Rebel Force #4: Firefight
by Alex Wheeler
Published by Scholastic
Adrick's Rating: 2 out of 4
Deadly assassin X-7 has never failed to complete a mission—until now.
Unmasked and unarmed, he narrowly escapes from the Rebels with his life and little else. His cover may be blown, but he’s not returning to Commander Rezi Soresh until his target has been eliminated. This time, he has a new plan. He’ll gather six of the best pilots in the galaxy—all of them roguish mercenaries who care only about money—and turn them loose on Red Squadron.
He counts on his pilot’s mercenary instincts to keep them in line. But one of them has a secret that could cost X-7 his victory.
I really enjoyed the opening scenes of Firefight. The ambush at Rinna and the Rebel briefing on a mission to Kamino, where the Empire is developing a new superweapon, demonstrate that Wheeler is committed to capturing the feel (if not the timeline) of the immediate post-Yavin galaxy while still drawing on elements from the prequels and Jude Watson’s various Jedi series.
There are also some very promising conflicts here. Now that X-7’s treachery has been revealed, Luke, still idealistic and trusting, faces betrayal for the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing Luke deal with his desire to bring down X-7 without giving into the darker feelings he demonstrates here. It’s a subtle but effective way of giving the series relevance to Luke’s character arc; building towards Vader’s revelation in Empire and Luke’s ultimate forgiveness of both of Obi-Wan and Anakin.
I also enjoyed the latter section of the book, although it’s difficult to discuss here without giving the very end away. Another of Jude Watson’s Jedi characters shows up here, and is handled well, without upstaging the movie characters (for the most part; see below).
Again, I enjoyed the very beginning and very end of the book. The middle, unfortunately, is less effective. One of the biggest problems is the underuse of Kamino as a story location. With the Empire still turning out clone troops in the cities, the potential for an intriguing story involving a secret Rebel mission is ripe indeed.
Sadly, Kamino seems to be used here only because it’s in the films. The Alderaan system and Tatooine locations in the previous books worked well because their histories, characters, and relevance to Leia and Luke were central to the story. Firefight could be set on Naboo for all the difference it would make to the plot.
The story also becomes more confusing and nonsensical as the conclusion of the Kamino mission nears. Luke chops a sea creature to pieces with his lightsaber, and yet is somehow able to salvage its massive, watertight stomach intact. Imperial tanks leap like proverbial lemmings to certain destruction in the Kamino sea for no reason. Firefight shows the promise this series holds, but the adventure itself leaves much to be desired.
Alright, this may be nitpicky as all get out, but the Aiwhas as described in this book don’t make any sense, even as flying whales go. They’re described alternately as lizards and cetaceans, lay eggs (!) and build nests out of the water on a planet supposedly covered in it. I guess it makes about as much sense as lizard-monkeys and winged serpents, but it confuses the heck out of me.