On sale today, Battlefront: Twilight Company is a good, solid novel for the military sci-fi reader. The world of Star Wars is no stranger to video game tie-in fiction, and has done so quite well with the X-Wing series and Republic Commando series, both now Legends. First time novelist Alexander Freed hits the mark by pulling the reader in for a trip with the men and women of Twilight Company, formally the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry, one of the Rebel Alliance’s toughest units, during the original trilogy era.
The tale mostly follows the story of Hazram Namir, a veteran of constant civil warfare on his homeworld, and now a squad leader in Twilight Company, as the unit goes from making holds for the Rebellion through retreats, survival, and a new campaign to jam up the Imperial machine. There’s also Everi Chalis, a former Imperial governor, now along for the ride with Twilight, with her knowledge of Imperial secrets – and her own agenda. There are new recruits, hardened warriors, and even a few familiar faces as Twilight Company fights to achieve their goals while just surviving. While there’s a lot of ground combat, the action spans the galaxy as the company gets sent from planet to planet, with barely enough time to recover from their losses.
The story is told mostly from front lines, without a lot of big picture stuff, but doesn’t feel like a string of video game levels connected together, or a mash of character classes leveling up. Twilight Company isn’t so much a game novel as just a Star Wars novel. The focus is not so much on the combat, but on relationships between the troops, between the leaders and the soldiers, between the fresh meat and the longtime survivors. Namir grows and changes as the story unfolds, as he eventually takes up the mantle of leadership despite not having a firm commitment for the Alliance cause. As would be expected in a war story about ground troops, there are a lot of casualties through the battles, and the attrition along with the new mission make Namir ponder the nature of sacrifice and loyalty. We also get a small glimpse into some of the Imperial mindset, from the points of view of a female stormtrooper and a veteran commander pulled back into service.
Mild spoiler, highlight to read: With the cover art and the video game beta both taking place on Hoth, it’s not that much of a spoiler that Namir ends up participating in the Battle of Hoth, and has a run-in with a few movie characters, including Han Solo and Darth Vader.
Overall, I was impressed with Alexander Freed’s story and writing. While this is his first novel, he’s no stranger to the Star Wars universe, having previously worked at BioWare on The Old Republic MMO, and written some of comics based on The Old Republic and a few Insider short stories. I was a little apprehensive at first when Freed was announced as the author because I wasn’t a fan of The Old Republic: The Lost Suns story, though I liked some of those characters, who later appeared to better use in Drew Karpyshyn’s TOR novel Annihilation. I am happy to report that I enjoyed this story, both for plot and for characters. Freed maintained a good balance between action, dialogue, and description. I felt that he really captures a sense of the daily lives of the ground troops, fighting, recovering, waiting, losing and regaining hope while doing their jobs. Anyone who wants to see what life is like for the average soldier in the Rebel Alliance should definitely read Battlefront: Twilight Company! Thumbs up!
Battlefront: Twilight Company is out on November 3 in hardcover, eBook, and audio formats. A copy was provided by Del Rey for this review.