Solo Command is book seven of the X-wing series and third and last book dealing with Wraith Squadron. Part of Han Solo’s fleet group alongside several capital ships and Rogue Squadron, the Wraiths continue hunting Zsinj. The plan is to lure him and his mighty flagship Iron Fist somewhere the Super Star Destroyer can easily be destroyed. But assassination attempts by non-humans on Admiral Ackbar, Mon Mothma, Wedge Antilles and others fuel old distrusts throughout the ranks of New Republic military. Meanwhile, Lara Notsil’s cover becomes thinner as Myn Donos of all people declares romantic interest in his squad mate.
Solo Command is a usual X-wing book: fast paced, well-written action and a little dry humor. In this instance, some intriguing intelligence work adds to the book’s qualities. Typical weaknesses regarding characters are not as dominant in this book as in some of its prequels but still there. All in all, it is a decent final book for the Wraiths who enter stage again only during the New Jedi Order series.
Iron Fist by Aaron Allston is volume six of the X-Wing series. After their ingenious coup in book five, the Wraiths have earned a reputation. So the shady squad is padded to full strength and sent on a similar, yet potentially more dangerous but also more worthwhile mission: Wraith Squadron is to pose as pirate gang in order to be employed by warlord Zsinj and then expose him to attacks by New Republic military.
Iron Fist is a fun, action packed read despite some sad episodes. Similar to the prequel, the mission itself gives plenty opportunity for curious twists and the less-than-correct attitude of Wraith Squadron makes for lots of inter-character humor. Introduction and development of the new guys is too hasty for my taste, but still acceptable for the format: there are many leaps in time that keep proceedings plausible but also skip exactly those vital integration episodes.
All in all, Iron Fist is a worthy X-Wing book and maybe even one of the better ones, given that there are losses and consequently sad moments.
My other read-in-progress was too big for the plane, so I picked up book five of the X-Wing series, Wraith Squadron. After having been on covert operations repeatedly with the Rogues, Wedge Antilles realises that his pilots are rather unsuited for this kind of mission. Since he believes in the worth of sneaky precision as complement to open warfare, he wants to found a sneaky squadron. He collects the washouts of New Republic navy, people that have no future in regular fighter squadrons and have their main talents elsewhere. He ends up with a bunch of peculiar individuals, everything from slicer over actor to demolition expert. All can handle their fighter, though. Since all of them have problems with authority and themselves, there is plenty of room for conflict. After the newly formed squad accidentally takes over a gunship belonging to warlord Zsinj’s forces, it is ordered to operate the vessel as if it was still occupied by its original owners. This way, they infiltrate New Republic’s now most dangerous enemy for the purpose of data mining and demolition.
Wraith Squadron is a great idea and makes for quite Soloesque reading experience. The Rogues became old since Stackpole’s action focused writing style does not really support longer series. Allston sticks to this paradigm so we get a very entertaining novel. I wonder how Allston is able to keep characters interesting in the subsequent books, given that they are rather shallow. In any case, the squad’s creative problem solving and slow integration into a proper unit is fun to read. Sadly, the big final takes place in space; it might be nice to have a climatic ground or even spy battle for once in Star Wars. The ending is appropriate, without big surprises but with proper payment.
In the fourth volume of the X-Wing series, ex-Rogues, led by Wedge Antilles, make war for revenge and justice on Isard who established herself on Thyferra, only source of Bacta in the whole Galaxy. Without (official) backup of the New Republic military they really have to get inventive at material acquisition, strategies and tactics. Isards fleet, sporting two Star Destroyers and one Super Star Destroyer, is impossible to beat in an upfront battle with only the fighters Antilles has, so he resorts to piratery, guerilla tactics and covert operations. The team also has to trade with smugglers for spare parts dearly needed. Isard, on the other hand, struggles to retain control over rebellious elements on Thyferra and hunt down Antilles and his comrades at the same time. Traitors Vorru and Erisi try to survive no matter what between their more and more ruthless enemy and their unforgiving mistress.
The Bacta War is less political than the books before but sports more action, making it an entertaining read. Due to the diversity of tasks the main characters have to work on Stackpole is able to use every character in a position where they fit the best. This makes for a number of funny dialogs, especially with and around Booster Terrik. My critique regarding Stackpole’s style stands; furthermore, I did not like the ending. Although the happy end was well-earned and well-designed, I missed some kind of sacrifice trading for the superior win Antilles forces get. But this might be a general problem in the Star Wars universe: it just barely works out with minimal losses, always. I wonder how the series will progress since this book seems to conclude most arcs; given that the next books are written by Aaron Allston I might be in for some changes.
After the taking of Coruscant in Wedge’s Gamble , book three of the X-Wing series depicts the problems the newly founded New Republic has. While Corran Horn is being held, questioned and tortured by Isard in her secret facility, her plans for Coruscant bear fruit. The Provisional Council, on its way to establish a proper government, has to cope both with the hideous Krytos virus that kills of huge amount of non-humans, the Bacta shortage it induces and the trial of Tycho Celchu who has been accused of both treason and murder. Rogue Squadron itself is neglected but for some missions that are supposed to procure Bacta. All the time, Loor and his PCF lead a guerilla war agains the new order to cause further disorientation. There are some surprising turns of events but in the end, of course, everything works out somehow.
The Krytos Trap is as good as its predecessors. It has a nice, self-contained story that is well told if not strikingly so. The problems I have with Stackpole’s writing are pretty much the same as before. In addition, I realized some issues that I could not pinpoint before. First, there are almost no secrets Stackpole keeps from his readers. True, there are some big ones like who the spy in Rogue Squadron is and wether Tycho is guilty, but there are no little ones that could lead to a more thrilling experience. Second, every thought and motivation any major character has is laid out in detail. This fact alone is sometimes disturbing because it leaves no room to wonder, but since Stackpole chooses to transport those things through dialog, all characters appear to be overthinkers. Only for Loors final move this is different: Stackpole does not tell from Loors perspective what he was up to. Although this style could have improved the book(s) a lot, it feels weird as an isolated phenomenon.
All in all, the book has entertained me well. I think that by dropping or rearranging some chapters, Stackpole could have improved it but it works this way, too. Especially the true location of Lusankya and its exit were very well done. Some developments in the end promise real changes for book four, so I expect it to be fairly exciting!