Christie Golden delivers our first look into Inferno Squad, the protagonists (antagonists?) of the upcoming triple-A game, Star Wars: Battlefront II. Should we be sympathetic to The Empire’s cause? Or is this just another look into the minds of some of The Empire’s sharpest and most devious? Well, the answer falls somewhere between those two in Battlefront II: Inferno Squad.
THE REBELLION WAS BUILT ON HOPE. THE EMPIRE HAS INFERNO SQUAD.
Since Mickey Mouse took over as the boss of all things Star Wars, we’ve received a good amount of material in the forms of books, comics, and even to a point, films that have shed some light on the perspective of the bad guys. Until that point, it had been all Rebels all the time. Now, we have begun to see what day-to-day life is like in The Empire, and even some of the struggles of the villains from The First Order. Inferno Squad doesn’t serve to change our minds or justify all that the evil Empire has done, but it does a good job of showing us that, much like with Finn in The Force Awakens, there’s a human inside every Storm Trooper helmet.
Reeling after the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the embarrassing defeat at the battles of Scarif & Yavin, along with the first Death Star’s destruction, The Empire sets out to make sure nothing like the treachery of Galen Erso’s sabotage happens ever again. The upcoming video game, Battlefront II, takes place after the destruction of the second Death Star, so there’s certainly a gap between the novel and the game. So, how does The Empire plan to combat and squeeze out any potential threats?
Enter Inferno Squad.
A high ranking Imperial official named Garrick Versio sets forth to put together a team of individuals with complimentary strengths. Consisting of Gideon Hask, Del Meeko, Seyn Marana, and Garrick’s daughter Iden, the team is built in an effort to keep leaks at a minimum and to squash any potential threats to The Empire or its members.
The novel starts out strong, has a pedestrian middle third or so, and finishes with a bit of momentum. I wanted to know about the characters that I’ll be spending time with, interacting with, and playing as come November 17. Golden does a nice job of giving each a unique identity to varying degrees. Iden Versio is obviously the star, and her story and motivations are complex and fairly typical of what we would come to expect in a Star Wars story; an imperfect relationship between a father and his child. When Iden is named commander of the squad, I immediately knew that it wasn’t due to any assumed partiality from Garrick. Rather, it was due to Iden’s abilities and pedigree in being the best option and person for the job.
Golden establishes what it’s like to be a young cadet or trooper in The Empire’s prime, and not just that, but how they truly view the Rebels. All my life, the Rebel Alliance was the good side, the one set to bring down the evil Empire and their treacherous ways. Storm Troopers and even Clone Troopers felt like bots, willing to follow the Emperor without any question. Golden makes it clear that these are human beings, who have feelings, emotions, doubts, and perspective.
The Inferno Squad is tasked with shutting down a group named The Dreamers, who are one of the last remnants of Saw Gerrera’s more extreme rebels. I’ve been impressed with how often Gerrera has popped up in Star Wars lore, from his debut on The Clone Wars Animated Series, to Rogue One, to Rebels, and more. He was, after all, a character that stemmed from the mind of George Lucas. The Dreamers are a group that has consistently attacked The Empire at several not-so-well documented events, and Imperials have begun to wonder what the connection is.
That connection is ultimately a weak one, as there’s no complete closure on what or who the mole truly is. It felt like a cop-out, which is simply unacceptable. Other characters such as The Mentor have nice ties to previous Star Wars lore, but never fully feel like they earned a nickname that left them so anonymous. There are high expectations with anything Star Wars, so leaving things to ambiguity makes it feel like the author either ran out of time or couldn’t make up their mind and decided to frame it as a “we’ll leave it up to you, reader!” kind of thing. I believe it was the latter.
The star of the story is Iden as I had mentioned, but my favorite moments in the entire book had to do with Iden & Garrick’s interactions. It’s no spoiler to tell you that things are strained between Garrick and Iden, because, well, give me one successful parent-child relationship in Star Wars. There’s even one moment in the story in which Iden is forced to lie to help keep her cover, and she references her father, noting that there’s a bit of truth in every lie. Masterful writing on this portion of the book, with raw emotion and passion.
Battlefront II: Inferno Squad sets it self apart from other recent Star Wars novels while finding a good balance in placing itself in a relatively uncovered gap in Star Wars lore between A New Hope & The Empire Strikes Back. It belongs in the universe and if nothing else, I feel very prepared for Battlefront II’s campaign. While it doesn’t hold up to the excitement or quality of stories like Lost Stars or Bloodline,Inferno Squad is a good read, particularly if you are planning to pick up the game this Friday.
+ Iden Versio is a protagonist worth caring about, and a strong “villain.”
+ Iden & Garrick Versio’s relationship.
+ Seeing the inner workings of The Empire and Inferno Squad.
+ Humanizes Imperials while establishing their perspective on the Rebellion.
– Inconsistent pacing features a strong start, a mediocre middle third, and a finish just good enough to close out the story in a satisfying manner.
Check out other Star Wars coverage in the lead-up to Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s founder. You can catch him on Twitter, counting down the days until Star Wars: The Last Jedi (hint: it’s one month exactly).
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