- Narrated by Marc Thompson
- X Wing: Book Three
- First published 1996
- This edition published by Penguin
- 13hrs 51 minutes runtime
Coruscant has been liberated by the New Republic, but that victory comes at a terrible cost. As the Krytos virus ravages the alien population, and as remnants of the Empire gnaw at civilisation, the New Republic prepares itself for a test of all it stands for: the trial of Tycho Celchu . . .
Back when I first read the X-Wing series for the first time, I was reliant on second-hand copies, battered and worn from years on bookshelves. This was a time before the ease of online shopping, a time when if you didn’t see a book in your local shop, you would not be able to buy it. In those days when I devoured the Expanded Universe, there were gaps. I didn’t read every serie sin order. There are New Jedi Order novels I still have never read, though I did listen to one on a cassette (yes, I am that old). One of those gaps was The Krytos Trap. It was a book I knew by name only, by seeing it listed in the front covers of other books, and by seeing its cover printed as an advert. Despite never reading it, I had a fairly good idea of what happened. The next book in the series had a decent recap of the major events, and the interconnected Expanded Universe helped fill in some of the gaps. I’m still not entirely sure if I’ve read the actual book, though I think I must have, as it sits in the house today. Regardless, my memories of it are far less clear than of the surroundnng novels, and so this audiobook re-release is a special sort of treat. A very familiar setting, but a story that is almost wholly new to me.
In some ways this feels like a bridging novel between Wedge’s Gamble and The Bacta War, but this is no bad thing. The X-Wing novels are famous for their dogfighting and military action scenes, but there are fewer of those here than in other books in the series. rather than a porotracted campaign, or a single major engagement, The Krytos Trap takes a more pick-and-mix approach to combat. There are numerous small missions throughout the book, perhaps reflective of the series’ origins in a computer game. There is a convoy that needs to be protected, a diplomatic meeting to attend, and a series of planetary raids. Each of these is, narratively, well-executed. They’re as fast-paced and exciting as ever, but scattering them through the book gives more time for the political angles to come through.
Until this point in the franchise, the heroes of Star Wars were generally plucky underdogs punching well-above their weight, and the Imperials an oppressive and often faceless mass. With Coruscant liberated, this is flipped on its head. We see the New Republic struggling to rule in a way that pleases everyone, turning towards infighting and finger-pointing. On the other side, we see an Imperial Remnant forced underground, committing ever more atrocious acts as they endeavour to bring Coruscant back under their control. At the centre of all this is Tycho Celchu’s trial. Though Tycho’s innocence is obvious from the fact that all but one of the main characters believes him to be guilt-free, the outcome of the trial is never certain, right up until the very climax of the novel. Courtroom dramas are often a great way of exposing the rifts between characters, and Tycho’s trial is no different.
And then there is Lusankya. The Imperial prison that has been the focus of so much speculation in this first three books, revealed at last. When you know it’s coming, the hints and teasers as to Lusankya’s nature come together most pleasingly. Sometimes with books, and with all media, knowing the big reveal ahead of time can spil enjoyment. But even knowing Lusankya’s secret, hearing it come alive in the moment is nothing less than stunning. I may have missed it the first time around, but Lusankya’s reveal is among the best set-pieces in the Expanded Universe.
Once again perfectly narrated by Marc Thompson, The Krytos Trap continues the X-Wing series’ strong run, and sets the ground for an almight battle still to come in The Bacta War.
More by Michael Stackpole
X-Wing #1: Rogue Squadron
X-Wing #2: Wedge’s Gamble
Deeper Dive: Centring Humanity
A galaxy far, far away is teeming with alien life, including hundreds of sentient species. Yet humanity has always stood at the forefront of the saga. This is largely due to logistics, with human actors being more available than their alien counterparts. The Expanded Universe gave the in-universe explanation that the Empire was fanatically xenophobic, and so few aliens held positions of authority. A tad lazy, perhaps, but it allowed the mixed-species Rebellion/New Republic to become even more heroic.
The Krytos Trap is one of the few books to address this human-centric worldview directly. After all, the Krytos virus does not affect aliens, and the human members of the New Republic are explicitly called out for using the term ‘non-human’ to describe aliens. It’s natural as a real-world term to band alien species under one banner, but in a galaxy filled with different species? What justification is there for making humans the standard against which all other species are judged?
Star Wars only dipped its toes in these muddy waters a few times, and never very deeply, which is likely for the best. But the recognition of faults in making the reader’s species the standard in even the most exotic science fiction is always good to see.
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