Alphabet Squadron is the latest book I am reviewing in the new canon Star Wars Universe. The novel is written by Alexander Freed who has written a number of stories set in the Old Republic-verse. He also wrote the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novelization. Alexander Freed manages, with Alphabet Squadron, to create a hard-boiled fighter pilot story. Think of it as Top Gun meets Battlestar Galactica.
A year after the Battle of Endor
Alphabet Squadron is set about a year after the Battle of Endor. The Rebel Alliance is slowly transforming into the New Republic and the Empire is decaying. But it all comes in in the cost of bloodshed. Alphabet Squadron focuses on a group of pilots who as the name of the novel suggests fly an assortment of spacecraft. Alphabet Squadron depicts a story faithful to the established Star Wars lore. The author found no need to suddenly pull new superweapons out of the Disney bag of tricks. The novel is as such more reserved – and I like that.
Invoking emotions of war
Alphabet Squadron tries to invoke varying emotions in its reader. The novel details the horrors of war as seen through the first-person view of each of the pilots characters. But the author goes further, people are rarely honest with themselves and the characters make for unreliable narrators – to a degree.
Take Yrica Quell for example. She served as a pilot for the Empire, in the 204th Wing in fact. She defected only after the battle of Endor and the death of Emperor Palpatine. In the novel she claims to the reader how she wanted to become a rebel even in her teens. Yet, she never found an opportunity to do so. The reader might develop some sympathy for her plight, but the reader would also question if she is perhaps too opportunistic.
Alphabet Squadron is dark
Alphabet Squadron is a dark book, a lot of people die – it gives an impression of what can be expected from a total war scenario. The survivors of the major engagements described in the books don’t want to create attachments to any replacements. The survivors develop strange rituals and are quick to be suspicious of outsiders.
All this gives the novel a realistic feel more akin to the Battlestar Galactica remake or The Expanse. It also means that the novels since Disney has rebooted the franchise are all over the map concerning warfare. Novels such as the Captain Phasma origin story and Dark Disciple featuring Asajj Ventress are also dark, but many others are the opposite.
Now there are a number of downsides to the story. I had some difficulty telling apart the lead characters. Yrica Quell is not so difficult to distinguish but her emotions and actions at times make sudden leaps. It is not until a third of the way into the books that I got a firmer grip on the story, and it took even longer to understand the characters. At times Alphabet Squadron can be confusing.
There are plenty more characters in Alphabet Squadron: Wyl Lark, Nath Tencent are just two. They also have a intelligence officer called Adan who supervises their operations against the Imperial squadron they are hunting down. Adan is a complicated character, A cynical person might argue he gets the job done, but a morally included person cannot help but find the flaws.
Alphabet Squadron as such never makes it easy on its reader, and that ensures I give this novel the thumbs up.