Lit Isards Revenge by Michael Stackpole 1999

Discussion in 'Literature' started by fett 4, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. fett 4

    fett 4 Force Ghost star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    Ok so after a conversation with another poster about Isards Revenge. I thought I’d post a review myself. It was Stackpoles last Rogue Squadron book as well as one of the last Bantam books and it’s now 19 years since it’s publication back in 1999.

    So did it tie things up for people and does it still hold up. Those are questions I ask:

    I admit, the Title does seem a bit of misnomer. Isard is back. 2 of them in fact but they don’t really want revenge. The real one wants her Ship back (which she kind of gets in a horrific way) and the other seems to be teaming up with Krennel almost out of desperation rather than some big plan for revenge.

    So reading the story, which starts off with the Bilbringi Shipyards battle from Last Command, where Corran shows off his mad skillz and we are told Thrawn is genius, the depth of which is undeniable (it literally states that in the book) ^:)^ Corran thinks he’s incredible and wants to meet him and shake his hand. A not so subtle nod to Side Trip and the fact he has met him.

    You then get the usual Stackpolisms where he has Corran wink at a holograph picture of his wife (seems a bit of a strange thing to do in a middle of a dog fight [face_dunno]) and snap rolls and Corran taking out Ties all over the place really easily. Even his dog fight with a 181st fighter doesn’t really have tension. Compare that to the previously written IJedi and the excellently written and tension filled Duel between Corran and Tycho and it’s striking

    Anyway Bilbringi ends and we get to the meat of the main story which is the NR taking out a planet with a popular warlord called Krennel on it, to send a message to the other Warlords.

    Krennel himself is a fun character it was a shame how casually he was offed in Jmo. Best comparison would be Bane in DR. Both a got away with in favour of less interesting characters. In Bane’s case it was for Talia Al Gul and in this case, Isard whose neither as fun nor interesting. There is one revelation of her confession that she loved Palpatine but it doesn’t tell anything about her (she likes evil things grrr :emperor: or add anything to Corran (whose awesome) and his views of things. It’s kind of pointless Of course Stackpole doesn’t delve deeper into the obvious. If Krennel is popular on his world and the NR invade and take over and the planet doesn’t like it. What happens then ?
    It’s a question Stackpole hints but never really goes further with.

    The book switches back from Allstons group character stories to really just being about Corran. Yes Gavin/Tycho and Wedge get a go but it’s realky Corran that’s the main character. Now this is not bad per say but we don’t really learn much more about Corran, he’s super cool and beats the bad guys and well that’s about it.

    There is some irony about all this because as with Isard and Krennel, the side characters are more interesting than the ones Stackpole concentrates on. Wedge and Tycho and Gavin are actually more fun and interesting to read about, than Corran the superjock.

    Anyway we also get the first look at Tie Defenders. After years of making the bad guys fly around in death traps and the good guys in super super machines, he decides to give the baddies a sliver of brain power and make them invent and use a ship that’s just as good. As what the goodies use. Then irony of ironies they aren’t actually beaten in them. The TIE crew are rendered unconscious when they land on a Super Star Destroyer and I’m guessing quickly captured.

    All in all it was a fun and enjoyable if forgettable story. As a story I’m not sure it needed to be told and I’m not sure it added much to lore but I would not say it’s bad. It had a lot of the Stackpole strengths and weaknesses in his writing all in one 6.5/10 or 3 out of stars

    Though I am glad that Allston rounded off the Bantam Run with Star Fighters Of Adumar which I think ended the X-wing series on a better note and with Wedge rather than Corran who should’ve been the main character in Jmo.

    So what did other people think of this book ?
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
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  2. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    I think you said it best, I found it to be enjoyable, fine, but forgettable. There was some interesting stuff with Krennel, Isard's clone, and the fact that the NR could be easily manipulated by using its fear (and all-too-willing acceptance) of superweapons to basically wage regime change. Talk about a plotline that was a few years ahead of its time.

    The scene that really sticks out is the part where Corran and Isard meet while working out in the gym and Isard tells all about her unrequited love for Palpatine. What a mental image.

    Having it start with the Bilbringi battle was a nice bit of continuity. Though I remember at the time wishing that it did something to connect with Dark Empire in the end, too. I'm honestly surprised that Stackpole didn't want to make Rogue Squadron the ones who found out about the warlord alliance to capture Coruscant, and that their warning was the only reason the Republic leadership escaped and survived.
  3. Nobody145

    Nobody145 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Feb 9, 2007
    I think I liked Bacta War as the conclusion to the Stackpole books better than Isard's Revenge honestly. Like how that ended with Corran and Tycho blowing up her shuttle, though of course even the Allston books brought up the theory that she faked her death. This last book did tie up the loose end of the Lusankya prisoners that Corran had promised to rescue, so that was a nice ending. Didn't really care for the idea of an Isard clone, especially since that kind of opens the idea of clones with mostly complete memories popping up (Palpatine is a special case with his Force transfer).

    It was also interesting to see Wedge promoted to General (and everyone else in Rogue Squadron bumped up a few ranks). Its a bit silly it wasn't done earlier, and possibly was done to clean things up as later non X-wing books has had Wedge as a general, but still, I was happy to see Wedge's promotion.

    Their criteria for choosing Krennel was interesting, as they wanted to send a message to the remaining Imperial warlords after Thrawn's death (with no idea that the worse was yet to come) but also didn't want to get stuck fighting a protracted war against someone too strong. I think Krennel was from the X-wing comics originally? So that possibly counts as another loose end wrapped up. I liked seeing some of the New Republic politics as they continued changing from Rebel Alliance to galactic government.

    I didn't like that the book broke up Gavin and Asyr, though that was a continuation of Asyr's clash with Bothan culture. Though her going into hiding was probably meant as set-up for Traest Kre'fey, I think? As someone nicer than the Bothan norm and a successful sign of her changing Bothan culture.

    Its kind of odd thinking that this entire book takes place between the end of The Last Command and then Dark Empire, and that the happy moment at the end would shortly be ruined by Dark Empire. Actually, I still kind of wish we could get more Dark Empire stories, especially since this book has the Lusankya mostly repaired, right before Palpatine's fleets were sent out again. Its not one of the EU's masterpieces (Bantam or after), but I still remember it fondly.
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  4. fett 4

    fett 4 Force Ghost star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    That’s the thing, the side characters and plot were actually very interesting, I just wish Stackpole had stuck to those rather than Corran and Isard.

    It’s a crazy image but what’s even crazier is it adds nothing to Isard as a character or her motivation, nor does it give Corran any insight or depth.
    Compare that to say Luke believing there is still good in Vader, which he felt was was the reason Vader didn’t kill him in ESB. Vader himself denies it until the very end when he admits the truth of it “you were right about me”
    It adds a lot right there but in this case you don’t get any of that. Instead it’s Stackpole telling the audience that Isard was in love with a creepy evil old guy. Because you know she’s evil too and well that’s it.

    Agreed with what you said about making it a prequel to DE rather than a sequel to TTT but (and this is just a guess) he like TZ wasn’t a fan of DE either.
  5. fett 4

    fett 4 Force Ghost star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    I admit I shrug a bit about the prisoners. Because (with the exception of Jan Dodonna) they were all faceless and nameless, it’s hard to feel to much joy when they are rescued.

    Ironic that Wedge gets promoted to General in this book but we know he is right back to commanding the fighter squadron under another General by HoT duology.

    It’s funny but when DE (the first one anyway) first came out back in the day, I disliked it and was firmly in the that’s not my Palps team. Now recently rereading it. I really like it and think it holds up fantastically with a great depth and scope.
  6. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    He was, as was his whole backstory to taking over the Ciutric Hegemony, as well as Isard's clone and a few of the NR characters too. It's the only Stackpole X-wing novel published after the end of the comic series, so it's essentially the only X-wing novel that fully works as a sequel to the comic.
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  7. blackmyron

    blackmyron Force Ghost star 6

    Oct 29, 2005
    It works for me as part of the 'extended' X-Wing series - leading into I, Jedi (where the story was first hinted at, I believe). It also covered a time period that really wasn't used at all - the short period between the fall of Thrawn and the rise of the Clone Emperor.

    Plus, they did a nice twist on the Bantam cliche of "Superweapon of the Month".
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  8. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 15, 2006
    The best thing about Isard's Revenge is the use of Iella and Mirax. It's the first book that treats them as characters in their own right instead of just the protagonists' girlfriends. They have their own storyline, they have important things to do, and it's them who stop Isard in the end. Iella in particular has a great payoff to a character arc.

    In general though I kind of agree with the posters who wonder if it really... had to exist? It ties up a couple of loose ends from the X-wing comics, but things like the fate of Krennel weren't exactly the most nail-biting of cliffhangers. I also found it a bit tiresome that it took a fifth book to tie up loose ends from the original Rogue Squadron quartet that was already one book to long to begin with. The Bacta War... ugh. That was a book that did wonders to demonstrate the value of trilogies. And it didn't even rescue Jan Dodonna.

    I don't hate the book, though. It was a fun Rogue Squadron adventure, if not the most memorable one. Heh, anyone else wanna jump on that train?
  9. Trip

    Trip Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 7, 2003
    tbh The Bacta War was my favorite when I was twelve because I loved the whole rogues-out-on-their-own thing, scraping together ships and building a fleet and all that. (It was basically what me and my siblings did when we played star wars, which was pore over the Essential Guide books and decide what our fleet would look like and what kind of planet/space station our base would be and stuff.) Also Corran and Mirax got married which was so exciting because tween me shipped them pretty hard (before I even knew what shipping was), I still remember rushing to my sister's room after reading Corran's entry in the Encyclopedia and being like DUDE CORRAN AND MIRAX GET MARRIED IN THE BACTA WAR (which I hadn't got yet, reliant as I was on parental rides to waldenbooks) and she was like "corran and mirax get married in the back door?" which was source of amusement for the next two weeks.

    Also it has the single best Corran death, when his very first lightsaber fight ends with him breaking his pelvis, spine, and most of his ribs after overextending himself, losing his lightsaber and then cartwheeling off of a spaceport promenade. And then he wakes up in a bacta tank and finds out Bror Jace is alive but wearing bermuda shorts and he's like WOW NICE OUTFIT NERD and Bror is like ??? and Corran's like SHORTS ARE GAY AND I HATE THEM and Bror is like "well obviously, on you, who'd even notice" (because Corran is short) and Corran is like

    anyway i haven't really read it properly as an adult so who knows what i'd think now.
  10. fett 4

    fett 4 Force Ghost star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    So what do you think of Isards Revenge [face_dunno]
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  11. Trip

    Trip Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 7, 2003
    right sorry I saw Jeff talking smack about TBW and got overexcited.

    ummm... I think... it's a book? tween/teen me (which again is the last time I properly read it, I've flipped through it for reference purposes a hundred times since though) was pretty underwhelmed, because even then I was like, what's the point of bringing back not one but two Isards when she already died at the end of TBW? The TIE defenders were exciting though, because I'd played TIE fighter, but Corran and the Rogues' mission was actually pretty boring but i got a kick out of Whistler and Jawaswag's excellent adventure. I don't really remember the Mirax/Iella plot though, other than that I vaguely recall being kind of lukewarm on it because Stackpole tends to write that kind of thing as like, GIRLS on an ADVENTURE which even then i found offputting, but it's been probably like eighteen or so years so who knows I could be totally misremembering. (On the flip side Areta Bell was kind of exciting for all the two seconds she was in the book, I guess because at the time the only admiral was pretty much Ackbar and so a female admiral just popping up without it even being a Thing was pretty cool.) What else... Krennel was kind of a boring villain but I do remember thinking his death scene (the interior of the viewport spalls off and he gets wrecked by transparisteel shards) was the sickest thing ever, and I really liked Liinade 3 for some reason (i dunno why but AT-ATs stomping around whats basically described as wintery Nebraska was like the coolest thing to me). But I hated Asyr and Gavin breaking up (no idea why, they were a weird couple, but at the time I was crushed) and all the references to the comics annoyed me, because I felt like I was missing something but at the time I had the sort of quixotic snobbishness toward comic books that only a thirteen-year-old who takes themselves way too seriously can have.

    As an adult looking back though, yeah, it's definitely a book that feels like it's struggling for a reason to exist. The most interesting thing about it is, as @Dr. Steve Brule noted upthread, the similarities between the plot and the events leading up to the Iraq War five years later. Doubly interesting because Stackpole was staunchly anti-war, so it makes me wonder if he was intentionally depicting the New Republic in a kind of shady light, there, or if it ever even occurred to him. In any case the whole fake-WMD thing is a pretty weird bit of coincidence.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  12. Ackbar's Fishsticks

    Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 25, 2013
    I read the book a couple of years after the Iraq War, and it was creepy how much of it lined up.

    Had no idea that Stackpole was anti-war. One of the things I noticed about his and Allston's books was that they drew liberally (no pun intended) from real-world politics, but I couldn't really tell which side of the aisle they were on.
  13. Noash_Retrac

    Noash_Retrac Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 14, 2006
    Whenever I want to develop a new timeline idea, I start it from the end of X-wing: Isard's Revenge, with a re-write of Dark Empire, Dark Empire II and Empire's End, with the Empire crippled so severely that their last stand in 12 ABY was effectively the end of the Galactic Civil War (bye bye Pellaeon [GrandAdmiralJello would be pleased] and Daala [rewritten to make sense]). I loved Isard's Revenge alot and that's why I keep it in when I do timeline ideas.
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  14. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    It's especially strange given just how much the X-wing books draw on the typical Tom Clancy, John Ringo-ish tradition of military sci-fi, which is almost always so far to the right that Mussolini would pause. Even the X-wing books repeatedly had the message that you can never trust democracy or politicians and the military should do whatever it wanted (which Stackpole then had Leia argue to the NR in Dark Tide).

    Incidentally, not really here nor there, but I'm embarrassed at how long it took me to realize the Black Fleet Trilogy was very obviously a GFFA version of the Bosnian War with the Yevetha as the Serbs.
  15. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Jul 30, 2000
    I was fascinated by the idea of the New Republic having an issue of going to war with Krennel and looking for cassus belli. Normally, the NR was portrayed as an organization which wanted to avoid going after Imperial Remnants to the point of inviting attack.

    Military science fiction is LUDICROUSLY right wing in a lot of circles and you can often run into writers who basically stop to tell you about their awesome new series which can and will end up being about blowing up Space Muslims. Sometimes, writers do a bit of a 180 as David Weber used to write Honor Harrington about the evil of Welfare States out to murder and conquer free-capitalist societies as well as Christian Nations with their atheism before he became best friends with a fellow sci-fi writer Eric Flint who is a communist. They collaborated on some books together.

    Mind you, it's weird when both the Right and Left both seem to have the narrative the other is all about trusting the government. One would think extremists on both side would agree with that. I write about corrupt and evil governments in my books but that's because it's good storytelling fodder.

    I've commented in the past the Yevetha seem very much a caricature of Muslims given they seem to be obsessed with their Holy Land, are interested in deporting the people off their Holy Land, and justify their murderous acts of terrorism by claiming to be victims of the Empire as well as Imperialism (which they were).

    As for Isard's Revenge?

    Honestly, I feel like the book is an unnecessary sequel. There's a couple of good moments like the fact Isard tried to bond with Corran Horn about their lost lovers, only for him to recoil because she's speaking about PALPATINE but cloning never really makes stories better. Krennel also seemed to come out of nowhere if you weren't a comic fan.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  16. Noash_Retrac

    Noash_Retrac Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 14, 2006
    When I first read X-wing: Rogue Squadron I was confused about certain things that we're in the comics, including Tycho Celchu. Krennel's backstory was written enough so that we know who he is, at least in retrospective to pre-X-wing novels.
  17. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    I give this review five out of four stars.
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  18. Ackbar's Fishsticks

    Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 25, 2013
    I was going to say that it tends to vary, but then I realized that a lot of what I was thinking of that's more nuanced is really spy fiction rather than military fiction, which is related but arguably not the same thing. For straight military fiction what I've read that comes to mind is Tom Clancy, Dale Brown and Stephen Coonts, all of which is indeed right wing as hell.

    The reason I said what I did about Stackpole is that I remember his fleshing out the human-nationalist side of the Empire in ways that were very clearly inspired by real life politics. The whole conversation between Isard and Krennel at the beginning of this book, for example, reads like it was scripted by a liberal writing his point of view on the "Southern Strategy" - how, after civil rights, right-wingers may have appealed to white resentment while making a pretense of only wanting fairness and merit, while painting their civil-rights-promoting enemies as really being anti-white. But on the other hand, he also develops the politics of alien resentment in the New Republic in ways that are also inspired by real life politics, but on the other side of the aisle. The whole thing about Borsk Fey'lya and his relentless anti-human racism (which, as we see by the time of the Dark Tide duology, has a sizable following in New Republic politics) reads like it was scripted by a conservative writing his point of view on "multiculturalism" - how left-wingers may be promoting anti-white racism while making a pretense of only wanting to redress the wrongs that have been done to historically disenfranchised groups, and painting people who are onto them as white racists.

    The real life allusions are really clear, or at least they seem that way to me. But he lifts enough from both sides of the aisle that it leaves me with no idea how he votes in real life.

    I don't know if it is, or at least not specifically. It's clearly very nineties in that the theme is "the big, world/galaxy-spanning war between two competing ideologies is over, now ethnic resentments are bubbling back up to the surface and spawning genocidal movements." The Yevetha story works as the Balkan wars, but it works just as well as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan or the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
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  19. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    It's definitely very nineties in general, but I feel the Black Fleet Crisis is particularly apt for the Balkan crisis:

    The Imperials in this case stand in for communist rule in general
    The ancient Yevethan worlds they lost under the Empire as the mythical historical 'Greater Serbia'
    The Yevethan religious and expansionist resurrection after the fall of the Empire as parallel to Serbian nationalism and Orthodoxy mixing to replace communism as an ideology
    Their historical claims to the Koornacht Cluster based on past settlement = the Serbian claim stemming from the Battle of Kosovo
    The New Republic as a stand-in for both the US and NATO, and the post-Imperial era as the post-Soviet realignment
  20. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Chosen One star 10

    Sep 2, 2012
    Maybe that's a good thing?
  21. Ackbar's Fishsticks

    Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 25, 2013
    I'm not saying it isn't. I'm saying that's the way it is.

    This originally came from someone posting something about Stackpole being anti-war, which prompted my comment that while the guy was clearly drawing from real-life politics he didn't leave me with strong impressions either way.
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  22. Daneira

    Daneira Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 30, 2016
    I follow Stackpole on twitter, he's a liberal.
  23. CT-867-5309

    CT-867-5309 Force Ghost star 6

    Jan 5, 2011
    I follow Stackpole in real life. His favorite dessert is ginger snap rolls.
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