by A.C. Crispin
Published by Bantam Publishing
Steve Almond's Rating: 4 out of 4
Ron Vitale's Rating: 2.5 out of 4
This novel concludes The Han Solo Trilogy, picking up a few months after The Hutt Gambit and covering a five year period up to the moment Han & Chewie arrive in the Mos Eisley Cantina and take a certain charter. :O)
The main storyline involves Bria (Han's ex-flame from The Paradise Snare), now a high ranking Rebel, trying to organise an assault on Ylesia to end the Hutt slave ring and eventually hiring smugglers to help out. In the meantime though, there's Han's win of the Falcon, Chewie's domestic life, Hutt clan power struggles, Corporate Sector adventures (see Brian Daley's Han Solo Adventures), Boba Fett and lots more!
This series is definitely a great lead-in to the movies and a number of the spin-off novels! Just about every aspect of Han's character in the movie trilogy can be related to events in Crispin's novel, especially his mindset during A New Hope. It all flows so nicely! The last book showed us where Boba Fett's grudge comes from, and this one explains Chewie's worries about going to see Lando in The Empire Strikes Back. Crispin handled this wonderfully! She also does a nice characterization of Jabba and his fatherly treatment of Han. And just when I thought the ending was going to be a little less climatic than I hoped, there's a nice little twist!
All in all, this trilogy is probably the best read (yes, maybe even better than Thrawn) and goes that extra mile in providing a lot of background detail.
If you ever wanted to read more about the Hutts and the inner workings of their lives, this is the book to read. Unarguably some of Crispin's strongest writing can be found in these scenes. Jabba and Durga come to life as evil Hutts who are intent of making their own agendas propel them to greater power.
A close second to the Hutt sections, are those that deal with Boba Fett. Tied in nicely throughout the book, Fett keeps popping up when you least expect him and finally we're give an insight into his morally corrupt code of honor.
Maybe the ending tied things up a little too nicely, bringing back certain minor characters from previous books, when they could just have easily been left out. Also, at some times I felt the novel was exclusively a vehicle to explain all of Han's dialogue in the movie. At least it all made sense and contributed to the overall story.
I've thought about how to say this and I think I'll just put it out on the table: This novel lacks a sense of excitement. We know Han isn't going to die and understand he can't live happily ever after with Bria. Part of the problem stems from Crispin's being forced to stick to a limited plot. For example, in the middle of the book Han disappears in the Corporate Sector from p. 147 until p. 245. Except for two short "interludes" he's no where to be found. Have you ever heard of a Han Solo Trilogy without Han? Sounds weird to me. Why does this happen? Brian Daley's novels occur during this time span and we're essentially left to fill in the blanks. Trust me, it doesn't work well. Granted that this lapse in the plot isn't Crispin's fault, it does detract from the book.
I give Crispin immense credit for writing in such a restricted environment yet she is not a special effects wizard when it comes to sound effects. Her "creative" way to describe blaster bolts is "Ptchoo. Ptchoo. Ptchoo." And if I would have seen one more character fall and go "thud," I was going to take the book and throw it against the wall.
Well, I was all prepared to mention Han & Chewie in dancing girl outfits ... until I came across the "bloody, crushed ruin of flesh and brain matter" of a certain Hutt. As if Hutts weren't disgusting as it is!!
Teroenza, the t'landa Til High priest on the Ylesia colony, kills Kibbick the hutt in a rather gruesome way. Repeatedly he impales the hutt with his horn until blood is dripping everywhere. I'm glad I didn't have to clean that up.