Alphabet Squadron is a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel written by Alexander Freed (Battlefront: Twilight Company, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad), and the first installment in a new trilogy. Set after Return of the Jedi, the novel follows five current and former rebel pilots, each one piloting a different rebel starfighter — an X-Wing, a Y-Wing, an A-Wing, a B-Wing, and a U-Wing — who are tasked by New Republic General Hera Syndulla and Republic Intelligence to hunt down a mysterious TIE fighter squadron known as Shadow Wing.
After the destruction of the second Death Star, Yrica Quell finds herself locked up in a Rebel POW camp with a broken arm, endlessly interrogated by a "therapy droid," and waiting for the war to end. Once a pilot with the prestigious 204th Imperial fighter squadron Shadow Wing, Yrica deserted after being ordered to participate in Operation: Cinder - a genocidal strike ordered by the Emperor in the event of his death. Cinder strikes loyal and rebellious systems without distinction, killing billions of sentient beings. As Yrica waits to learn her fate, she is approached by Caern Adan from New Republic Intelligence with news that Shadow Wing is still active and causing significant damage to the Rebellion. Knowing that her former allies have participated in Operation: Cinder, killed untold millions in their first strike alone, and are still fighting for the Empire, Yrica agrees to fight for the Rebellion and help Caern form a new squadron of pilots under his command. She'll even get to fly again, but this time in a Rebel X-Wing.
Yrica has her work cut out for her, though. Her only prospects for forming a squadron are the mysterious and masked female Kairos in her U-Wing, the unscrupulous and experienced Y-Wing pilot Nath Tensent, the idealistic but hopelessly bad shot Wyl Lark in his A-Wing, and the death-seeking survivor of a Shadow Wing strike Chass na Chadic in her B-Wing. Their personalities clash as much as their starfighters, and Yrica doesn't have much time to whip the squadron into shape before Shadow Wing will be ready to launch new offensives against the Republic...
Alphabet Squadron was released on June 4th, 2019 by Del Rey and in partnership with Marvel's Star Wars Tie Fighter miniseries. A sequel novel, Shadow Fall, is currently scheduled for release in June of 2020.
Tropes in this book include:
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: How Yrica describes the literal waves of prisoners surrendering to the New Republic. The first surrenders after Endor were smart enough to see which way the wind was blowing. The ones after Operation: Cinder still had a conscience and couldn't live with inflicting wanton genocide on loyalist planets. The current batch of surrenders knew what Operation: Cinder required from them, and they stayed anyway.
- Action Girl: Yrica Quell helms the cockpit of the squad's X-Wing.
- Action Prologue: The book begins with Yrica recalling how she and her teammates disobeyed an order, leading to them being deemed traitors and forcing them to flee and defect from the Empire. Yrica was the only survivor of the pursuit... Is the story she told anyway.
- Aloof Dark Masked Girl: Kairos the U-Wing pilot is only ever described as having a feminine body and wearing a dark flight suit and full-faced mask, without ever saying a word to another pilot. Even when the pilots all tell stories and share their backstories she only communicates in odd drawings in the dirt that are almost impossible to decipher. It'd be interesting if it wasn't intentionally teased that she's spoken to other pilots "off screen" (Kairos convinces Nath to join the squadron, but Nath doesn't relate who she is or what she says).
- Armor-Piercing Question: Hera asks Yrica if she knows her pilots well enough to know that they'll fight for her and if her pilots know her well enough to know she will fight for them. Yrica, who is cold and distant, answers that she only knows them informatively and has no answer when Hera clarified what she means by if she knows her pilots.
- Awesome, but Impractical: As flashy as the alphabet theme is, mixed fighter squadrons are a terrible idea in practice due to the drastically different roles each fighter-type is supposed to play. For example, Y-Wings are powerful but slow bombing craft, while A-Wings are fast but fragile scout fighters. Either the Y-Wing will have trouble keeping up with the faster fighters, or the faster fighters have to slow down for the Y-Wing and risk making themselves more vulnerable to enemy fire. This is lampshaded in the story itself, as Alphabet Squadron was formed out of desperation.
- Befriending the Enemy: Wyl tries to befriend a TIE pilot over an open channel in hostile space. It seems to be going smoothly at first, but then the TIE pilot transitions from telling a story about a "living" cluster to how it means that the rebel pilots are dead meat and the Empire will prevail. Chass and the others cut off Wyl's channel before the other guy can continue spilling out his dribble.
- Big Bad: Colonel Nuress in the first novel. Major Kreize is shaping up to be this in the second novel.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When confronted by Nath about the mission where his entire previous squadron was killed Colonel Nuress clearly has no memory of the event until she checks the records.
- Camping Episode: Surprisingly happen in an attempt to bond the unit together. It mostly worked.
- Character Title: The book is named for the main squadron, Alphabet Squadron.
- Citadel City: More like Citadel Planet, in the case of Pandem Nai. Grandmother occupies the Tibanna Gas mining planet and bases her starfighters on the mining platforms. The system doesn't have any significant fortifications, but the tibanna gas in the atmosphere will ignite if lasers from warships are fired in atmosphere- destroying anything larger than a starfighter. With infinite ammunition, a full flight wing of ace pilots, and a natural deterrent to capital ships in system, Shadow Wing can defend against Rebel invasion indefinitely.
- Continuity Nod:
- Hera is known for having led the liberation of Lothal as well as having participated in the Battles of Scarif and Endor.
- When Adan questions recruiting Yrica due to his reluctance in trusting a former Imperial, Hera defends her decision as some of the best pilots the best rebels she's known were Imperial defectors. She is likely referring to Wedge and Hobbie, and as for rebel soldiers in general, Sabine and Kallus.
- Quell recalls how she was ultimately a part of a second wave of Imperial defectors, caused by Operation: Cinder. One prime example was when a squad of Imperial Special Forces commandos helped against the operation on Naboo.
- Did Not Think This Through: Pandem Nai is a gas mining center, with thick clouds that can be ignited by heavy blaster cannons from warships. Shadow Wing's fighters can essentially hold it indefinitely against superior forces because their lasers aren't powerful enough to ignite the gas clouds. Yrica comes up with a pretty solid plan of attack - slipping through the space mines with a handful of fighters, knocking out the hangar bays that hold Shadow Wing, and bring in the fleet to demand surrender. Should work, right? Nobody planned for igniting the planet's atmosphere from the damage they'd cause to the imperial fighter bases and gas mining platforms.
- Downer Beginning: The book starts with Yrica recalling how she was forced to flee for her life after refusing to help carry out Operation: Cinder on innocent civilians. She manages to escape and find shelter, but her fellow defecting teammates are killed in the attempt, and as far as she knows, the planet in question, Nacronis, is doomed. But then again, she was found by an emergency team sent by the rebels, so presumably the Rebel Alliance stopped Operation: Cinder on Nacronis before it could do any more damage.
- Dwindling Party: The Shadow Wings practically perfected this tropes, the crew of the Hellion's Dare learn this the hard way.
- HeelFace Turn: Yrica Quell, the team's X-Wing pilot, was a former TIE pilot until she was ordered to help carry out Operation: Cinder, which she refused to do. At least, that's what she claims. She went along with the Operation and defected after the fact.
- Insistent Terminology: Colonel Nuresss refers to the Rebels and New Republic as 'Separatists', seeing no difference in factions wanting to overthrow the existing order. Nath briefly wonders if she's senile because of this.
- Meaningful Name: Alphabet Squadron is named for each of the different rebel starfighters that its pilots use, which all start with a letter and end with the '-wing' suffix.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The Alphabet Squadron attack on Pandem Nai is wildly succesful. But all the damage to the gas mining operation eventually creates an explosion large enough to begin igniting the planet's atmosphere. Both sides stop fighting long enough to destroy the outlying storage tanks and prevent a planetwide catastrophe.
- New Republic Intelligence going after Major Kreize despite his attempts to make amends makes him reconsider rejecting the Empire and decides to return to the 204th who just became leaderless.
- No Endor Holocaust: Played with, especially when you learn what REALLY happened when Yrica defected.
- Also played with at the novel's climax. Pandem Nai's atmosphere ignites from the battle and both sides join forces to prevent an Endor Holocaust from consuming the cities on the planet's surface. But a solid region of the planet's atmosphere does catch fire and there's no word on any civilian casualties from the gas mining platforms caught in the explosion.
- No Sympathy: Though she does rescue one from a bomb, Yrica views some of the new Imperial defectors with contempt since they've at least two major reasons to leave (Alderaan and Operation: Cinder) and they didn't leave until long after the latter, which indicates to her that they're Dirty Cowards or Extreme Doormats that just want to be Karma Houdinis.
- P.O.W. Camp: The prison camp of Traitors Remorse where Yrica has been living out her life post-Endor. It's neither an abusive hellhole or a paradise. The New Republic can't keep up with the rate of surrenders netting them more prisoners, so most of the structures are actually shipping containers. If not for the few loyalist bombings inflicted on the prisoners, life in the camp is described as routine and dull.
- That Man Is Dead: Averted, Soran Keize tried to be someone else, but his past kept cropping up to the point that he decided to rejoin the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing.
- The Remnant: The Imperial holdouts, which Alphabet Squadron seeks to eliminate.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: The members of Alphabet Squadron are described as being "troubled" and seek out revenge against the Empire. In particular, Yrica is an Imperial defector, Nath is a gun for hire who lost his whole squadron, and Chas has become a Death Seeker after losing her whole squadron to Shadow Wing.
- Simultaneous Arcs:
- The novel will crossover with TIE Fighter, a limited comic series released shortly before the novel.
- In the first chapter, Yrica and some of her fellow TIE pilots defect after seeing Operation: Cinder devastate the world of Nacronis. As of this book, we have also seen Operation: Cinder as it happened in Shattered Empire and Battlefront II.
- References to other post-Endor activity is also mentioned, such as the events of The Aftermath Trilogy and Uprising.
- Supporting Leader: Hera Syndulla is the commander of the Lodestar, the battleship that Alphabet Squadron is based on. While on paper they're seconded to New Republic Intelligence, Hera can and will make use of them as assets if she deems it necessary.
- Trilogy: The novel is the first installment of a new trilogy.
- We Will Meet Again: What Shadow Wing's commander is actually setting up. The Empire has fractured, no one knows who is in charge or what their strategy is, and half the Galaxy is in open revolt. Colonel Grandmother Nuress decides to set up Pandem Nai as a base for a squadron full of ace pilots and fortify it against the rebels until someone gives orders for the counterattack.