(2017) Christie Golden, Century, £19.99, hrdbk, 313pp, ISBN 978-1-780-89482-9
Buckle up! Here’s a novel from Christie Golden inspired by the Star Wars films and the “Battlefront ll” video game, in fact this novel is a prequel to the game and offers the origin story of several characters that gamers can become, but there is twist, this time the major characters are the bad guys.
Yes, the events of Rogue One and Star Wars: A New Hope have played out resulting in the destruction of the Death Star and the Empire is pretty pissed off, so it’s time to strike back by forming the elite Inferno Squad and sending them out into the galaxy to infiltrate the rebel group known as the Dreamers who are the remnants of the Partisans, once led by Saw Gerrera, a freedom fighter who has cropped up in several Star Wars books, animated features and was memorably played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One.
You might have thought that all of the Partisans had been wiped out by that little controlled burst from the Death Star (or mining accident as it was officially reported) that killed Gerrera, but you would be wrong. Some of them survived and they need to be stopped – i.e. eliminated, but to do that they have to be infiltrated and destroyed from within.
Who is up to the task? Well, Inferno Squad obviously, established by Admiral Garrick Versio and led by his daughter, Iden Versio who was there at the Battle of Yavin when the Death Star was destroyed, and only survived by disobeying orders and pursuing a rebel fighter well out of range of the mayhem that occurred. To be honest, that is really only the major battle we get in this novel and it’s over pretty quickly, but to be fair this book takes a different direction from that other 'Battlefront' title Twilight Company which had its fair share of battle antics. This is a more low-key, insidious fight that is going on to infiltrate the remains of the Dreamers who have been carrying out their guerrilla attacked almost at will. Iden is joined by her old friend and rival, Gideon Hask, and brain box Seyn Marana and gadget guru Del Meeko. I was hoping for a James Bond-like mini-adventure involving each of them before they get the call to join Inferno Squad.
After some clunky, long-winded exposition we get into the meat of the story when the Squad infiltrates the Dreamers. Golden has created a varied cast of characters that the reader believes in, and Iden and friends start to bond with, finding some common ground, but can we really root for the bad guys? And can they complete their mission to its deadly conclusion? Given that this novel takes place four years before the game starts, it is not hard to work out the answer. The Rebels have to win, and the Empire hates to lose.
Golden, with four other Star Wars titles to her name and many, many other books set in the worlds of Star Trek, World of Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed is an old, safe hand at this sort of thing, creating a fast-moving plot with a varied cast of characters with interesting, if not tragic, back stories. There have been pretty strong books in the Star Warscanon recently, some featuring major characters like Darth Vader and the Emperor, Grand Moff Tarkin, and more recently Captain Phasma, but in the back of our heads we know they aren’t going to die in any book that comes out, but the members of Inferno Squad might not have that luxury.
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