Borrowing its name from its gaming counterpart “Battlefront” Alexander Freed has given us Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company; a novel that appears to have divided opinion amongst many. Firstly let me state that I am no stranger to reading books of a military “ilk” so when presented with the opportunity I was keen to see what was on offer. I will attempt to focus on the key aspects of the story and delve into a little bit of detail with respect to the characters. Those of you who wish to steer clear and experience the book for yourselves should stop reading now.
Having read other reviews of Battlefront, it appears there was a common trend that emerged. The writing style of Freed is extremely compact and dense which upon first glance appear to share similarities with Tarkin by James Luceno.
This book is jam packed with detail. To fully appreciate and digest the story, it should be read carefully, and with a fine tooth comb or you may miss something vital. This for a speed-reader such as myself made it very challenging and frustrating at times.
The novel offers us a unique perspective. It gives us a birds eye view of the battlefield, not from the suits above, but the groundhogs who slog through the trenches risking life and limb with every action they take. This perspective is extremely refreshing as it allows us to hone in on the individual characters. We get to observe notable changes in behaviour during situations of quiet vs utter chaos. The timeframe of the action is set in and around The Battle of Hoth from ESB.
The book encompasses the stories of the Rebel Alliance with its focus on the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry; known as Twilight Company. This unit are tasked with being the dispensable asset in times of crisis. They accomplish targets no other unit could possibly manage; nor would ever take on quite frankly. This ragtag band of unlikely allies have absolutely nothing in common, aside from a burning drive to dismantle the Empire at all costs.
Following on from the Alliance victory at The Battle of Yavin, The rebels are pressing their advantage and marching into enemy territory. Problems arise when it becomes clear that the Empire has enhanced its presence in the Mid-Rim. A clear message that The Empire is ready to act should the opposition forces continue their fiasco.
High Command makes the decision that many previous victories have been for nothing and thus orders a fall back and retreat order. This causes much conflict and dismay within the ranks of Twilight Company. Resentment of your commanding officers and higher superiors is a receipt for disaster.
The leader of this ragtag band of warriors is central to our story. Captain Hazram Namir leads his forces into missions that other squads would simply perish at the thought of. Ranking above Namir is Captain Michael Evon, known as ‘Howl’ within the ranks. Howl is as charismatic as they come, a leader who Namir dislikes but respects, so much so that he whispers ‘Howl’ is a genius” so others don’t hear him. This relationship has proved extremely effective, until a decision by ‘Howl’, leaves Namir questioning his commanding officer.
Imperial Governor Chalis is captured and is offered protection by ‘Howl’ in return for information regarding The Empire and in particular their tactics. Chalis appears extremely cunning, manipulative and cocksure. This leaves Namir seriously questioning why his commanding officer would risk so much. It puts a target on their backs and begins to attracts some unwanted attention. Agents of The Empire, perhaps even Darth Vader himself who Chalis describes in quite vivid detail.
It’s safe to say Namir would’t trust Chalis as far as he could throw her! Rest assured he would have absolutely no issue attempting it and would more than likely relish the opportunity. This novel is very much a “Boots On The Ground” and in keeping with the trend of recent “New Canon” we see a movement away from the major events and big hitters which allows us to delve deeper into the Galactic Civil War itself.
Something I really enjoyed about this book was that it allowed us a brief glimpse into the inner sanctum of the men and women of the rebellion. In particular we get a glimpse into the protocol and order of The Empire. This is contrasted wonderfully with the controlled chaos and improvisation of the rebellion.
Characters and Thoughts
In Hazram Namir we see a familiar figure and character arc, jaded, battle hardened and dedicated. In Namir I see little bits of Commander Rex which is a nice in the sense of nostalgia and homage to what has come previously. However with Namir, we never get to see his beliefs or attitude change in any way shape nor form.
Unlike the majority of novels, we meet a soldier who is not 100% dedicated to the cause but dedicated to surviving. Namir makes it abundantly clear that no battle is different, you survive, live to fight another day and protect your own.
Namir has no problem questioning his superiors if he feels their actions will put his comrades and Twilight Company in danger. No orders blindly followed, everything is processed and calculated. There really is something to admire about this character. In one particular scene, we see him comforting a fellow “new meat” recruit having a hard time dealing with the ramifications of her actions in battles past.
Apart from Namir, we get the briefest of glimpses into other major characters within the story but for whatever reason, we dont see any major backstory or development. For example, it would have been beneficial to hear about ‘Brand’ and her Bounty Hunter past or how ‘Howl’ managed to convince her to join Twilight Company.
In Conclusion, Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is a solid read and stands tall along side other Canon Novels. I will admit though, this book is certainly not for everyone, If you are interested in a closer look at the soldiers of the rebellion, I would certainly recommend that you read it. You get a true perspective from the bottom of the battlefront food chain. After all when reading about a battle who better to tell the tale than the soldiers themselves?
Other points to note are that the first half of the book felt drawn out and lacked any drive or direction, mainly due to battle scenes being drawn out far beyond necessity. The benefit of this treatment is very descriptive images of the battle scenes that really help to set the tone. Our author paints a spectacularly vivid picture of the battlefront.
Alexander Freed is down to pen the Rogue One Novelisation. This book is filled with great visuals of life – and death – on the battlefront, It is gritty and real. All aspects we expect to experience in Gareth Edwards’ upcoming release. Some might even say that this was the perfect trial run for Freed to cut his teeth ahead of taking on a Star Wars adaptation.
We think he will do just fine.
Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?
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Until Next Time,
May The Force Be With You.