Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Inferno Squad

Just finished this book, Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Christie Golden, 2017). The story is one of those that I feel wary about, namely attempts to "humanize" the Empire. The titular Inferno Squad is a elite group of Imperial problem solvers, tasked with tough jobs like culling the Empire of cheating Moffs and seeking out rebel sympathizers.

Set in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the first Death Star, the "evil protagonists" flit about the galaxy, "wronging rights" (or what ever the evil version of 'righting wrongs' is...). In some cases there is a Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand kind of feeling to it all; she was a 'good' bad guy that took down corrupt bad guys. None of these characters is as interesting as Mara Jade, however, and we don't get a dose of the Star Wars regular characters (i.e. good good guys) to offset the dark side. Other than some distant name dropping, there is no one we know in this book. SW stories suffer when that happens.

I'd say the book is decent. Not very interesting, in some ways, because of the aforementioned lack of good guys. Even the non-Empire characters are the sad, ultra-violent partisans in the mold of Saw Gerrera. Kicked out of the Rebellion for being too bloody. Not a great vibe, to heighten the similarities between the anti-Imperial forces and modern day terrorist organizations, in my mind. I think of the Rebellion as more "Colonial Minutemen versus British Army" than "ISIS versus America". Some may argue that is a false distinction (or perhaps racially charged?) Much too deep a conversation for a Star Wars blog, at any rate. 

There are some minor technical issues I'd quibble with, but nothing jarring or too major. Many Star Wars novels struggle with heavy-handed in-universe cross-references, and this one is no different. A number of tie-ins to both Clone Wars and Rebels and Rogue One. Meiloorun fruit is one such reference which irked me: I recall that coming up a bunch in Rebels. Then, of course, I look it up and find that it does indeed get referenced in Rebels (in three episodes). It also shows up in Catalyst, Guardians of the Whills, and three issues of Kanan: The Last Padawan...but the fruit originates in X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble by the great Michael Stackpole (1996). So there's that.

The first video game tie-in book bearing the Battlefront name was better: 2015's Twilight Company (Alexander Freed).

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