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Literature / Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron

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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 the Star Wars Alphabet Squadron 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, Star Wars: Shadow Fall, was released on June 23, 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.
  • 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 discussed in the story itself, as Alphabet Squadron was formed out of desperation and circumstance and initially meant as an intelligence analysis group instead of a combat unit. The sequel notes that they make a surprisingly effective ground troop assistance team, however.
  • 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. Specifically, she's a Non-Action Big Bad who oversees and directs the fortifying of Pandem Nai and gives the marching orders to Shadow Wing, but is an older woman forced grudgingly into the role of an administrator and bureaucrat. While she does direct the Imperial side of the battle of Pandem Nai, things quickly escalate beyond her ability to manage and she's summarily shot and killed by Nath after he infiltrates the base and subjects her to a brief interrogation. Major Kreize is shaping up to be this in the second novel.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Alphabet Squadron is stationed on General Syndulla's flagship Lodestar, an ancient Acclamator-class warship from the Clone Wars.
  • 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.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Vanguard Squadron, who would later turn out to be the main rebel characters in Star Wars: Squadrons, is mentioned to be working with Alphabet Squadron.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted, at one point Alphabet Squadron is sent to scout an old rebel base for supplies, mainly food and medicine, to keep Battle Group Barma's offensive moving on schedule. Hera notes that this is a problem that's happening across the whole New Republic military, as they are fighting in many systems across the galaxy on the heels of the retreating Imperial forces, and they haven't had the time to establish and manage proper supply routes.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Shakara Nuress' nickname among Shadow Wing's pilots is Grandmother, but one of her interludes reveals that she actually despises the nickname.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Despite taking place after Endor, Emperor Palpatine still casts a long shadow over the events of the book, for both the New Republic and Imperial characters, especially through the continued presence of the Messenger Droid that delivered the command for Operation: Cinder to Shadow Wing. Yrica in particular is tormented by what possible reason he could have had for ordering such widespread, senseless destruction, while Nuress ferevently believes the Messenger's presence means there are further orders or even answers contained within, just waiting for the right moment to be revealed. It's Ito who points out to Yrica during a session that in the end, Palpatine was simply a petty, cruel, and spiteful man who did petty, cruel, and spiteful things mostly for his own amusement, and Nuress begs the Messenger to tell her something that will allow her to make sense of it all before she dies. It instead glides away silently and she dies wallowing in regret.
  • Heel–Face 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 successful. 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.
  • POW 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.
  • Properly Paranoid: The New Republic doesn't just welcome every ex-Imperial with open arms, instead they quarter them in POW camps while trying to determine their motives for defecting and weed out potential spies and saboteurs. One such bomber attacks Traitor's Remorse in the second chapter.
  • 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.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The book occasionally sidetracks into interludes about a man calling himself Devon attempting to make his way through the galaxy in the aftermath of Endor, that seemingly have no connection to the rest of the story until the climax where it's revealed he's Major Soran Keize of Shadow Wing who Yrica lied about dying at Nacronis and ends with him deciding to return to his old unit after Pandem Nai.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: One of the nicknames Riot and Hound give the enemy TIE Pilots during the chase through the Oridol Corridor is Char, with the name revolving around his TIE's colour (albeit that it has so much carbon scoring it appears mostly black, rather than red.)
  • 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.
  • Sole Survivor: Chas, Nath, and Wyl are all the last survivors of their original starfighter squadrons.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Like the Aftermath trilogy, the novel shows the growing pains of the New Republic's military, as it transitions from an armed insurgency to a proper, structured military force:
    • So many Imperials are being arrested or are defecting from the collapsing Empire, the New Republic has to establish a series of POW Camps like Traitor's Remorse where they can house and screen the ex-Imperials to determine which of them has undergone a genuine Heel–Face Turn, is simply a Punch-Clock Villain looking for a new government to work under, or is a potential spy still loyal to the Imperial remnants.
    • Caern Adan frequently discusses the difficulty of turning a far-flung, deliberately isolated network of spies and agents into a cohesive military intelligence agency, which is what the newly-formed New Republic Intelligence service is trying to do.
    • After fortifying Pandem Nai, Nuress has to be very selective about which Imperial officers she contacts in order to build up her forces. There is no central Imperial command structure left after Endor, and with so many senior officers going rogue, contacting the wrong one could result in her world being annexed by force, and likely her execution.
  • Trilogy: The novel is the first instalment 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.

Alternative Title(s): Alphabet Squadron