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X-Wing #5
X-WING #5 Wraith Squadron
By Aaron Allston
7 years after ANH

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This is the fifth book of a series of eight (so far) which highlights the exploits of the star -fighter pilots who get the job done when the fight against the Empire demands action-sequences.


The first four books, Rogue Squadron, Wedge's Gamble, The Krytos Trap, and The Bacta War, all written by author Michael Stackpole, formed a four-book arc involving the Rebel capture of the ruling planet Coruscant, and the defeat of the evil Imperial Security Chief, Ysanne Isard. Wraith Squadron begins a new series-within-the-series.

Ysanne Isard kept the Rebel Alliance/New Republic hustling, but there are other threats in the post-Palpatine universe. One of the biggest baddies, one that crops up in several Star Wars novels set in these early years just after ROTJ, is Warlord Zsinj. Zsing is one of the many Imperial leaders turned self-annointed galaxy tyrants; the potency of his threat is heightened by his ruthlessness, and by the fact that he is in possession of a Super Star Destroyer, the "big Kahuna" of capital ships. Wedge Antilles, the commander of Rogue Squadron, feels creating a squadron of guerrilla-warfare/special ops experts….who also happen to be handy in a starfighter…..would be the best way to confront the dangers posed by this new, multi-despot galaxy.


Aaron Allston is not quite the writer that Michael Stackpole is, and Wraith Squadron is not quite up to the level that the first four Rogue Squadron books achieved. Which is not to say this is a bad book; not at all. The plot is clever, and the story fits very well into the "big picture" of this part of the Expanded Universe timeline. What is missing is what the X-Wing pilots call "situational awareness". Both in the action sequences and in the character descriptions, consistency and a sense of continuity are less than ideal. Whereas in the Stackpole books, I never had any difficulty in visualizing the battle scenes, and keeping track of the flow of the confrontations, in Wraith Squadron, I sometimes found myself not quite sure where everyone was. And frankly, I got the sense that Allston occasionally misplaced the pilots too. Stackpole cut between pilots in battle in an almost cinematic way, so that all the individual dog-fights built to a concurrent climax. Allston often cuts away from one skirmish, at a time-for-a-commercial-break kind of moment, (an artificially suspenseful moment) and then doesn't come back to that pilot for far too long. Stackpole made the quick-cut, momentum-build look easy. It ain't, and Allston , by only fractions but by enough to matter, misses the boat.

In delineating the characters, Allston takes a step down from the better Star Wars authors as well. There are just as many squad-mates in this book as in the previous X-Wing books, but somehow they don't stand out as individuals as well as in the first four novels. And when they do stand out, it is superficial characteristics, not deeper personality traits, that distinguish them. Garik "Face" Loran is a former actor with a scar, Hohass "Runt" Ekwesh has emergent personae inside him and refers to himself in the plural, Voort "Pigy" saBinring is a genetically altered Gamorrean, etc., etc.. Notice all the nicknames, too! Because this squad is culled ostensibly from wash-outs and screw-ups, everyone has some trauma, or shoulder chip to overcome. It verges on soap opera, and definitely crosses the line into cliché. What was insightful introspection in Stackpole's hands, is psycho-babble in Allston's.

All that said, Wraith Squadron is still worth the read. It fills an important niche in the arc of the Star Wars story, and the action, even when a little muddied, is fast-paced. The characters, even when a tad too facile or precious, are sympathetic, and there are moments of genuine pathos, as well as engaging humor. Not an A-Plus effort, but entertaining none-the-less.24, 1999 by Karen Ross AKA