Audiobook Review: Star Wars: Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Series: Star Wars Canon
Publisher: Random House Audio (July 25, 2017)
Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
Taking place in the aftermath of A New Hope with heavy references to the events of Rogue One, this book serves as a prequel for the upcoming video game Star Wars: Battlefront II by providing the backstory for the elite strike team known as Inferno Squad.
Following the theft of the Death Star plans from Scarif which led to the destruction of the orbital battle station, the Empire is itching for retaliation. Iden, the daughter of Admiral Garrick Versio of the Imperial Security Bureau, is tapped to head up a special forces commando unit to hunt down and eliminate the rest of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. The resistance leader might have died on Jedha during the test of the Death Star’s superlaser, but there are still plenty of his followers, dubbing themselves the Dreamers, who have followed in his footsteps. Determined to avoid any more humiliating defeats, the Empire is working to stamp out any and all of these extremist rebels that they can find.
And thus, Inferno Squad was born. Iden Versio, who was one of the few surviving TIE fighter pilots in the Battle of Yavin, is teamed up with three other Imperials at the top of their fields: fellow pilot Gideon Hask, expert engineer Del Meeko, and intelligence agent Seyn Marana. Together, they’re put through a rigorous training regimen to prepare them for a top secret operation to infiltrate the Dreamers and take them down from within. Each squad member is tasked to take on a new identity, with the goal of convincing the enemy to seek them out and take them in. But as time wears on and the demands of their new undercover roles grow, the risk of discovery becomes the greatest threat to the success of their mission. Just how far are the four of them willing to go in order to protect the Empire?
I’ve always been a big fan of Christie Golden’s Star Wars books, but this was definitely not her best. Overall the story was based on a rather flimsy premise and there was a slapdash quality to the manner the plot was pieced together. The entire setup of the novel felt unneeded, for example. Despite Iden’s repeated concerns that she would not be chosen as the team’s leader, we already know that she will be, and as such, Inferno Squad’s first assignment together felt like one long exercise in pointlessness. Using the appropriate analogy, if this book was a video game, then this whole sequence would be the mind-numbing introductory tutorial.
As for their main mission to infiltrate the Dreamers, there were a lot of moving pieces, and with Iden’s cover story being especially thin and risky, I was not entirely convinced that every single one of their plans would have fallen into place so perfectly. We’re also told that the members of Inferno Squad are supposed to be the best of the best, and yet this book was full of examples of their incompetence and slipping up left and right. Going after Dreamers didn’t really make much sense to me either. It was clear what the Empire really wanted was to get revenge on the rebels that stole the Death Star plans, but since they were all either dead or out of reach, Inferno Squad instead decides to go after the remnants of Saw Gerrera’s fan club, also known as the guys that are so radical that even the main Rebel Alliance doesn’t want anything to do with them. It just seemed like the publisher was trying too hard to link this book to Rogue One.
Fortunately though, I loved following the characters of Inferno Squad. This novel joins the growing number of stories in the new canon that have come out recently exploring the inner workings of Empire, emphasizing the fact that they are not one homogenous entity. The leadership aside, most of them are not evil people but are merely regular citizens born on this side of the war. For someone like Iden who was raised on an Imperial planet and was surrounded by the military, the destruction of the Death Star was a holocaust, and the extreme resistance factions like Saw Gerrera and his supporters represent the worst kinds of terrorists in her eyes. While Iden herself subscribes to an ends-justifies-the-means mindset, some of her foe’s tactics are so distasteful that I think many readers will find that it is easier to cheer for Inferno Squad than expected. Of the team, Iden was probably most fleshed out and well-written, but each member also had fascinating backgrounds and personalities and I enjoyed getting to know them all.
When Star Wars: Battlefront II releases in several months, the game’s will take place after Return of the Jedi and focus on Iden, who would have survived to see a second Death Star get destroyed (personally, I would have switched sides or retired to the a quiet corner of the galaxy at this point—clearly the Rebels know something my team doesn’t). It’s unlikely this novel would be a prerequisite for the game, but those who would like to get Iden’s backstory before playing the campaign might wish to check this out. Otherwise, I would probably skip this. While Inferno Squad is by no means a bad book, there are plenty of better canonical Star Wars novels I would rank above it. Recommended only if you follow new canon book releases, or if you have an interest in the Battlefront video game series.
Audiobook Comments: One of the best things about Star Wars audiobooks is that they’ve always got the best actors and actresses to read for them, and it was a great decision to have Janina Gavankar narrate this since she is also portraying Iden Versio in the game. It lends a special touch to this audiobook, and Gavankar’s personal connection to the Battlefront II project is obvious because you can also hear her passion and enthusiasm practically bursting from her voice. It was an excellent performance, and I can’t wait to hear portrayal of Iden in the game.