STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II - INFERNO SQUAD - (9 out of 10) written by Christie Golden. 336 Pages. Published by Del Rey. Available everywhere now in print, digital, and audio.
After the Empire's defeats at Scarif and Yavin, a new elite squad of Imperial agents is formed to combat the increasing leaks of Imperial secrets to elements who would destroy the Empire. Inferno Squad, led by the highly capable Iden Versio, is sent undercover into a cell of Saw Gerrera's Partisans. The book plays out with all of the moral dilemmas one expects when dealing with undercover work, and Golden conjures a clever mix of tense feelings. At times, it can have the tension of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, but it is always laced with the sort of action and adventure that is mandatory in a Star Wars story.
Iden Versio is an easy character to like, which causes a moral quandary in the reader as well because she's so despicable. Golden crafts a tale that has us rooting for the bad guys, but then blurs the lines further. Can they be good guys? Can the good guys be bad? There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.
Some of my favorite moments in the book have little to do with Star Wars, though. One of my favorite moments was a character with eidetic memory and the realization that any haunting thing she experienced would be forever ingrained in her brain in perfect detail. Where others can forget and let the images fade in their memory, this character must live with these moments forever as though they were brand new. It was a fascinating quirk of character and only one of the reasons I loved this particular member of Inferno Squad. This was Seyn. She was the youngest member of Inferno Squad, a brilliant soldier, and Asian.
And I was impressed by how Christie Golden was able to make her Asian in a world where you couldn't just come out and say, "She's Asian." It was done delicately and capably in a way that proved why Golden is writing in the Star Wars universe.
When the book does tie into the events of the Star Wars universe, though, it does so wonderfully. I would recommend reading Beth Revis's Rebel Rising before you read Inferno Squad if you can, but it is, by no means, necessary. It gives us an added glimpse into some of the Rebels that Versio's squad have infiltrated, and certainly adds a layer of complication to those moral quandaries. My favorite connection, though, is one that isn't officially revealed until the closing chapters of the book, but readers familiar with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the life of Saw Gerrera will suspect who one specific character is. And when his fate and story are revealed, I was left in tears.
This is some of the best work the Story Group has done to keep threads from different eras and parts of Star Wars and adding meaning for people who can keep track of all the minutia, without feeling overwhelming for someone who might not recognize all the players.
It made me want to play the video game. But mostly to see how things turn out. So much of Versio's struggle feels like an inverse of Howard W. Campbell's struggle in Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night. In that book, he's an American Playwright tasked with going undercover with the Nazis to provide information to the Americans, but he'd have to be so undercover, no one would know he was really there. The moral of the story (as Vonnegut tells us right at the beginning of the books) is that you need to be careful what you pretend to be, because, in the end, you are what you pretend to be.
This book charted an opening in the possibility that Iden Versio could come to her senses and leave the Empire. I wonder how much the Battlefront game will take us in that direction. I really want more with these characters and these stories and I hope we get more beyond just the video game.
Overall, this is a great addition to the canon wrapped up in a fascinating, well-written story featuring an excellent, diverse cast. I'm rating this a 9 out of 10.