(2014) James S. A. Corey, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, 367pp, ISBN 978-0-099-59426-0
One of the first things I noticed about this novel was the name Disney emblazoned across the back cover. Which led me to wonder, what would this be like as a read? The true test is that Han Solo is my favourite character (and I know I am not alone in this) so would this do him justice? Given that James A. Corey (Abaddon's Gate) is a well known writer of space opera (or to be more precise, two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) it was going to be interesting to see how this turned out.
It starts with the familiar characters of Luke, Leia and Han leading in with an in character style of dialogue and scene setting that starts the tale off on its' course – an appearance from C3PO and R2D2 doesn't hurt either. Given that Chewbacca does not communicate with words, I wondered how his speech would be conveyed and it's done effectively, describing his demeanour with Han's responses fitting right in. With so many familiar aspects in play, that leads the opportunity open for what is essentially a fun, fast paced and amusing tale of twists, turns and a heck of a lot of fun.
Han Solo is sent to retrieve a package - or rather a person - by the name of Scarlet Hark who is a high level rebel spy located in the heart of the Empire. The only problem is that Scarlet has plans of her own involving tracking down a pirate to steal essential intelligence he is threatening to sell which the Empire would stop at nothing to protect, which extends to destroying the planet Leia is meeting Rebel sympathisers on. That being the case, having tracked her down in a creative fashion, Han finds himself having to join her in her objective whilst ensuring she stays alive.
Scarlet Hark herself turns out to be an entertaining character with a relevant back story and written in such a way she becomes an interesting counterpart to Han. Han's meeting with his old comrade Baasen, written with quite a British twist to his speech, tells a tale in itself of former friends turned enemies and how that came to be. As for Han? He is written as charming, roguish and reckless, as well you might expect him to be, right down to his rapport with Chewbacca.
This book overcomes the classic drawback of many a Star Wars novel being that there is only so much you can do with the universe when it is so comprehensively told on screen by providing action, escapes from tight situations, intrigue and despite the fate of certain characters being assured, it still manages to ramp up the tension as well.
It also doesn't pretend to be anything other than high adventure in outer space and that it does well – I won't go too much into detail as it would be a shame to spoil it. It's an entertaining read and while I (not being the most familiar with the Star Wars universe) found the technical references, places and races a little confusing at times, the classic mainstays such as the Millennium Falcon and mentions of Jabba the Hutt are welcome in that respect.
That being said, if this is the first Star Wars novel you were going to set about reading, it would not be a bad place to start. It is not too in-depth, it's a fun read, but seeing Han Solo's reflections of how being involved with the rebel alliance has changed his outlook on life made the novel for an interesting and insightful read.
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