The Krytos Trap, by Michael A. Stackpole

February 12, 2011 at 16:35 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Mediocre Books, Star Wars Saturday!) (, , , , , , , )



Of all the books in the strikingly above-par X-Wing series, this one might be the most peculiar, the most daring and the worst fit. There are dogfights and pilot chatter about “vaping eyeballs” and all the Second World War air force emulation that can be expected; there are the brave and dashing knights of the air (or space) in all their glory. In one sense, this is a placeholder between the more general and introductory X-Wing pilot adventuring in the first few books of the series, and the targeted, terrorism and commando type adventuring that reared its head in The Bacta War and the Wraith Squadron books.

It becomes apparent very quickly that Michael Stackpole is striking out in new directions, and that he has not quite found a groove. He dabbles in courtroom drama; dips his spoon into the languishing prisoner scenario; lingeringly peruses an underworld and undercover intrigue, with noticeable debts to everything from film noir to gangland epic; and finally settles on a Tom Clancy-style terrorism and biological warfare political thriller. All of the above is crammed desperately into the bursting container of his original Star Wars space jockeys narrative.

In many of these variegated and peculiar diversions, Stackpole often succeeds and occasionally misses. He deserves generous accolades simply for his ability to draw so many diverse stories together and still hold up a coherent story. What he cannot do, is blend this hyperactive story successfully into the general background of his series. It is dramatically and jarringly different from the space adventures that went before, and from the more character-driven espionage thrillers that followed. In between, The Krytos Trap stands up somewhat sorely, and although it is an interesting book and a great example of writing in the Star Wars genre, it is surprising how abrupt and disjointed it can feel. For instance, after the victory of Coruscant in the prequel, when the story’s threads have all been gathered together neatly and the story is essentially finished, Corran Horn abruptly disappears (forming one of the key plots in this book). There is little explanation given immediately, and the result is a sudden and painful anomaly in the story. Likewise at the end of The Krytos Trap, just as the heroes appear to triumph and Isard’s secret plans are brought to ruin, the secret prison where Horn has been held flies off into the sky, killing millions. The anticlimax is matched only by the disappointment that the Krytos virus turns out to be a McGuffin of stellar unimportance. Certainly it necessitates the plot of the next story, but as a crisis designed to tear the Republic in two it turns out to be something of a damp squib.

Altogether an impressive book; at times even an enjoyable one. But it is too scattered and confused about the story it wants to tell. It might have done better to divorce itself from the X-Wing series entirely, and split its many plots and styles into different stories, each given the time and space to develop naturally. As it stands, this is clearly a departure from the rest of the series, and an aberration; but an interesting and successful aberration.

Related Reviews:
Wedge’s Gamble
Solo Command
Starfighters of Adumar

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