Heroes on both sides? Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad explores the human side of the Empire’s dark forces

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Rogue One doesn’t want to go away. Maybe Star Wars fans who found the franchise’s Disney-era debut, Episode VII — The Force Awakens, disappointing just won’t let it. For whatever reason, the prequel-sequel has made its indelible mark on the Saga, and Jyn Erso’s transmission of hope has an impact that will reverberate through the halls of Yavin IV’s Massassi temples and into the cold corridors of Hoth’s Echo Base (appropriate!) and beyond into many corners of Star Wars lore.

The ill-fated heroes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story haunt those places, as they haunt the pages of Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, the new Star Wars hardcover novel from Christie Golden.

Inferno SquadInferno Squad — which is nominally and numerically a sequel to Alexander Freed’s 2015 Star Wars novel Battlefront: Twilight Company, but weaves a totally separate tale — introduces a clandestine unit formed to up the Empire’s game against the Rebel Alliance. Whereas Twilight Company was the Alliance military’s vanguard unit, Inferno Squad is the Empire’s subtle dagger.

“It’s a promise to the Rebels,” explains Imperial Admiral Garrick Versio, the father of former Death Star TIE fighter pilot Iden Versio, whose reward for surviving the Battle of Yavin is assignment to the special team assembled to avenge the top-secret battlestation’s destruction.

The openness with which the novel treats the Death Star’s existence, and obliteration, is striking; of course, that the Rebel victory over the planet-killer would be turned into a propaganda point is inevitable, as is its destruction of Alderaan by the other side — but the Empire boldly seizes on the loss of the battlestation and its considerable crew compliment a little too quickly to be believed, unless you take into consideration the state of contemporary politics in the era of “fake news” facist fever dreams.

Inferno Squad’s main story involves the infiltration of a remnant of Saw Gerrera’s extremist Partisan faction, forsaken by the larger Alliance in Rogue One. Pulling on this thread leads to some unexpected places and faces, some of whom will be familiar to viewers of TV’s Clone Wars animated series, with motivations that touch on some of the prequel trilogy films’ deepest emotional core. There’s more to mourn here than Alderaan or the Death Star.

Moon-sized millstones aside, Inferno Squad presents a tight narrative with relatable characters that manage to rise above the usual Imperial cardboard cutouts. Golden’s deft hand even leads us to empathize with the rank-and-file “bad guys” of the Star Wars universe in many ways. While Anakin Skywalker’s motivations along his path to becoming Darth Vader are well known and deeply explored by now, it’s always been difficult to excuse the everyday people who served him and his dark master, when they weren’t simply easily dismissed as two-dimensional toadies or functionaries. The deepest emotion they elicited was usually pity for the way they were punished and discarded — often literally — for their bumbling failures. The characters of Inferno Squad — like the tragic heroes of Rogue One — are very well fleshed out and human. There are, as an episode title of The Clone Wars as well as the opening crawl to Episode III — Revenge of the Sith said, “heroes on both sides.” This is a hard concept to execute well in Star Wars, and it works with Inferno Squad.

Inferno Squad leader Iden Versio will return Nov. 17 in EA’s upcoming video game Star Wars Battlefront II, which features an Imperial single-player campaign at last.

More from the author of Battlefront II: Inferno Squad:

With credits on Assassin’s Creed, World of Warcraft and StarCraft novels, Christie Golden is no stranger to video game tie-in fiction, and here she provides a solid foundation for a new interactive adventure to explore.

Golden also wrote several installments in the no-longer-canon “Fate of the Jedi” series, as well as the more recent Dark Disciple, set in the Clone Wars era. Read a review of the intriguing Dark Disciple here, and an interview with the gracious Golden here.

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About Jayson Peters

Nerdvana's founder and owner. Digital editor, social media director, educator. Lifelong Star Wars fan and Trekker who also worships all things Tolkien and Doctor Who.