Star Wars: X-Wing 4 – The Bacta War Audiobook by Michael A. Stackpole

After the majority of the team resigned their post, Rogue Squadron is well and truly rogue and taking the fight to Isaard on Thyferra.

Wedge Antilles and the rest of Rogue Squadron end up on their own after resigning in the previous book, The Krytos Trap. Their newfound freedom from the Politics of the fledgling New Republic allow them to take the fight to Isaard who has been made the ruler of Thyferra, the main source of Bacta in the Galaxy. Isaard is slowly unraveling as the Rogues thwart her plans by stealing/liberating Bacta and distributing it to those in need.

The group also find help from a pair of notorious smugglers, Talon Karrde (who was introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Empire Trilogy) and Booster Terrik, father of Mirax who has become Corran Horn’s romantic interest, the book follows their relationship as it grows rather quickly, which also leads to tensions between Corran and Booster.

The Squadron find a new base of operations within a space station which Booster ends up running, but are soon betrayed by an Imperial spy in Karrde’s operation. They use this to their advantage, luring Isaard’s forces to them whilst the Squadron and some support ships attack Thyferra using a newly liberated Star Destroyer.

The battle is fierce in space, whilst on the ground, Iella Wessiri and Elscol Loro make trouble on the ground, where they find and capture Fliry Vorru, Isaard’s second in command who has seen Isaard begin to go mad and has made contingency plans for his escape which is thwarted not only by Wessiri and Loro, but by Isaard herself who steals his escape shuttle.

Isaard attempts to flee, but thanks to the efforts of Corran Horn and Tycho Celchu, she is defeated in a spectacular fireball.

Once the battle is over and the Imperial forces at Thyferra defeated, the New Republic welcome Rogue Squadron back, along with a number of captured Star Destroyers, including the Lusankya Super Star Destroyer where Corran was held prisoner.

This book feels like a season finale, tying up the story arc started with Stackpole’s first book in the series, which followed the newly formed Rogue Squadron as their missions built to this intense crescendo. Plot threads tie together, questions get answered and we get to see our heroes learn and grow.

One thing that has been a constant in the series has been the romance between Mirax and Corran. The children of two enemies, their fathers fight doesn’t hold the two back from developing feelings for each other, and, although the romance seems to develop quickly in this book (after it starts in earnest at the end of Krytos Trap), they get engaged very quickly, which, given their given professions seems to make sense, they both face insurmountable danger on a regular basis. But by the end of the book they are married. Granted I have been listening to abridged audiobooks so everything moves along at a quicker pace, but the romance feels rushed, they are barely out of the honeymoon period and they are eloping on a captured Super Star Destroyer… come to think of it that would be cool.

In a surprise move, former Rogue Squadron member Bror Jace returns, seemingly from the dead. His death was staged by his family, who owned one of the two lead Bacta manufacturers on Thyferra to make the opposing group believe he had perished so that he could work with a rebel group on the planet to oppose his family’s rivals who favoured The Empire and Director Isaard. His return was timely as he managed to save Corran’s life after he was shot by an enemy.

Stackpole once again utilises characters and scenarios from previous novels to make the growing Expanded Universe feel connected. Having Talon Karrde enter the story as a fellow Smuggler for the newly introduced Booster Terrik to work with was a great choice, especially when Stackpole could have just given us a new character with no ties anywhere. The Katana Fleet, which was a massive plot line in Zahn’s ‘Empire Trilogy’ is also mentioned as well as ‘Outbound Flight’. These little connections really help flesh out this series and cement it as part of the overall and growing story that helped develop the Expanded Universe.

A solid end to a great story, I really enjoyed listening to the first four parts of the X-Wing series that really make up this overall story arc. At some point I will start on the next set of books in the series that were written by Aaron Allston but before I do I’m going to do some catch up on the early Expanded Universe novels (in audiobook form), starting with Dave Wolverton’s ‘The Courtship of Princess Leia’.

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