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A novel by Brian Daley (1979, Del Rey Science Fiction)
Book 1 of the Han Solo Adventures
5 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Han and Chewbacca are hired to rescue prisoners taken by the Corporate Sector Authority.



3 stars

Read July 18th to 21st, 1995  
    The following review and extended summary were written in June 2001.

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 successful.  

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 easily.  

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. 


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