X-Wing #9 Starfighters of Adumar
By Aaron Allston
13.5 years after ANH

* * *1/2

This book is the ninth in the X-Wing Squadron series of books, telling the tales of the fighter pilots in the starry "trenches".


Even though Starfighters of Adumar is the ninth book in a series, it is really the most stand-alone of the group. It references a few of the other stories and characters from previous Aaron Allston X-Wing ventures, but no real knowledge of those earlier novels is necessary.

Starfighters of Adumar kicks off with X-Wing leader Wedge Antilles, now, somewhat-reluctantly-GENERAL Wedge Antilles, breaking up with his alien-scientist girlfriend Qwi Xux. From there, Wedge intends to take some time off and do a bit of soul-searching, but in the Star Wars universe, only Luke Skywalker gets introspective retreat days…(and even Luke, not many). So instead, Wedge finds himself, along with X-Wing compadres Colonel Tycho Celchu, Major Wes Janson, and Major Derek "Hobbie" Klivian, en route to the remote, and heretofore pretty much undiscovered world of Adumar. It seems Adumar was settled in the days of the Old Republic by outcast anarchists, and ever since has stayed unconnected to galaxy politics. But now both the New Republic and the remnants of the Empire have stumbled upon the planet, and moreover, have determined that one of Adumar's primary industries is a small conversion away from being a new and inexpensive source of proton torpedoes. Add to this the Adumari adulation of fighting and of pilots, and Wedge and his cronies are just the fellows to act as the ambassadorial advance guard. But Wedge et al quickly discover that New Republic Intelligence has not been entirely straightforward with them, and that more is going on on Adumar than they realize. Can the X-Wing boys figure out all the players, uncover all the double-crosses and machinations, avoid the Adumari propensity for dueling and live-ammo war games, learn the nuances of diplomacy, and win Adumar's allegiance to the New Republic? And as they learn more and more about the death-wish culture simmering just beneath the genteel Adumar surface, will the pilots decide this planet is not one the New Republic will want as a member even if they are successful?




Starfighters of Adumar is possibly author Aaron Allston's best effort yet. (Apples and oranges comparison, but I'd say it runs neck-and-neck with Allston's X-Wing #7 Solo Command). It is fast-paced, enjoyable, and very very funny. The patter between the pilots is hysterical, while still completely true to each of their personalities, and reading as just natural, witty "guy talk". In fact, this book skips along so quickly and easily, it seems almost beside the point to find fault with it. It ain't perfect, but it moves by so light and fast, it probably doesn't matter.

The quibbles: In the very early passages, recapping and description are handled awkwardly. In the Wedge-Qwi break-up scene, Qwi recites, in conversation with Wedge, a detailed history that he already knows. The information is intended not for Wedge, but for the reader, and for those of us with Nutrasweet poisoning or Age-related memory gaps, it's nice to get an abridged refresher course, but when presented this amateurishly, all it does is jar the reader out of their immersion in the story. And too, with the introduction of characters, again in the beginning chapters, Allston has Wedge, in essence, describe them to himself in his head…including his OWN looks. People don't generally stand around musing about their own appearance. The visual cues are helpful, but not if they disengage the reader from the tale. It's ungainly and weird.

The only other…perhaps insignificant…quibble is with Wedge's romance with intelligence operative Iella Wessiri. The complaint is not with the relationship itself. Iella (she had been working undercover on Adumar, and re-hooks up with Wedge and the guys) and Wedge have always seemed good for one another, and their interactions feel natural. But even though writer Kevin Anderson's creation Qwi Xux was never fully developed, and even though her positioning as a love-interest for Wedge always felt terribly forced, there is a wee bit of whiplash experienced when stalwart hero Wedge Antilles goes from Qwi-dumping on page one, to Iella breathless amour not too many pages later. What a cad, eh? This is, however, a fairly minor criticism. Because Wedge and Iella do, in fact, have a multi-book/comic back-story with consistent chemistry and connection, and because this Wedge, the one as written in this book, and by association, the one with Iella, rings more true to character than he ever did in Anderson's incarnations and/or with Qwi, the rather speedy reorienting of Wedge's affections can pass by the scanners without too much struggle.

Starfighters of Adumar is a quirky little Star Wars book. It's not deep, not contemplative. There are no galaxy-changing events to speak of. This is not the class brain; it's more like the pretty blond. The plot is clever, but not complex, and the resolution is a tad pat. But none of that really matters. It's a speedy read, and a thoroughly entertaining one. Unlike with his poorly-defined Wraith Squadron, author Aaron Allston does a bang-up job writing for Wedge and his buddies. These chaps, and Wedge especially, are plain-folk heroes, and their dilemmas are those of the real-people-in-extraordinary-circumstances variety. Not filet mignon, popcorn. Munch away.