Thanks to the fine folks at USA Today, we have our first Inferno Squad Excerpt from the upcoming novel based on the game Star Wars Battlefront II. The excerpt is straight from Chapter 1 of the book.
“Attention, pilots,” came the voice of her commander, Kela Neerik, in Iden’s ear, and for a brief, beautiful instant Iden thought her squad commander was going to explain what was going on. But all Neerik said was, “Death Star is now six minutes out from target.”
Iden bit her lip, wondering if she should speak up. Don’t. Don’t, she told herself, but the words had a life of their own. Before she realized it, out they had come.
“Respectfully, Commander, with only six minutes until the entire moon’s destruction, why are we out here? Surely thirty one-person ships won’t be able to do anything resembling damage to the Death Star in that amount of time.”
“Lieutenant Versio” — Neerik’s voice was as cold as space — “don’t assume your father’s position gives you special privileges. We are here because Lord Vader ordered us to be here. Perhaps you’d like to put your question to him personally when we return to the station? I’m sure he’d be delighted to explain his military strategy to you.”
Iden felt a cold knot in her stomach at the thought of a “personal” conversation with Lord Vader. She’d never met him, thankfully, but she had heard too many chilling rumors.
“No, Commander, that won’t be necessary.”
“I thought not. Do your duty, Lieutenant Versio.”
Iden frowned, then let it go. She did not need to understand the rebels; she needed only to destroy them.
She targeted the nearest X-wing and fired. Green lasers sliced through the enemy ship, and then only pieces and a flaring sheet of flame remained.
As if they sensed her renewed resolve, the rebel pilots suddenly upped their game. There was a brief flash at the corner of Iden’s vision, and when she turned to look, she realized with sick surprise that this time the debris hurtling off in all directions was black.
Iden didn’t know who had just died. TIE fighters were so uniform as to be practically indistinguishable from one another. Their pilots weren’t supposed to think of their ships in the warm, fuzzy way the rebels were reported to do. A ship was a ship was a ship. And Iden understood that, as far as most in the Empire were concerned, a pilot was a pilot was a pilot: as expendable and interchangeable as the ships they flew.
We all serve at the pleasure of the Emperor, her father had drilled into her since she was old enough to comprehend what an emperor was. None of us is indispensable. Iden had certainly seen Imperial ships shot down before. This was war, and she was a soldier. But indispensable be damned.
The half smile she’d been wearing during most of the combat vanished, and Iden pressed her lips together angrily. She veered, perhaps a touch too violently, to the right and targeted another X-wing. In mere seconds it exploded into a yellow-orange fireball.
“Gotcha, you—” she muttered.
“No commentary, Versio,” warned Neerik, her voice rising a little; more hot than cold, now.
Iden targeted the closest Y-wing, locked onto it, and blew it to pieces. Watching the fragments of the starfighter hurtling wildly was some small compensation for the deaths of her fellow pilots.
“Death Star is two minutes to target. Be aware of your distance from the planet.”
Ah, so that was why Neerik was giving the countdown. Iden had to give the pilot of a nearby Y-wing credit for courage, albeit of the foolish kind; the ship was now racing away from the Death Star at top speed. Were they heading back to Yavin’s moon, nobly choosing to die with their base, or were they just trying to evade her?
Not happening, Iden thought, and continued her pursuit. She got the vessel in her sights and fired. She didn’t slow as the ship exploded, but simply pulled back and looped up and over the fireball and debris, snug in her crash webbing, and smoothly dipped the TIE fighter in front of the Y-wing for the perfect shot.
The pale moon-shape of the Death Star loomed behind the vessel, its gargantuan size making the rebel ship look like the toys she’d been allowed to play with as a child. The Y-wing was making for Yavin as fast as it could, swerving erratically enough that Iden frowned as she tried to get a lock on it.
A sudden scalding brightness filled her vision.
Temporarily blinded, Iden hurtled wildly, her TIE fighter tumbling out of control. As her vision returned, she realized debris was coming at her as intensely as if she had suddenly materialized inside an asteroid field. Her focus, always powerful, narrowed to laserlike precision as she frantically dodged and swerved, maneuvering around the biggest pieces and wishing with all her being that TIE fighters had shields.
Iden pivoted and tumbled, breathing the mercifully still-flowing oxygen deeply and rhythmically. But she knew in her heart it was just a matter of time. There was too much debris, some of it the size of a standard escape pod, some of it as small as her clenched fist, and she was right in the thick of it. The smaller pieces were pelting her TIE fighter already. Sooner or later, one of the big chunks would hit her, and both Senior Lieutenant Iden Versio and her ship would be nothing more than smears on what was left of Yavin’s moon.
Somehow, she’d wandered too close to the Death Star’s target and had gotten swept up in the chaotic sweep of its destruction—exactly what her commander had been warning her against.
But how was that possible?
“Mayday, mayday,” Iden shouted, unable to keep her voice calm as she desperately dipped and dived to avoid disaster. “This is TIE Sigma Three requesting assistance. Repeat, this is TIE Sigma Three requesting assistance, do you copy, over?”
Silence. Absolute, cold, terrifying silence
You can expect to see this book in stores July 25, 2017.
About Star Wars: Battlefront II: Inferno Squad:
Set in the aftermath of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this action-packed prequel to the hotly anticipated videogame Battlefront II introduces the Empire’s elite force: Inferno Squad.
After the humiliating theft of the Death Star plans and the destruction of the battle station, the Empire is on the defensive. But not for long. In retaliation, the elite Imperial soldiers of Inferno Squad have been called in for the crucial mission of infiltrating and eliminating the Partisans—the rebel faction once led by notorious Republic freedom fighter Saw Gerrera.
Following the death of their leader, the Partisans have carried on his extremist legacy, determined to thwart the Empire—no matter the cost. Now Inferno Squad must prove its status as the best of the best and take down the Partisans from within. But the growing threat of being discovered in their enemy’s midst turns an already dangerous operation into a do-or-die acid test they dare not fail. To protect and preserve the Empire, to what lengths will Inferno Squad go . . . and how far beyond them?
The Rebellion may have heroes like Jyn Erso and Luke Skywalker. But the Empire has Inferno Squad.
New Pop Culture Book, Watching Skies from Mark O’Connell
For those that are interested in the amazing world of pop culture (including Star Wars, but not limited to…), then Mark O’Connell is about to release a book you might be interested in. Check out the press release below, and look for the book to hit Amazon September 1st (for those in the US).
As Ready Player One and Stranger Things prove the retro might of VHS era cinema, Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us is a universal and affectionate tale about the pop cultural remembrances stuck in all our R2 unit’s memory systems.
Like many a British kid in an ‘80s world of VCRs, Reagan and Atari, Mark O’Connell wanted to be one of the mop-haired kids on the Star Wars toy commercials. Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and of course Star Wars weren’t just changing cinema – they were making lasting highways into our childhoods, toy boxes and video stores like never before.
In this energetic and insightful memoir-through-cinema, O’Connell flies a gilded X-Wing through a universe of bedroom remakes of Return of the Jedi, close encounters with Christopher Reeve, sticker album swaps, a honeymoon on Amity Island and the trauma of losing an entire Star Wars figure collection.
A unique study on how a rich galaxy of movies continue shaping big and vital cinema to this day, Watching Skies is for all Star Wars kids – whatever their era.
It is about how George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, a shark, two motherships, some gremlins, ghostbusters, and a man of steel jumped a whole generation to hyperspace* (*action figures not included).
Mark O’Connell is an award-winning writer and author. As a comedy writer he has written for a wide range of actors, performers, titles, and media. As a warm-witted pop culture pundit, he has written and guested for Variety, Sky Movies, The Times, The Guardian, OUT magazine, Channel Four, Five, Yahoo Movies and across BBC radio and television. He was one of the official storytellers of London 2012, owns one tenth of a BAFTA, once got praised by the Coen Brothers, and now travel writes. He is the author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan.
Note: If you purchase one of the awesome products featured above, we earn a small commission from the retailer. Thank you for your support.
Voice Cast For ‘From A Certain Point Of View’ Audiobook Announced
If you are like me, you really don’t have the time to read a Star Wars novel anymore. Work and home life just get in the way. However, I do travel for work quite a bit, so Audible is my very good friend. That is why this voice cast announcement for the upcoming book ‘From a Certain Point of View’, has really piqued my interest!
Some of the top names in the industry have joined up to read this one to you. Check out the details below!
The stories of X-wing pilots, droid-hunting stormtroopers, and more background characters from Star Wars: A New Hope are about to be told — by some very famous names.
From a Certain Point of View, coming October 3, will bring together more than 40 authors for 40 stories, all in celebration of Star Wars‘ 40th anniversary. It’s definitely a special release, and Del Rey has assembled an amazing cast of narrators for the audiobook version, which we’re excited to reveal below:
Full cast list (in alphabetical order):
Neil Patrick Harris
Daniel José Older
Retro Review – Star Wars: The Last Command
I grew up experiencing two different eras in Star Wars: before the prequels and after the prequels. That’s not to pass judgment on the prequels, but before them there was a lot of the mythos still locked away in George Lucas’ mind. Ever since the first movie, authors have been adding their own chapters to the ever-growing universe of Star Wars. My first foray into the Star Wars novels was The Truce at Bakura, and I don’t have a great recall of the story other than it took place immediately after Return of the Jedi. Throughout middle school, after The Phantom Menace was released, I jumped through a few more books, particularly the Young Jedi Knights series and Shadows of the Empire. It wasn’t until high school when I became friends with The Outer Rim News Podcast co-host Austin Gordy, that I found out just how little I knew about the Star Wars universe. He introduced me to his vast library of books and miniatures of different ships (the Sun Crusher blew my mind at the time), and to a particular villain named Thrawn. He showed me Heir to the Empire and I assumed Thrawn was the old wizard-looking man on the cover. He corrected me, pointing out the blue man to the side. I thought at the time he looks pretty cool while Austin touted him as a tactical genius in his own trilogy that many considered a trilogy of sorts to the original Star Wars trilogy. I never read the trilogy at the time, but Thrawn was one of those characters that stuck in my memory without actually ever having read the books. Cut to present day. After his introduction to the new canon in Star Wars Rebels, I decided to finally jump into the story that made him a legend. And in case you haven’t read The Last Command, SPOILERS AHEAD.
I have finally finished the Thrawn Trilogy. My review will focus mainly on The Last Command, the final part of the trilogy. Heir to the Empire was a fun start to the story, with our heroes encountering a mysterious figure holding together the remnants of the Empire while causing major damage to the New Republic forces. Dark Force Rising showed us the Noghri culture and the Empire’s deceptive connection with them. In The Last Command, we see the finale of Zahn’s story starring the blue-skinned, red-eyed Grand Admiral.
For a recap, The Last Command follows the New Republic struggling to outwit the Empire’s new leader and master strategist, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Over the course of the previous two books, he managed to gain an advantage by finding a cloning facility and beating the Republic to the location of the fabled Katana fleet. By the third book, he’s making plays for territory.
What’s interesting about Thrawn that I didn’t know until I read the series was that he’s never a POV character for the reader at any point in the trilogy. Instead, author Timothy Zahn approaches the alien genius of Thrawn by showing him the same way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would show us the erratic genius of Sherlock Holmes: by proxy with a trusted assistant. Holmes had Watson, and Thrawn had Pellaeon. Why do this? To me, it came across as a way to give him mystique. Characters gain a certain level of mystery when the audience is denied access to what they’re thinking. Like Pellaeon, we are never given more information on the Grand Admiral than he allows us to know.
He makes some serious plays against the Republic in his final book. He fools a planet into thinking he has shield-penetrating firepower. He orders a raid to abduct Leia and her newborn twins from the heart of the New Republic, which fails thanks to Mara Jade. Lastly, he attacks Coruscant from orbit by releasing multiple stealth-cloaked asteroids above their planetary shield, keeping any ships from getting in or out.
While doing this, Thrawn has also been dealing with two potential problems: Jedi Master clone Joruus C’baoth and the smugglers, namely Talon Karde. He attempts to placate the increasingly insane Jedi clone with the attempted abduction. After it fails, C’baoth (who’s been toying with power over minds) travels back to Wayland, now with its clone facility in full swing and takes over by slaughtering the ysalamiri that were supposed to depower him.
All of our heroes come together on Wayland and manage to stop and kill C’baoth, while Thrawn, watching his first battle spin out of control due to lucky timing, is stabbed in the chest by his lethal Noghri bodyguard, Ruhk.
After all this struggle between the New Republic and Thrawn, I was conflicted by how Thrawn’s demise played out. Throughout the first two books, I became increasingly agitated at how seemingly infallible Thrawn’s strategies were. The only things that seemed to get past him were improvisation (Luke’s X-Wing escape) or blind luck (Leia hiding on Honoghr). Getting to the third book made it worse toward the finale. When Thrawn predicted exactly what the New Republic was going to do leading to the final confrontation, I actually cursed out loud in annoyance. I didn’t know whether to be annoyed at the character for being so good at his job, or Timothy Zahn for making him so unbeatable. I started to guess what was going to be his downfall once I realized that he still had his bodyguard, Ruhk, and that he was still under the impression that the Noghri were completely loyal to the Empire. While I thought at first that C’baoth would be his downfall, that turned out to be only partly true.
Thrawn wasn’t beaten by planning. He was beaten by a perfect storm of bad timing, brought on partly by his own arrogance. His plan was to meet the New Republic in battle, but not to be blindsided by smugglers with their own plan. His plan on Wayland was to keep C’baoth under wraps with the Force-suppressing ysalamiri, but not to have his own men brainwashed into killing the creatures. Being stabbed by his own bodyguard never occurred to him. There was a kind of poetry to his demise, but it felt a little…lessened? Maybe that’s not the right term, but I wish there’d been slightly more to it, especially since so much of the finale with the heroes focused on C’baoth. There was just this expectation to me that in a trilogy titled The Thrawn Trilogy, there would be a more personal confrontation with the title villain.
My opinion aside, one thing that really intrigues me about Thrawn has been his enduring popularity since his introduction. While dying at the end of his own trilogy, Thrawn had a lasting impact on the Star Wars Expanded Universe and the fandom around it. What made him so popular?
Let’s travel back to the year of his introductory novel, Heir to the Empire. It was 1991, and Return of the Jedi was nearing its tenth anniversary. There was no hint or indication that the prequel trilogy was going to exist. Timothy Zahn brought forth not just another adventure, but a new villain who leaves the New Republic at a loss. What’s more, he wasn’t another lightsaber-wielding Dark Jedi or lightning-tossing Emperor. He was a villain that relied not on the Force, but on his intellect. Star Wars hadn’t seen a formidable or imposing military villain since Tarkin, so it was primed for a return to the concept.
Zahn’s post-Return story revitalized the Star Wars brand and paved the way for many concepts that would stay with Star Wars, even after the Disney acquisition. We have Thrawn appearing in Star Wars Rebels, as well as the forthcoming introduction of Ruhk into the animated series’ fourth and final season. Even Coruscant, the famous city-planet that was featured throughout the prequels, made its first appearance in Heir to the Empire.
All in all, for me, I have mixed feelings about The Last Command and the trilogy, but its impact is undeniable. Sometimes I was ready to finish a chapter so I could take a break, while other times I was hooked into the story. I recommend it for any Star Wars fan, simply for the value it still holds to the Star Wars universe.