Skuldren: As odd as it might sound, my initial impression of Mercy Kill was “this isn’t a dumb book.” What I mean by that is that there’s a lot more to it than just a fun Star Wars action and adventure. There’s meaning here. Characters are created with frustrating flaws, but Allston maintains an interest that implores the reader to questions why. There’s an underlying compulsion to look deeper and find the truth, be it with the characters or the plot. There’s a sense of depth there that’s very nice. Sure, on the surface there’s some fun action but beneath that is the good stuff.
Synlah: Okay, I’m just going to admit it right off the top; I tried the original X-wing series and, well, I didn’t like it (to be fair, I didn’t read the entire series because I basically didn’t like what I’d read so I gave up on it). Now, part of that has to do with the fact that I read Stars Wars for the Force users — mainly the Jedi. If I want to read about talented but ordinary people doing extraordinary things, I can find that in a lot of places. In my Star Wars I want Jedi, and it’s the rare non-Jedi Star Wars book that really succeeds in grabbing me. Mercy Kill succeeded. Besides being a thumping good adventure, there are deeper layers here; mainly how war affects and changes beings. It succeeds even more so because we see the long term implications of what fighting a war does to you even when you’re the good guys. A decade of so later, that war is still claiming victims, and one of them doesn’t survive. Mercy Kill feels like the deserved addendum to NJO.
Skuldren: There’s a lot of layers to Mercy Kill. On top is a mission to find evidence of General Thaal’s crimes. Enveloping that is some fun, action twisting spy schemes and Wraith humor. There are a lot of good elements that make the book an enjoyable Star Wars story, but Allston doesn’t stop there. Below the surface plot and Wraith action is a character drama that adds a lot of emotional weight to the story. This may be an X-Wing novel and a Wraith book, but at it’s heart, it’s a story about Piggy.
It’s not often that we get to see minor Expanded Universe characters explored in such detail. Piggy was a fun and interesting character in the old Wraith books and in the Rebel Lines duology during the NJO. However, I never in my wildest dreams expected him to get his own book. Not only that, but Allston takes that fan character and uses him to explore a plot line entrenched with emotion. This isn’t the story of a super funny, talking Gamorrean who can fly. This is a story about a veteran of the Yuuzhan Vong war whose been pulled in for one more mission. He’s suffered in war. He has ghosts that haunt him. Allston sheds some light on the soldiers of the EU and the guilt and grief they must deal with. He illustrates the effects these wars have on the people, and he also shows what they must go through to deal with it.
Synlah: Just as FOTJ (and Apocalypse in particular) felt like a passing of the torch to a new generation, Mercy Kill has a similar vibe. Although there are several original Wraiths in this book, there are some new ones as well. Wedge’s daughter, Myri, has a role as a new Wraith — although she isn’t loath to call on her dad for help. But she isn’t the only offspring of a Wraith to join the squadron. Jesmin Tainer, the daughter of Kel Tainer and Tyria Sarkin Tainer, is a new Wraith. You may remember that Tyria is a Jedi and has trained their son Doran as a Jedi. Well, Jesmin is Force strong as well, but she’s taken a different path. Jesmin is an Antarian Ranger — and she’s the mystery-female-bounty-hunter-with-a-lightsaber from Outcast (explanation in Mercy Kill). However, the most intriguing new Wraith is Viul “Scut” Gorsat, a biofabricator and a Yuuzhan Vong. Viul was adopted and raised by humans, and Viul is the best of both worlds. In a sense, he fulfills Jacen Solo’s belief that, stripped of their religion and crusaders-in-the-worst-possible-sense ethic, the Yuuzhan Vong are not so very different after all. In Viul, Piggy must face his demons and either vanquish them or lose himself.
Skuldren: I really liked the balance between old Wraiths and new Wraiths. Allston did a lot of cool stuff with them, be it fun missions or delightful dramas. Just seeing a Yuuzhan Vong character on the page again was enough to make my inner fanboy scream for joy. And like Synlah pointed out above, there’s a very interesting thread on children following in their parents footsteps. With the two sets of siblings, the Tainers and the Antilles, each ends up following a different parent’s shadow. One one hand you’ve got Syal Antilles following Wedge and Myri following their mother, Iella. On the other hand there’s Doran Tainer following his mother Tyria, and Jesmin following her father, Kell. It’s nice to see those generations play out.
Synlah: The playing out of generations also leads to tragedy as well as epiphany in Mercy Kill. There is a Wraith death in the book, and in a sad manner it serves a purpose. As well, it highlights yet again the terrible toll of war. For one particular Wraith, the thought of sending yet even more kids to their deaths is too much to bear. This leads to a series of bad decisions and mistakes that result in the death of this Wraith. This also leads to Piggy’s personal epiphany. It is moments like these that Skuldren is referring to when he talks about the layered depth within Mercy Kill. The insights and interaction in this scene makes it my favorite of the entire book.
Skuldren: My favorite moment was a line by Runt. Piggy was asking why Shalla would ever want to leave Wraith Squadron when she was so good at what she did.
“My spy agrees with you. But my family man says, how can I have a family this way? Perhaps she has a family woman in her. My pacifist says, for all the good I’m accomplishing, all I do is hurt people. Perhaps she has a pacifist in her. The self in you who is used most gets tired, Piggy. The selves of you who are used least get restless.”
Those last two lines are very insightful and poignant. They apply as equally to the real world as they do the book, and it really stood out when I read it.
Overall, I loved how the simple idea of a Wraith book became something much more complex, and yet still accomplished both tasks. This is a novel that’s fun and is also one that makes you think. Together it’s pure entertainment on the page.
Synlah: All in all, an excellent book with well-rounded characters, adventure and depth. I hope we see more additions of this new Wraith Squadron. We give Mercy Kill five metal bikinis.