(2015) Alexander Freed, Century, £19.99, hrdbk, 399pp, ISBN 978-1-780-89365-5
Forget all those other Star Wars books that have been getting published for years, probably starting way back in the day with Alan Dean Fosterís Splinter of the Mindís Eye. That was based on a screenplay for a low-budget possible sequel to Star Wars if the original fourth part of the sage had not been a success, but of course it was a mammoth box-office hit. The Empire Strikes Back was the proper sequel. But now, after two dodgy prequel films and a not too bad effort in Revenge of the Sith which set up things nicely for the original Ė now re-branded as Ė A New Hope, we have everything being rebooted thanks to The Force Awakens. And so Darth Vader stands in the shower, blinks a few times and all those spin-off expanded universe novels about Jedi Academies, Clone Wars, the adventures of Han Solo and scores of other titles are consigned to some dream-like alternative reality. This brings us right up to date and Star Wars Battlefront Twilight Company which takes place between the original Star Wars (Star Wars A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back in a tale of 'The Bravest Soldiers, The Toughest Warriors and The Ultimate Survivors' which clearly ties in with the Battlefront video game and which references some of the scenarios and locations that will be familiar to Star Wars gamers rather than Star Wars movie-goers.
The Death Star is gone, and there is a new hope on the resistance side of a galactic civil war where legions of ruthless stormtroopers are crushing any resistance that appears on the Mid Rim Worlds, but this war is down and dirty, street-fighting, trying to hold on to territory, trying to gain territory, and the resistance is led by the members (not always human) of the Sixty First Mobile Infantry, better known as the Twilight Company, who would die for each other, and often they do. They are first into battle and first to die, and if they survive they are first in again next time.
Freed does what is expected of him if you think about classic western or war movies with an ensemble cast, so think The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, Kelly Ďs Heroes right up to Tarrantinoís work, more recently The Hateful Eight. Therefore we have squad members like Namir, Charmer, Gadren, Brand and Roach, all with different backgrounds,and back-stories (which although obviously important to the characterís and their motivations are sometimes hidden from the reader), temperaments and characteristics, although there is a severe lack of decent viewpoint character from the bad guys side of things; we really need a Vader (who does get a look in at least) or someone of Tarkinís evil stature. Namir is the main character and he journeys from mercenary to sergeant. We also have another transforming character in former Governor, Everi Chalis who has turned traitor in the eyes of the Empire and of course must be hunted down and executed for treason and before she can spill some very valuable beans to the Rebellion.
Some of the back-story will be familiar to Star Wars fans like the Battle of Hoth, but the major figures in the canon are seen at a fleeting distance, and Han Solo may or may not be present depending on your point of view. This isnít great literature but it isnít meant to be, itís for fans of the series, both the movies and the games, and it does what it says on the tin. Some of the description is a bit clunky, as is the dialogue in places, but we are a long way from the science fantasy and Jedi/Force overtones of the series and there are brilliant set pieces at the start and end of the book, but in between it is maybe overlong; it is in need of a good edit to sustain the pacing and keep the reader engaged, particularly around a parallel story strand involving a storm trooper stationed on Sollust. But, all in all, this is war and war is hell and if you like military science fiction then you will probably like this. For Star Wars fans it is a must read.
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