I consider myself a pretty big Star Wars fan. I endlessly watch the movies, even the prequels which I’m a huge fan of, and watch and deconstruct Star Wars Rebels each week. I read all of the comics and make sure to get every new canon novel upon release. Well, almost every novel. Even as a massive Star Wars fan I completely overlooked the release of Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company. Who can blame me? It’s a novel tie-in to what was a disappointing video-game which itself had no story or characters to speak of what-so-ever. However, after feverishly consuming Star Wars Bloodline, a pre-Force Awakens canon novel, earlier this year my thirst for more Star Wars content was so great that I decided to give Twilight Company a go and I’m so glad I did.
Star Wars Battlefront Twilight Company written by Alexander Freed follows – yep you guessed it – Twilight Company, a rag-tag squad of rebel soldiers facing the Empire under insurmountable odds. Set primarily around the events of The Empire Strikes Back we follow the soldiers Namir, Gadren, Roach and Brand as they struggle to survive after they are cut off from the Rebellion leadership and have to make a deal with an Imperial defector.
Twilight Company is primarily and undoubtedly a war story. If you want a cheesy line then I’ll say it puts the ‘Wars’ in ‘Star Wars’. This is the aspect of the novel that I knew about going in; it’s a spin off to a FPS video-game so it’s going to be full of action. Freed does an incredible job writing the action keeping it suspenseful and exhilarating whether describing close quarter mano-a-mano violence or huge large scale armies-rushing-at-armies style war scenarios. This isn’t kid friendly action we see in the movies or The Clone Wars animated show either, it’s realistic, visceral and very brutal. It’s safe in saying that a lot of people die in the novel both redshirts (to cheekily use a Star Trek colloquialism) and named characters that I was invested in.
With the original trilogy focusing on unique characters in the Rebellion like a smuggler, a Jedi and a Princess we never got to see to gritty soldier on the ground view of the galactic civil war until this book. It has the epic battles of course but the decision to focus on a group of lowly cannon fodder makes Twilight Company a much more personal and, in several places, heart wrenching narrative. Freed explores the ideology behind each main character on why they have chosen to fight for the Rebellion. They aren’t all believers in the cause with many of them being outcasts of society simply joining up because they have nowhere else to go or in one case to try and get rid of her Spice “drug” addiction. The ideals of each member of the squad is fascinating and makes the often fantastical Star Wars galaxy seen more real than it has ever been; there are no Jedi and mystical powers only bloodshed and the drive to survive. This is part of the war we have never seen before.
A good comparison I think is Ronald D Moore’s re-imagined version of Battlestar Galactica which dealt with large themes from the human perspective of tired battle weary soldiers. The chapters set on the Twilight Company’s ship are among my favourites, seeing how the characters interact in the confined spaces of a ship that is falling apart at the seams, just like some of the crew. There are arguments, fist fights and a lot of gambling much like Galactica as we gain insight into the crew who call the ship home even as it takes them to their next mission and possibly their death. Twilight Company even keep their prisoners in an airlock so they can shoot them out of the ship if they need to which feels very Galactica. Safe to say that if you like Battlestar Galactica then Twilight Company is definitely worth a read.
Battlefront Twilight Company is a much deeper book that I expected and I wish that I had read it sooner; somehow a tie-in novel to a video-game is better than a lot of the other recent novels in the new Star Wars canon. It deals with real issues about the mentality of soldiers, the cost of war and even terrorism and yet still manages to fit snugly in the huge overarching galaxy of Star Wars. There are even a couple of awesome cameos by classic characters for fans to geek out about. All of the praise has to go to Alexander Freed for managing to pen such a novel and I’m incredibly excited that he will be writing the novelisation of the upcoming Rogue One which looks to be much more like a war film that any of the other Star Wars films to come out before it. And yet as we creep closer to the release of Rogue One I’m starting to doubt whether it can match the excellence of Battlefront Twilight Company which is something I never thought I would write.
A prequel novel to Rogue One has recently been released called Catalyst by James Luceno. While at the time of writing I have yet to finish the book I would say that Twilight Company is a better representation of what Rogue One is than Catalyst. While Catalyst follows the story and characters of Rogue One I feel that Twilight Company encompasses everything Rogue One should be. A story about the Galactic Civil War itself, following a rag tag group of soldiers who don’t fully believe in the ideals of the Rebellion with a unique tone and a narrative that stands alone and yet feeds into the wider mythology directly with a couple of cameos for good measure. Twilight Company not only lays the groundwork for what I want future novels to be like but also the new anthology movies.
Have you read Battlefront Twilight Company? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Wars on Twitter @kylebrrtt.