Monday, December 19, 2016

Star Wars Book Club: Smuggler's Run

Boy howdy was it ever a great weekend to be a fan of Star Wars. I'm sure you all know of the massive opening for Rogue One. Even though that film is the hot topic at the moment, and I would really love to talk about it, I don't want to be the guy who drives a topic into the dirt, that's what the rest of the internet is for. Instead I spent my time after the film to finally wrap up the second season of The Clone Wars as well as finish yet another novel. This time we're returning to the Journey to The Force Awakens line that previously brought us the abysmal Weapon of a Jedi. Will this installment fair any better? Let's find out.

Smuggler's Run by Greg Rucka is the tale of what Han Solo and Chewbacca do right after the events of A New Hope. Taken alongside Rogue One I was treated to the bread that makes a sandwhich out of the original film. I actually had a little more trust going into this as I've encountered Rucka's work before, and while not always to my style, he at least seems to know his craft.

Right outta the gate I have to give this book a massive compliment for it's pacing. A common complaint of mine towards these new expanded universe novels is how much time they waste getting to the point. Even some of the better paced installments will often take at least one odd detour that slows everything to a crawl. That's not the case at all here. In fact this book almost goes too fast. From beginning to end it stays on point and never wavers from the main plot.

Adding to the increased pace is a story line that almost matters in the larger shceme of things. Taking place immediately after A New Hope, we learn that Han didn't take the opportunity to leave and pay off his debt to Jabba the Hut as originally intended. Instead he's brow beaten into taking a desperate mission for the rebellion when one of their key members is in risk of being captured by the empire. In the process of this mission Han and Chewie are officially labeled as members of the rebel alliance, helping to explain why he's still with the group when Empire Strikes Back begins. I'm still not completely satisfied as to why Han never took a quick chance at paying Jabba and getting at least one monkey off his back. Maybe one day we'll be treated to a story of him failing in that regard.

Another nice element to this tale is it's service as something of a love letter to the Millennium Falcon. As one of the great vehicles in fiction it's comforting to read passages about the smuggler and wookie's love for their ride/home. It reminds me just a bit of the importance of Baby in Supernatural. It's more than just a means of transportation, it's a member of the family.

Something that doesn't work as well this time are the villains. During the mission, Han and Chewie are pursued by an unremarkable quartet of bounty hunters along with an Imperial Intelligence officer by the name of Beck. None of them are all that impressive. Beck has potential but the book is too short to allow for much growth on her part. There is a chance of her appearing again down the line so I guess there's always hope she'll be a proper threat someday.

Similarly to the villains, supporting characters are pretty flat. Whether it's traveling bar owner Delia, or the rebel Ematt whose name I had to look up, he made that much of an impression. Basically this is a straight up Han and Chewie tale with no room for anyone else to have much of a personality. If you're alright with that, the other characters shouldn't pose much of a problem.

Overall there's little holding this one back from being a decent read. It successfully captures the voices of it's leads and provides quick and fun entertainment. The only real issue is the lack of anything more meaningful to the tale. Recall that even the fairly weak Heir to the Jedi had moments of emotional insight for Luke, nothing like that here. None of these events shape the characters. It's just a straightforward adventure. Even so, with one crazy short book, Han Solo has knocked both Luke novels down a notch. Way to go you old pirate. Let's adjust the leader boards accordingly.

1. Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
2. New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
3. Ashoka by E.K. Johnston
4. Tarkin by James Luceno
5. Smuggler's Run by Greg Rucka
6. Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
7. Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
8. The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry

I've already got another book on the way so expect another review shortly. In The meantime I'm really hoping to get some more articles out here and other avenues. I know it feels like I've been a bit absent recently but I just keep getting caught up in other projects. In fact, I recently completed a write up on my experience helping out the Freakshow Film Festival back around Halloween. Check it out if you'd be so kind. I should be back with something before Christmas, so keep your eyes pealed.

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