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A novel by A.C. Crispin (1997, Bantam Spectra)
Book 1 of the Han Solo Trilogy
10 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Han Solo escapes his childhood prison to become a pilot for a group smuggling spice, but finds the love of his life and tries to escape with her.



2 stars

Read December 26th to 29th, 1999  
    It took almost the entire book to get interested in this story.  The young Han Solo doesn't seem all that interesting to me.  Actually, I find Han, roguish and dashing as he is, to be one of the least interesting characters.  In every book, he seems to be lost for something to do.

  This book is no different.  The story could be given to anybody, from the Star Wars universe that we know, or to somebody else.  The only thing that marks it as Star Wars is the spice, the worlds of Alderaan, Kashyyk, Corellia (and its sister planets), and Coruscant.  All the aliens were new, except for the Hutts.  I think we should have seen more classic aliens, and fewer new ones.

  Speaking of Alderaan, I think it's silly that we should be given a glimpse into Bail Organa and his daughter Leia here.  It's as if the author wanted us to see the polarity of Han's feelings for Leia in the past as opposed to the future. 

  I did sort of enjoy the exchange between Han and the couple that would later (in the Young Jedi Knights) become Raynar's parents. 

  Other people we know from the future are Han's cousin, Thraken, who seems as off-balance as a kid as he will become in the Corellian Trilogy.  It seems that sort of disorder started early on in life.

  Han has escaped from his master, where he was being used as a slave, really, to beg and pick-pocket, and to scam rich families.  He couldn't kill his master, because he's not cold-blooded.  It seems that he can't think properly, either, because he should have realized that Garris Shrike would not let him live if he caught him, and that he would continue harming people well into the future.  The galaxy would be better off without him.

  But Han leaves, leaving behind a Wookie friend to die.  He stows away on a robotic ship bound for a planet called Ylesia, where they need pilots to ferry their pilgrims and their cargo from place to place.

  He soon discovers that the pilgrims are lured to this paradise to work in the spice processing plants.  They are addicted to some sort of telepathic mating call, and forced to stay on the planet, thinking of it as some sort of religion.  He decides he should get out of there as soon as possible.  But he is assigned a bodyguard to make sure he doesn't leave.

  Han falls in love with one of the pilgrims, and gets her transferred to a safer job.  His bodyguard is as honour-bound as a Wookie, but does nothing to stop him from mingling with the pilgrims, even when it is apparent he is having some adverse effects (from the Ylesian point of view). 

  Han runs spice to several rendezvous points before being attacked by pirates.  His bodyguard is injured, so he heads for a medical base on Alderaan.  I didn't realize that Alderaan was so close to Hutt space, that it would be the closest port to the rendezvous with the Hutts. 

  Anyway, Han tries to sell the spice on Alderaan, but is politely warned to leave before he's arrested.  So he surprises his bodyguard by returning, and again surprises his Ylesian bosses by not reporting the spice "stolen" by the pirates and making a profit himself, as he would have, if he could have.

  Thus he has gained their trust.  So he immediately plans to steal from them and make his getaway.  He tapes the head priest saying the Exultation is a fake, and shows it to Bria, his favourite girl.  She doesn't take it well, but eventually realizes he is right.  He discovers that his bodyguard Muuurgh's mate is being held as a pilgrim (I saw this coming from a long way off), and convinces them both to join him. 

  First they try to steal from the head priest.  That goes rough, but they get out with a bunch of valuable stuff.  Then they go rescue Muuurgh's mate.  That goes off with barely a hitch.  Then they return Muuurgh and his mate to their planet, and go to meet Bria's family on Corellia. 

  Another name is dropped on Corellia, that of Corran Horn's father or grandfather, in CorSec security (from I, Jedi).  Things don't go well at Bria's family's house.  They know he's low class, and eventually realize he's a thief.  So Han and Bria take off for Coruscant. 

  There, Han's business transaction goes off worse than anything else.  But Bria is able to help him out, and, although she leaves him (because of her, not him), he is able to make the leap into his lifelong dream: entry into the Imperial Academy. 

  Once accepted, he comes across his old master, Shrike, and ends up in a fight, killing the last person who knew about his past (aside from Bria, I guess).

  I began by liking Bria, but ended up wishing she could grow up.  She turned into a whining little girl, who thought she was dragging Han down.  I expect to see her in the upcoming books, but I also expect her to die before the trilogy is over. 

  There's not much else to say about this book.  It is pretty forgettable, but builds up to action near the end.  Just when it begins to get more interesting, the book ends.  I hope the momentum does not trickle to a halt in the next book.


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