X-Wing: Rogue Squadron – Book Review

I’ve previously discussed the first installment of Michael A. Stackpole’s Rogue Squadron Comics earlier. Well, he’s not just limited to the medium of comics, this week we get to the first of his Rogue Squadron novels, but with a different lineup of the squadron.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
Written by Michael A. Stackpole
Published January 1st, 1996

The book is available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com. There’s also an audiobook release as well, but that’s abridged, so I’d recommend giving that a miss until such time as Audible decides to do an unabridged version. Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.

The Premise

Forming up

It is about 7 years after the Battle of Yavin, and the forces of the New Republic are slowly pushing Core-ward as they seek to capture the capital of the Empire, and the Old Republic before it – Coruscant. As part of this push, the Republic military is creating a modified version of Rogue Squadron, designed to serve not just as a fighter squadron, but as a commando unit as well.

Wedge Antilles retains command of the squadron, with its members counting from numerous worlds that have signed on to the Alliance (and a few that haven’t). While Wes Janson and Hobbie Klivian are unavailable to join the squadron, Wedge is able to persuade Republic command into admitting Tycho Celchu as his executive officer. However, something has happened in between the comic series and this novel, and Celchu is now in disgrace – he is not permitted to fly an X-Wing, and must be escorted by two armed security guards at all times. After a rigorous screening process, Rogue Squadron’s final roster is:

  • Rogue Null: Captain Tycho Celchu (Human male from Alderaan)
  • Rogue Leader: Commander Wedge Antilles (Human male from Corellia)
  • Rogue Two: Peshk Vri’syk (Bothan male from Bothawui)
  • Rogue Three: Nawara Ven (Twi’lek male from Ryloth)
  • Rogue Four: Bror Jace (Human male from Thyferra)
  • Rogue Five: Gavin Darklighter (Human male from Tatooine)
  • Rogue Six: Riv Shiel (Shistavanen male from Uvena III)
  • Rogue Seven: Rhysati Ynr (Human female from Bespin)
  • Rogue Eight: Erisi Dlarit (Human female from Thyferra)
  • Rogue Nine: Lieutenant Corran Horn (Human male from Corellia)
  • Rogue Ten: Ooryl Qrygg (Gand male from Gand)
  • Rogue Eleven: Lujayne Forge (Human female from Kessel)
  • Rogue Twelve: Andoorni Hui (Rodian female from Rodia)

Points of View

Of those, our audience perspective characters are Wedge and Corran. On the imperial side, we follow Kirtan Loor. Loor is a former member of CorSec – and is tasked by the leader of the current leader of the Imperial Government on Coruscant – Ysanne Isard, head of Imperial Intelligence – with the task of destroying Rogue Squadron.

During travel to the squadron’s first base on Talasea, the squadron runs into an Imperial Interdictor cruiser who was hunting down a smuggler who had been running supplies for the New Rep – Mirax Terrik, captain of the Pulsar Skate. They help drive off the Interdictor Cruiser – but the intelligence from that ship reaches Loor, and he uses that to figure out that the Rogues are based on Talasea.

Loor advocates for a larger attack on the base, but instead the commander of a nearby Imperial garrison, Admiral Devlia, sends a Stormtrooper commando unit against the base. The troopers successfully kill Lujayne Forge, and injure several other members of the squadron before being killed. Loor vacates the garrison before Loor a retaliatory strike by the Alliance levels it, killing Devlia.

Taking Borleias

After the Rogues’ recovery, they receive their next assignment – to take part in an assault on the planet Borleias. The intelligence the Republic has received indicates that the base is lightly defended and easily taken. However, the intelligence is based on Imperial records and fails to account for several off-the-books improvements the commander, General Evir Derricote has made to the base’s defenses. In particular, he’s re-activated and Alderaan Biotics facility on the planet and has used the profits made from selling Alderannian plant products to strengthen the shield generators and obtain additional TIE fighters.

The attack is a disaster. Two more Rogues are killed – Peshk Vri’syk and Andoorni Hui, and several more Rogues are shot down and manage to eject. Several Y-Wing bombers and assault shuttles are also destroyed as well – leading to the death of the architect of the attack, Laryn Kre’fey.

Additional intelligence gained from Corran’s astromech, Whistler, helps determine the backup shield generator in the Alderaan Biotics facility, along with the conduit that links the two – allowing for a strike to sever the conduit, followed by a commando raid to disable the Alderaan Biotics generator and a bombing run to take out the main generator.

The plan is a success, and Borleias is captured. However, Ysanne Isard has planned for this – and has something in store for the Republic once they take Coruscant – and even more, there is a mole in Rogue Squadron.

Worldbuilding

  • We pop through three different worlds here – Folor, Talasea, and Borleias. We don’t spend much time learning about these three worlds, except that Folor and Talasea have Alliance bases, and Borleias has an Imperial one with an Alderaan Biotics facility.
  • We learn more about CorSec – Corellian Security, the space cops of the Corellian system. They retained something of their independence from the Empire for a time, before falling more firmly under their control around the time Corran and his fellow team-members quit and went on the run.
  • We learn about the speech patterns of the Gand – Gand only refer to themselves in the first person based on whether they have accomplished a great deed – and otherwise refer to themselves in the third person.
  • The first mention in the EU of the Derra IV attack – it had previously been depicted in the Empire Strikes Back radio play.

Characterization

  • Captain Tycho Celchu: At some point between the Rogue Squadron comics and these novels, something happened to put Tycho under a great deal of suspicion.
  • Commander Wedge Antilles: Wedge has repeatedly turned down promotions that would take him out of leading a Fighter Squadron with a degree that would impress William Riker or James T. Kirk.
  • Peshk Vri’syk: Bothan – recommended to the squadron for political reasons, but has the skills to give him a place. Killed in Action on Borlieas
  • Nawara Ven: Twi’lek attorney who joined the Alliance after witnessing the injustice of the Empire from the inside of a courtroom.
  • Bror Jace: Another political recommendation – Jace is a son of one of the two families who control Bacta production on Thyferra. However, he also has the skills to cement his place – putting him in contention for the #1 spot in the squadron alongside Corran Horn.
  • Gavin Darklighter: The cousin of Biggs Darklighter. who hopes to live up to Biggs’ legacy.
  • Riv Shiel: A Shistaven wolfman with a death mark, and who is hard to kill.
  • Rhysati Ynr: Woman from Bespin who joined the Alliance to liberate her homeworld from Imperial occupation.
  • Lieutenant Corran Horn: Former member of CorSec – and formerly partnered with Kirtan Loor. Horn and the rest of his teammates went on the run to escape the Empire, with the teammates faking their deaths and Horn being chosen to be framed for their “murder”. Horn’s father was also part of CorSec, and was murdered by Bossk. Loor made sure Bossk got off scot-free.
  • Ooryl Qrygg: Has a habit of referring to himself by his family name when embarrassed or ashamed.
  • Lujayne Forge: The child of a teacher who came to Kessel, and one of his adult students. A gifted pilot. Killed in Action on Talasea.
  • Andoorni Hui: Rodian who joined the Rogues feeling that they’re probably the most skilled band of hunters in the galaxy. Wounded on Talasea. Killed in Action on Borleias.
  • M-3PO: The unit’s 3PO droid quartermaster – has a hidden “scrounge” protocol that can be used to help acquire equipment and a dummy terminal mode.
  • Mirax Terrik: The daughter of a smuggler that Corran’s father put away, currently running supplies for the New Republic aboard the Pulsar Skate.
  • General Horton Salm: Bomber commander for New Republic forces – trusts Tycho about as far as he can throw him – provided he’s throwing him into an airlock.
  • Kirtan Loor: Formerly of CorSec, now part of Imperial Intelligence. Has photographic (holographic?) memory. Assigned by Ysanne Isard to hunt down and destroy Rogue Squadron. Has a Javert-level vendetta against Corran Horn, and possesses Javert’s personality as well. Isard is working to expand his sense of imagination and creativity.
  • Evir Derricote: Commander of the Imperial garrison on Borleias. Had been running a number of business operations under the table after the Emperor’s death, to have some resources set aside in the event the Republic came knocking. Following Borleias’ fall, was recalled to Coruscant for a special project by Isard.
  • Ysanne Isard: AKA “Iceheart”. The Karla at the core of Imperial Intelligence. Like Daala, was falsely accused by her contemporaries of having slept her way to the top. Like Daala, is utterly ruthless, but while Daala ruthlessness burns, Isard’s ruthless is colder. It is implied that she prefers to be physically present for the execution of subordinates who fail.

Final Thoughts

If I was to draw a comparison between the first X-Wing novel and another work of fiction, it would be Black Sheep Squadron. We’ve got a fighter squadron forming, and going on a series of missions with a few members being lost in action, and much of the war lying in front of them. Victory is likely, but not certain, and it is not certain everyone will make it to the end.

The book focuses a lot of developing the characters of the various members of Rogue Squadron, in particular Corran and Jace. Revisiting the book for the first time after reading the whole series in High School, it’s kind of impressive a lot of the small hints that Stackpole drops here for where Corran’s development will go in the books to come. Also, Tycho being a mole is absolutely a red herring.

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