Thursday, November 10, 2016

Battlefront: Twilight Company, by Alexander Freed

This week I'm descending once again into the craziness of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, although in this case I'm reading something that's apparently canon. For the time being, anyway. This is one thing which kind of confuses me is figuring out what's canon anymore and what isn't. I understand the decision made a few years back to declare basically everything but the three movies not canon. (''But Kalpar!'' you're probably saying. ''What about the other three movies and the two tv series?'' To which I respond: ''What other three movies and two tv series?'') After thirty years the EU had gotten so clogged with novels, comics, and video games that you needed an encyclopedia to keep track of everything. So by razing everything to the ground it makes a lot of sense. Although now with the introduction of yet more novels, comics, and video games it's becoming an even more incomprehensible tangle. Much like how the Marvel cinematic universe is becoming a crazy, interlocking mess in its own way, but that's a rant for another day.

Battlefront: Twilight Company is a tie-in to the video game Star Wars Battlefront, actually the second game with that name because I totally remember when the first one came out. But again, a rant for another day. This book follows the adventures of the 61st Rebel Mobile Infantry, also known as Twilight Company, in the days immediately before and then after the Battle of Hoth, with one of the characters actually participating in the ground battle and managing to escape from the Empire's net. The book is pretty standard sci-fi military fare, which I've read numerous times with the 40k novels about the Imperial Guard over the years. What makes this one different is it focuses a lot more on the struggles of Twilight Company in sticking together.

Within the universe of Star Wars these are dark times for the Rebellion. Although there's the victory of destroying the Death Star, the Empire has scattered the Rebels across the galaxy and they haven't had much success since then. The loss on Hoth is also a crippling attack on morale. So this book deals a lot with rebel soldiers, the ground-pounders who are fighting, bleeding, and dying on countless worlds against the stormtrooper legions of the Empire. And you really get a sense of the desperation and how hard it can be for people to keep fighting. Especially when it seems like they're fighting for a lost cause. So while there are elements of standard sci-fi military fiction with daring raids and infantry attacks, it's got a more psychological element as well.

There's also the inclusion of a character who serves as a member of the stormtrooper garrison on the planet Sullust, and her path eventually crosses with Twilight Company, albeit in a limited fashion. And I'm kind of mixed on her inclusion in the story. On the one hand it's a good thing because it humanizes stormtroopers, the ultimate faceless goons who have been killed in droves since 1977, and helps people understand why someone might join the Empire and be proud of that. But on the other hand, it feels kind of tacked on compared to the rest of the story. She really could have gotten her own book that explored and humanized the Empire and how people saw it as a force for order, but it's sort of an addendum to the book and feels less developed.

Because this is an audiobook I will comment on the sound effects which I actually commented upon in other Star Wars audiobooks I've listened to. In this case, I felt like it just wasn't quite up to par with some of the other books. As it was a military book there was a lot of blaster fire used, but it felt like the same sound effect got used a lot which got repetitive really quickly. The inclusion of music from the movies was nice and really useful in one or two scenes, but it was rather limited. It just felt like there was less effort spent on sound production in this book compared to others.

Overall the book's okay. I wouldn't say it's really breaking into new ground. Especially if you're like me and you've read far too much pulp sci-fi military adventure stories than is strictly healthy for you. (I do love me some space operas.) But I liked that it's a fresh perspective in the Star Wars universe which seems to spend an inordinate amount of time following the main characters around all the time. If you like military sci-fi this is a good choice.

- Kalpar

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