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Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: X-WING: MERCY KILL (Spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Shepherd492, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. Shepherd492

    Shepherd492 Jedi Youngling star 1

    Apr 2, 2011
    Sorry if this isn't cool but I know back on the temp boards someone said something about putting one of these up for Mercy Kill and I figure that there is no way I can mess it up so why not do it like a good and contributing lit poster (copy/paste helps with this.) I'm more than happy to run the aggregate tally for scores in this thread too, but anyways, on to the important stuff.

    Some rules: rate Mercy Kill on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)

    Some previous review threads:

    Republic Commando: Hard Contact, by Karen Traviss
    Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover
    The Cestus Deception, by Steven Barnes
    Medstar I: Battle Surgeons, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
    Medstar II: Jedi Healer, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
    Jedi Trial, by David Sherman and Dan Cragg
    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, by Sean Stewart
    Labyrinth of Evil, by James Luceno
    Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
    Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno
    Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine, by Veronica Whitney-Robinson
    Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning
    Survivor's Quest, by Timothy Zahn
    Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream, by Aaron Allston
    Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand, by Aaron Allston
    Traitor, by Matthew Stover
    Destiny's Way, by Walter Jon Williams
    Force Heretic I: Remnant, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    Force Heretic II: Refugee, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    Force Heretic III: Reunion, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
    The Final Prophecy, by Greg Keyes
    The Unifying Force, by James Luceno
    Dark Nest I: The Joiner King, by Troy Denning
    Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen, by Troy Denning
    Dark Nest III: The Swarm War, by Troy Denning
    Outbound Flight, by Timothy Zahn
    Republic Commando: Triple Zero, by Karen Traviss
    Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, by Aaron Allston
    Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, by Karen Traviss
    Darth Bane: Path of Destruction,by Drew Karpyshyn
    Darth-Ghost likes this.
  2. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Oct 23, 2004
    8 of 10 from me Bonuspoints for just not being about Jedi and Sith + Sith and Jedi :)
  3. imiller

    imiller Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 26, 2004
    Woohoo! Still haven't finished writing my reviews (which I need to crosspost to blogs and Amazon and such), but when I do, expect a fairly high rating! (Unusual from me, but hey, I have to have something to like!)
    A Tool likes this.
  4. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 18, 2008
    8. Mostly because this book hits so many high notes that've been missing from the EU for far too long, IMHO:

    * Next-gen characters who face challenges, but don't get put through a meat grinder. =D=

    * Closure for several of the old Wraith characters, and believable reasons for "where were they when ...?"

    * A Force-sensitive who, while Jedi-influenced, isn't strictly Jedi. Variety FTW!

    * Wedge, getting a cameo without being overly involved. A much-needed nod to the past, handled well, IMHO.

    * Yuuzhan Vong. Included in the book in a manner that made sense. =D=

    The book only misses a 10 for two reasons - the BBEG was, IMHO, perhaps not as BB as he could have been; and I was dissatisfied with one of the main character deaths, which felt unnecessary AFA plot motivation. Still, overall, Mercy Kill gets far more right than some of the recent EU, IMHO, and I sincerely hope for more. :D
    Katana_Sundancer likes this.
  5. dp4m

    dp4m Chosen One star 10

    Nov 8, 2001
    8.5 for Allston Wraith awesomeness -- a better villain / denouement would have it higher. But +0.25 for Myn/Lara fanservice.

    Final: 8.75
    imiller likes this.
  6. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Allston shows he's still got it with a great return to form. It's fun and funny, full of hijinks and beloved characters -- and giving us new ones to love. It's clear that Allston had a blast writing it, and it's a blast to read. I loved the bold move of using Piggy as the main character, and his journey was a lot of fun to read. The new characters are all fun, too. The only thing I'm not crazy about is the depiction of Piggy's reaction to Scut -- it's understandable that he has a negative reaction, but I think it could have been showed with a lot more subtlety and insight rather than the sort of pitched-to-the-rafters reaction of "Everything about you must inherently be awful because we fought a war against you." Allston also suffered some, on the character front, from having to introduce a lot of new characters without the benefit of a training section or a lot of getting-to-know-you time. Adding some extra pages to flesh people out would have been a huge benefit, because while Allston gets a little bit of a lead on that by using relationships to existing characters as a sort of character shorthand, it doesn't get him nearly far enough.

    There are a few knocks against the book, which mostly come in the villain and plotting department. In the initial setup, Thaal is a fairly promising villain. A senior military officer who may be a traitor, for unknown reasons, and who has a colorful and unique background including time spent as an Imperial officer, escape from Carida, defection, and resistance fighting during the YVW. That's all got the potential to get you a great character. Unfortunately, that isn't really exploited. There's an initial nod at figuring out whether Thaal is a traitor and if so why, but that's confirmed and the explanation found after only one attempt, so the ambiguity isn't really exploited. And Thaal's motivation turns out to be the most pedestrian possible -- he's just crooked because he likes money, no special twist and nothing genuinely relevant to his background. That cool background doesn't really play into anything, except giving him a private military unit. Most problematically, Thaal remains generic because he has little presence in the books. He doesn't act as a foil to the characters. He doesn't have significant scenes. He doesn't have a vivid personality. He doesn't interact with anyone. He's just sort of there, and then the Wraiths flawlessly execute their plan and get him arrested. He doesn't work because he's not present in the book. It's really too bad. And it undermines the whole finale, which is deeply anticlimactic because there are no stakes and Thaal isn't doing anything and the Wraiths just kind of go and do a few things that aren't particularly spectacular and that's the end.

    The thing is, though, everything else is so damn much fun that it's hard to care. Face especially has a plotline that's just a delight, being fun and incredibly badass with scenes that genuinely are impressive and fun. His sequence in the denouement is far more fun than the actual climax, and his evasion of the assassins is maybe the best sequence in the book. Allston gives Face an incredibly awesome vibe -- still the funny guy we know, but at this point a grizzled veteran, an amazing badass ultraspy mastermind. It's a great evolution for him, just as Piggy's evolution into a leader is great.

    No flaws can take away from the fact that this is a genuine bright spot in the EU and the direction the franchise needs to be headed; the best book since Knight Errant, and maybe since Mindor. 9.2/10
  7. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 33.95/4 = 8.49
  8. BoromirsFan

    BoromirsFan Jedi Master star 4

    May 16, 2010
    these positive reviews for recent novels are giving me hope that Del Ray could be moving the EU to a better future!
  9. Lane_Winree

    Lane_Winree Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 30, 2006
    Allston pretty much went down a checklist and addressed just about every major issue I've had with the EU over the last 6-7 years. I've got minor quibbles like I do with every book, but there's no getting around this is one of the best Expanded Universe novels released in the last decade. 9.5/10
    Jade_Pilot likes this.
  10. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 43.45/5 = 8.69
  11. Ava

    Ava Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jul 30, 2007
    9/10. Honestly, it's Allston and the Wraiths, it couldn't be anything but amazing. I laughed (Oh, did I laugh! Typical Wraith insanity and humor) and I cried (Between the Piggy/Runt flashback and Face almost becoming another victim in the current EU slaughterhouse, I was a wreck). Like those before me have stated, I'd loved to have seen a little more evil coming out of our big, bad evil-doer. I was incredibly pleased with the Lara/Myn nod and the fact that we had a mix of next gen characters and old timers. I would have liked to see a few more of the boys and girls from the past, but I think that's just my fangirl side being greedy.

    It was a great read. I strongly recommend it. I would also like to point out, since I've seen several complaints from other readers about this, that the book itself while part of the X-Wing series is not loaded to the brim with dogfights. Some people found this misleading. I, personally, don't share that opinion. I can see how, yes, technically, an X-Wing on the cover and in the title would point towards some serious space battles, but the story belongs in this series - the Wraiths belong in this series.
    Katana_Sundancer likes this.
  12. Manisphere

    Manisphere Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 25, 2007
    Well, I enjoyed the craftsmanship. That's still there. I can appreciate the more somber tone. Love reading about someone who is a casualty of the YV war. I love that Piggy was the protagonist. I like that direction. But I found the book rather joyless and a bit information laden. It's not helping that I never get a feel for the villain. Therefore I feel no real urgency to catch him. I'm more caught up in the characters than the plot. Allston's other Wraith books had more fun in them. It's still stronger material than Scourge, Apocalypse, Revan, and other recent SW fiction. It's just not as giddy as I was hoping for.

    In the end I'm wondering if it is "commercial" enough to entice Del Rey to have Allston write more books about the Wraiths. It feels like a more personal novel but I think it's slightly less accessible than the first 3 Wraith books.

    It is interesting the difference between a Wraith book written in the 1990's and one written today. This is a darker era and it's reflected in the writing. I can appreciate that. There were laughs. There were moments that felt like old times. I just felt a little cluttered with cast and an apathy towards the villain when I wouldn't have minded a smaller team and more character stuff.

  13. jedimaster203

    jedimaster203 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 19, 1999

    I thoroughly enjoyed having a minor, localized threat. Many complaints about the bad guy have been levied...but it wasn't a story about the Wraiths defeating a corrupt general. It was a story of, essentially, how Piggy got his groove back.

    I really hope we see more of these smaller scale, personal conflicts in future novels.

    Also, the characters were great. I was especially happy to see a heroic Vong.
    Katana_Sundancer and imiller like this.
  14. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 68.95/8 = 8.69
  15. imiller

    imiller Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 26, 2004
    What to say...

    The wait was long (two years after announcement!). The wait was torturous (leaked pages and hints and searchable on Amazon!). The wait was full of Fate of the Jedi (which...wasn't really satisfying).

    The wait was completely worth it.

    Allston managed to convince me that Piggy - or Voort, as he goes by in this book - was the correct character to go with in three short chapters - even as he developed the relationships and history he'd left at Solo Command well over a decade ago. Over forty years in-universe have passed - with too-brief cameos and development in the Enemy Lines novels (which cameos provide fodder for many of the non-legacy characters that make up the Wraiths here) - and the GFFA is a much darker, much harder place to live in. Voort's heartbreak, revealed in a familiar but not frustrating way through a few well-chosen flashbacks and dreams, provides the fan with a comparable journey to that which anyone who has followed the post-NJO era with increasing sadness and despair.

    But despite these dark moments and somber backgrounds, Mercy Kill delivers much of Allston's trademark wit, and manages to pack the emotional punch that reach, for me, the level of scenes like Ton Phanan's death in Iron Fist, the journey of Myn and Lara in Solo Command, and Wedge's final discovery of a future in Starfighters of Adumar. Those scenes come from a surprising place - Voort's interaction with a Yuuzhan Vong recruit, dealing with the fallout of his own bioengineered background and his tragic Vong War history - and I admit when one of these scenes was finished, I had to put the book down and just breathe for a few moments.

    Mercy Kill isn't perfect. Many characters have intense promise but remain hard to engage with because they simply don't have many relationships that are shown in action. Bhindi Drayson, one of the intriguing cameos from the Enemy Lines Wraiths, is a big example of these, as is her fellow Sharr Latt. Even Myri Antilles, younger daughter of one of my favorite characters of all time, has to stay in the shadow of Voort's development - which is fair. Allston has utilized a pattern of rotating the point of view characters in his books, particularly his X-Wing books, to develop a large cast of characters, and given the chance to write more in this universe, I've no doubt he will continue to work through the cast and give them their own moments.

    Many reviews and comments I've read have noted that the villain lacks punch or real menace - and that's definitely true. But for me, the real conflict in the book was not the villain - it was Voort's own personal struggle and past that were the real evil in the book, and that struggle was perfectly paced and handled. The caper is brilliant, sparkly fun, and comes to a perfect photo finish - but what will stay with me is Allston's brilliant, invigorating portrait of a family coming back together, and telling Star Wars fans that we can come back home without wincing or grimacing anymore.

    The Wraiths are back. And long may they stay here.

    9.5 of 10
  16. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 78.45/9 = 8.72
  17. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 15, 2002
    Overall rating: 8/10

    There haven't been any other Star Wars books lately which I purchased, because I declared anything post Survivor's Quest as not part of my personal canon. I was even wondering if Mercy Kill would be worth my hard-earned credits simply because it plays in a timeframe I have no desire to read about. After a bit of dithering I shelled out the €uros and I do not regret buying it.

    I've read the book twice now and find it ... Well, it does have a bit of inconsistence in it. With a bit of time to reflect I've come to admit that the handling of Thaal was far from what would have been possible. He's being portrayed as a bumbling and somewhat sentimental fool and not as a battle-hardened soldier who survived the Vong War or the cunning black marketeer who managed to set up a large Black Market ring without attracting attention. What we see in the book doesn't really match a man who doesn't mind killing (even people close to him) to achieve his goals.
    On the other hand the book is a collection of everything I liked about the Wraith Squadron novels back in the 90s: colourful characters with personal quirks, humor, sad parts to balance the humorous parts and a believable story. On top, of course, Allston has added flashbacks and insights into what happened with the original Wraiths. The Myn/Lara fanservice alone gets him 0.5 points as bonus. Oh, and - of course - finally a book without "Sith this, Jedi that".

    Final verdict from me: Mercy Kill could have been even better if the villain had been fleshed out (oh, the possibilities!). The book feels like an introductory chapter of a much bigger tale, it presents us with the character development of Voort from broken survivor back to not-quite-normal commando and intelligence agent, it introduces new characters and lets us see known characters in a new light (Myri) ... Mercy Kill opens up possibilities for future Wraith adventures and I really hope the powers that be take the chance. The GFFA could do with more of that.
    imiller likes this.
  18. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 86.45/10 = 8.65
  19. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Chosen One star 7

    Jul 19, 1999
    I find my own thoughts echoing at least 3 of the reviews already posted here, in brief:

    Seeing the Wraith again is a hoot
    Effective use of continuity to enhance and not hinder the story
    Weakness lies in the villain

    The continuity point perhaps deserves the most praise. Save for the Crosscurrent-Riptide books, I've bailed on this era of the EU, but I bought this to support the X-Wing line and had no difficulty slipping back into the story. That's quite a feat!

    So score? Has to be 9/10.
  20. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Oct 23, 2004
    Yep having more than 20 books with essentially nothing impactful happening since the Vong War certainly is a feat. ;)
  21. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Chosen One star 7

    Jul 19, 1999
    Even so G, it's about 15 years later in-universe, still quite a jump!
  22. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Oct 23, 2004
    I know, I know, I just could not let the opportunity pass to make a LOTF/FOTJ jab.

    I also liked how well Mercy Kill brings up the Vong war and what a epic conflict the whole thing was, making the stuff after it just bush fires and political muck ups by contrast.
  23. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 95.45/11 = 8.68
  24. The_Forgotten_Jedi

    The_Forgotten_Jedi Jedi Master star 4

    May 12, 2010

    This book was nearly flawless and felt like a return to what proper SW EU should be: expanding the universe and the cast of characters. Piggy was a great choice for the main PoV, and seeing consequences of the Yuuzhan Vong War (at last) was excellent. Great new characters, and heartwarming/breaking reveals about old ones, made it the most emotional book we've gotten in a long time. The villain was blandish, but that doesn't really take away from the story too much. This was Piggy and Wraith Squadron's journey back to life, and it was thrilling/hilarious.
    imiller likes this.
  25. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 105.35/12 = 8.78