Review: Starfighters of Adumar

Coup de grace
Coup de grace

by Aaron Allston.

This week on According to Wedge, Ernest P. Worrell joins the diplomatic corps! Or Everybody Loves Jensen. Or The Fresh Prince of Adumar. I’m trying to say that Allston writes everything like it’s the script for a cheesy 90s sitcom guest starring Jim Varney. And I mean, I like cheese. And I don’t mind Ernest. I’d say I just don’t want him in Star Wars, but that isn’t true because I don’t even mind Jar Jar Binks. It’s just like the penne I had for lunch — it’s just too much cheese. And maybe you think there’s no such thing, but believe me, there is when it overwhelms all the other flavors and you’ve just got a mouthful of chewy goo.

I have to say that anybody who ever gushed about how awesome and funny Aaron Allston is has lost their right to ever complain about Jar Jar again. Goofy overdone accents? Check. Implausible clumsy escapades? Check. Trying way too hard to be funny one-liners? Double check. All of Aaron “Heavy Handed” Allston’s trademarks are here — but really it is his best one, a huge improvement over the first three, and I give it a fair rating.

I had actually decided not to read it. It got to that point. I was so miserable through his first three, and Isard’s Revenge was such a high point, that I decided I wouldn’t ruin what was left of my memory of the Golden Age of Star Wars books and I’d just leave this one on the shelf, unread and unscathed. But a member of “The Star Wars Group on Facebook,” as I eternally call this place, told me not to be afraid of it. He swore it was different, said it was better. So I said, okay, I’ll read it.

Stylistically, it is leaps and bounds ahead of the other three. No more machine-gun section breaks. (He never had staccato paragraphing; God bless pre-2000 books for that.) Aaron Allston still solidly belongs to the speechmaking camp of storytelling: “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em; tell ’em; and then tell ’em what you told ’em.” He’s a bit better about showing rather than telling . . . now he tells me, sort of shows me, and then tells me twice, rather than just straight up telling me. Also, I’ve seen episodes of Say Yes to the Dress that obsess about clothes less than this book does. I got curious, so I had to count — as a sample, in 86 pages, roughly 21 paragraphs were dedicated to describing people’s clothes. That was pretty consistent throughout the 291-page book — but let’s stop here to give credit where it’s due! That’s almost half as long as Wraith Squadron, and much shorter than either of his other two. It was concise, to the point, and didn’t have a quarter of the repetition the other three did. It took me until the halfway point to get bored. It’s a very good effort on Allston’s part, comparatively.

Enough with style. On to the plot. It’s 01151, or 13 ABY, and Allston starts with a break up scene. This scene was to prove nothing but hitting delete on one of my favorite characters whom Allston apparently can’t abide. But once he was done trying to play Stackpole and got on his own feet, chapter 2, he did much better. So: Wedge wants to take a vacation, but instead ends up heading up a diplomatic task force to Earth um Adumar. Because it’s a planet whose entire culture is built from Top Gun, and they will only listen to fighter pilots, and they have awesome weapons technology the Republic wants. Wedge, not as enslaved to duty as Leia, but still easily extorted into the whims of the Republic, agrees to go and takes those men who have been through the most with him and whom he trusts the most — Tycho, Wes, and Hobbie.

At first I was cringing in anticipation of Tycho’s portrayal by Allston, but fair is fair and he did a good job. In and among the incessant outfit-describing. Dear lord, man, they wear clothes; we know. Let’s get to the point. Everybody on totally not Earth even though it’s obviously Earth Adumar is obsessed with dueling and slaughtering one another for honor like it’s 18th century Russia with lasers. There’s wires everywhere; and “flatscreens” instead of holos; there’s a whole bunch of fractured “nations” instead of a one-world government; and I’m surprised there weren’t any sly backhanded jabs about pollution. And yet, even though I was annoyed that he was self-inserting our planet and doing so in a completely not-subtle way, this made for a good plot — and a good plot that he didn’t butcher as he did in Iron Fist.

Wedge ends up being in the thick of some geopolitical intrigue; not only does the Empire already have some agents courting the same planet for the same weapons technology — technology¬† that could still reasonably turn things around for the dying Empire — but then Wedge inadvertently triggers a planetary coup. There’s an assassination attempt, and a New Republic politician more annoying than Borsk Fey’lya, and some atmospheric dogfights that I’ve seen praised highly (though to me, all battle scenes are boring, and even more pointless in print than they are on screen. In the wise words of my mother, “Nothing ever happens in a car chase.” Or any non-lightsaber-duel battle).

In all, Starfighters is a decent contribution to realcanon, if a tad on the repetitive side, and a little overwhelmingly preoccupied with telling me what everyone is wearing every time they walk in the door. In honor of this, allow me to close the review by saying I read this book while wearing blue jeans, super fuzzy polka dot socks, a gray long sleeved t-shirt, and a black Star Wars t-shirt with Boba Fett and the caption Poker Face on it. Now, wasn’t that just thrilling and add so much to heighten the drama of the review?

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