(2018) Daniel José Older, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, 419pp, ISBN 978-1-787-46063-8
This is a Han and Lando novel and a story that wanders across multiple timelines, focussing primarily on a particular adventure that takes place a couple of years after Return of the Jedi. Han and Leia are married and living in domestic (not quite) bliss with toddler Ben Solo. Han is not coping at all well with fatherhood and is convinced that heís getting everything wrong. Neither he nor Leia have lost their need for excitement. Enter Lando and a chance to escape from domesticity, and Han grabs it with both hands.
Lando has been living in the cloud city, considering settling down himself, but those plans are forgotten when his protocol droid tries to assassinate him. This then brings him to the Soloís doorstep (complete with charm and cape). Ten years prior to this, the two of them had had a run in with a mad scientist called Fyzen Gor, who was working on technology that would allow him to remotely control droids. It seems that this is what has happened to Landoís previously loyal and safe protocol droid. The two of them set off to track Gor down before he can do any more damage. Gor is a great villain, completely over the top, and the segments in which he appears work well.
I felt that the author captured the voice of Han and Lando perfectly, and I could hear Harrison Ford in every line of dialogue; saying exactly what I would expect Han to say? Although this seems obvious, having read other novels in the Star Wars cannon, not all authors are able to do it. I also really enjoyed the toddler tantrums of baby Ben Solo and this provided some great comic touches. I felt that the pieces were all there, and the book had great potential, but sadly it didnít live up to my expectations.
I found the book difficult to engage with primarily because the story is told through multiple timelines. The reader is taken on a journey with Han and Lando not only through their current adventure, but through two separate journeys both of them took at different earlier times which led them to their current point. It was fun to see younger Han and Lando and the scrapes they got in to and separately these sections work. The problems arose when they were put together with the main story thread. These two timelines were effectively backstory and I often found that I became confused and had to go back and re-read in order to work out where in the timeline a particular chapter took place. It felt like there were just too many similar events taking place in different timelines and I struggled to keep track.
There was also a strange sadness to reading about the life of a Han as a young parent given that we know how that turns out. I wasnít convinced that Han would have been quite as incompetent as he appeared (this is a man who was a pirate and rebel Ė would he really be so completely overwhelmed by a toddler?) but the book does have enough interesting dialogue and action to overcome this. Itís not awful but itís not great and I would recommend only for hardcore fans.
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