Battlefront II: Inferno Squad Book Review

Battlefront II: Inferno Squad Book Review

Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

Author: Christie Golden
Publisher: Del Rey

Release Date: July 25, 2017

(Contains Mild Spoilers)

Star Wars may take place in a galaxy far, far away but the events of Inferno Squad targeted issues closer to our home system. Taking place after the destruction of the first Death Star, the Empire is reeling from defeat. A surviving pilot, Iden Versio, is tasked with leading a new special forces commando unit to gain intel from the various cells of Rebel (terrorist) organizations to make sure the Emperor never sinks money into a major battle station that ends up blown to pieces because of one ship ever again.

(You had ONE job, Iden!)

Versio is a complicated protagonist that may be one of my new favorite additions to the Star Wars canon. As an Imperial, Star Wars purists are hardwired to root against her and Inferno Squad as they infiltrate a rebel cell to learn how they receive precise information on where to hit the Empire in bloody raids. Readers have been cheering on the rebels for decades. Golden, however, presents the galaxy in Inferno Squad in far more complex shades of gray than George Lucas may have even imagined. The Empire may be a totalitarian dictatorship, but Versio and her compatriots fought against a different kind of evil. The Rebels in Inferno Squad represent chaos in the form of total anarchy and outright terrorism.

These were the themes that Golden fearlessly tackles in her tome of subterfuge, counterintelligence, and an undercover adventure that felt more akin to a homeland security novel than one occupying the same universe as Jar Jar Binks. I admit to being disappointed that the book was not an Imperial version of the brilliant X-Wing novels of the 90’s as I had expected. I love TIE fighters and always chose to fight for the Imperial side in every possible video game since I booted them up on my Windows 3.11 PC.

Instead, the Empire’s A-Team infiltrated an organization known as the Dreamers. After being an Imperial hero for escaping the battle of Yavin, Iden appeared to betray the Empire so she could work undercover as a Dreamer. The Dreamers were the remnants Saw Gerrera’s gang, the Partisans. Those were the tough customers destroyed in a storm of dirt on Jedha by the Death Star in Rogue One. The book itself was enjoyable as a standalone but flowed seamlessly into the larger events of Rogue One, the Original Trilogy, and even the Clone Wars cartoon. All the canon Star Wars material since the Disney buyout has been planned with meticulous calculations that would make C3P0 proud. I love the deeper connections in the story even if I find myself pulling away from my reading to google a name (as I did for the big revelation of the Mentor character’s identity). Even if you aren’t initially familiar with a planet name, or event mentioned in passing, take the time to look it up. The authors work hard on these connections so take the time to find their Easter eggs!

While I was disappointed in the lack of traditional starship combat or action adventure, I found myself quickly engrossed by the lives and character traits of Inferno Squad. I especially liked the young Imperial agent Seyn Maran and her eidetic memory. She initially felt like a droid wearing flesh until one of the young Dreamers died in a suicide bombing. She told her commander Versio that none of them could understand the loss because they did not share her photographic memory. She would forever have the death of a terrorist she had come to care for burned into her mind’s eye.

While these elements make for a fascinating story, many Star Wars purists have cried foul for their overt darkness and wartime themes. I remember many of the same arguments waged against the New Jedi Order Legends series in the 00’s for not feeling “Star Warsy” enough when the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong invaders came to the galaxy for nearly twenty books of carnage. I personally welcome the admittance of tough questions and complex themes into my Star Wars. Golden brilliantly crafts the individual personas of the Dreamers to the point that I was scratching my head and wondering if I felt truly sorry for a terrorist who died by a suicide bomb. I also found myself hoping the Empire succeeded in stopping an out of control rebel cell that was nothing like the traditional, wholesome, Rebel Alliance. The Dreamers were not afraid of civilian, or even mass children, casualties in their operations.

I personally welcome the admittance of tough questions and complex themes into my Star Wars. Golden brilliantly crafts the individual personas of the Dreamers to the point that I was scratching my head and wondering if I felt truly sorry for a terrorist who died by a suicide bomb. I also found myself hoping the Empire succeeded in stopping an out of control rebel cell that was nothing like the traditional, wholesome, Rebel Alliance. The Dreamers were not afraid of civilian, or even mass children, casualties in their operations.

The Dreamers were so diverse, in fact, that keeping up with all of them became a bit of a chore while reading. The group was relatively small but it was tiresome to place each exotic name, gender, and species for the various members. I loved the quirky Chadra-Fan, Piikow, but I kept having to remind myself that name represented a character who was less than a meter tall with dialogue translated from squeaks. Sci-Fi is my favorite genre for the rich and alien characters it presents but descriptions do become difficult without mundane anchors to keep the reader grounded. The Dreamer characters all sometimes ran together as they entered and exited the scenes in their cavernous hideout. Those sections of the book also felt like they ran a bit long as the Inferno Squad settled into a life among the rebels and I had to fight to keep my attention on the written words of the page. It did, however, become much easier to pay attention when one of the Squad finally blew their cover.And speaking of blown cover, I was left with one gaping, reactor-sized, hole in the story. In the end, Iden manages to stop the Dreamers and is allowed to return to the Empire. She and Inferno Squad will certainly have more missions, but how? Iden is a covert agent who just became famous for disavowing the Empire as a barbaric regime. Even her own mother disowned her when she first heard the news.

And speaking of blown cover, I was left with one gaping, reactor-sized, hole in the story. In the end, Iden manages to stop the Dreamers and is allowed to return to the Empire. She and Inferno Squad will certainly have more missions, but how? Iden is a covert agent who just became famous for disavowing the Empire as a barbaric regime. Even her own mother disowned her when she first heard the news. I thought that future books might continue to send her to join Rebel cells. That would quickly become suspicious if every Rebel group she joins violently falls apart every few weeks but I couldn’t imagine how she could go back to work in the Empire openly. Fans of the Battlefront game, however, already know that’s the case. In the epilogue, she is back on an Imperial ship heading straight to another mission for the Empire to aid a blackmailed Moff.

I thought that future books might continue to send her to join Rebel cells. That would quickly become suspicious if every Rebel group she joins violently falls apart every few weeks but I couldn’t imagine how she could go back to work in the Empire openly. Fans of the Battlefront game, however, already know that’s the case. In the epilogue, she is back on an Imperial ship heading straight to another mission for the Empire to aid a blackmailed Moff.

For her to work for the Empire again, Palpatine and his cronies would have to make a public statement that her defection was all a big “Gotcha”. Because once she’s openly returned to being an Imperial she’s no longer any use undercover. She’s also too famous now as a double-agent to continue the type of low-key subterfuge Inferno Squad was founded for. Iden would be like Sandra Bullock’s character in the sequel to Miss Congeniality when she was recognized on FBI stings as the former beauty pageant contestant with a bomb in the crown.

I believe it would be better to put Iden back in the TIE pilot’s seat and have her command a squad of elite fighters in the next series of books. They could become the Empire’s version of the Rebel’s Wraith Squadron from Legends. It would add more space combat and action to the genre that many would hope for and she could still keep up her covert operations on missions. I would love to see a novel in this series with the subtitle: Inferno Squad vs. Rogue Squadron. I know Iden could give Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker a run for their credits in piloting skills.
I know the current Battlefront game series picks up Inferno Squad’s story but I hope to see more of Iden on the page, on the small screen, or even a cameo in a future film. She is one of the many strong female characters popping up in the new Star Wars canon but she is special in that I find myself questioning to cheer for her or root for her ship to explode in the cold vacuum of space.

Jay Sandlin is an author, historian, and podcaster right here on TheGww.com Find his podcast #WhoWouldWin? and join the debate show for the ages! https://thegww.com/category/podcasts/whowouldwin/

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