STAR WARS: BREAKOUT SQUAD
BOOK II: CURSE OF THE BLACK HOLE PIRATES
By Ryder Windham
Published in the UK by PUFFIN BOOKS
Reviewed by Scott Weller
On his first true assignment/ mission as a representative of the Republic- sent on his way by that kindly protectorate of the galaxy, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine!- young Jedi Padawan Nuru Kungurama, whose search for his missing Jedi Master- Ring-Sol Ambase- has currently stalled, heads for the largely unexplored and dangerous Outer Regions to partake in a delicate diplomatic meeting with the secretive and isolationist race who also just happen to be a part of his birthright: theChiss.
Accompanied by his newly formed Breakout Squad of Clone Troopers to a world in the Csilla system, things don’t go according to plan from the outset, with incorrect co-ordinates leading to an uneasy arrival at their ultimate destination, followed by a first encounter with the female Chiss representative, Veeren, that promises little for any kind of future pact between the two civilizations. Soon caught up in a new battle against attacking Separatist forces, the would-be retreating allies-to-be find themselves unwittingly caught in an unknown region of space, and facing off against a brigand of desperate and dangerous space pirates.
Beyond those conflicts, frightening plans are also under fruition in another corner of the galaxy, as Nuru’s aforementioned missing Jedi Master, Ring-Sol Ambase, previously captured by Cad Bane, is ultimately delivered to Count Dooku, who has his own special and manipulative agenda to commence against his once friend and the Republic he serves...
Old pirate clichés get the revisionist STAR WARS treatment, and there’s even a few nods to other films like Disney’s classic THE BLACK HOLE from 1979.
Add to the mix a little bit of STARGATE and TOTAL RECALL, as well as a whiff of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s second season episode Contagion, and you've got another lively adventure from longtime EU scribe Ryder Windham that younger readers will enjoy. And, as ever, there's some fun references and dialogue quotes linked to previous STAR WARS films.
The author carefully develops his recently introduced characters a little bit further, and obviously has bold plans ahead for them. Jedi Padawan Nuru, despite early hesitancy and anxiety about his new mission and what it entails, becomes a more confident Jedi, hopefully learning something about his mysterious identity along the way, whilst new antagonist/heroine Veeren is another fine addition to the roll call of Expanded Universe women: young but an experienced ambassador and warrior. Efficiently trained as a protector of the Chiss people, her first encounter with Nuru is cold to say the least, but will presumably soften to either Han/Leia proportions at some point in the future or, at worst, they’ll end being brother and sister!
Adding some enjoyable invention to the tale, the Hasty Harpy‘s eccentric smuggling vessel Captain, Lalo Gunn, has to use all of her knowledge and experience to outwit the trapped space pirates, operating at the edge of an unknown system containing a black hole, whilst the Clone Troopers of Breakout Squad have to adapt to an intriguing kind of servitude!
There’s also more mixing and matching of guest star aliens from across the two trilogies, which works better in novel form than in any of the revisions added to the Blu-ray movies!, including the return of the scaly Trandoshan bounty hunter with the lisp problem: Bossk, who, as part of the motley band of rag tag pirates, makes a welcome reptilian re-appearance and proves as slippery and aggressive a customer as ever!
Meanwhile, the dark forces of the Sith may remain in the background, but their manipulating presence continues to be felt, as the books final chapter, with the deceptive Count Dooku, gives the tale an enjoyable To Be Continued… flavor.
AFICIONADO RATING: Though its not my personal favourite of the three Breakout Squad books so far- it doesn’t feel quite as well constructed story-wise as the other adventures it bridges- it's all still highly readable stuff. 3 out of 5