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Let's face it; it's pretty hard to imagine Lucasfilm pulling off a sequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In a sense, Rogue One already has a sequel, as it sets up the story perfectly for the very first Star Wars film, A New Hope, released in 1977. In spite of this, it looks as though Lucasfilm isn't done expanding the Roguish corner of our beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away! Just last month, we learned that we're going to get junior reader / young adult prequel novels, and now we know Lucasfilm is actually planning a sequel — after a fashion...
Writer Christie Golden is an old hand when it comes to Star Wars, having written several old Expanded Universe novels and Dark Disciple, an adaptation of an unused script from George Lucas's Clone Wars TV series. She's now returning to a galaxy far, far away with Inferno Squad, a novel set in the aftermath of Rogue One. Here's the official blurb:
"The Rebellion may have heroes like Jyn Erso and Luke Skywalker. But the Empire has Inferno Squad.
After the humiliating theft of the Death Star plans and the resulting destruction of the battle station, the Empire is on the defensive. In response to this stunning defeat, the Imperial Navy has authorized the formation of an elite team of soldiers, known as Inferno Squad. Their mission: infiltrate and eliminate the remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. Following the death of their leader, the Partisans have carried on his extremist legacy, determined to thwart the Empire — no matter what the cost. Now, Inferno Squad must prove their status as the best of the best and take down the Partisans from within. But as the danger intensifies and the threat of discovery grows, how far will Inferno Squad go to ensure the safety of the Empire?"
Golden's Star Wars work has earned a mixed response from fans, but in truth, she's never really had a chance to shine. Her old Expanded Universe novels were part of overarching mega-arcs that fans hadn't really bought into, and an adaptation like Dark Disciple is naturally restrictive for an author. This, though, should be Golden's best opportunity to shine — a novel set in the aftermath of a blockbuster hit, allowing her to weave what promises to be a fascinating narrative!
An Imperial Perspective
Inferno Squad promises to be a pretty unique Star Wars experience, not least because it stars Imperial infiltrators, with the Rebels as villains. Now, to be fair to Lucasfilm, they've played this very carefully; Inferno Squad aren't trying to kill Luke Skywalker, after all. Instead, they're trying to take down Saw Gerrera's surviving Partisans, a group of rebels who crossed lines the Rebel Alliance wouldn't even go near.
The Partisans, of course, are based on Jedha — and it's worth remembering that, while the Empire destroyed Jedha's Temple City, they didn't destroy the planet. Jedha was ground zero when the Death Star was first fired in #RogueOne, and that experience will naturally turn the Partisans all the more radical.
According to the blurb, the Inferno Squad will be tasked with going undercover among the Partisans, and destroy them from within. Let's be clear; there is no black-and-white, good-versus-evil narrative here. This promises to be a deeply disturbing narrative, in which the Empire takes on a terrorist group.
In the Aftermath of the Death Star's Destruction
We've already seen a number of novels set in this time period, most notably Claudia Gray's excellent Lost Stars. These have given us a real sense of how devastating the Death Star's destruction was to Imperial morale; until the Battle of Yavin, few in the Empire had taken the Rebellion seriously. Naturally, that changed pretty quickly.
As Twilight Company made clear, the Empire responded with brute force. Entire worlds were razed; the Empire wasn't above bombarding a world from orbit until it was nothing but ashes (a strategy known as Delta Base Zero). The Rebel Alliance was forced to pull back, fleeing from the Empire's wrath. But it seems the Empire also tried some very different strategies, such as mobilizing teams of infiltrators like Inferno Squad.
But why wouldn't the Empire just ravage the entire planet, blasting the Partisans from space? The answer to that is a simple one; they still need Kyber Crystals. As anyone who's watched Return of the Jedi knows, the Emperor has a second Death Star built. He's going to need Kyber Crystals to power that Second Death Star, and that means he's going to need Kyber mines. Jedha still matters; in fact, it's entirely possible that the destruction of the Temple City is viewed as a mistake. No doubt a lot of Jedha's Kyber-mining infrastructure was destroyed, and Kyber is highly explosive — meaning any remaining Kyber around the Temple City will have been destroyed by the Death Star's blast.
On The Front Lines
Fans are immediately drawing comparisons between Inferno Squad and Twilight Company, by Alexander Freed. That, too, was a ground-level story that explored the front lines of the Galactic Civil War — but it was set a lot later on, right down to giving us a fresh, terrifying new glimpse of the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.
Excitingly, though, there are hints that there could yet be more similarities between Twilight Company and Inferno Squad; the former was a tie-in to Star Wars: Battlefront, and there are some hints that Inferno Squad may be a tie-in to Battlefront II.
If that's the case, we can expect Inferno Squad to be a brutal, thrilling read that dives deep into the battle between the Rebellion and the Empire.
All in all, Inferno Squad promises to be a fantastic read. It's going to be a ground-level, down-and-dirty battle between two brutal forces: the Empire and the Partisans. A sequel to Rogue One, it's sure to exploit the shades-of-grey morality that film introduced into the GFFA, and that should make this book a real stand-out.