Attack Of Shadows (Galaxy’s Edge Book 4)
Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Science Fiction, Military Sci-Fi
Sept. 14, 2017
A Review By Chris Fried
Following up from the conclusion in Book 2, Galactic Outlaws, Goth Sullus and his forces are coming out of hiding, emerging as a new power in the galaxy and intent on building an empire. With a plethora of resources, highly trained soldiers and fearsome new weapons, he sets his sights on building his power base by striking at the Kesselverks Shipyards with his dreaded black Fleet and capturing them! But it is guarded by a fortress housing a devastating weapon of superior power built into Tarrago’s moon that can take out an entire battleship. One mission after another is launched in order to achieve this complicated objective and we wonder, will Goth Sullus and his forces succeed? And if so, how severe a price will they have to pay in order to achieve it?
The space battles here are tremendous, taking you directly into the cockpit of Sullus’ tri-fighters as they attempt to disable the massive outpost that possesses four massive orbital gun turrets that could wipe out a battleship. We dodge and weave with their fighters as they move through enemy fire like we’re in the cockpit with them, trying to provide cover for the bombers coming through and take out the weapon. The strategy used in this battle and others over the course of the novel is delicious, meticulously described and well thought out without slowing down the narrative at all.
In fact, the entire novel has a frenetic pace to it, adrenaline-fueled and piping hot as it moves from one part of each relentless battle to the next. From the battle to take out the fortress embedded into the moon to the fleet battles between massive battleships to the aerial battles to the on-the-ground perspective of soldiers from both sides as the strategy plays out. Each side has to cope with the turning tides of battle because no plan survives contact with the enemy and death could come at any moment.
The story switches up perspectives of its characters and their situations often. From Captain Thales dealing with saboteurs hiding inside Fortress Omicron to a team of shock troopers trying to breach the walls of that same fortress on the moon, the surprises are constant. The battles are insanely furious and you never know what is going to happen next and who is going to survive. You’ll also never figure out which side is going to win each engagement, as the twists keep on coming.
There are also political machinations at play here, providing secret support behind the scenes and manipulating things to their own advantage due to their position in the government. Because of this subterfuge going on, many specific people and fleets are being secretly used to affect the outcome of this battle.
I’m almost torn about who to root for here. On one hand, the Republic is rife with corruption and cronyism, keeping the one percent in power while the other ninety-nine percent suffer. The political officials here are deplorable, power hungry and selfish people. Delegate Orrin Karr is the leader of this faction and he has helped orchestrate events to this point and his long-range plan to help Sullus involves getting traitorous elements with the Republic Navy to help him! Some of these turncoats, especially one in particular, deserves a mighty comeuppance for his deeds here during this battle and from battles in the past.
On the other hand, Sullus and his forces are made up of former Legionnaires and members of the Republic who were tired of being ground down by a political system that only favors the elite. Their ideology is built on stronger principles, as their conquest is meant to root out all the corruption and replace it with something better. This is because they felt betrayed by the current system and chose to work for Sullus instead. However, Sullus also reeks of evil and his methods of indoctrination for his forces are brutal and demanding. It takes a well-written novel where you can sympathize with the enemy and see their point of view. This story definitely succeeds in that endeavor.
You sympathize with some of the people we meet on this side of the battle, as they feel very disenfranchised. This is best exemplified by the character of Kat Haladis, a tri-fighter pilot for the Black Fleet. She’s given a lot of layers and a strong motivation why she fights and why she’s on the side she is. All of Sullus’ shock troopers and commanders are given these strong motivations as to why they chose the side they do. Even Admiral Rommal in charge of the Black Fleet is a three-dimensional character with a rich history.
It’s also true on the Republic side of the equation. From the point of view of Admiral Landoo and the Seventh Fleet jumping into the titanic battle, you feel their confidence thinking they will win and a righteousness that they’re fighting to defend their Republic. But you also feel their desperation and tenacity when the battle doesn’t play out the way they think it should. There are heroes on both sides of this battle, with valiant efforts, strategic thinking and an intense determination to win at any cost. All of this is laid out clearly and thoughtfully with all of the characters we meet.
If you’ve seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you know the final third of the movie is a huge battle with a lot of moving parts. With fleet battles and dogfighting between fighters in space and over land as well as soldiers fighting on the ground, it’s a war movie on a large scale. This entire novel feels like that sequence of events in Rogue One expanded into one humongous battle and that is a supreme compliment. The special effects budget for this book, if it were ever made into a movie, would be off the charts!
You also get to see a couple of familiar faces from previous novels make an appearance here and they are welcome to see. The continuity between novels using techniques like this continues to impress me. Utilizing a large cast of characters and how they play out on the vast canvas in this space opera saga is something I continue to appreciate.
A word about Goth Sullus, the central figure on the cover of this book. He. Is. One. Scary. Guy. This important leader, the Darth Vader type character, enters each scene he’s in with a dark majesty that exudes raw power and deadly purpose. He’s the personification of fear itself. His strength and abilities far outstrip those of a normal mortal and if he’s coming for you, you need to run for your life because you will lose that life if you face him! But when he’s in action on the battlefield, you’ve already lost. He’s used sparingly and in small doses, so his mystery remains intact and you crave to see more of him in action. But when he’s there, and even when he’s not, his presence is keenly felt and impacts the motivations of everyone in the Black Fleet.
Two minor complaints I have to make. While the story moves quickly and switches viewpoints from one side to the other on various parts of the battlefield, I would’ve appreciated a cast of characters list, as there are a lot of people to keep track of. The story does detail the location and point of view switches so you that you pick it up as you go along. Sometimes a character you haven’t seen in a while comes back fifty or so pages later and some information crucial to their character or situation helps you remember them so that helps jog your memory. However, a cast list might make it all clearer.
The other complaint is that we don’t see the crew of the Indelible VI, whom we haven’t spent a lot of time with since the second book. They’re such distinctive characters and their situation from the end of book two left them with a lot of pieces to pick up. From the preview of book five included here, we will get to see them again at that point.
Just when you think you know the structure in which these stories will be presented, the authors upend those expectations again here. Books one and three take place seven years ago featuring a select group of Legionnaires. Book two and four take place in the novels present timeline, but book two focused on a motley band of outlaws. This novel follows the events of one long crucial and brutal battle over the course of twenty-four hours or so featuring gigantic fleet battles, dogfights in the space, soldiers overcoming obstacles and trying to achieve military objectives. Let’s see what book five brings because I continue to be interested and intrigued by the larger overarching storyline playing out here. Star Wars that’s not Star Wars takes the best elements of that series of movies and elevates it to the next level of what a space opera saga is supposed to be.
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Jason and Anspach stopped by the podcast to discuss the Galaxy’s Edge world. You can find that podcast here.