We Are Probably Not Ready For Inferno Squad, And That's A Good Thing (Kyle's Non-Spoiler Review) - Star Wars News Net | Star Wars News Net
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We Are Probably Not Ready For Inferno Squad, And That’s A Good Thing (Kyle’s Non-Spoiler Review)

inferno squad cover

What Christie Golden has done with Battlefront II: Inferno Squad is tell a truly unique story that will catch many Star Wars fans off-guard. I was not ready for a story quite like this, but by the time I got to the last sentence, I felt I experienced one of the best Star Wars stories to date. There’s no daring rescues, no epic lightsaber battles, and no noble cause. There’s no good versus evil. This is a story about people, driven by an unspoken righteousness, that pushes them to the brink of where good intentions and villainy meet. This is a story that will touch something in everyone who has ever tried to empathize with someone on the opposite side of their morality.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, the star of Inferno Squad is its leader, Iden Versio. Though the rest of the Inferno Squad is given attention, it’s really through Iden that we experience the events of this novel. Iden is a true patriot of the Empire, while still maintaining a moral lining all of us can identify with. It would be easy to point to Iden’s upbringing as the root to such unwavering patriotism. Iden’s father is a distinguished admiral and her mother an accomplished artist who helped create Imperial propaganda. This pedigree certainly planted the seeds of Iden’s loyalty, but it’s made very clear in the first pages of this book she has come to those terms on her own.

 

inferno squad- iden

 

Iden Versio is a survivor. In the opening of Inferno Squad, we learn she is an exceptional pilot who tried to fend off the Rebel assault on the first Death Star. As much as we’ve seen the different paths leading up to the construction and eventual destruction of the Death Star, Iden’s is a unique point. She survives the destruction of the Death Star, just barely, and is emboldened to do whatever she can to bring down the terrorists responsible. To Iden, this is not just a tremendous military loss for the Empire. The loss of life, hundreds of millions of her fellow soldiers, is what burns Iden up. As she considers the destruction of a peaceful planet like Alderaan a necessary act to prevent more people from flocking to the Rebel Alliance, the destruction of the Death Star gives her moral ammunition to do whatever it takes to bring down a rebellion that is spreading through the galaxy like wildfire. Iden also carries guilt for having survived when so many of her soldiers lost their lives.

 

I’m trying to stay away from spoilers here, and I wholeheartedly believe the less you know what to expect from this novel the more you will enjoy it. So, if you get the sense I’m tiptoeing around the plot, it’s for the sake of your reading experience.

 

In the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin, Iden returns to Coruscant a hero. We learn her father, Admiral Garrick Versio, has taken it upon himself to create an elite squad of operatives to conduct highly-classified infiltration operations against different cells of the rebellion. The destruction of the Death Star is not only fresh in his mind, but the Imperial loss at Scarif has proven the Rebel Alliance is a viable threat to the Empire’s rule. Iden and her father have a cold, formal relationship. The only reason Iden is considered to join this squad is because of her accomplishments, not because of her father. We learn she actually resents him for putting her in the position where others may think she is being shown favoritism.

 

The Inferno Squad is created and after the members are assessed, it’s clear Iden is the one who will lead them. Among the company are Gideon Hask, Del Meeko, and Seyn Marana. Each of them has a special talent that will be useful when it comes time to infiltrating the rebel alliance. Their abilities cover piloting, mechanics, and codebreaking. Gideon Hask has known Iden Versio for years and they are friends. Del Meeko is a capable engineer who seems genuinely honored to be among the company. Seyn Marana has military training, but her work for the Empire has been mostly from an analytical standpoint. Her eidetic memory– think of it as an extreme photographic memory –is the most unique of the Inferno Squad’s crew.

 

 

As the team assembles, one thing you will notice is that they are all unwavering in their loyalty to the Empire. As I continued reading, I felt myself developing a strange admiration for their absolute focus on protecting what they believed is right. There is a little bit of ego that peeks out in a few chapters, but I came away from this novel with the impression these are all selfless soldiers, willing to die to protect the Empire. These soldiers would consider it an honor to die for the Empire, because they believe there can only be peace under it’s banner. These are not bloodthirsty bucket heads, eagerly anticipating the chance to go out and blast rebels. These are intelligent, complete people who have made the choice to put their lives forth in service to the Empire. Killing is only another tool in their arsenal against the Rebel Alliance. They aren’t afraid to use it, but they know there are bigger things in play that blasters can’t solve.

 

After a fairly straightforward first assignment, the Inferno Squad is tasked with going after a new cell in the rebellion that has risen in the ashes of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. They call themselves the Dreamers, and they are willing to go to extremes to fight the Empire. The extremism of the Dreamers seems to be at the forefront of the Empire’s concerns. Due to the precision of their attacks, the Empire believes they have someone on the inside leaking information. The Inferno Squad hatches an elaborate plan to infiltrate their organization. The plan works and the Inferno Squad pose as new members of the Dreamers.

 

Director Krennic oversees the destruction of Jedha City in Rogue One

 

It should be noted that Inferno Squad is almost as much the Dreamer’s story as it is the titular squadron’s. The events of Rogue One are still very much fresh in the minds of the Dreamers’ leaders. They rarely mention the Death Star as a victory, and are more focused on the atrocities of Jedha and Alderaan. They understand this is a war, but they feel the civilian casualties from the Empire’s attacks is what gives them license for such extreme measures. Sure, the Death Star is a huge victory, but the Dreamers are more determined to make the Empire (and those loyal to it) suffer. They want retribution, and as you meet each member of their cell, you see they have all experienced terrible, personal losses. This is a group unafraid of getting their hands dirty, no matter what the cost. They are playing the long game against the Empire, and have little use for anyone who is unwilling to go to the extremes they are.

 

The members of Inferno Squad each have someone within the Dreamers they foster a friendship with. Iden certainly has the most unique role that the Dreamers hoist her into. As she becomes something of a mouthpiece for the Dreamers, declaring their message across the galaxy, she has the most potential for movement of the moral compass. Iden experiences and hears stories of the Empire that would make anyone question what they are doing. The whole time I read these chapters I wondered how exactly her conscience worked and came to the conclusion Iden will not be moved by anyone but herself.

 

As the Inferno Squad go about trying to find how the Dreamers are getting their information and from whom, a new attack on the Empire begins to formulate in the cell. This is an attack that would scorch the earth of any government, and is controversial even within the ranks of extremism the Dreamers hold. Iden and the squad are under orders not to interfere, no matter how terrible the attacks they uncover, as their mission is solely to locate where the Dreamers are getting their Imperial information. The Inferno Squad is faced with a difficult reality they must watch this atrocity be carried out against the Empire.

 

In the aftermath of the Dreamers’ assault (I’m not going to tell you the outcome), the Inferno Squad’s infiltration is nearly exposed. This forces them to expedite their operation, as they have learned the Dreamers are no fools, and especially brutal to any Imperial they take prisoner. The Inferno Squad regard Imperial torture tactics as clinical and clean. The Dreamers use torture as well, but the Inferno Squad knows it’s especially horrific and barbaric, and none of them believe they would hold up under it. As soon as events unwind that risk exposing them, they turn their mindset to survival, while still hoping to accomplish the mission.

 

Iden and her father as seen in the Battlefront II trailer

 

The climax of Inferno Squad is really something I can’t get into without spoiling it. As this is a non-spoiler review, I will refrain, though I will tell you I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished the book. It’s an ending that I will be thinking about for a while. Everything I felt I learned about the characters, Inferno Squad and Dreamers, was scattered in the matter of a few pages. It’s a satisfying ending, but it leaves nothing settled. I’m anticipating how fellow readers will digest it and I can’t wait to read other reviews or comments about the impression Inferno Squad left on them. Like I said, it’s still on my mind, and will be for a while.

 

I don’t imagine this novel and EA’s Battlefront II will be the last we hear of Inferno Squad. Christie Golden has certainly set the bar very high with this novel. There are four years of stories to tell between this novel and the upcoming video game. Give us more novels, comics, and I’d even go so far as to suggest some sort of live action depiction of the Inferno Squad. These characters have been so well realized in the pages it’s hard to imagine any Star Wars fan who would not want to learn more. I’m not a gamer, but I will certainly be borrowing time on my stepson’s PS4 to get more Inferno Squad when Battlefront II is released.

 

 

Put aside any premonitions you may have before opening this book. I’m very glad I did. What I came away with was a vivid, unique Star Wars experience. If anyone feels that the new Star Wars canon is “playing it safe” or in anyway “cookie cutter”, I would strongly advise them to read this novel.

 

Christie Golden delivered a story I had a hell of a lot of fun reading, while still challenging my conceptions of morality. Each character brought forward in Inferno Squad is making their way through a galaxy divided in stark contrasts of good and evil. In their own way, they ignore the battle between the dark and the light, and find their own victories by surviving to walk in the gray another day. This novel embodies one of my favorite lines in the Star Wars lore:  “There are heroes on both sides.”

 

If you’ve been on the sidelines of Star Wars novels, or are still not crazy with the reboot, I think this may be the novel to get you back in the game. I have no complaints. The story moves very fast, but nothing is sacrificed in terms of plot and character development. This story is a very contained one, but it’s hard to imagine the events of Inferno Squad won’t stick with Iden and company. Get out to your local bookstore as soon as you can and get your hands on a copy of this. The hours I spent in this story, escaping from the real world, are some of the best I’ve had in the Star Wars Universe. If this is a sign of what’s to come in the future of Star Wars storytelling, we should all be thankful and hop on board.

 

Score: 10/10 stars

 

 

Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he’s not running trails, he’s reading and writing.

 

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