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A novel by A.C. Crispin (1997, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of the Han Solo Trilogy
10 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Han goes to Nar Shadda and makes great strides into the life he wants to live. The Hutts feud between themselves, and the Empire begins suffocating the worlds under its control.



4 stars

Read January 1st to 6th, 2000  
    This book was so much better than the first one.  Although there were many little things that disturbed me, overall, I really enjoyed it.  Better than that, it really held my interest.  I like getting to know Han as a person.  I said in the last review that Han was not a very interesting person.  Here, he gets to do what he does best -cash in on situations. 

Han gets to meet just about everybody we meet in the later books, from his ex-lover Xaverri (The Crystal Star), to Mako Spence, Salla Zend, and a bunch of others from Dark Empire and Dark Empire II.  We also get to meet Durga the Hutt, who was ill-used in Darksaber.  In fact, I thought all the people he meets and who leave him with friendship and impressions are treated far better here than when they were originally introduced. 

I'm glad the author chose to omit Han's Imperial service.  I think that would have been quite dull.  Instead, we get an almost unbearable Han wallowing in a bar, trying to get rid of Chewbacca, the Wookie he rescued and was thrown out of the Empire for helping. 

In what seems like a very quick turnaround, Han accepts Chewie's full time help when he proves useful in a fight.  But I guess we had to get that out of the way to tell the story. 

Han takes a run to Nar Shadda, which orbits the Hutt's homeworld, in order to try and get into Jiliac and Jabba the Hutt's services.  He does runs into Smuggler's Run (Specter of the Past), Kessel, near the Maw (Jedi Academy Trilogy), and all the places he will need to know to get to where he is in the future books.  It felt quite real, even if I thought it was a bit much at first.  The only thing I have a problem with is the time frame.  Han does all this in about a year, when I imagined him spending more like a decade there.  But I guess that would make him too old.

He gets into the employ of the Hutts, and they grow to rely on him, even get friendly.  I thought the depiction of Han's life on Nar Shadda was very realistic, aside from the timeframe.  The only thing I would have avoided was putting Boba Fett on Han's trail.  It hasn't ended, so I can't draw a conclusion about it yet, but so far, it has been believable.  The author hasn't humiliated Fett too bad yet, but I can't see a realistic situation that would both preserve Fett's reputation, and let Han live.  Giving him his own drug was a humiliation, but it was also fairly well done.  Of course, that was Lando's idea. 

And so Han is introduced to Lando and the Millenium Falcon.  Han falls instantly in love with the ship.  He and Lando get to become buddies, and Han teaches Lando how to fly.  The camaraderie was great, and it was nice to see Lando fly off for a while to carry out some of the events depicted in the Lando Calrissian Adventures.  He returns with a robot, and a pretty good fortune.  And we get to see what happens to him between those adventures. 

I was expecting this novel to end with Han and Chewie obtaining the Falcon, and heading out to the Corporate Sector Authority, to carry out the events in the Han Solo Adventures.  But it doesn't. 

Bria is of course still part of the story.  I'm not sure I would have included a "love of his life" element to the trilogy.  And making her one of the leaders of the Rebellion is also stretching it. 

The Hutt sub-plot involves a dispute over Ylesia, and their slaves, but it is more of a clan rivalry, while Jabba and Jiliac try to cause chaos in their rivals by poisoning their leader. 

The last part of the book deals with the Empire's crackdown on smuggling.  Han and Mako team up to join the smugglers in a battle against the invading Imperial fleet.  Surprisingly, the battle is quite well written, though not perfect.  A battle, with lots of characters (too many for this one, I think) and lots of firefighting is hard to write.  But the tricks to letting the smugglers winning -Xaverri's illusions, and Han buying the Imperial battle plan, made it just the way it had to be in the end.  The smugglers fought hard, and they lost many ships, but the Imperials were hurt badly, too. 

I'm not sure what the point to introducing Soonter Fel was, as later, in the battle against the Rogue Squadron after Endor, he is back in a TIE fighter.  I felt that one was simple name dropping for its own sake. 

By the end, Han isn't out making his fortune, but he's floating in a cramped lifepod with Chewie.  I wonder where this is leading.


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