Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
Book Review by Mediocre Jedi
This review contains mild spoilers.
Alexander Freed’s Battlefront: Twilight Company, on sale today, centers on the soldiers of the Rebel Alliance’s Sixty-First Mobile Infantry on their planet-hopping operation in support of larger post-Battle of Yavin strategic movements. Freed’s first novel is a tie-in to the upcoming Battlefront video game and will surely serve as a delicious appetizer for those fans awaiting the game. Largely devoid of Force users or starfighter combat, the book focuses more on the more practical aspects of military science fiction.
The story, told third person largely from the perspective of a seasoned senior sergeant, is generally a realistic tale of ground combat in what is, as we know, a fictional universe. Weapons malfunction and run out of ammunition, casualties happen without heroic fanfare, and junior leaders are pulled up through the ranks to fill in for those fall in combat. As a veteran myself, I appreciate the fact that not every character is a sniper ninja with unrivaled jetpack qualifications and natural affinity for hand-to-hand combat. Twilight Company (the organization, not book) gathers most of its members from recruiting events held when they make planetfall. It stands to reason that the unit gets what they get, and then train their enlistees the best that they can with limited resources.
However, like a lot of military fiction, there are some parts that stand out as unrealistic or at least unlikely, such as the nature of command relationships in the story. The main character is the First Sergeant of the company, and as such is the primary enlisted advisor to the commander – his or her right-hand man or woman. As members of the headquarters element, real First Sergeants don't lead squads, they aren’t nervous about talking to their company commanders, and they don’t take command unless very specific criteria are met. Likewise, company commanders aren't grand military strategists, and good officers do not withhold their tactical plans from the soldiers unless it is for matters of utmost secrecy. Additionally, there is no mention of platoon commanders (officers, typically lieutenants) except for one headquarters lieutenant. Repeatedly, the commanding officer of the company is seen directly conferring with squad leaders. Finally, it seems as though there is no command structure higher than the company other than the Alliance High Command itself – no battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, etc.
How much of this is important to the reader is up to them. For example, the fact that there were Jedi Generals leading clone battalions in the Clone Wars (typically a lieutenant colonel's job), and the clone captains and commanders were themselves shown leading extremely small teams, didn’t keep Star Wars: The Clone Wars from being exceptionally popular with Star Wars fans. Few readers will notice or worry about those parts of the book that are unrealistic, or will just chalk it up to the fact that it’s fictional anyway.
There are several parts that stand out as exceptional which involve main characters in the saga. One featured Darth Vader. This scene is truly terrifying, especially as seen from the point of view of a soldier who is largely unaware of who Vader is and has no knowledge of the Force. It was refreshing for an author to allow his novel’s heroes to react as most everyone else would in that situation.
However, limiting the layers of command and number of characters allows Freed to spend less time explaining the less exciting aspects of company operations, and more time moving the story along. Twilight Company is a great novel for Star Wars fans whose primary interest is the military aspect of an extended campaign rather than Jedi or X-wings. Despite my nitpicking in the previous paragraphs, I truly enjoyed the book and recommend it highly. Alexander Freed has done a fantastic job with his first novel and I am looking forward to seeing more from him. You can find Twilight Company on Amazon.
Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –
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Note: A big thanks to Del Rey for providing an advanced copy to review.Powered by Sidelines