Wing Commander – The Price Of Freedom

Onto Wing Commander novel #5 – The Price Of Freedom. This was co-authored by Forstchen and Ben Ohlander and published by Baen in 1996. This is the novelisation of Wing Commander 4 and as such I could probably say before I started reading it that it wasn’t going to win me over. WC4 is one of the most fun games I’ve played and hardly set a foot wrong in my eyes.  It was possibly the only Interactive Movie that ever deserved the title. There is no way the book is going to be able to compete but I gave it a go anyway in the hope that it would at least get somewhere near.

I’ve read the first part of this before actually as it came with the WC4 documentation. This is one of the better sections with a lot of extra background detail. As before, I’m not going to spell out the plot since I’ve done it once before when blogging the game but I’ll list some of the differences:-

  • Blair is less of a heroic figure in this (just as he was in the last novel). For instance, in the bar scene right at the start Seether would have killed him if Maniac hadn’t come to the rescue. He is more of a hero than in Heart Of The Tiger but he does have to work his way back into the role after 2 years of farming.
  • Vagabond is resurrected and briefly resumes the role he had in WC4 despite being killed off in the last novel. After breaking continuity for his reintroduction, he then never appears again.
  • When Paulson comes aboard he immediately relieves Eisen so he can face security charges. The hidden agenda within Confed was a lot more hidden in the game. Right from the start the ship is all but divided in two with part of the ship being run by some sort of Special Ops teams who don’t even answer to Eisen.
  • Eisen doesn’t enlist the help of Maniac to escape but instead it’s Maniac and Blair that get sent out to stop him (with lethal force). Maniac defects at this point but Blair goes back to Confed, despite stopping the attack on Eisen’s shuttle. Blair defects during his next mission when Seether and his buddies start taking out surrendered craft. Vagabond and Catscratch don’t defect and barely appear in the book at all.
  • When Eisen leaves the ship, Blair takes over as Captain and loses combat status so it’s Maniac that ends up in charge of the squadron. This isn’t a bad idea as it means the book can concentrate on the overall story for a while and have a few less combat scenes. Maniac matures somewhat into the role, and there is a gradual shift in attitude between him and Blair rather than the immediate change we saw in WC4. Blair starts flying missions again when Wilford turns up in person to command himself.
  • With no Catscratch, Sosa becomes a new love interest for Blair despite being half his age. There isn’t a lot on this in the book and he looks to have blown it until the books final few paragraphs.
  • The story is seriously compressed down in the second half. The missions to capture the capship with the Dragon fighters, raid the shipyards and go down to Telemont are all squashed together so that the first two happen simultaneously and the latter is just done over a video relay after the mission.
  • The advanced technology in the Dragon is based on Kilrathi technology that was under development at the end of the war.
  • Rather than the Intrepid chasing the Vesuvius to Earth, we have the opposite as the Vesuvius tries to catch up. The battle is similar except that the fight with Seether takes place at this time and involves Maniac as well. Blair wins by using Seethers own trick of riding a mine’s shockwave.
  • Blair doesn’t burst into the senate but is shown in by Eisen and Taggart. Taggart is apparently allowed to launch his own private investigations and calls Blair as a witness. The rest of the book matches the game until the very end. Both Blair and Maniac get promotions. Maniac gets his own light carrier and Blair gets put in charge of overseeing Confed’s forces in the border worlds.

This wasn’t a bad attempt but just as I thought before I started, it was no competition for the game. I didn’t feel that the changes to the plot improved things on the whole, but my main complaint was the amount of combat. This just isn’t all that entertaining in a book and after 4 previous WC novels I do feel like I’ve been there before. Combined with a plot I already know inside out, it didn’t make for the most entertaining of the series. There was still enough extra content in here for it to be possibly be worth reading for anyone who enjoyed WC4, but I’m glad that the remaining books in the series aren’t based around the games.