Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company
Recently I was offered an opportunity to check out a Star Wars novel based upon an upcoming video game. Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) is an action shooter video game published by Electronic Arts that has garnered a lot of attention as having the potential to be the best Star Wars video game of its generation. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, we can learn about some of its characters, right? I had already read a short story featuring Battlefront characters and found myself intrigued, so why not check out Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed.
Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company actually begins with a flashback to a point some time after the Clone Wars in which a young man finds himself ensconced in the army of a backwater planet fighting for a cause he truly believes in. Flash forward to a short time after the destruction of the Death Star and we meet the same warrior, now named Namir, fighting alongside the members of the Rebellion's mobile 61st Infantry, otherwise known as Twilight Company. No longer the brash young man fighting for a cause, Namir is a battle-hardened soldier fighting for the sake of the fight. Or, at least, that's what he tells himself.
The unit is tasked to capture Governor Everi Chalis, former apprentice of Count Vidian, eventually earning high placement in the new Empire. Captain Howl sees Governor Chalis as an invaluable asset, what with her knowledge of the enemy's military strength and the Empire's various military bases and holdings. Namir sees Chalis as a harbinger of bad things to come - keeping her safe has caused the deaths of countless of comrades and Namir doesn't see an end to the damage she can cause. Still, Howl insists on bringing her to a meeting of the Alliance High Command on Hoth to engage in a strategy session. Things begin well and Namir actually begins to settle in to the monotonous existence that is life on the Hoth Rebel Base when disaster strikes.
The Imperials have found Echo Base and are attacking, with Darth Vader leading the charge. All around him Namir witnesses more of his trusted allies dying in the name of saving Everi Chalis, an implied asset which may not be worth the lives she has cost. And all of this taking place at a time in which Namir is questioning what he is fighting for. Can Namir pull it together long enough to keep his people and this supposed asset alive and, if so, can he actually hope to strike a blow at the heart of the Empire to exact revenge for all those lost?
I expected to read a run of the mill Star Wars novel more in the vein of the X-Wing novels or Star Wars: Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine. What I got was a war novel, featuring Star Wars characters, weapons, creatures and spaceships but no other similarities whatsoever. This was a gritty war novel with a side story in which a warrior questions his own reasons for fighting and his ability/worth to lead his troops into battle. And guess what? I loved every minute of the tale!
The character of Namir is not exactly a likeable one at first. Being a Rebel Alliance sympathizer, how could I agree with Namir's cynical view of the Alliance? But as we learn about Namir through flashbacks of his life, we begin to understand. After all, Namir has fought for a number of zealots who promised a better world only to fail and bring misery in their wake. How could Namir ever believe wholly in the Alliance's cause? But as he questions himself, we begin to see a softer side of Namir, one who actually believes in his mentor Howl's teachings that helping people despite the destruction Twilight Company was forced to take part in matters. As Namir begins to accept what his mentor has been trying to teach him all along, he begins to grow on us.
And the battles - Alexander Freed is merciless in his description of Rebel and Empire clashes. This is something we have rarely read in past Star Wars novels. Sure, some of the stories have a gritty edge to them, but Freed seems to delight in making us care for characters and then striking them down in incredibly bloody or destructive ways. I felt like I was actually taking cover behind some mass watching each and every battle take place, certain that each moment would bring my comrades closer to their dooms. Just when you think that a particular character might make it to the end, Freed rips your heart out with their heroic death.
Heart pounding battles, an engaging emotional side story and a main storyline that is not as fantastical as some of the Star Wars storylines can be - not one ounce of Jedi magic with the exception of Darth Vader on Hoth - makes Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company a novel well worth reading and Star Wars: Battlefront a game I want to hear more about. With any luck, another Twilight Company novel is in the making - I want to know what happens to the 61st Infantry next!