Hoooooo boy. This book.
I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) this book twice last year. That’s right. Twice.
However, I said I would read all the books, so here we are.
Before we start, in honour of a certain author running her mouth again, today’s community resource is this very helpful carrd containing petitions focused on trans rights in case you, like me, would like to bring some balance to the universe and counteract she-who-must-not-be-named’s hateful and uninformed statements.
Full disclosure, I haven’t played Battlefront (the game in the picture belongs to my brother, keep your #fakegeekgirl shit to yourself). I keep meaning to, even just to try it out, especially since I liked Battlefront II so much. But as of writing this post, I haven’t had the chance, so I don’t know if the story of this book ties in to a story mode in the game. I suspect it doesn’t. I also suspect that wouldn’t help me get through the book again if I were to attempt a reread. That said, lets dive into Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed.
The story is set primarily among the ranks of Twilight Company, a rebel infantry who travel from world to world carrying out more covert, high risk, and for want of a better word, gritty missions.
When their mission takes them to Haidoral Prime, they meet Everi Chalis, an artist and the governor of the planet. She offers Twilight Company, and by extension the Rebel Alliance her logistical knowledge of the Empire in exchange for protection, an offer which they accept.
The story follows the company on several missions, including a stop at Echo Base on Hoth right as the Empire shows up. Chalis, with the help of Sergeant Namir concocts a plan to hit the Empire where it hurts by attacking their shipyards at Kuat. She reasons that they must first hit several other Imperial targets, to spread their resources thinner than they already are, leaving the shipyards vulnerable to attack.
On one such mission, to the planet Sullust, Twilight Company becomes stranded and must fight their way out, while alliances shift and the Empire closes in.
I mentioned in my Battlefront II review that I found the references to existing characters to be distracting. On the total other side of that coin, I feel like existing characters in a more substantial role would have benefitted here.
2 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. Governor Chalis
You may have noticed that Governor Chalis dominates most of my plot summary. She is not the main character, but she is the most interesting. As I read through the book, the main thing keeping me there was to find out what her deal is.
When they flee from Haidoral Prime, Chalis becomes concerned that the Empire, and specifically Darth Vader, will track her down because of her importance to them. She insists on this point quite a bit that I believed it was true.
Where it started to fall apart for me, and where I realized Chalis probably misunderstood Vaders intentions is when they were trapped in Echo Base on Hoth, immediately after the battle we see in The Empire Strikes Back. Chalis and Namir see that Vader has entered the base, and Chalis assumes he is there for her, and says as much. But we the reader know that he is only there to find Luke. Something that totally disillusions Chalis when she learns it.
This type of internal struggle, where an Imperial learns that they were just a cog in the machine and don’t matter as much as they thought they did, this kind of realization, is something we rarely see in a Star Wars story, if ever. Or, rather, when we do see it, the character in question doesn’t live much longer after the realization. But not only does Chalis survive the war, she manages to extract herself from the whole system and retire to a backwater world where she can focus on her art, the only thing that ever truly brought her joy.
2. Prelate Verge
Prelate Verge is a young official in the Empire, and an absolute Palpatine boot-licker. He’s also not in the book very much, but I did want to draw attention to him because this type of sycophantic devotion to the Emperor is something we also don’t see much in a named character (Verge has built shrines to Palpatine, that’s the kind of devotion we’re talking) and I wish we’d seen more of him. Especially since his devotion didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Emperor’s Force abilities.
I found myself wondering if his culty behaviour would pay off in some way that led into The Rise of Skywalker, since that movie had Palpatine cultists too. But no. Would have been interesting though
3. The action scenes…oh, the action scenes
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I really. Really. REALLY. Don’t like action scenes in books. I like the kind that advance the plot or develop characters in a meaningful way (for example Master and Apprentice). But otherwise no.
This book is probably 80% action scenes. Tactical maneuvers, buildings collapsing, mud, sweat, blood, people shouting things at each other. Such that by the end of 450+ pages, I didn’t feel I knew the characters any better beyond “they’re all damaged, and they’ve created a damaged little family”.
I know that the book is based on a video game, but the fact that the thing driving the story forward was a handful of loosely associated missions made me feel like I was reading a video game. The little bits of character development that we do get honestly felt less like character development and more like cut scenes in between the various campaigns that occupy the bulk of the book.
My favourite line in the whole thing is “The Rebel Alliance believes in redemption”. This is said when Chalis offers her aid to the rebels, and its a line I wish people would keep in mind when they start going on about irredeemable characters…
Namir meets a captain on Hoth who sits and commiserates with him after Namir gets into a fist fight. The captain is never named, but he does have Correllian whiskey on hand so I’m telling myself it was Han Solo
Apparently The Empire Strikes Back takes place 3 years after A New Hope? I don’t think I ever realized that.
Namir sees Vader use the Force (specifically Force-choke), but doesn’t recognize it for what it is, calling it “nightmare logic”
On that note, after she is Force-choked by Vader, Chalis has difficulty speaking and her whole throat bruises, which I didn’t realize was possible with a Force choke, but then I guess no one ever lives long enough for us to notice that.