Traditionally, when video games bridge the gap to other genres, the results are mixed, and often polarizing. For every Resident Evil: Retribution, there is a Super Mario Bros. to muddy the proverbial waters. Fortunately, Star Wars continues to find new ways to bring storytelling and mythmaking to another … ahem … level. Christie Golden’s Inferno Squad is based on a video game series set in the Star Wars universe, but unlike its predecessors, offers storytelling that functions on its own, and enriches the characters that will appear in the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II.
Inferno Squad centers around Iden Versio, a TIE pilot who is among the very best at what she does. Versio is talented, tough, and smart. She is also fiercely loyal to the Empire, which, like more recent Star Wars novels (Lost Stars, Thrawn, the Zaire Leonis novels, etc.), creates an interesting dynamic. How do you create pathos for a character who fights alongside Darth Vader and the Imperial Armada? The answer: create a dynamic character with a conflicted supporting cast. Versio and her team (Gideon Hask, a friend and rival of Iden Versio; Del Meeko, an expert in technology; and Seyn Marana, ISB agent with an eidetic memory) all believe in the Empire and its version of how to bring peace and prosperity to the galaxy. This philosophy, as well as each of their unique and superior skill sets, unites them into an elite unit, Inferno Squad.
The team is assembled as an immediate response to the destruction of the original Death Star, by Iden’s father, Admiral Garrick Versio. Think of them as a funhouse mirror version of television’s, the A-Team, minus the humor. Inferno Squad’s mission is to root out corruption and espionage within Imperial ranks, in order to prevent future Rogue One type occurrences. In order to ensure success for the glory of the Empire, each of them must go to a very dark place.
Infiltrating Saw Gerrera’s remaining extremist rebel group, the Dreamers, provides the backdrop for the majority of the novel. Versio and her team face many dangers, including a number of internal conflicts I won’t spoil here. As usual, Golden is consistently strong with giving each character a unique and distinct voice, and it’s so strong that, at times, I was not quite sure who to root for. This is the Empire, after all. But, Golden taps into the psyche of each member of Inferno Squad and provides enough information to create solid internal conflict.
Some of the conflicts, however, are resolved so quickly that they feel like missed opportunities, particularly with the demise of specific characters (which I won’t spoil here). The narrative is so strong, and some of these resolutions deserve more attention. They are jarring, but so are the circumstances surrounding some of these ghastly events. After all, this is a dark time for the galaxy, and Golden’s novel reinforces this. Perhaps that was the intent.
Inferno Squad is not an adaptation of a video game, so much as it is a prequel that allows the reader to dive more deeply into these new characters that happen to be featured in the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II. It’s a strong read that will leave you questioning scruples in the fictional galaxy, and how these characters juggle their ethics and their loyalties. How much this novel will enhance the upcoming gameplay is anyone’s guess (since the game does not debut until November 14th), but that is erroneous. As always, Christie Golden’s prose stands on its own as a testament to the strength of her writing, as well as to the gravitas of the Star Wars saga.
3 out of 5
Note: A big thank you to Del Rey for providing an advanced copy to review.Powered by Sidelines