Star Wars: X-Wing, Rogue Squadron by Micheal Stackpole is a fun story with lots of action, great characters, and Star Wars worthy thrills. I love the portrayal of Wedge Antilles, who is one of my favorite characters, and I like many of the new characters we are introduced to in the story. Stackpole is a careful and attentive writer, and his descriptions bring the galaxy far, far, away right up close to the reader. I intend to read more in the series, and look forward to finding out where he takes Rouge Squadron next.
That being said, he does seem to have one weakness. Women. To be fair, Stackpole has plenty of women in his book. Unlike the six movies by George Lucas, or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or Episode VII, or Rogue One, or even a lot of other Star Wars EU stories, Stackpole made an effort to include women at every level in his writing. Women are Rogue pilots (Lujayne Forge, Andoorni Hui, Erisi Dlarit, Rhysati Ynr), Mirax Terrik is a woman who smuggles for the Rebellion, Ysanne Isard is a woman and the director of Imperial intelligence, and the main character Corran Horn worked with a woman (Iella Wessiri) during his time at CorSec, along with a smattering of minor characters who aren’t named. So, kudos to Stackpole for including so many women in both prominent and secondary roles, it’s nice to see so many female characters in a Star Wars story.
There is, however, some room for improvement. There is very little variation in the way the female characters are described, take the following excerpts:
Erisi Dlarit is described from Corran’s perspective as “Just a bit taller than he was, but slender and walking on very shapely long legs.” (ch 9)
Ysanne Isard’s underling Kirtan Loor finds her “Attractive” “Tall and slender” (ch 11)
These descriptions are very similar, yet they are supposedly from the perspectives of two very different characters in two very different circumstances. It’s not even bad to have tall, slender female characters, it just isn’t very imaginative either. A little more distinctiveness could have rounded out the female cast a lot. Because Stackpole depends on the same generic descriptions for the characters the reader can spend the entire book not really sure who Lujayne is, or if she’s a different person than Rhysati or Eirsi. It can be challenging to write well rounded and distinctive secondary characters, and when it came to the female characters I think Micheal Stackpole could have done better.
Which brings me to my second kvetch. In the last 150 pages alone, two different women offer to sleep with Corran a total of three different times (of course, he stoically refuses, but not so much that we question his heterosexuality). This seems mostly to show the reader how appealing Corran is supposed to be, rather than show anything about the women who are desperate to sleep with him. Corran spends virtually no time developing or deepening his relationships with these women, yet they want him anyway. As a reader I want to see a relationship develop and if there’s conflict, I want to see that develop too. Here, however, the women only want to sleep with Corran for…some reason, and the only conflict that comes out of it is to pit the two women against each other. Corran, apparently, is so sexually attractive that intelligent women lose their minds around him and start fighting with each other for the right to mate with him.
* Sigh *
The problem isn’t that the women have sexual agency, or that they are interested in Corran, or even that they are jealous of each other. It’s that Corran has done nothing in the story to develop a relationship with either of the women, and yet they pester him for sex. It reduces the women into a vague sexual interest, instead of letting them be a part of Corran’s close inner circle that he’s struggled to find the entire story. It seems lazy to me, and given the kind of detail Stackpole puts into his writing, I know he can do better.
Those two minor points aside, I think this book is excellent. It has everything a person could want from a Star Wars story, while managing the difficult task of presenting a compelling story line sans Jedi. Stackpole is a creative and talented author and his work should rightly be regarded as some of the best Star Wars writing there is. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to other Star Wars fans in a heartbeat. If you haven’t read this book, go get it. Yes, it’s age shows a little, but it’s too good to miss.