X-Wing - Solo Command
by Aaron Allston
Published by Bantam Publishing
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
Nathan Chance's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Wedge takes over direct command of both Wraith and Rouge Squadrons and joins Han Solo aboard the Mon Remonda for the Final Showdown against Warlord Zsinj and his Iron Fist Fleet.
The book starts with parlor dancing Wookies and ends up with Wedge's winning his bet with Ackbar, as well as dove-tailing nicely (or conveniently -- depending on your cynicism quotient) with the events of The Courtship of Princess Leia.
The story focuses in turn on both Wraith and Rouge Squadrons though there is somewhat heavier focus on the escapades of the Wraiths. This is a whirlwind tail of intrigue, betrayal, and combat, with a healthy dose of the humor that has characterized this series all along. Oh yes, the Explosion Index remains quite high throughout.
The story line sets up with another just-missed-one-of- Zsinj's-attacks scenario that turns into a surprise for the New Republic forces. Who, after tiring of Zsinj's always having the initiative, set out to take it away from him by first ignoring him for a while, and then by taunting the Warlord, which ends up working almost too well.
The author does an excellent job of the SW Story-line Shuffle that has become the canonical narrative style in the SW Universe since Lucas first used it in ANH. Allston flips between the New Republic plans and those of the Warlord (just enough to give hints of his plans, never the whole) in a way that left me both lamenting the fact that I had to wait to see what happened next in the one story line, and cheering that it was time for another dose of the other.
All in all, a very satisfying episode in the X-Wing Series, and in the SW Universe at large.
Before I forget, I have to compliment P. Youll for another eye catching cover. Very well done. I'm amazed that he is credited nowhere in the book. A terrible error. As always, you'll find Aaron Allston's wonderful sense of humor in this book. He has a nice touch with the pilot humor. I think he also handled Han Solo and Chewbacca very well. I wish Del Rey would let Allston play in more of the Star Wars Universe. Between his sense for humor and action, he's one of my favorites. There's a very memorable scene in the Imperial facility where the Wraiths get caught in an extremely deadly ambush. I couldn't put the book down during it. I also really enjoyed the Lara Notsil storyline and how it was handled. Her dealings with the Imperials towards the end were very clever and impressive. I also loved Chewbacca's interaction with the droid on the Falcon. After the prissy C-3PO, it was cool to see a droid with attitude. :)
I particularly like the way that Allston weaves bits of humor into what is essentially a serious, action story. Like the Lt. Kettch bits of the previous volume (you didn't think we'd heard the last of him did you?) the pranks and straight lines have a continuity that make them a part of a very real seeming interaction of the characters. There's the feeling that these people, yes, have a job to do, and yes, take it very seriously, but they also have vital relationships outside of the job at hand. It adds a goodly measure of depth to the story that still would have been good without, but seems more real with it.
I really only have a couple of gripes. I was disappointed that the story concluded in The Courtship of Princess Leia. I enjoyed that book, but I read it years ago. If I've known the ending for years, it makes it a kind of letdown. (Yes, you just heard that from the prequel guy. :) ) I think a different Warlord would have helped. I also felt that the appearance at the end of Face's fellow actor was a little too much. Other than that, not much in the grand storyline happened here. That doesn't necessarily make is a bad read, but I had hoped for a bigger slam bang ending.
It seemed that this book could easily have been another 100 or so pages long. With all the action, and all the major characters (twice as many as the previous X-Wing novels, due to the combining of the two squadrons) a lot of the detail seemed to get glossed over. I was left feeling like there was a LOT I wasn't told about -- nothing important to the plot, but things perhaps important to the characters. On the one hand, this could be viewed as that Story Depth I was just talking about, that the characters really do have lives beyond the paper they're written on, but on the other, I found myself thinking there was more that could have been told.
Hmmm....Wraiths roasting on an open fire? Ewok pilots? Naked pilots?
Scorched Gamorrean, slightly roasted Thawaash, party streaking, operation Blunted Razor -- there's a whole lot of ugly going on around here!