Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Han Solo Adventures and the Birth of the Expanded Universe

To finish up my summer reading, I returned to some classic stories that I enjoy every time I pick them up - Brian Daley's three Han Solo novels from 1979.

So, what existed when these were written? Well, it was the first movie (then just titled Star Wars), the novelization of the first movie (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster), and Splinter of the Mind's Eye (by Alan Dean Foster). So it was a pretty small universe that Daley expended on with these three novels.

Han Solo At Star's End
This episode finds Han and Chewy in need of repairs for the Falcon, several years before Star Wars. In the process they get dragged into a conspiracy of disappearing people. Han doesn't want to get involved until Chewy is captured. The climax involved a power system overload that sends an super-reinforced tower into a suborbital trajectory. Daley did a fantastic job of making it seem plausible, but something about the scenario just seems cheesy. Still it is a fun romp with Solo and the wookie.

Han Solo's Revenge
This episode has Han and Chewy take a job out of desperation that turns out to be a slaver ring. That goes against their ethics so the slavers are soon dead and the slaves freed, but Han and Chewy are out the payment and set out to rectify that. The slaver ring turns out to be part of a large ring of corruption and no one they encounter is quite who they seem to be. This one may be the best of the three and feels like the Han Solo we know from the films.

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
In this Episode, they run into an old friend who has a mission for them - a long lost treasure. The trail leads to a backwater world where they are ambushed. They all escape, but the Falcon is taken (literally picked up and hauled away by a loadlifter). Han sets out to get his ship back. In the process, they stumble on a community of pre-republic castaways who turn out to have ties to the treasure, but they barely escape with their lives. They manage to get the Falcon back and find the treasure, only to discover that it is largely worthless minerals that once had value before technology make them obsolete. It ends with talk of Jabba the Hutt and a Kessel Run.

Each story is about sixty thousand words and is fast paced. Very suitable for a child of nine to pick up and devour and also for a quick read for any adult. This is the Han Solo who shot poor Greedo. He is hard, callous, but underneath he cares. He has been wounded too often to let himself show it. Daley's characterization is spot on and the additional characters and technology he crafted have become part of the staple that was included in the original role playing game and the other expanded universe books. While Alan Dean Foster was the first writer to visit the Star Wars Universe, Brian Daley was the first to explore it.

The best part of these stories is that I enjoyed them as much as a seasoned writer of 44 as I did at 9.

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