X-Wing - Wraith Squadron
by Aaron Allston
Published by Bantam Publishing
Steve's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
David's Rating: 4 out of 4
This is the fifth book in the X-Wing series, the first of three written by Aaron Allston, but starts a new story arc.
In the last X-Wing storyline, we saw the Rogues perform a lot of commando type missions, even though they were primarily pilots. This books begins with Wedge wishing to start a new X-Wing squadron that is exactly the opposite: a commando unit that can also fly snubfighters. To top it off, he wants to recruit trouble makers and washouts, those who have screwed up once and will do anything to redeem their reputation.
Just as the squadron is set to go, the training base is attacked and the Wraiths are forced into the action .... and consequently find themselves on a dangerous mission impersonating an Imperial crew in the employ of the elusive Warlord Zsinj!
I was incredibly pleased with this book! Allston's work not only flows well with Stackpole's style, but in my opinion surpasses it. He does a nice job of introducing the characters, through recruitment interviews and later when small groups return from their simulator runs. In the first X-Wing book, it was initially a chore to keep track of all the characters that showed up at once with no background knowledge. While some of the new pilots follow a few cliches, it's certainly an ecclectic bunch and I look forward to seeing more from them.
The most enjoyable aspect of this book is the humor! No other Star Wars book has caused me to laugh out loud as many times as this one did. Without spoling the 'punchlines,' keep an eye out for Ewok humor, a variation of Artoo's lightsaber trick and who could ever forget the Agamar brothers?! Mr. Allston must be quite the character and I hope I have the opportunity to talk to him sometime. :)
As for the story, I thought it was a well executed seat-of-our-pants mission. In the battle scenes, Allston is just as imaginative as he is humorous. For once, I was actually pleased with the attrition. Usually, it seems our heroes are invincible. Overall, not much is gained the search for Zsinj, but there are some nice (not to mention mysterious) elements to be investigated in the remaining books.
Where to begin? I loved everything about this book. What struck me the most about this book was how different the characters were, and yet they all mesh so well. The fight scenes are excellent, and I have to say Allston surpasses Stackpole in the humor department. There are some great running jokes that continue on into the next X-Wing novel. If you are a fan of Star Wars, or you just want a good book, then find yourself a copy of this novel. You don't even have to read the four previous X-Wing novels (though I recommend doing so), this novel begins an independent story line. While it ties in with the Rouge Squadron books, you don't have to read them to understand what's going on.
As in the last series, it seems that Imperial ships are easier to defeat than they should be. But this has been a theme in SW since ANH, so it should be expected. In reading the character list before the book starts, a few things disappointed me. Out of twelve members, only 4 were aliens, of which only 1 I don't remember encountering before. While the idea of a Gamorrean as a pilot didn't turn out as bad as I thought, I would like to have seen something else. Oh, and for a backwater planet, Tatooine keeps producing New Republic pilots.
Actually, the only thing that got to me was that the pilots weren't really 'washouts,' but more like victims of misunderstanding and that some of the characters' personal struggles were too easily solved by the end of the novel.
The only flaw I found in this book was the ease with which Imperial ships are destroyed, but as Steve pointed out, that's pretty much the standard for the SW universe.
The allusion to hosing out an X-Wing's cockpit after the water in the pilot's tissues was boiled and they exploded.
The hosing-out-the-boiled-tissue thing, definitely.