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Books Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Discussion in 'Literature' started by GrandAdmiralJello , Oct 5, 2018.

  1. Tal0nkarrde2

    Tal0nkarrde2 Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 20, 2018
    I had some issues really getting into this book, which surprised me as I really enjoyed Alexander Freed's other works. But LAJ_FETT does have a point: things do pick up once the team starts working together. That being said, I'm slightly annoyed at what I am seeing as a possible Disney answer to the X-Wing novels that have become a part of the "Legends." The X-Wing series of books were some of my favorites and I don't appreciate Disney's attempt at a reboot.
    Here's where you can find my full review of Alphabet Squadron: www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2410563755703321&id=276123499147368&__tn__=K-R
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
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  2. Daneira

    Daneira Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 30, 2016
    I really don’t think these are anything like the X-wing books aside from being about a New Republic fighter squadron. If they ended up making a series about Phantom Squadron, that would probably be a total retread of the X-wing books, but I don’t know what you could do with them that wasn’t already covered in the Aftermath books.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
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  3. LAJ_FETT

    LAJ_FETT Tech Admin and Collecting/Lucasfilm Ltd Mod star 10 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    May 25, 2002
    Also the X-Wing books were a series - you knew pretty much who the main players were as the books went on so no long exposition was needed. If this is a series then I'd expect the next one to be less drawn out at the beginning than this was.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
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  4. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    I think we already had our sequel to the X-wing books. It was AFTERMATH because that followed a quirky bunch of Muggles fighting against the Regent of the Galactic Empire.
     
  5. Xander Vos

    Xander Vos Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Yes I'm finding it very hard to sympathise with, and root for the characters as I struggle through this. I'm almost halfway in and we've just had another new character introduction which just seems bizarrely late into the piece to be introducing yet another new character.

    The chapter with Hera did help to settle me a bit, but even her persona seems drawn out and convoluted in Freed's style that I don't remember at all being an issue in his R1 novelisation.
     
  6. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    I have a review coming from this book but the entirety of the book seems built around the premise of "What if Wraith Knight was deconstructed like superheroes were by Watchmen?"

    It's the story of a Imperial defector who finds themselves not inspired by their defection but deeply uncomfortable with everything about their new position, is not a particularly likable person, and a ragtag bunch of misfits whose crippling issues result in them....being nearly completely useless as a military unit. They DON'T find a sense of camraderie nor do they particularly come together at the end,

    I think it's a great book but at heart this is a bunch of failures who kind of deserve to be.

    And Yrica really deserves to be in prison.

    Mind you, the thing I had most trouble with is something I was told never to do in writing and switch up the names. Characters go from their first name to their last name at random.

    It's also kind of funny how Hera gives Yrica her complete support and mentoring--only to probably make the situation worse.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
  7. Supreme Leader Woke

    Supreme Leader Woke Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Dec 29, 2017
    Sounds like an interesting take on the novel, Charles. As for this —
    I could be wrong, but my impression while reading Alphabet Squadron was that Freed’s naming conventions tie back to his POVs. That is, Yrica has trouble letting herself connect with her squadron, so she internally refers to them by their respective surnames, whereas Wyl’s naïveté means that he’s on an internal first-name basis with everyone, etc.

    It’s been a few weeks since I read the book though, so I could be way off.
     
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  8. Wrinty

    Wrinty Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 8, 2007
    Hey, Wyl did everything right.
     
  9. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Here's my review!

    http://booknest.eu/reviews/charles/1649-starwarsalphabetsquadron

    ALPHABET SQUADRON by Alexander Freed is a book that I was very eager to get into because it struck me as just up my alley. I've always been a huge fan of the Star Wars starfighter stories with Rogue Squadron, Wraith Squadron, the old TIE Fighter video game, and the recent Star Wars: Resistance. I also enjoyed the previously written Twilight Company by the author. Freed has a somewhat unromantic view of war as well as the Rebel Alliance's fight against the Empire. It's unsurprising he also wrote the adaptation of Rogue One where the cause is just but the people are flawed.

    Those who prefer a slightly more adult take on Star Wars will probably enjoy Alphabet Squadron. The Empire is still evil and the Rebellion (now New Republic) is still good but things are a bit more gray with the protagonists. Individual rebels don't necessarily care about the greater politics at work, may be personally reprehensible, or are flawed in realistic ways like wanting the credit for a big propaganda victory over just winning the war (now that the war is "won"). The Imperials are similarly humanized in a way that almost makes them worse. They engage in some of the worst atrocities of both Legends and NuCanon with no real consideration of the billions they're wiping out. It's just another day at the office for them.

    The premise is Yrica Quell (pronounced "Erica Quell"), is a former Imperial TIE fighter pilot. An elite, she was an ace in the service of Shadow Wing, that seems to have been one of the Empire's best and brightest. After Operation: Cinder, she defects to the New Republic because even she can't stand the slaughter anymore--or so she said. After an ugly stay in a prison camp, Yrica is recruited as an informant on her former squadmates. Yrica eagerly cooperates because she can't stand the thought of not flying anymore and does her best to adjust to the free-wheeling individualist New Republic's military.

    Yrica is an interesting character because she's a subversion of a lot of common Star Wars archetypes. Bluntly, she's not particularly likable and not even in a bombastic Imperial villain way. Yrica is a socially awkward reserved woman with questionable leadership skills and almost no real interest in politics. She joined the Empire in hopes of defecting to the Rebellion, only to find herself deciding just to fit in instead. Even after Operation: Cinder, she can't really wrap her head around the greater struggle but just wishes her life was more structured like it had been in the Empire.

    I'm neuroatypical myself and while it's unlikely that Star Wars has the same sort of categories for mental health as we do here, I wouldn't be surprised if she was written with the idea she's on the spectrum. Yrica is also one of Star Wars many new queer heroines (Doctor Aphra, Sana, Tolven, Lana Beniko, and others joining her) w/ references to both boyfriends as well as girlfriends. It's interesting to see fan favorite Hera Syndulla take Yrica under her wing, fully supporting her, and have the reader question whether this is wrong. Yrica is not a good leader and may actually belong in prison for her actions rather than receive forgiveness but that's just part of the book's deconstructive charm.

    The rest of Alphabet Squadron is composed of a similar band of misfits as Wraith Squadron: Nath Tensent (criminal Rebel), Wyl Lark (heroic farmboy), Kairos the mysterious, and Chass na Chadic (suicide martyr). The difference is that all of them are, well, terrible at coming together. They hate each other and their personality disorders make them less effective soldiers rather than a lovable band of rogues.

    It doesn't help that Yrica really misses the quiet professionalism of the Empire. You know, where individuality was stamped out and every pilot was disposable parts that could be easily replaced. As Hera says to her, her team doesn't know she'd fight for them and she doesn't know if they'd fight for her. They also have a floating ball torture droid as their therapist (I assume Wes Janson must have put this squadron together).

    The book's deconstruction of traditional Star Wars stories of A-team like oddballs coming together as a family then blowing up the Empire is both its strength as well as its weakness. It's a story that goes in surprising directions but also you kind of miss when Star Wars was about the glorious victories of the good guys over the bad. Yrica just can't wrap her head emotionally around the wrongness of the Empire even when she intellectually knows they're monsters. She's a soldier because that's her job, not because she's ever wanted to protect people.

    I also feel like this book suffered for the fact we don't have much perspective on the Imperial soldiers in the book. Shakara Nuress is the central antagonist of the book but barely appears, though those few scenes where she does are some of the best in the book. This isn't the kind of book for scene-chewing evil but I would have appreciated some more perspective from those still fighting the good fight against the Republic. Perhaps the author felt Yrica provided all the perspective they needed since she remains Imperial in mindset throughout.

    There's a lot of great starfighter action, impressive set pieces, and genuinely moving meditations on war as well as what people fight for. One of my favorite parts of the book is the encounter of the team with the Jedi Temple. Few of the pilots even know what a Jedi is but have started to become inspired by Luke Skywalker's legend (another is already inspired--in all the wrong ways--by Jyn Erso's). Its simple beauty and loveliness shakes Yrika's faith in the Empire even as she wonders if the Rebellion/New Republic is going to become a theocracy (because she does not understand them at all).

    In conclusion, this is a pretty good for a harder and grittier Star Wars novel. The protagonists are not trying to blow up the Death Star but simply remove a elite fighter wing (the twist there is impressive--no spoilers). They make mistakes, they don't always succeed, and they kind of do need to get their bantha poodoo together. Not everyone will learn the right lessons and some will get better than worse. It's a great insight into the year following the Battle of Endor but before the Battle of Jakku. I'm actively looking forward to the other two books set to be released in this years despite my few (minor) issues.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
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  10. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Some spoilery comments:

    1. I like the fact that Yrica is someone who went through with Operation: Cinder and STILL doesn't really cope with exactly what she's done. Say what you will about Iden Versio turning but at least she understands the magnitude of the horrible things she's done. Yrica is still someone who mostly can't get past the fact she just wants to fly and doesn't really care about sides beyond that. She's kind of a terrible person and maybe belongs in prison. It's interesting also to note that Hera's faith in her may be entirely misplaced. The book walks a careful balance with this as it definitely hits her that the Empire is bad but you may wonder, "It's bad because we lost." She's an interesting example of the banality of evil.

    I see Jaime Chung as a great potential actress for her.

    2. Nath Tensent is a great example of a character who subverts expectations as well because Yrica despises him and he's an unreformed unrepetant criminal. However, honestly, I think he's about a million times better person than Yrica. Even if he is just motivated by the money, he genuinely does want to avenge his squadron and never shows any fondness for the Empire. Indeed, the assumption he just defected because the Empire was coming down on him is Yrica's because he could have just deserted and become a criminal but even when he's left the New Republic, he's STILL fighting against the Empire.

    3. I also like the big subversion with Shadow Wing: that all of its elite pilots are dead and have been for some time. It's just a name now and probably not nearly as badass as it used to be (if it ever was). I wonder how Yrica would react to this information, that all of her friends died because the Empire DID value squadrons over pilots. It renders a lot of Nath's emotional turmoil pointless and arguably their mission but I think it was fascinating nonetheless.

    4. I like the irony of poor Chass taking exactly the wrong lesson from Jyn Erso's sacrifice. Jyn Erso died saving the galaxy and is a martyr but she didn't WANT to be a martyr, that's just how it went. So Chass is seeking some kind of epic grandiose Viking way of dying in battle versus actually trying to protect the living. She's about 1000% more a better example of what Rose meant in THE LAST JEDI than what Finn was trying to do.

    5. Wyl is a great character because he's basically a typical Star Wars hero dumped in a much more cynical and aggressive story. All the other characters try to ascribe different motives to him and second-guess him because they can't really wrap their head around the fact he just wants to protect people and help them before returning home. It makes everyone else's issues all the more stark because none of them engage with the New Republic's mission to free the galaxy from tyranny directly--except him. Also, like Luke Skywalker was in real life, he's being worn down by the horror.

    6. What crazy person thought an Imperial torture droid being used as a therapist was a good idea?

    7. I kind of feel Hera Syndulla was underused here but I also think she's another good character for contrast. Hera assumes Yrika is a budding heroine and a leader who needs to come out of her shell, not that she's just genuinely not a good leader and maybe more Imperial than Rebel. Also, she's suspicious and disdainful of the spy on her ship despite the fact he's got a genuinely important mission for her to deal with.

    8. Yrika and Grandmother both grasp for some meaning of Operation: Cinder but never find out Palpatine's reason "Revenge for my murder." The thing is, this is probably better because no reason could possibly justify it so what is the point?
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  11. comradepitrovsky

    comradepitrovsky Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 5, 2017
    I really enjoyed this book. It was really good, and I'm looking forwards to the next couple books.
     
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  12. couchary

    couchary Jedi Youngling

    Registered:
    Jun 28, 2019
    I enjoyed this book a lot. Mostly because it mentions the "hero's" but doesn't deal with Luke Leia Han etc.. I like to see how the war affected the regular people caught up in the whole thing. I'm looking forward to the next book.
     
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  13. SyndicThrass

    SyndicThrass Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 25, 2016
    After his final session with Yrica in the book, I’d want him to be my therapist. Creepy as he is, he’s pretty self-aware.
     
  14. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    So what was everyone's impressions of Yrica?
     
  15. The_Forgotten_Jedi

    The_Forgotten_Jedi Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 12, 2010
    In my opinion, Yrica doesn't know who she is or what she wants. She's not a leader, she is a follower in desperate need of orders and direction to provide structure in her life with little care for the politics behind those orders. Now she can act like a leader if ordered to, but that isn't the same as real leadership. She's imitating what she has seen in others and that can't always cut it, particularly when it comes to understanding how to best utilize those under her command. When she takes risks or does unorthodox things, it is because she is fearful of losing that structure and needs to find ways to hold onto it by pleasing her superior officers.

    Yrica was comfortable in the Empire until something broke inside her during Operation: Cinder, but she still needed to be ordered to desert by a sympathetic mentor. Once she did leave the Empire, Yrica was looking for someone else to follow and her only option was a distrustful New Republic, but unfortunately the one who got to her first was Adan instead of someone who might actually care. She will do pretty much anything Adan wants her to at this point I would guess, because that is who she is. I think she can change though, if she can find a way to fix what broke during Cinder and come to terms with the choices she made, which I hope Hera can help with once she realizes how broken Yrica actually is.
     
  16. SyndicThrass

    SyndicThrass Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 25, 2016
    I was sympathetic to Yrica, or at least as much as I could be to a war criminal. The biggest thing I took from the character is that while she’s not remotely a “good” person, she’s also very much a victim of Palpatine and the scene where she’s listening to the recordings and transcripts of Operation Cinder was perhaps one of the most harrowing scenes I’ve read in a Star Wars novel.

    To me she is the perfect example of why Darth Sidious is the ultimate evil of this setting. He destroyed trillions of lives through genocide and warfare, but he also led a whole lot of people down a path of self destruction and that was really the feeling I got from Yrica. This is a person who has committed an act of emotional self mutilation and it’s left her fundamentally screwed up.

    This is the kind of depiction of fascism in Star Wars I like. 20 or 30 years ago the whole Space!COBRA/S.P.E.C.T.R.E. thing where everyone is Blofeld or Largo feeding people to sharks might have worked, but I prefer it when it’s a truly insidious organisation that lures unassuming people in and destroys them on a spiritual and ideological level.
     
  17. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    It's really fascinating how deeply the brainwashing has got its claws into Yrica. Intellectually, she knows the Empire is horrible but it never reaches her emotionally. Yrica just desperately wants an ordered structure to her life and and the New Republic is the only game in town. It's not just that it's only a job to her but the prospect of not having everything dictated to you is terrifying to her. Really, her intellectual acceptance of the New Republic=Good, Empire=Bad seems as much because she's now on "their" team that she must believe as they do.

    When she asks if the Jedi coming back means they're going to be a theocracy, you both get the impression she's not only failed to let go of the Imperial mindset but she doesn't understand the Rebellion/New Republic at all. It's a case of going through the motions, which makes her life in the New Republic hollow and empty. We're so used to defecting being something that liberates that it's interesting to see someone who just feels devastated by it and it does nothing to heal her (very) suppressed guilt and self-loathing,

    I do kind of want to know if her social awkwardness and emotional repression are from before or after her Imperial training, though.

    It was a brave choice having Yrica participate in Operation: Cinder and be fully prepared to continue the act to other worlds because she's latched onto the idea it's for the greater good. However, she's directly responsible for billions of deaths and I kind of think she should be in prison for that. It's the Kyp Durron issue. I always felt that if Darth Vader had survived he'd have been executed or imprisoned and been fine with that.

    It's also interesting how Devon feels betrayed by his squadron as he seems to have expected, what, from them? That they would all just fade into the public like he tried and failed to do? He's an interesting case in that he also seems to have completely not engaged with the fact he's killed billions. Instead, he seems to think he's Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name or the Rebel Josey Wales (which was written by a Klansman--much to Eastwood's disgust after he found out mid-production).

    Not to tooth my own horn but this does kind of remind me of my plotted outline of Lucifer's Star (see avatar) where the premise is a conflict between an Empire and a Republic. The conflict ends in the first chapter with the protagonist's entire squadron getting killed as well as losing both his world as well as the war. It should leave him thirsty for revenge but it mostly leaves him broken as well as cursed with the fact that (after some investigation), he finds out that his side probably deserved it and he was in denial of that.

    So this is very much up my wheelhouse.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
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  18. The2ndQuest

    The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 27, 2000
    Finished this last week- very satisfying read. More substantial/complex and character-focused than Aftermath trilogy and does a real good job of still settling he reader into that post-Endor era (between reading Aftermath, Alphabet and, now, starting Last Shot, I think I've read more stories with scenes set on Chandrila this summer than I previously did in the entire EU). Good combination of characters, though this book keeps a lot of them slightly distant for various mysteries. As a result, it does take a few chapters to really get to warm up to them. Any time either Hera is involved or a mission is going down the book really lights up, though.

    It's about as good as Lords of the Sithon the whole. Despite all the combat scenes, it's a bit slower than the wall to wall action of that book but this ultimately feels like more of an insight into an important era. Plus, it's fighter pilots, so that's an automatic bump;). My ranking: 8.75/10

    Ranking NU Adult Novels so far:
    -The Last Jedi 10.0
    -Catalyst 9.5
    -Alphabet Squadron 8.75
    -Lords of the Sith 8.5
    -Aftermath: Empire's End 7.75
    -Aftermath: Life Debt 7.5
    -Tarkin 7.0
    -Aftermath 7.0
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
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  19. Xander Vos

    Xander Vos Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2013
    It's certainly picking up now around page 250+, but that's almost worthy of more criticism. A book shouldn't take that long to get going if it's <500 pages long. The problem is it's clearly evident Freed can write an engaging, interesting story. The incident with the Verpine, for instance, is much more gripping and enthralling than anything that happened previously in the book, so the question is why? Why were introductions and setting up the squadron dragged out over 100-150 pages instead of done much more concisely?
     
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  20. The2ndQuest

    The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 27, 2000
    I think the intent was to focus on the original squadrons getting torn down to their survivors. There was a sense of hopelessness and inevitability there that built Shadow Wing's threat. It also provided the opportunity for those fantastic small moments like when Lark tries to reach out to the Imperial pilots. Everything else with setting up the squadron was set against/in contrast with that background.
     
  21. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Some of this may be forgiven in this is set up for the trilogy but I think it is one of the flaws of the book that all the characters are so emotionally divided that they almost never would normally tell each other their backstories. Honestly, I don't think everyone's past prior to the Temple srories was particularly in need of screen-time.
     
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  22. Xander Vos

    Xander Vos Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Sorry I think my point was lost a little bit, there's two different points in what I'm saying.

    1) The slow build up getting the squad together is made particularly tough based on the language and narrative Freed employs - vagaries of setting, scenery and characters (who are later killed off.. makes me think he just didn't want to flesh them out. Which is fine, but make them a bit easier to visualise and differentiate at least).
    2) Getting into the main plot of the book halfway through makes it even more difficult to appreciate the set up, when things become much easier to read, it actually just makes it more annoying we took so long to get to this point.

    So I have no issues spending half a book in a trilogy (so 1/6th, really) setting up our main characters, but the way it was done, and the narrative devices used, are what I have issue with.
     
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  23. Tal0nkarrde2

    Tal0nkarrde2 Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 20, 2018
    They did detail the new players in the first X-Wing books in Rogue and Wraith Squadron and I still wasn't bored or detached. Alphabet Squadron IS going to be a series per publicized discussions with the author...I believe it was supposed to be a trilogy or something like that. But I'm with Xander Vos regarding how the main character set up was done.
     
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  24. Xander Vos

    Xander Vos Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Even as I come up to the final conflict, it just feels so... meh. The tone, pace and energy is just as flat as the whole book has been. There's a scene in the opening chapters where someone walks into a room and a bomb goes off, and it's described in such a bland way that I had to be sure that it actually happened. Now they're moving towards the final mission and it's still just like.. meh. We're flying, and shooting at ships, and reminiscing about everything that brought us here.
     
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  25. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Some minor complaints about the book:

    1. Referring to characters by different names throughout the book. It's meant to highlight how detached Yrica is from her squadron but it left me mentally confused.
    2. The names are a bit more Star Warsian than I would have liked. A bit more ease would have been better, I think.
    3. We spend a lot of time with the backstories of the characters when I think we could have gotten them all before. I don't think anything other than Traitor's Roost was really necessary to be "seen." I much preferred the stories we got told around the campfire.
    4. I feel like we should have gotten more Imperial scenes from the get go.

    I like the twist that Shadow Wing is completely annihilated. It's like if Wedge Antilles, Hobbie, and all the others we know by name were dead. Yes, it's still "Rogue" Squadron but it's just a name. However, that means that we never really connect to the villains.

    5. I feel like we missed why the NR is using a torture droid as a therapist. That seems like a story worth telling.
    6. I feel Hera was severely underutilized and I'm not sure why she keeps going to bat for Yrika. Also, her handling of Adan the Intelligence Officer was bizarre and off-putting. Surely, she of all people knows intelligence is vital for the Rebellion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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