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Mercy Kill: Star Wars Legends (X-Wing) (Star Wars: X-Wing - Legends) Hardcover – August 7, 2012
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“A rare entry point for newbies to the Star Wars expanded universe.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Aaron Allston is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi books Conviction, Outcast, and Backlash; the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels Betrayal, Exile, and Fury; the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines adventures Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand; novels in the popular Star Wars X-Wing series, including Mercy Kill; and the Doc Sidhe novels, which combine 1930s-style hero-pulps with Celtic myth. He is also a longtime game designer and in 2006 was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design (AAGAD) Hall of Fame. He lives in Central Texas.
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This X-Wing legacy, combined with my fatigue from plowing through the three giant series set chronologically just before Mercy Kill (the New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi), raised my excitement level tremendously high for this book. While I quite enjoyed reading it and laughed out loud at some of the banter and situations, it wasn't quite on par with what's come before. The story is set 43 years after Return of the Jedi and there are not many familiar characters. I'm generally pleased to meet new folks in these books after so many stories have been written but a fair number of the protagonists in Mercy Kill didn't register much of an impact. One who does register is Voort "Piggy" saBinring, the genetically-enhanced Gamorrean genius who was part of the formative years of Wraith Squadron. Voort is struggling with a deeply-rooted grief from a trauma during the Yuuzhan Vong war. The two big series set after the New Jedi Order didn't spend much time on the repercussions of the Vong conflict and it's great to see Mr. Allston tackle the subject. Voort's past trauma is enflamed by a new team member who turns out to be a Yuuzhan Vong. Both are damaged people and their relationship in the book is one of its highlights as each learns from the other.
Voort's team also features Myri Antilles, younger daughter of familiar character Wedge, along with several people with ties to the team of old. Turman, a Clawdite shape-shifter, has numerous entertaining moments as he is forced to play the front man on multiple missions. A second team joins the story halfway through and I will be honest: at that point I lost track of who some of the involved Wraiths were, especially since they are referred to by their real names, their numerical designations, and joke nicknames all intermingled. The sprawl in characters weakened the second half of the story as almost no one had a chance to benefit from much characterization.
Mercy Kill's plot picks up on a leftover strand from Fate of the Jedi: old character Garik "Face" Loran shows up to task Voort and company with investigating General Stavin Thaal as a potential member of the Lecersen Conspiracy. Readers of Fate of the Jedi will know Thaal's role in Moff Lecersen's schemes and Mr. Allston does not present information from his viewpoint except at the climax. It's a good concept for a stealth mission for the Rogues: however, it can be hard at times to feel involved in its outcome, as Thaal's fate after the epic struggles in Fate of the Jedi seems rather a footnote.
The book focuses more on ground-based sneaking around than starfighter combat, which it features relatively little of. The objectives of the Wraiths are doled out in sparing parcels and the reader is generally left guessing as to why they are taking the particular actions that are portrayed. Generally the meaning of a scene is revealed at the end and the plot advances onward to the next briefly-confusing sequence. Occasionally I found the manner in which information was doled out frustrating, but at the same time it put me in the mind of one of the rookie members of the team, struggling to keep up with the leaders' plans. Everything comes plenty clear at the climax and overall the story is satisfying.
Mercy Kill delivers a solid and welcome dose of Star Wars-flavored fun and manages to bring forward the X-Wing vibe of old into the dramatically altered universe of a few decades later. There are several superb moments of humor (Embassy-Who-Climbs had me chortling out loud). The book wasn't a page turner but there is some sound development of Voort saBinring to accompany the intrigue. Readers who haven't experienced the three sprawling series set before it may wish at a minimum to find a summary of the key events so as to place the details of Mercy Kill into proper context.
I liked the book. I didn't love it, but Mercy Kill had its brilliant moments. I have very fond memories of loving the X-wing series. This is a decent book, but as somebody else mentioned, it draws a lot on the recent EU books, which I've avoided on the whole. (Why and how they went horribly wrong is a rant for a different time.) Sadly, the progeny of those great Wraith heroes of old don't quite live up to the sheer awesomeness of their fore bearers. I like Myri and Jesmin, but it seemed like they were included just because of who their fathers are and not because they have the skills to make a vital difference in the mission.
Generally, I make it a point not to complain about too many characters, but those who've read the book will understand why I'll make an exception for this book in saying there are too many characters.
Every character in the book has Aaron Allston's characteristic snarkiness ingrained into his or her dialogue. While this can be charming, it also makes them emotional clones of one another.
The past series had the drama of a galaxy-spanning war to lend a sense of urgency and danger; this book struggles to sell the idea that there's a threat at all. At 369 pgs, it does actually give you a decently fleshed out story without making you think they just threw that 20-page excerpt from the next book to make you think you bought a full 400-pg, meaty novel. (Incidentally, they did throw on a 20-pg excerpt of a book called Scoundrels. As that book as the name Timothy Zahn on it, I shall give it a fair shot and probably end up buying it out of respect for the man. He's one of the few authors they keep on tap who give me hope that the Lucasarts people might know what they're doing.)
The bad: I'm not buying the bad guy's threat. Seems more like just another naval officer gone rogue.
The good: Wraiths are back and even get to go up in x-wings, what's not to like about that? Voort gets to rant about professorial woes of listless students. Voort dances. The dialogue is often amusing, even if it does make everybody sound the same.
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