The following review and extended summary were written in June
This is a better story than many of the recent Star Wars adventures that
I've read. Han is cocky, just like at the beginning of the movie, he is
cautious and gets right to the point. Finally, he has a streak in him
that could pass for a heart, if he were to let it show.
The story is very linear, which is a nice change from many of the stories
we are presented with. One event leads directly to the next, in a
logical fashion, without any extreme planning. This is how the first Star
Wars movie played out, and that is one of the reasons, I think, it was so
The first thing to happen is that Han and Chewie are almost caught by the
Corporate Sector Authority picket ships on their way to deliver guns to some
insurgents. They manage to duck away and escape for the moment, and land
to deliver their cargo. When lifting off, however, they are caught in a
tractor beam. Only Han's quick thinking saves them, as he stretches the
tractor beam in one direction, and suddenly reverses his direction, making the
beam snap. I liked that maneuver, and I believe it has been used in at
least one other Star Wars book.
His ship now damaged, Han goes to see a techno-wizard named Doc. But
Doc has been kidnapped, and his daughter wants Han to help find him, in return
for fixing his ship. Before leaving, Han helps Jessa fight off some
Authority ships in a snubfighter, something I don't think the older Han Solo
would do. Unfortunately, even though the Authority ships seem to have
found Doc's hidden complex, we don't see them again in this book. Have
they given up since their four small ships were destroyed?
Han meets with his contact, Rekkon, reluctantly taking along two droids,
Bullox and Blue Max, who gets an awkward paragraph explaining why he has that
particular name. They are coerced into helping the man gain access to
the Authority's computers, even knowing that there is a traitor in the
group. There are some nice moments where Han, the droids and the spies
interact, but much of the humour seems very forced. From one sentence in
this scene, I figured out who the traitor was.
On their way out of the complex, they lose several of their people,
including Chewbacca. Rekkon tells Han that the Authority has been
systematically kidnapping people, anybody who speaks out against them.
Why they would take Chewie to the same facility is beyond me, but they
do. Rekkon tells Han that he now has a stake in this game, as
well. However, Rekkon is killed by the traitor, and Han plays an
ingenious game to flush the traitor out, using Rekkon's last message, the
location of the prison complex Star's End, as bait.
The rest of the group are lucky enough to find Star's End, and to intercept
a transmission from the Entertainment Guild about a cancelled
performance. Han jumps at the chance to play "replacement
entertainers". The head of the complex, however, is easily bored by
the limited entertainment they have provided, and wants to pit Bullox against
his destroyer droid. Luckily Blue Max learns a lot about this droid
before the duel, and Bullox is able to defeat the destroyer fairly
Han and Blue Max had snuck into the lower levels of the tower looking for
the prisoners, and find them in stasis chambers. They explode the main
power plant, which has the unintended result of launching Star's End into
space, however without enough power to achieve orbit.
Everybody is furiously trying to get away, and the two groups, Han's and
the commander of Star's End, come to a draw. Two ships dock with the
tower, one of them the Millennium Falcon, piloted by one of Han's associates.
They manage to link up with the Authority ship, and leave the whole Authority
crew on board the falling tower.
And yes, they did seem to have enough time to awaken all of the prisoners
and lead them to the two ships.
Han shows a dirty streak here that was missing from most of the Han Solo
Trilogy, especially in the first and third
books. He throws somebody out of an airlock, abandons dozens (hundreds?)
of people in a doomed tower in space, and he places a dangerous animal inside
a box where somebody is waiting for payment from him. Personally, I
liked this Han Solo. Sure, as Jessa tells him, he's getting soft.
But he hasn't arrived at "soft" yet.
I am not comfortable with the author's style, as he seems to give all sorts
of inanimate objects the illusion of feelings, as if the turbolift didn't want
to go down, and so on. I also do not share the author's belief that Han
could warm to the droids, to the point where he compassionately drags Bullox
into his ship at the last moment, and then shows relief that the droid is
unhurt. The attempts of humour would have worked better on a movie
screen, and the infinite details of how all the ships moved, turned, twisted,
and dove in battle could have been cut down a little. Having said that,
however, the battles seemed to be well written, by somebody who could
visualize exactly what he wanted to "see".
Using a completely separate area of space, the Corporate Sector Authority,
seems like a cop-out these days. But when this book was written, nobody
knew much about the Empire, so this is a good way to feature a certain
scoundrel, yet not reveal too much about Imperial workings. Plus, Han
wasn't in trouble with Imperial authorities when Star Wars began, but I 'm
sure he was still on the Authority's wanted list. But I wonder what
happened to the Authority when the reign of the Emperor ended.
So while not a great book, it was fun, and interesting, and it's nice to
see what the real Han Solo was doing while on vacation from the Paradise Snare
and the rest of that awkward trilogy.