Last year, I re-read a Star Wars books that I haven’t touched since high school, X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The book is the first in a series that takes place in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, in the continuity that is no way cannon anymore. That said, I remembered it as a great series about Rogue Squadron, The Alliance’s group of its top ace fighter pilots working to bring the Empire down. Even though it’s officially not cannon, it’s not hard to imagine it as an important story in the Star wars Universe.
The first book, while telling the story of the group gathering together and flying their first major mission, worked well as its own story. At the same time, it built-up for the Rebel Alliance taking over Coruscant. That battle takes place in the second book of the series, X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble.
Written by Michael A. Stackpole, The book begins shortly after the last left off. The plan is to send Rogue Squadron onto Coruscant’s surface and figure out a way to bring down the planet’s shields so that the Alliance can move in. This gives the entire book a bit of a spy feel, with the squadron mostly working on-foot, but with the occasional use of speeder bikes and stolen Headhunter fighters in action scenes. Because there’s a spy within the squadron, they spend most of the book split off into groups of two or three, working on their individual surveillance tasks.
The spy thriller aspect of the book works very well. There’s a constant suspense going on with different characters trying to figure out who the traitor is. Constant complications to Rogue Squadron’s plans also keep things interesting. For one, the Empire knows they’re on the planet the entire time, and one particular officer, Kirtan Loor, has a personal grudge with Corran Horn, one of the main perspective characters. Well, it’s more like Corran holds a grudge against the officer. Another major complication is that they’re forced to work with dangerous criminals and mercenaries to distract the Empire with, not knowing whether they’ll cause problems for the Alliance if and when they take over Coruscant.
Other aspects of the book that work very well is a strong balance between build-up and payoff, both for this individual book and for the series. There’s great use of foreshadowing events that happen in the next couple of books. The way that Rogue Squadron’s plans interact with the Imperial plans is fascinating, as does the way that the Imperial plans are already affecting the squadron in ways that they cannot yet comprehend. It also says something that, at least 10 years since I’ve last read this book, I can remember at least a few major plot developments before they happen. I’m usually a bit of a data head when it comes to fiction, but 10 years after only reading this book once is still quite a bit, especially since I barely thought about Star Wars between 2008 and the release of The Force Awakens. The Imperial Intelligence Director, Isard, is also a fascinating villain and a powerful leader for the Empire in the post-Emperor days. She’s basically the Emperor’s replacement in everything but name only, and her cold calculating nature is brutal.
Although there’s a lot to like about this book, I won’t say it’s completely flawless. There’s great us of detailed, descriptive language used in the dogfights, like describing how Corran executes his fancy maneuvers on speeder bikes and Headhunters. That said, sometimes the description goes overboard with describing explosions, taking up several paragraphs and repeating how much debris is flying around. This is a minor complaint and it only happens a handful of times, but it’s worth mentioning.
Like the first X-Wing book, Wedge’s Gamble is written in third person, switching between a handful of major characters and occasionally touching on a minor character. Wedge, Corran and Kirtan Loor are the most frequent characters, each offering a different look at the story. Wedge is busy trying to co-ordinate the different teams on Coruscant while communicating with Admiral Ackbar. Corran is trying to balance his mission with both finding Kirtan and the apparent mutual attraction between him and both his partner on Coruscant, Erisi, and former smuggler and Rogue Squadron ally, Mirax. Don’t worry, that love triangle is a very minor part of the book and is resolved by the end.
Kirtan’s scenes are mostly build-up, but it offers some great insight on how much people within the empire fear Isard and her dangerously intelligent mind. Without spoiling too much (even though you learn what’s going on fairly early on), the Empire is leaving a rather nasty trap for the Alliance for after they take the planet over. That trap is the subject of the next two books in the series.
Overall, this is a great book. It’s like Top Gun in the Star Wars Universe, except take out the excessive cheesiness and replace it with a great spy thriller and good old Star Wars awesomeness. I guess that makes it nothing like Top Gun at all. It may not be considered cannon, it’s easy to imagine it as cannon if you don’t read too much of the new material. This book covers a major step forward for the Rebel Alliance in their struggle against the Empire, while still leaving plenty of room for further struggles down the road. In other words, this book is an easy recommendation for Star Wars fans both new and old.
My next book will likely be re-reading a book I’ve already reviewed on this blog, so I probably won’t post another novel review until at least April, after I write the first draft for a straight horror book I’m starting to plan in detail. After that, the next book I read will likely be either One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews, Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, or X-Wing: The Krytos Trap (the next book in this series). Reading Wedge’s Gambit has me excited to re-read the rest of the X-Wing books sooner rather than later.