Many stories end abruptly with our heroes achieving their goal. The girl marries the Prince, the good guys win the fight. We all know that in real life stories don’t actually end, they carry on regardless whether you got married or now sport a medal. At the end of The Return of the Jedi you would be mistaken in thinking that with the death of The Emperor it was all going to be Ewoks and roses. As the later films suggest, this was not the case. How can the relatively small New Republic tackle all the Empire troops that refuse to give in?
The Battle for Endor was meant to be the end of the Imperial Army, but instead it just fractured into a hundred pieces. Even in victory the New Republic are disorganised, so who are they going to call on to help clear up some of the remaining Imperial troops? Their usual discourse is to gather a ragtag bunch of Rebels, but now you also have a clutch of former Imperial fighters who “aren’t that bad”. Can this diverse group form a cohesive unit to locate and subdue the mysterious Shadow Wing?
Stepping into the world of Star Wars is always a joy, but creating new characters and situations highlights some of the pitfalls that can befall you. The likes of Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi are second nature, but take a step back and think about it – they are odd names. Alexander Freed has been given the tricky task in Alphabet Squadron of creating a whole new set of characters and with that, a whole new set of names. Will the likes of Yrica Quell become household names too?
By the end of the book – the answer is possibly. Like any part of a new series Freed has to introduce the characters and as the Alphabet Squadron themselves only receive that name towards the latter part there are a lot of characters that we meet that are required to die before we know who the final pilots will be. For 200 pages or so, it can be a little tricky working out who has died in a particular firefight.
As things settle down and we have established characters, the story is allowed to thrive. The book is at its best when concentrating on the nominal lead, Quell. We are able to see the world of the New Republic through the eyes of a fighter who was an Imperial pilot only a few months earlier. Freed is excellent at suggesting that just because you fight for the enemy it does not mean that you are entrenched in their beliefs. There are also some great moments as the Squadron begin to bond. It is interesting to see that Quell decides to step back to allow the others to bond without her as a benefit for the Squadron as a whole.
Alphabet is set just after the events of Jedi and it paints an interesting hinterland of power vacuums across the galaxy. Rogue Imperial Generals have taken over areas of space, whilst many ground troops have handed themselves in. What do you do with cities full of former Imperial Troops? One of the great things about Star Wars is how cobbled together and dusty the world feels. Freed is able to capture this sense of shade and shows that this is not a simple case of them and us.
As a start to the series Alphabet takes a little while to bed down as you have to bring the various characters together to form the new Squadron, but once it does you are in for some of the best written space bound dogfights that the series has to offer. The finale is not only an epic battle, but a reminder that when a war is over you still need to find a way to live together. By combining fun Star Wars action with some interesting post war analysis Freed has created the start of what looks like an intriguing series to follow.
Written on 27th June 2019 by Sam Tyler.
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