AUDIO REVIEW: Wedge’s Gamble, by Michael A. Stackpole

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Narrated by Marc Thompson
  • X-Wing (#2)
  • Part of the Expanded Universe/Legends canon
  • This audio version published 5/5/2022
  • A Grimdark Coming-of-Age
  • 13hrs 1min

The newly reformed Rogue Squadron have won their first victory, but it is only a stepping stone to a greater prize. The New Republic has its eyes set on Coruscant, the world also known as Imperial Centre. But with a traitor in their own ranks, what hope do the Rogues have of avoiding a trap . . ?

Revisiting the early days of the Star Wars Expanded universe in audio continues to be a rewarding experience. For one thing, the production levels of these audios is second to none. With the boatload of sound effect ranging from the whine of engines and the dripping of water in the background, to the roar of blaster fire and the clashing of vehicles, it would be easy to lose track of the narration. Yet everything here is perfectly balanced, surrounding the narrative rather than smothering it. An enhancement in every sense. Then there’s the narration itself, in which Marc Thompson manages to up his already stellar game. Giving the Crackens an Irish accent would never have occurred to me, but it absolutely works. Even with a cast of more than a dozen central characters, there’s never a moment of doubt as to who is speaking. Thompson’s Ackbar impression remains a high point, but there are no lows. Having a narrator also reveals pronunciation I hadn’t given much thought to before. I’d always mentally pronounced Zsinj as close to ‘singe’ for example, where Thompson (who presumably has a full guide), reads it as closer to ‘ginger.’

All of this is new and great, but the original story is superb on its own. The X-Wing series was always a favourite of mine when I first read the Expanded Universe, and now that I am listening to the Essential Legends collection, that joy is still there. This is the Star Wars I grew up with, and it still has the hallmarks I associate with the franchise. An Empire in disarray, a Rebellion now forced to defend as well as attack. A struggle for legitimacy that goes beyond black and white morality. When planning an attack on Coruscant, it is made explicit that innocent people will be hurt. That’s a cost that can be reduced, but not eliminated. When the best option is to ally with a criminal syndicate that will plague you for decades to come, you know you’re not the heroes you profess to be. But at the same time, there is still a sense of hope. This isn’t some morally grey quagmire. It’s good people forced to do bad things. A road to Hell paved with good intentions, and dead Stormtroopers.

The gap between reading and listening has been long enough that Wedge’s Gamble can still throw up a surprise or two. The identity of the traitor had me guessing through to the end (and my memory has failed me quite severely on one character’s role), and while I remember the cliff-hanger ending, how we get there was a mystery. What hasn’t been forgotten is that this is one of the strongest parts of the Expanded Universe, and to see it getting a new lease of life is nothing short of fantastic.

Published by Alex Hormann

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

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