Just over 2 years ago, I re-read the first book in the X-Wing series. The X-Wing series, written by Michael A. Stackpole, stars Rogue Squadron in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi in the Expanded Universe that’s no longer canon. About a year later, I re-read its first sequel, Wedge’s Gamble. I feel like I should re-read the rest of this series at a faster rate, especially since the first four books take place immediately after each other.
Anyway, the first book, S-Wing: Rogue Squadron, was partly about the new Rogue Squadron’s creation, under Wedge Antilles’s command. It co-starred Corran Horn, a bit of a Corellian hotshot who is potentially the best pilot in an already elite squad. Rogue Squadron also builds up towards the second book a lot. In the second book, Wedge’s Gamble, the New Republic took over Coruscant with a combination of undercover work, smuggling, making questionable allegiances and an all-out invasion for the climax.
The end of Wedge’s Gamble revealed a number of complications for Rogue Squadron. For one, the empire laid a trap in the form of an engineered virus, called the krytos virus. It can only be cured by bacta, which is found to be in low supply and getting expensive because of the demand. Corran was also captured by Ysanne Isard, a brilliant Imperial leader and a strong potential replacement for the Emperor. The rest of the squadron, believing Corran to be dead, also know there’s a traitor in their mix. Their divided as to whether Tycho Celchu, who’s standing trial, is that very spy or not.
The result makes this particular entry in this series, The Krytos Trap, less intense from an action standpoint, but the most intense in this series so far from a thriller standpoint. There’s a lot of focus on Tycho’s trial, with detailed writing that digs into the prosecutions tactics and the defense’s desperate attempt to clear Tycho’s name. There’s a lot of focus on Rogue Squadron’s remaining members trying to acquire bacta through deals and defending shipments, while also searching for an alternative treatment. And of course there’s a lot of emotional fallout from the previous book. The emotional fallout is most heavily felt by those closest to Corran, including Mirax Terrik, who started as a bit of a rival for Corran, but an attraction quickly grew between them.
But perhaps the most tense scenes are Corran’s own, showing Ysanne’s attempts to brainwash him into becoming a sleeper agent, and later his attempt to escape a legendary prison that some people don’t believe even exists. The first half of Corran’s story is him struggling to hold onto his identity. There are moments where it’s a bit of a hard read, not because of a change in the writing quality, but because Stackpole does a great job at exploring the mind games between Corran and Ysanne. Once you get to the escape sequence, his story gets fascinating. It not only hints at who the real spy is, but subtle foreshadowing to what the prison actually is.
I won’t spoil either of these in case you decide to read it, but both of these answers will spell trouble in the next X-Wing book.
Like the first two entries in the X-Wing novel series, it’s easy to imagine that The Krytos Trap still matches up with the new canon. It makes sense that even if the Empire ceases operations after the fall of Coruscant, there would still be newly independent warlords trying to cease power. The fall of Coruscant would also be a major blow to the Empire. But even ignoring that, this is a great book. It works as a war story in the Star Wars Universe. It works as a political thriller. It works from a dramatic standpoint. It’s also fun how for the entirety of the book, you know things that the switching perspective characters don’t, yet you know there are still surprises to come. Well, that is if you haven’t read the book before.
This was actually the first X-Wing book I read way back. I think I’ve owned my copy since the year it came out, although I remember that I didn’t remember much by the time I finished, feeling a bit lost. I must have enjoyed it the second time though, because although I didn’t remember a lot of the specific events, it’s been more than 10 years and I still remember most of the major reveals and plot points.
Also this last comment has nothing to do with the book’s quality, but pretty much every time I write a blog post about Star Wars, Microsoft Word’s auto spell check goes nuts.
Anyway, if you like a bit of an action thriller about an elite squadron in the Star Wars Universe, this is definitely worth a look.