An entry into the Star Wars universe that exceeds its ‘commercial product’ requirements – this is, on its own merits, a solid novel that provides both non-stop action and food for thought.
It also does a great job of providing an episode that fits perfectly and believably into the Star Wars timeline – and even a nod to the fact that the events described here aren’t mentioned during subsequent episodes. (So many wild events; so many crazy stories.)
This wild story: Han Solo is sent on a mission to pick up a Rebel Alliance spy. However, her cover’s been compromised, and Han soon realizes that bounty hunters sent by Jabba the Hutt are on his tail. The spy’s time-sensitive information and her forceful personality mean that Han’s soon roped into a job that seems to be getting more complex – and more dangerous – by the minute. Space battles, personal drama, and on-planet adventures – it’s got it all.
The characterization is on point. The main character here is Han Solo (which means, of course, that Chewie’s there), Leia’s present for a good chunk of the action, and Luke features prominently as well. Real fans will be delighted to know that this is a Han who’s not afraid to shoot first. However, he’s not a man without a conscience, either. He doesn’t shoot without a reason. The book does a fantastic job of staying true to Han’s established character while letting the reader feel like they’ve actually gotten to know him better – maybe even see a hint of his hidden vulnerability and his motivations.
Oddly, I felt that the weakest character was the most important one who’s original to this book – the spy Scarlet Hark. Don’t get me wrong – she’s cool and badass. But she’s just a bit TOO perfect (competent, gorgeous, etc) and we don’t really get to know her as a person, or see any chinks in her flat façade.
However, what I liked most about the book is how Han’s background as a smuggler and his place on the fringes of society gives him (and the authors) a chance to actually critique the political ideals of the whole dichotomy of the Star Wars universe. There’s a lot here about how ‘rebel’ forces, if successful, often end up becoming no different than the powers-that-be, and about how it’s important to maintain enough freedom in any society for there to be ‘room’ on the fringes for the fringe elements. Han here is a smart, cynical guy, and I loved his questioning attitude.
Just a note: this is marketed as "Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion, #2." I've also read the previous novel (by Martha Wells) - they're both fully stand-alone novels - you don't need to read one before the other.
A copy of this book was provided to me through NetGalley. Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey Spectra.