The Stolen Data Tapes
X-wing: Iron Fist by Aaron Allston (1998, Bantam)
Iron Fist, the sixth book in the X-wing series and the second by Aaron Allston featuring Wraith Squadron, picks up events shortly after Wraith Squadron’s first big success, the destruction of the Imperial Star Destroyer Implacable, in the last book. In this volume, the Wraiths continue their campaign against Warlord Zsinj.

Because the warlord is a rogue element in the galaxy (ironically similar to how the Rebel Alliance was prior to Palpatine’s death and the later capture of Coruscant), he often hires space pirates and mercenaries to help fill out his forces and do his bidding. The “A” plot of this novel deals with the Wraiths forming a pirate band called the “Hawk-bats” as a means to infiltrate Zsinj’s forces and find a way to sabotage the warlord’s flagship—the Super Star Destroyer Iron Fist.

The stakes are not all that have increased in this novel. Allston also ups the ante in terms of characters and character moments. The Wraiths introduced in the previous book continue to endear themselves to me.

Garik “Face” Loran and Ton Phanan have a prankster/goofball dynamic that I found delightfully reminiscent of the chemistry between “Hawkeye” Pierce and Trapper John from M*A*S*H. This, of course, also puts them in great company with the squadron’s other court jester, Wes Janson. As I said in Monday’s review, it took me a little longer to warm up to the Wraiths than it did the Rogues, but by the time this novel began, Allston had sold them to me as fully realized characters that I wished I could spend time with myself.

Also of interest is the primary villain of this three-book cycle, Warlord Zsinj.



Zsinj first appeared in Dave Wolverton’s 1994 novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia. That novel takes place chronologically after the seventh X-wing book, and features Zsinj as a secondary antagonist. While Zsinj’s presence is felt throughout that novel, he only appears on the page once or twice, and not much is revealed about his personality.

Allston writes Zsinj as a practical and ruthless man who hides behind a superficial and flamboyant mask in an effort to trick his enemies into underestimating him. Despite repeated setbacks, he seems to maintain a detached, reasonable perspective. These traits make him a great foil for Wedge and, in the next book, for Han. The characters share practicality and determination in common, but Zsinj’s affectations and craving for power sharply contrast with the down-to-earth nature of the other two men.

I found the most intriguing character in this one to be Gara Petothel/Lara Notsil.



Petothel was on the crew of the Implacable and escaped before it blew. She subsequently hides behind a false identity on Coruscant until she can contact Zsinj’s fleet. Petothel eventually finds herself in Wraith Squadron as Zinj’s operative, but has a drastic change of heart and mind. Her struggle to become one of the Wraiths while simultaneously hiding her dark secret from them was the most fascinating element of this book for me.
There’s a good deal of death in this one, including the demise of one of my favorites mentioned above (an excellent scene that almost made me tear up). Allston keeps this balanced, though, with great moments like silly-looking horse person Hohass Ekwesh organizing a formal dance for the squadron.

Iron Fist easily contains some of the best moments of the entire X-wing series—and that includes the Rogue Squadron books, which I generally prefer to the Wraith novels. In my estimation, this one alone would make books five through seven worth checking out.

Check back here on Friday for my review of Solo Command.

X-wing: Iron Fist by Aaron Allston (1998, Bantam)

Iron Fist, the sixth book in the X-wing series and the second by Aaron Allston featuring Wraith Squadron, picks up events shortly after Wraith Squadron’s first big success, the destruction of the Imperial Star Destroyer Implacable, in the last book. In this volume, the Wraiths continue their campaign against Warlord Zsinj.

Because the warlord is a rogue element in the galaxy (ironically similar to how the Rebel Alliance was prior to Palpatine’s death and the later capture of Coruscant), he often hires space pirates and mercenaries to help fill out his forces and do his bidding. The “A” plot of this novel deals with the Wraiths forming a pirate band called the “Hawk-bats” as a means to infiltrate Zsinj’s forces and find a way to sabotage the warlord’s flagship—the Super Star Destroyer Iron Fist.

The stakes are not all that have increased in this novel. Allston also ups the ante in terms of characters and character moments. The Wraiths introduced in the previous book continue to endear themselves to me.

Garik “Face” Loran and Ton Phanan have a prankster/goofball dynamic that I found delightfully reminiscent of the chemistry between “Hawkeye” Pierce and Trapper John from M*A*S*H. This, of course, also puts them in great company with the squadron’s other court jester, Wes Janson. As I said in Monday’s review, it took me a little longer to warm up to the Wraiths than it did the Rogues, but by the time this novel began, Allston had sold them to me as fully realized characters that I wished I could spend time with myself.

Also of interest is the primary villain of this three-book cycle, Warlord Zsinj.

Zsinj first appeared in Dave Wolverton’s 1994 novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia. That novel takes place chronologically after the seventh X-wing book, and features Zsinj as a secondary antagonist. While Zsinj’s presence is felt throughout that novel, he only appears on the page once or twice, and not much is revealed about his personality.

Allston writes Zsinj as a practical and ruthless man who hides behind a superficial and flamboyant mask in an effort to trick his enemies into underestimating him. Despite repeated setbacks, he seems to maintain a detached, reasonable perspective. These traits make him a great foil for Wedge and, in the next book, for Han. The characters share practicality and determination in common, but Zsinj’s affectations and craving for power sharply contrast with the down-to-earth nature of the other two men.

I found the most intriguing character in this one to be Gara Petothel/Lara Notsil.

Petothel was on the crew of the Implacable and escaped before it blew. She subsequently hides behind a false identity on Coruscant until she can contact Zsinj’s fleet. Petothel eventually finds herself in Wraith Squadron as Zinj’s operative, but has a drastic change of heart and mind. Her struggle to become one of the Wraiths while simultaneously hiding her dark secret from them was the most fascinating element of this book for me.

There’s a good deal of death in this one, including the demise of one of my favorites mentioned above (an excellent scene that almost made me tear up). Allston keeps this balanced, though, with great moments like silly-looking horse person Hohass Ekwesh organizing a formal dance for the squadron.

Iron Fist easily contains some of the best moments of the entire X-wing series—and that includes the Rogue Squadron books, which I generally prefer to the Wraith novels. In my estimation, this one alone would make books five through seven worth checking out.

Check back here on Friday for my review of Solo Command.

X-wing: The Bacta War by Michael A. Stackpole (1997, Bantam)
Michael A. Stackpole’s fourth X-wing novel follows Rogue Squadron, now disassociated with the New Republic, waging a guerilla war against Ysanne Isard, now the despotic ruler of Thyferra, primary provider of the healing agent known as bacta. As they gather resources, including a space station and a new squadron of X-wings, their new modus operandi is to ambush a shipment from Thyferra, steal its cargo, and deliver it to a world that needs it.
The Bacta War returns to the slightly more episodic, “series-of-missions” story structure present in the first book, Rogue Squadron. While present in the three previous books as well, Stackpole really emphasizes the strategy elements of these conflicts. We never forget that Wedge, Corran, and the rest of the Rogues are hotshot pilots, but the outcome of each battle is often determined beforehand, depending on which side is one step ahead in its planning. Particularly in prose (as opposed to movies or comics), this is a good thing. I love a good space battle, but it’s far more engaging for the reader if the stakes and strategies surrounding it are made clear.
This book is full of great character moments and conflicts. Initially, Corran struggles with having come so far from being a member of CorSec—a Corellian cop—to, at least in methodology, a pirate. After his escape from Lusankya, Corran began a serious relationship with Mirax, now complicated after running into Booster Terrik, Mirax’s father. The old smuggler doesn’t approve at all of her daughter’s relationship with the son of Hal Horn, the man who sent Booster to Kessel. To top it all off for Corran, he’s still getting used to the fact that his grandfather was a Jedi Knight, and that all that “luck” Corran thought he had was the Force.
It’s rewarding to finally see Tycho fly an armed ship with the squadron, given that he’d been restricted from doing so for the rest of the series. We also see him make a trip to “The Graveyard,” the asteroid cluster that is all that’s left of Alderaan. This chapter, in which he pays his respects to the people he lost, is one of the most moving sequences I’ve ever read in a Star Wars novel.
Ooryl Qrygg, one of my favorite members of the team, is visited by two other Gand warriors. The reason for their presence is left mysterious throughout the book, but we later discover that they were evaluating Ooryl and his accomplishments. Given those accomplishments, it is decided that Ooryl is worthy of a special legendary status that, among other things, permits him to use personal pronouns when referring to himself.
On the planet Thyferra, Corran’s former CorSec partner, Iella Wessiri is paired with a new character, Elscol Loro, to help the subjugated Vratix natives rebel against the human aristocracy. Several ethical issues are discussed, as Elscol’s take-no-prisoners tactics clash with Iella’s desire to preserve as many lives as possible.
The protagonists are handled exceptionally well in this book, but I feel that this one is somewhat lacking in its treatment of the Imperial characters. Fliry Vorru is interesting enough as the eternally conniving backstabber, but his boss, Ysanne Isard, is much less formidable this time out. This appears to be intentional; Isard, used to backdoor scheming and virtually unlimited resources, can’t handle the direct fight the Rogues are bringing to her. This is plausible, but she makes some mistakes that, it seems to me, the character I met three books ago wouldn’t make. At one point, Vorru even speculates that she might be losing her marbles. The biggest problem with this is that, at times, it feels very apparent that Isard’s defeat is inevitable.
Erisi Dlarit is now the leader of a TIE Interceptor squadron and flies against the Rogues on a couple of occasions. This is only right, given her previous betrayal of the squadron, but I would have liked to have gotten into her head more. How exactly does she feel about her time in Rogue Squadron? Does she harbor any romantic attachment to Corran, still?
Of course, I don’t want to make it sound as if I’m complaining that much. Both Erisi and Isard’s final confrontations with Corran during the book’s final battle are very rewarding. Stackpole has Corran get on the comm with both of them so that they can trade taunts, and both victories—especially Erisi’s demise—are very much poetic justice. Despite any fault I might find with certain aspects of it, The Bacta War is a fitting, very satisfying conclusion to a fantastic story that ranks among, if not at the top of, my favorite Star Wars books.
The X-wing series continues with three books following the adventures of Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston, and then two others, one by Stackpole and the other by Allston (with one more still on the way in July of next year, according to Wookiepedia). I’m choosing to review those later, however, as they constitute an entirely new story arc.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed a week of reviews, and even more, I hope you’ll check out the X-wing series if you haven’t already. Have a good weekend, and join me again on Monday for one more review before my Floridian vacation.

X-wing: The Bacta War by Michael A. Stackpole (1997, Bantam)

Michael A. Stackpole’s fourth X-wing novel follows Rogue Squadron, now disassociated with the New Republic, waging a guerilla war against Ysanne Isard, now the despotic ruler of Thyferra, primary provider of the healing agent known as bacta. As they gather resources, including a space station and a new squadron of X-wings, their new modus operandi is to ambush a shipment from Thyferra, steal its cargo, and deliver it to a world that needs it.

The Bacta War returns to the slightly more episodic, “series-of-missions” story structure present in the first book, Rogue Squadron. While present in the three previous books as well, Stackpole really emphasizes the strategy elements of these conflicts. We never forget that Wedge, Corran, and the rest of the Rogues are hotshot pilots, but the outcome of each battle is often determined beforehand, depending on which side is one step ahead in its planning. Particularly in prose (as opposed to movies or comics), this is a good thing. I love a good space battle, but it’s far more engaging for the reader if the stakes and strategies surrounding it are made clear.

This book is full of great character moments and conflicts. Initially, Corran struggles with having come so far from being a member of CorSec—a Corellian cop—to, at least in methodology, a pirate. After his escape from Lusankya, Corran began a serious relationship with Mirax, now complicated after running into Booster Terrik, Mirax’s father. The old smuggler doesn’t approve at all of her daughter’s relationship with the son of Hal Horn, the man who sent Booster to Kessel. To top it all off for Corran, he’s still getting used to the fact that his grandfather was a Jedi Knight, and that all that “luck” Corran thought he had was the Force.

It’s rewarding to finally see Tycho fly an armed ship with the squadron, given that he’d been restricted from doing so for the rest of the series. We also see him make a trip to “The Graveyard,” the asteroid cluster that is all that’s left of Alderaan. This chapter, in which he pays his respects to the people he lost, is one of the most moving sequences I’ve ever read in a Star Wars novel.

Ooryl Qrygg, one of my favorite members of the team, is visited by two other Gand warriors. The reason for their presence is left mysterious throughout the book, but we later discover that they were evaluating Ooryl and his accomplishments. Given those accomplishments, it is decided that Ooryl is worthy of a special legendary status that, among other things, permits him to use personal pronouns when referring to himself.

On the planet Thyferra, Corran’s former CorSec partner, Iella Wessiri is paired with a new character, Elscol Loro, to help the subjugated Vratix natives rebel against the human aristocracy. Several ethical issues are discussed, as Elscol’s take-no-prisoners tactics clash with Iella’s desire to preserve as many lives as possible.

The protagonists are handled exceptionally well in this book, but I feel that this one is somewhat lacking in its treatment of the Imperial characters. Fliry Vorru is interesting enough as the eternally conniving backstabber, but his boss, Ysanne Isard, is much less formidable this time out. This appears to be intentional; Isard, used to backdoor scheming and virtually unlimited resources, can’t handle the direct fight the Rogues are bringing to her. This is plausible, but she makes some mistakes that, it seems to me, the character I met three books ago wouldn’t make. At one point, Vorru even speculates that she might be losing her marbles. The biggest problem with this is that, at times, it feels very apparent that Isard’s defeat is inevitable.

Erisi Dlarit is now the leader of a TIE Interceptor squadron and flies against the Rogues on a couple of occasions. This is only right, given her previous betrayal of the squadron, but I would have liked to have gotten into her head more. How exactly does she feel about her time in Rogue Squadron? Does she harbor any romantic attachment to Corran, still?

Of course, I don’t want to make it sound as if I’m complaining that much. Both Erisi and Isard’s final confrontations with Corran during the book’s final battle are very rewarding. Stackpole has Corran get on the comm with both of them so that they can trade taunts, and both victories—especially Erisi’s demise—are very much poetic justice. Despite any fault I might find with certain aspects of it, The Bacta War is a fitting, very satisfying conclusion to a fantastic story that ranks among, if not at the top of, my favorite Star Wars books.

The X-wing series continues with three books following the adventures of Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston, and then two others, one by Stackpole and the other by Allston (with one more still on the way in July of next year, according to Wookiepedia). I’m choosing to review those later, however, as they constitute an entirely new story arc.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed a week of reviews, and even more, I hope you’ll check out the X-wing series if you haven’t already. Have a good weekend, and join me again on Monday for one more review before my Floridian vacation.