- Spoiler Review -
The most convincing scene in Rogue Squadron for me is when Corran Horn tells a fellow squadmate that she isn’t in love with him. She only thinks she is, because she’s had a near-death experience and wants to feel alive. That emphasis on motives, and how those motives can be used for good or ill, continues throughout the book. The characters are wonderful, and I would be happy to read a book that’s entirely about the squad featured here goofing off and mocking on one another. Rogue Squadron is at its weakest when plot starts taking over.
Michael Stackpole uses dialogue to further his plot whenever possible; like in the Star Wars movies, no dogfight is silent. When the pilots are out of the cockpit the dialogue is just as well-done. It takes its time: a conversation about how to deal with loss weaves in and out of the story of the first Death Star explosion without sounding like it’s trying too hard to be relevant to the movies. The death of one character leads to Gavin Darklighter coming to terms with not that specific death but that of his cousin in A New Hope. The feeling that there’s more going on in the characters’ heads, and a lot of imperfect logic, makes the members of Rogue Squadron feel real. Some characters sound too similar to each other: Admiral Ackbar talks a lot like Wedge, which made it hard to hear his distorted voice from Return of the Jedi making those snappy remarks. In a way that’s a good thing, but it also makes the book feel a bit separate from the Star Wars universe.
In almost all other ways, though, it’s like watching a movie. The characters are down-to-earth working people, and they aren’t paraded in front of the audience like heroes. People worry and lose face and cause as much trouble for themselves as the Imperials do for them. Corran brings his policing skills to the war, showing off skills as a leader and tactician that he will later refine in the Jedi academy. He’s one of my favorite characters because through both his own clarity of sight and all the different kinds of battles he’s been through, he never stops learning. His little moments of kindness and pity for both the people and the droids around him make him a hero. A scene where he attempts to jettison his astromech droid to save it from an upcoming suicide mission goes by in about five lines of dialogue, but tells a lot about Corran as a person. It’s easy to forget now that Rogue Squadron was one of the first novels that did not heavily feature characters from the movies.
The novel takes into account realistic disadvantages the still-struggling Rebellion faces, including not having enough ships for all of their pilots to use. There is no sense that any resource is unlimited, and this also makes the Star Wars universe feel realistic.
The book has a nice balance of talk and action, but I could talk about that all day without addressing the fact that the action doesn’t build up. This is the first in a series, so the lack of a large ending battle was understandable, but fell flat. None of this is to say that the ending wasn’t thrilling: Corran Horn used all his talents at the end, and his future wife Mirax made a great appearance. However, the stakes in the rest of the book remained relatively low. Kirtan Loor and Ysanne Isard remain for me unconvincing villains, cut out from the Moff mold in an effort to serve as Vader and Tarkin. Loor has his own motives and I almost feel sorry for him at points, but he isn’t frightening and isn’t particularly good at being a bad guy – and Isard points this out.
I would recommend Rogue Squadron to both new and old Star Wars fans alike. For newcomers, it introduces a lot of characters but all of them can stand on their own, and form a new Rogue Squadron didn’t inspire in me the fanaticism that I have seen some people express about identity together.the later installments of the series, but it was a solid adventure story. It’s a great fit for anybody who wants to know what it’s like to fly an X-Wing.
They are sleek, swift, and deadly. The are the X-wing fighters. And as the struggle rages across the vastness of space, the fearless men and women who pilot them risk both their lives and their machines. Their mission: to defend the Rebel Alliance against a still-powerful and battle-hardened Imperial foe in a last-ditch effort to control the stars!
Its very name strikes fear into enemy hearts. So when Rebel hero Wedge Antilles rebuilds the legendary Rogue Squadron, he seeks out only the best — the most skilled, the most daring X-wing pilots. Through arduous training and dangerous missions, he weeds out the weak from the strong, assembling a group of hard-bitten warriors willing to fight, ready to die. Antilles knows the grim truth: that even with the best X-wing jockeys in the galaxy, many will not survive their near-suicidal missions. But when Rogue Squadron is ordered to assist in the assault on the heavily fortified Imperial stronghold of Black Moon, even the bravest must wonder if any at all will survive. . . .