I haven’t read a Star Wars novel since…well, probably since Brian Daley wrote a couple of Han Solo books in the late 1970’s. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy Star Wars (I’m nerd enough to say that I own the top-of-the-line LaserDiscs of the original cut of the original film), it’s just that I never found much interest in reading new adventures of our favorite silver screen sci-fi stars. So what, then, drew me to this book? James S. A. Corey.
James S. A. Corey (it seems to be fairly common knowledge that Corey is actually the pen name for the collaborations of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is the author of a rocking, fantastic modern pulp space opera called Leviathan Wakes (which was my pick for the 2013 Hugo Awards). I was impressed enough with Leviathan Wakes, that I’ve picked up everything I could find by Corey. And now…a Star Wars book by this author!
The story takes place after the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, so the recurring characters and the events are all familiar with anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the films. This book (the second in a series) focusses on Han Solo, attempting to part ways but being drawn back in to doing some additional work for the Rebellion. Han teams up with a new character to the Star Wars world: Scarlet Hark, a female version of Han, with a job. Han and Scarlet have to intercept a small-time thief who’s managed to steal a map to what could be the most powerful weapon in the galaxies. Of course the Empire is also tracking that map. Han and Scarlet have to work together, avoid the Empire, and maneuver amongst thieves and smugglers to protect Leia, the Rebel Alliance, and themselves.
I was immediately struck by how ‘authentic’ the dialog felt. It was easy to picture Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker saying their words. Their attitudes, their inflections (as described with facial reactions and dialog italics), felt true to the characters. The story delves a little more in to how Solo feels about the rebellion and his part in it. This, too, just has the right touch to it (or so I imagine). He’s still a loveable curmudgeon, but getting in to his psyche actually helps explain some of his transition through the following films.
The humor and banter that the film fans love about Han Solo is still present. James S. A. Corey find perfect moments and means to keep that humor alive:
“I’m not looking,” Scarlet said in a teasing singsong.
“I’m not embarrassed,” Han said to the back of her head. “I am a very good-looking man.”
“Indeed you are, sir,” the droid replied.
Author Corey keeps the action moving at a rapid clip, without sacrificing story, and Corey has a tremendous ability to succinctly describe something that immediately is identifiable to the reader without having to spend pages and pages of needless description. Take for example:
They were an ugly bunch: middle-aged men who should have been back home on a planet somewhere spending too much time at the neighborhood bar and weedy boys still looking forward to their first wispy mustaches.
The air inside smelled like roasted peppers.
Too many authors would have gone on to try to explain what roasted peppers smelled like. Corey respects the reader and trusts us to fill in any blanks.
As the story moved along, I couldn’t help but wonder what author Corey had created and how it was going to be explained – or, rather, how the absence of the pivotal weapon was going to be explained. But Corey manages to wrap up the climax in true Han Solo fashion, which was also completely in keeping with what Han was thinking and talking about throughout the book (note: I’m trying very hard not to give anything away!).
This book is precisely what new stories of existing characters should be like! A continuation. An extension of the original, and not merely any old story that happens to have those characters. The inclusion of new characters was fine, but I do feel that Scarlet Hark’s presence and contribution was strong enough that I might wonder where she is when I next watch Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.
This book was actually exciting enough, that now I’m curious to read the first and next book in the series. Too bad they aren’t written by James S.A. Corey as well.
Looking for a good book? This continuation of the Star Wars saga is a thrilling adventure that feels so ‘right’ you’ll think there already was the film version.
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Honor Among Thieves
author: James S. A. Corey
series: Empire and Rebellion #2
hardcover, 258 pages