After all of Rogue Squadron resigns from the New Republic, they are forced to fend for themselves as they fight against Isard. Without the New Republic’s aid, however, this endeavor will be their most difficult yet.
The Bacta War does a great job of wrapping up a lot of plotlines that were started in the previous books: Erisi’s betrayal, the liberation of Thyferra, Corran and Mirax’s relationship, etc. This is to be expected, though, considering Aaron Allston wrote the next three books after this one. If he hadn’t written some sort of conclusion, well – these plot pointed might have vanished, and the X-Wing series might have turned into an early version of a series we all know about.
No… Stop it. GO AWAY! GO AWAY SCATTERED PLOT!
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, The Bacta War. Luckily, this book was a step up from The Krytos Trap, and it offered us a story and setting unique from any previous X-Wing novel. The main difference this time around is that we don’t have the New Republic constantly around, with the politicians that breath down the Rogues’ backs – consistently annoying them, of course – almost completely absent, along with many military figures. Sure, we certainly have people like Wedge and Corran featuring as prominently as they always do, but remember, at the end of The Krytos Trap all of the Rogue Squadron members – save Pash Crackin – resigned. That means that in The Bacta War, they really have actually gone rogue! Get it? Rogue? Rogue Squadron? Yeah…
Anyway, we now see how they operate as an independent force, getting their own supplies, fending for themselves, etc. It offers the readers some great scenes throughout the whole book, really giving us insight as to how everyone works together even without the common factor of the New Republic uniting them.
Not only that, but a new group of characters is covered in this installment of the series, being a vital part to the whole story: The smugglers. Hell yeah. Booster Terrik, Talon Karrde, Huff Darklighter (even if the latter isn’t nearly as cool as the other two, but still)… What a nice dose of awesome. We see the going-ons of their organizations (or, well, Karrde’s organization and the beginning of Booster’s) and it’s really quite glorious. Negotiations and bargaining replace politics in The Bacta War, and even if I may be a fan of the political intrigue in these novels, this was a nice breath of fresh air instead of the usual, “Borsk Fey’lya is a jerk! Ackbar and Leia are nice politicians!”
Plus, the actual characters of Booster and Talon are pretty great too. Of course, reading about them in such detail in this book only makes me sadder that they’re barely ever present nowadays in EU novels, but still. The interaction between Booster and Corran was priceless, providing many humourous moments throughout the whole book. I have to question, however, what sense their relationship made at the end of The Bacta War. For the entire story Booster hates Corran, and then at the conclusion he goes and says, “I was upset when I thought she was marrying someone from CorSec. Now he’s part of Rogue Squadron again, so I have no complaints.” Erm. What? How does that make sense after everything else during the ENTIRE course of the novel?! Stop it book! Stop trying to give us dumb ending dialogue just for the sake of a happy, humourous ending! I’m having YJK flashbacks… Oh the horror. THE HORROR!
Along with the smugglers, we also witness the fleshing out of another group of characters: The Imperials. DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN…. (Yeah, if you didn’t figure it out, that was my text rendition of the Imperial theme. I know, I’m not good at text-humming) Whereas before we pretty much only got Kirtan Loor as far as major Imperials went (well, and Isard, but I can’t recall her ever getting her own POV scene before The Bacta War). This time around, however, we have loads of these guys, with characters previously established getting some well deserved page time: Ysanne Isard, Flirry Vorru, Sair Yonka, Erisi Dlarit – the attention given to these characters was indeed very welcome. We even got to see further evidence of just how evil – and crazy – Isard is, examples of this being how candidly she orders the massacre of the Halanit colony or the execution of peoples’ families. In previous novels Isard never really got the page time she deserved and needed; sure, she was often present, but we always saw her through the eyes of someone else – and then it was almost always Kirtan Loor, a character I was never a fan of to begin with. Now, however, she’s given as much attention as the main antagonist should be treated to. Now we can really know just how loony she is!
The Bacta War also offered some great twists and turns, including one surprise that really reminded me of Heroes. I’m not actually sure if this is a good or bad thing considering how that show turned out. *shudders* But… Well, it is what it is, I suppose. On a similar note, there was another note-worthy surprise in the book, but this one wasn’t quite as good or well done as the Heroes-esque one I just mentioned: The death of another Rogue member. The problem? It was skimmed over so much I had to re-read the sentence to make sure I was right, and not only that, but then the death was never mentioned again! Not ONCE. Go ahead and read the book if you don’t believe me. I’m right. I found this utterly ridiculous, considering this wasn’t just some throwaway character – they were a full-blown Rogue, and therefore pretty important to the story. Would you please stop skimming over deaths, Stackpole? Please?
To fix that problem, though, he’d have to also fix the problem of skimming over many characters to begin with. Take, for example, Inyri Forge. Remember her from a couple of books ago? Yeah, I’ll wait a minute while you struggle to recall her. She’s gotten about zero development at this point. What makes that so sad is that her character, if Stackpole had bothered to give her any attention at all, could’ve easily been developed more so than she is now, if only through talking to someone like Corran about her sister’s death and maybe her coming to terms with it. Missed opportunities make me a sad Mizz.
Ultimately, however, even if I do have a couple of complaints, The Bacta War is probably one of my favorites of the series so far, and a huge improvement from The Krytos Trap. I’m definitely curious to see what direction the X-Wing series will take with Allston having written the next few books after this one; is Stackpole’s novels are any indication, they should have some pretty great quality to them, but I guess we’ll just have to see.
Originally posted at NJOE