Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company
Leading the charge are the soldiers—men and women, human and nonhuman—of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry, better known as Twilight Company. Hard-bitten, war-weary, and ferociously loyal to one another, the members of this renegade outfit doggedly survive where others perish, and defiance is their most powerful weapon against the deadliest odds. When orders come down for the rebels to fall back in the face of superior opposition numbers and firepower, Twilight reluctantly complies. Then an unlikely ally radically changes the strategic equation—and gives the Alliance’s hardest-fighting warriors a crucial chance to turn retreat into resurgence.
While Force Friday brought us a slew of new book materials in the Star Wars galaxy, including our first foray into the events after Return of the Jedi (with Star Wars: Aftermath), but this month's new Star Wars novel from Del Rey takes us back to the original films, putting the 'grunts' of the war front and center. Come inside to check out my review to see if Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is worth adding to your shelf!
The Star Wars Battlefront game is launching in just a couple short weeks, but before that, fans can pick up a Star Wars Battlefront novel which ties into the 'new canon' of the saga. While they share a title, Twilight Company has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming game, which makes sense considering the game has no story to speak of.
If you were worried about this being some slapdash videogame tie-in, you have nothing to fear. In fact, Twilight Company is one of the most well-rounded and rewarding new Star Wars novels released, and harkens back to some of the best the Old EU had to offer.
What's Going On
I'm not going to spoil the entire book here, that would ruin the fun. I will say, that if you're looking for big connections to The Force Awakens or something, you're out of luck. Don't let that put you off, however, as this Star Wars adventure is well worth your time. It takes place just before and just after the Battle of Hoth (Empire Strikes Back) and features an all new cast of characters who have little to no connections to the BIG players in the Star Wars universe...Which is kind of the point.
The basis of this book is to put the focus, not on the heroes of the Star Wars galaxy, but on the individuals fighting the war against the Empire. These are the grunts, the cannon fodder, and the soldiers who comprise the army of a much bigger conflict. While this may put some fans off, I love the idea. In putting the focus on basic soldiers, Twilight Company has done the best job so far of making the war between the Empire and Rebellion feel HUGE. By making story about ONE group of fighters, you get a sense of the scale of the war and how vast a galaxy spanning conflict can be.
While the story starts off with a big cast of characters, Twilight Company boils down to only a couple of “primary” people that you’ll be following along with. Twilight Company works as the go to people of the Rebellion, taking on the jobs no one else wants or can do. As the rebels retreat to the edges of the galaxy, giving up worlds they ‘claimed’ along the way, Twilight serves as a rear-guard. While pulling out from a planet, they encounter a once high-profile imperial, Governor Every Chalis (who is also tied to another new canon character) who wishes to defect and join the rebels.
This sets them on a course of action that can make or break the soldiers, as they attempt to take on a mission for which they are sorely outnumbered and out-gunned. The main character we follow throughout the story focuses on Namir, a soldier from a backwater world in which fighting is a way of life. Technology isn’t common on his planet, but the skills he learned have served him well. We get more of his backstory as the book goes along, but his unique perspective on the war presents some interesting themes.
That’s about all of the story I’m going to tell you. What I’ll say, however, is that the pacing of this book is pretty incredible. Unlike some of the other new canon novels out there, Twilight Company sucks you in immediately. It’s a page turner that gets you invested in the characters quickly and completely. If you read any of the old EU, this book felt a lot like reading the old Michael Stackpole Rogue Squadron books...except the battles were on land and not in space.
You get a sense of the team, a look at the war through others’ eyes, and generally some incredible action pieces. If you enjoyed the Rogue Squadron books, or the Republic Commando novels, then you’ll feel right at home with Twilight Company.
Themes and Such
One of the reasons I enjoyed Twilight Company so much is that it works so well in and of itself. While it’s easily set up to be a series of books that can follow this company of soldiers around, it works well as a standalone novel. You don’t need to have read any of the other books in order to understand what’s going on either. It’s a fairly self-contained adventure that intersects with the main Star Wars story only in one significant point.
The book takes a more serious tone, offering up few light-hearted moments, but that’s okay. This book is all about showing how tough the war against the Empire really is. It’s not pretty, lots of people lose their lives, and there’s doubts about whether or not it’s even effective. In this aspect, Alexander Freed succeeds in taking the reader through a similar journey. I felt the highs and lows of the company while reading it in a very real way. I empathized with their struggle and worried about how things would turn out.
A big part of why the book sucks you in so well, has to do with the themes and ideas presented. Twilight Company isn’t just a fun adventure book. It has something to say, and that makes it much more engaging for me as a reader. The primary driving theme behind the book is all about “why we fight” or finding a reason to fight.
Whether it’s for a cause (the Rebellion), or for something else, that’s what the book explores. While the primary way this comes across is via Namir’s character, who grew up fighting for one warlord or another legitimately ENJOYS fighting. He fears what happens if the Rebellion wins and peace comes to pass. He struggles with this throughout the book, and after getting some advice from a “smuggler” on Hoth (guess who), decides that it’s not right for him to continue if he doesn’t really believe in what they’re doing.
Things happen, and he ultimately stays, but not for the reasons you think. There’s no change of heart where he suddenly sees the light of the Rebels. He finds his own reason, however, to keep fighting, and in finding that out we learn something as well. The book also takes a look at an Imperial Stormtrooper who joins the ranks of the Empire for her own reasons. While she’s not a primary character (honestly, she felt underused and make it hard to justify her inclusion at all), we get a glimpse of her journey as well, and the reason she fights for the other side.
Twilight Company does a great job, in this way, of showing the lower ranks on both sides of the conflict. It shows that not everyone falls into the good and evil categories, and making those judgments can be detrimental. This is especially true when it comes to Governor Chails whose motives are amoral at best. The point is, everyone has their own reasons for fighting this war (regardless of the side), and figuring those out is just as interesting as seeing how they fight one battle to the next.
The action is well done and it’s mapped out very well for the reader to understand, while keeping a high level of tension. By the end of the action pieces you FEEL as worn out and drained as the characters are. You understand their weariness, their pain, and what they’ve lost/gained. It’s a real human approach to the sci-fi opera we all know, and goes beyond what you expected.
It’s written well, easy to follow, the action scenes are engaging, and the characters/themes really speak to readers. It reminded me of some of my favorite books out of the old Star Wars EU, and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the galaxy far, far away.