Alphabet Squadron takes place shortly after the events of the Tie Fighter comic mini-series. While readers do not have to read the comics beforehand, it does help by pre-establishing some characters and events. This Star Wars book takes place six months after Return of the Jedi, during the final days of the Empire. Other related events are mentioned throughout the novel, such as Operation Cinder from the 2017 Battlefront 2 video game. The immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi has been a popular topic in Disney’s Expanded Universe, so there are a lot of little details here for fans to notice.
The focus of this book is a New Republic intelligence unit hunting down one of the Empire’s top remaining fighter squadrons, the 204th (better known as Shadow Wing). But the leadership is not 100% on-board with this idea, so the team’s resources are stretched thin. A hodgepodge group is put together, each flying a different ship with different levels of speed, mobility, and other crucial factors that often determine how well a squad flies together. But there is one thing each of these pilots have in common: a vendetta against Shadow Wing.
Readers should remember that Alphabet Squadron is going to be a trilogy. New characters and ideas are introduced, but most plot points are not 100% resolved by the end of the book. That being said, it is refreshing to see the Disney canon use new characters. While there is one familiar face, all the other characters are new (or relatively so, if you read the prequel comics). Not every single Star Wars story needs to be about the big heroes from the movies. This is a recurring theme from Freed’s previous Star Wars entry, Twilight Company.
Unlike many other new Star Wars novels, Freed is actually expanding on the Star Wars universe instead of focusing on character development. There is a good 30-years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that is still mostly blank. Early on, it felt like Disney wanted it that way to keep things open for future projects. But with the new trilogy of films wrapping up, they seem more open about it now. One of the key things about Alphabet Squadron is noting that the Rebel Alliance won their war too soon. Their resources are stretched extremely thin from being forced to take advantage of the Emperor’s death. All while they try to figure out how to make a new galactic government without becoming another Empire. Seeing more of the history and intricacies, the world building, is just as important as the characters.