Ambush at Corellia by Roger MacBride Allen (1995, Bantam)
Bantam was certainly fond of publishing its Star Wars books in trilogies. Whether this was intended to echo the structure of the Star Wars trilogy or (more likely) to hook readers into buying two more books than they’d originally planned, I’m not sure, but regardless, I’ll have reviewed each of Bantam’s Star Wars novel trilogies after I’m done with this one.
Ambush at Corellia, the Corellian Trilogy’s first entry, takes Han Solo back to his homeworld when he and his family decide to take a vacation there. In one quietly moving passage, Han walks down Treasure Ship Row, a once thriving district in Corellia’s capital city of Coronet, only to find that the streets are quiet and that signs of economic decline are everywhere. Having moved around a lot during my childhood, I can relate to the feeling of returning to a place you once lived, only to find that it’s now completely different, and author Roger MacBride Allen captures that unique melancholia pretty well here.
This, of course, isn’t the worst thing that happens to Han on his vacation. The Human League, an anti-alien hate group, begins to move against to the New Republic, seeking independence for Corellia and the power to deport aliens who live there. The group makes demands to this effect, providing a list of stars that will be detonated if they are not met—the first star on the list having already exploded.
The novel also includes a B-plot involving Lando’s search for a wealthy wife. He drags Luke along on his quest, reasoning that the Jedi Master’s reputation will increase his chances. Lando is very upfront with the women he pursues that what he’s looking for is at least partially a business relationship. This honesty keeps him from looking too sleazy to the reader, but he puts on just enough of that scoundrel’s charm to be endearing. A short string of misadventures results from this quest.
This is a very funny subplot, though it unfortunately ends a little too abruptly in a conventional romance that I would have liked to have seen explored in more detail. Tendra Risant, who, in later books, is married to Lando, has a number of likeable characteristics here, many of which suggest that she is in fact compatible with Lando, but we are unfortunately told more than shown how the two of them hit it off.
The book ends by revealing that the leader of the Human League is none other than Thrackan Sal-Solo, a sadistic cousin from Han’s childhood, who subsequently has him captured and imprisoned.
The book suffers from a few instances of improbable expository dialogue. In one passage, for example, Han and Leia, while en route to Corellia, explain the complexities of Corellian politics to their seven- and nine-year-old children in such a way that makes it quite clear that the information is more for the reader’s benefit than the kids’.
Some new characters are added in this book as well. Some, like New Republic Intelligence agent Belindi Kalenda (pictured above) and Ebrihim, a tutor Leia hires to teach her children about the Corellian System, at first seem to exist primarily for the purpose of plot propulsion. While I maintain this complaint to a certain extent even after finishing the Corellian Trilogy, I think that Allen manages to make these characters likable and give them enough personality to justify their existence beyond plot advancement.
Despite any flaws it may have, Ambush at Corellia is fast-paced and entertaining, with a good sense of the main Star Wars cast and an equally good sense of fun—something often lacking in Star Wars novels. Han and Leia’s kids, often written poorly in their childhood years, are fun to read about in this novel. Allen, unlike most prior writers who have attempted to write these characters, gives them clearly defined personalities that are unique from one another. Overall, this book is a quick, fun read that’s worth a look if you don’t mind a three-book commitment.