AUDIO REVIEW: Rogue Squadron, by Michael A. Stackpole

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  • Book One of the Rogue Squadron series
  • Part of the Expanded Universe/Legends Canon
  • This Audio version released in 2021
  • Performed by Marc Thompson
  • 12hrs 6mins in length
  • Military SF
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rogue Squadron. The legendary pilots of the Rebellion, whose very name strikes fear into the remnants of the Empire. Veteran of two Death Star runs, Wedge Antilles now recruits the next generation of heroes. But can they live up to the squadron’s reputation . . ?

Back in the day, the X-Wing novels were some of the first Star Wars novels I read. Michael A. Stackpole and the late Aaron Allston created a corner of the Expanded universe where Sith and Jedi weren’t really a feature. While Luke Sywalker and the other famous faces had their own battles, Wedge Antilles and a host of original characters were getting down and dirty with the Imperial Remnant. Names like Tycho Celchu and Corran Horn are burned into my memory. For me, the X-Wing novels are the Expanded Universe. Superseded by a new canon, their flight may be over, but with this new release as part of the Essential Legends Collection, there’s a chance to revisit those glory days. Because I already know the story, and because I have far too many unread books in my TBR, I went with the audiobook version this time around. And honestly, that’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

I struggle with audiobooks. My brain doesn’t process them the same way it does physical books. I love audio dramas though, and Star Wars audiobooks cross the line between the two formats. There’s background music, sound effects, and even when there’s only one narrator it’s always clear who’s talking. It’s all so much more immersive than just having a person reading the book to you. And when it comes to narrators, Marc Thompson is by far the best I’ve ever heard. Thompson doesn’t narrate so much as perform the action, his voice straining with every sharp turn of an X-Wing. The Thyferrans have a clear and consistent accent, but the individuals are still distinguishable. His Ackbar is a marvel to hear, and when the female characters are talking, it’s easy to forget a man is playing the part. Thompson gives this book the 110% it deserves, and has singlehandedly hooked me on audiobooks. If it’s Star Wars, and Thompson is in the recording booth, I’ll be buying it.

The story itself is fairly straightforward. A little while after the events of Return of the Jedi, Rogue Squadron is reformed with new members to perform dangerous missions for the New Republic. We get to meet all the new pilots, from the young Gavin Darklighter to the Imperial deserter Celchu. Yes, there are main characters and supporting characters, but everyone gets a moment in the spotlight. It’s the best ensemble cast Star Wars has ever had, and it’s the interpersonal relations that make it work. The rivalry between ace pilots, the mutual respect and budding romances between others. The frustrated hierarchy between Antilles and his superiors. It all comes together to make something truly special.

Mention also has to be made of how tehcnical this book can get. I’m not sure of the precise relation, but an X-Wing computer game was available at the same time as this books original 90s release, and Stackpole’s writing is clearly influenced by the controls for that game. Every button pushed and level pulled is narrated. It’s never distracting, but serves to show just how complex these machines are. It adds a level of realism that you wouldn’t expect from a Star Wars novel. And speaking as someone who crashes every computer game starship he ever climbs into, the details capture just how difficult it is to fly a machine like an X-Wing. They might not be real, but the Rogue Squadron pilots are heroes nonetheless.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
Alphabet Squadron, by Alexander Freed
Death Star, by Michael Reaves and Steven Perry
Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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