Inferno Squad | Review
Rebellions might be built on hope, but Empires are built on – well, actually quite a few things, but we’ll get to that. The destruction of the Empire’s prized weapon forced the Imperials to take the Rebel threat more seriously. Their response? Well, revenge, hate, a few bad-asses and one hell of a pilot are certainly a part of it. Enter Inferno Squad.
The story starts with instant action and you find yourself thrust in to the Battle of Yavin as the Rebel Alliance begin their seemingly futile attack against the Death Star.
Let me start by saying this: I have read my fair share of Star Wars books and for me, no other book has a better opening than Inferno Squad. Revisiting this famous battle that I watched as a mesmerised kid a hundred times over, but THIS TIME from the point of view of an Imperial TIE fighter pilot? Absolutely fantastic.
Unlike the ending of A New Hope, we don’t see medals being handed out following the destruction of the Imperial Battle Station. Instead we see severe depression. Mourning. The Imperials left behind have been forced to deal with the death of thousands of their colleagues. They’ve lost real people in their eyes, and from their perspective this is a blatant terrorist attack.
The loyal citizens of the Empire are on edge, they are fearful and now they want revenge. And that revenge starts with Inferno Squad, an elite team who are on a mission to hurt the Rebels however they can.
This is the Empire’s unequivocal answer to Cassian Andor, Jyn Erso and the Rebels who infiltrated Scarif; to Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles and the Rebels who fought at Yavin. This is a hand-picked team who are not only the best of the best, but are also really fascinating characters to get to know.
Inferno Squad allows us to find out who the people under the helmets really are. And more than anything, these are people who truly believe in the Empire. They are loyal to the Imperial cause but at the same time they all have their own individual personalities, feelings and a sense of humour too. You actually start to connect with them and (almost) buy what they’re selling. And for me it was a very odd sensation to find myself rooting for these characters to succeed too.
The lines between right and wrong get very blurred; the Rebel Partisans that Inferno Squad go after can themselves be cruel, violent and generally unpleasant. The manner in which they go after the Empire is appalling at times and you find yourself wanting them to fail and get caught. But then of course you remember Alderaan...
Inferno Squad brilliantly exemplifies the complexities of what it’s like being on “the other side”. The Star Wars universe isn’t a two-dimensional, good against evil cosmos. There are many layers in between and, like with Rogue One, we are introduced to characters with extremist tactics that sit somewhere in the middle of right and wrong.
The author, Christie Golden, plays in this space really well and as the reader, you never quite feel comfortable with what anyone on either side is trying to achieve. But simultaneously, you also empathise and understand everyone’s reasons too. And then you remember what happened to Jedha City and feel guilty all over again. It’s great stuff.
The story primarily follows in the footsteps of Iden Versio (pictured above with her father, Admiral Garrick Versio) and the other three members of Inferno Squad. Along the way, we get to learn about Coruscant, post senate-dissolution (previously we’d only really been exposed to Coruscant before the dark times). We also get to hear about the events from Rogue One and A New Hope being described by Imperials as a seamless string of events.
And there are some really nice touches too, for example Imperial characters likening being posted on Scarif as being a bit of a working holiday.
For me, what really works about Inferno Squad is going through suspense and anxiety from the point of of the Empire. We’re used to experiencing that tension from the Rebels perspective; Han & Luke sneaking around the Death Star; Cassian & Jyn undercover at the Citadel. Experiencing that as an Imperial is uncharted territory however and it’s an undeniably enjoyable read.
The other big selling point about Inferno Squad is that many of the Imperial characters we meet will be the focus of Battlefront 2, the upcoming video game. The single player campaign story in that game follows Iden Versio & co immediately following the Battle of Endor. Being able to get to know the backstory for these characters is something I really enjoyed and I think will likely enhance my appreciation of the game too.
Getting an Imperial perspective of the Death Star destruction was awesome.
There are very few canon novels set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
Christie Golden, delicately balances the pace of the story and draws out the tension and stress of undercover missions perfectly.
A canon Star Wars story that introduces characters from Battlefront 2 really adds value for me.
A character from the novel Rebel Rising shows up which is neat for fans of the books.
The tie-ins with Rogue One & A New Hope help to bring those two movies together even more.
Undoubtedly one of the strongest, can’t-put-it-down Star Wars novels I’ve read.
Inferno Squad is the Star Wars book you’ve been looking for.