence
Gundark Squadron: X-wing, Ptera system asteroid field base
Nexu Squadron: X-wing, based on Marauder-class corvette Destiny

2 Wing (1 A-wing squadron, 2 B-wing squadrons)
Green Squadron: A-wing, based on Marauder-class corvette Hammer of Reegian
Blue Squadron: B-wing, based on Marauder-class corvette Nova
Gold Squadron: B-wing, based on Marauder-class corvette Rebellion

3 Wing (1 X-wing squadron, 2 Y-wing squadrons)
Black Squadron: X-wing, Tierfon Rebel Base
Gray Squadron: Y-wing, Marauder-class corvette Starflare
White Squadron: Y-wing, Marauder-class corvette Triumph

3 Wing, 8th Starfighter Group originally consisted of 3 loosely affiliated training squadrons all flying BTL-S3 Y-wing starfighters. After the Tierfon Yellow Aces were decimated at the Battle of Tocan, the Wing was rebuilt as Black, White, and Gray Squadrons. The former Yellow Aces pilots were given X-wing starfighters to replace their lost Y-wings, while the renamed White and Gray squadrons kept their original BTL-S3 craft. Around this same time, the duty status of 3 Wing was boosted to full active and White and Gray Squadrons were assigned to their current capital ships. No longer just a remote low risk training outpost, the pilots of Tierfon joined the fight against the Empire in earnest.

The 8th Starfighter Group is commanded by Group Captain Beka Donos (Human female).
3 Wing is commanded by Wing Commander Koskit Ursi’tvo (Bothan female).

Past Blast

Still in my Star Wars reading mood, I picked up this major story for the first time last week (only 19 years late on this one). At the time this was considered a major event. I recall a Lucas comment saying this multimedia release would be "everything but the film": toys, novel, video games, etc.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with Shadows of the Empire. A good story, a bit over the top, but not too far gone I'd say. The characters we know and love seemed to speak and act as we'd expect.

A few quibbles, minor as they may be:

1. This book features the most sexuality of any Star Wars novel I've read. A bit out of place, in my opinion.

2. For some reason, it irked me to use the term "castle" for the Coruscant residences of the Emperor, Darth Vader, and Prince Xizor.

3. I didn't mind the idea of Black Sun, or Xizor, or the notion that Xizor would be influential enough to occassionally bend Palpatine's ear. I didn't quite care for the implied idea that Xizor was an equal for the Emperor's affections alongside Vader.

4. At least one vast network of criminal informants could spot Luke in hiding at Ben's hut (and note when he left planet in his X-wing), but Imperial Intelligence could not. What?

5. A huge bounty (unspecified) offered for Luke, Black Sun knows where he is, but they decide to just send a dozen local swoop gangers.

6. Leebo had only one line in the book. Outrider disappeared in a cliffhanger-like flash. I thought both would be around more.

An enjoyable read, overall. I'm glad to have finally gotten around to this one. Next in the reading cue: 4 books in the "Journey to the Force Awakens" timeline.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quality Time Spent on Tatooine

Another entry in what has become a bit of a Star Wars book review website. In this case, I discuss the wonderful novel "Kenobi", written by John Jackson Miller (2013).

For some strange reason, this basically brand-new book detailing a low impact but nonetheless interesting story was re-branded "Legends". I understand the Disney canon wishes to 'clear the decks' for new stories past Return of the Jedi, hence the "Legends" label, but it seems a bit excessive to invalidate this tale, canon-wise. In is set just after Revenge of the Sith and forms a small portion of the very early setup for A New Hope.

At any rate, these are the sorts of well-crafted Star Wars tales I thoroughly enjoy. It is difficult for writers to work in a shared universe format, where the original source material is so beloved by fans. In my opinion, the best one can hope for is a tale like Kenobi: we get to see some of our old favorite characters (who speak and act as we'd expect), we go on a wild ride that purposely does not outshine the Original Trilogy in terms of danger to the galaxy or scope of conflict (i.e. don't make Death Star III or Suncrusher or anything like that), we gain some insight into non-hero life in the Star Wars universe (adding local color in terms of sayings and phrases, etc-- without using silly contrivances like "space diapers" or "By Palpatine's Robes" or similar), and there are (sometimes subtle) touchstones where we see how a given story fits seamlessly into the larger whole.

This low impact type of story telling in a shared universe is responsible for many of the backstories, so lovingly crafted, for each and every creature and character seen on the movie screen. Minor bit parts, played by extras with no speaking lines, get woven into something so much more in the Expanded Universe. And the Star Wars story more fully comes alive.

The best Star Wars roleplaying game adventures are also like this, in my opinion. The PCs work their way into important, even critical roles in the larger story; participating in the grand events without overtaking them. We're all fans, after all, and aspire to be as good a pilot as Han Solo or adept enough with a lighsaber to take out Darth Vader. But the low impact style of game will attempt to ensure that never happens. We can be important and worthwhile characters without eclipsing the stars of the show directly.

Back to the novel for a moment. I won't give anything away, spoiler-wise, but I will say that the story centers around Obi-wan's early days of self-imposed exile on Tatooine. He is learning how to make the difficult transition from a General in the Clone Wars, Jedi Master and man of action to a hermit in hiding. He can't save the day and remain anonymous at the same time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Shattered Empire #1 Review

Following up on my review of Aftermath--and continuing the "Journey to The Force Awakens"--is a review of the first issue from the new Shattered Empire series.

With a single issue of a comic book, one can only do so much. That is the case with issue #1 of Shattered Empire. The issue starts out at the Battle of Endor, showing some of the famous moments and then introducing a new character, Shara Bey (Green 4). Following the battle, she is reunited with her SpecForce Pathfinder husband, Kes Dameron. (That last name should sound familiar, by the way.) They have a little downtime before the Pathfinder is called off on a new mission, one that leads to an important discovery and, presumably, another assignment. It's a solid start to the series, even if it leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. I'm interested to see.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review of Star Wars: Aftermath

I approached this novel with a mix of anticipation and concern. On the one hand, I know that it is the first step in rolling out the new “canon” story of the Star Wars universe after Return of the Jedi, moving ahead toward The Force Awakens. That's a big deal. On the other hand, I've had mixed feelings about many of the new Star Wars novels published since the Disney takeover, and that made me hesitant. I kind of forgot about September 4th being the big day, but after work on Friday curiosity won out and I went to Barnes and Noble to buy it.

The fact that I'm ready to review today, Sunday, should be an indicator of how much I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I plowed through one this quickly.

Aftermath is set, of course, during the time following the Battle of Endor. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are dead, the second Death Star has been destroyed, and the New Order is reeling. The action focuses on an Outer Rim planet called Akiva, but also provides glimpses of the greater galaxy (as detailed below). Rather than being centered on the heroes of the films, this novel's protagonists are a band of Rebel sympathizers and fringe types who come from or ended up on that world. This alone is a refreshing change from the other novels, since there are no expectations of how it should develop based on knowing who survives.

The action starts with Captain Wedge Antilles conducting an exploratory mission to Akiva, where he finds an Imperial presence much stronger than what he expected. He is captured. The gathering, it turns out, is a meeting of Imperial loyalists seeking to consolidate power and determine the direction in which the New Order will head. There's also a strong criminal presence on the planet, one with connections to some of the heroes. What follows, then, is a complicated story as different parties react to the Imperial presence, complicated by prior history and old business.

Author Chuck Wendig does a good job of keeping the action moving. The novel is divided into thirty-eight chapters, along with a prologue and epilogue. Inside each chapter there is movement between disparate characters and scenes, along with cliffhanger moments that build tension and anticipation. The characters are well crafted, too, with interesting personalities and motivations to which one can relate. It's also good to see Admiral Rae Sloane, the Imperial officer introduced in A New Dawn.

Another feature of the novel that I enjoyed was Wendig's use of interludes—short quasi-chapters mixed in with the main ones—that provide glimpses of the rest of the galaxy. Some of these are directly connected to the main story, while others are more like vignettes that show what else is happening in the aftermath of Endor. As a source of inspiration for RPG adventures, they provide plenty of material. One even features a familiar Human and Wookiee duo, on the verge of a story that I'd like to see told, and another introduces a world that I expect to see in Episode 7.

All told, this novel does a good job of telling an exciting story, as well as introducing what is becoming an exciting time period in the Star Wars universe.