The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley (1979-1980, Del Rey)
The Han Solo Adventures is a one-volume collection of three short novels by the late Brian Daley chronicling a few of Han and Chewbacca’s adventures before the first Star Wars film. These books were among the very first Star Wars novels, with only the novelization of the first film and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye preceding them. These books, along with Splinter and The Lando Calrissian Adventures, constitute the only expanded universe novels to be published prior to Heir to the Empire. As with the Lando books, I’ll review each of these separately.
Han Solo at Stars’ End
In this first novel, Han and Chewbacca find themselves in the Corporate Sector, an area of space controlled by a tyrannical oligarchy of corporations concerned solely with profit. Brian Daley used the Corporate Sector and the Corporate Sector Authority in lieu of the Empire because, as he explains in this 1995 interview, he wasn’t permitted to use most of the trappings of A New Hope. The original Star Wars was the only one of the films out at the time, and, Daley explains, continuity was a concern. As you might surmise, this is also why The Han Solo Adventures are set prior to the original Star Wars. Despite these differences, Daley immediately captures the exciting space chases, Han’s wry wit and cocky demeanor, and the interplay between Han and Chewbacca in a way that reminds the reader of everything that made Han so much fun to watch in the first movie.
The Millennium Falcon is in need of repairs (and a fake waiver to operate within the Corporate Sector), so Han and Chewie turn to “Doc,” a well-known outlaw mechanic. When they arrive at Doc’s shop, they find his daughter Jessa in charge. She informs them that Doc has disappeared and that the down-on-their luck duo can pay for the Falcon’s repairs by tracking down him and several other people who have been captured by the Corporate Sector Authority.
The fact that several people are missing leaves Daley an opening to add a few original supporting characters to Han’s crew, most of whom are searching for loved ones or associates.
Daley also introduces here the only two characters (aside from Han and Chewbacca) that appear in all three Han Solo Adventures novels: the droids Bollux (rendered in British publications as “Zollux” for obvious reasons) and Blue Max, an old labor droid and pocket-sized computer hacking unit, respectively. Having a pair of droid companions in the novel’s cast lends it some more of the film’s feel, but the droids’ unique personalities add a distinct quality to the Solo books.
Shit gets real when, in the group’s first and failed attempt to liberate the occupants of Stars’ End prison, Chewbacca is captured. The eventual rescue is thrilling for the reader and nigh-suicidal for Han Solo—much in the vein of the Death Star detention block bust in A New Hope.
This book is great pulp adventure, sci-fi fun, and established a lot of materials, technologies, and conventions of the Star Wars universe (i.e. the Z-95 Headhunter starfighter) that continue to be utilized in the expanded universe today.
One last note about this one. It’s already a great line that evokes the image of Han’s cocky smile, but one thing Han says in this book has been lent extra humor in the past fifteen or so years: “I happen to like shooting first, Rekkon. As opposed to shooting second.”
Han Solo’s Revenge
The second book in the series finds Han and Chewbacca down enough on their luck that they’re willing to pick up a job from an anonymous source with no explanations—for ten thousand credits. This quickly proves itself to be a regrettable choice when they discover that they’re being asked to transport slaves. Han, of course, is at this point hardly a pinnacle of principle, but slavery is one place where he and Chewbacca both draw the line. The slavers aren’t much interested in their moral qualms and decide to hijack the Falcon, but with the help of Blue Max, the slavers get good and dead at the hands of their own “cargo” and Han, Chewie, and the Falcon escape intact.
The way Han sees it, though, somebody still owes him ten thousand.
From there, the novel follows Han’s mission to track down those responsible for the setup and to get his money. In the process, he crosses paths with members of the Corporate Sector Authority’s Security Police and the dangerous quick-draw gunman, Gallandro, whose skill with a blaster rivals or exceeds Han’s own.
The book is as much crime fiction as it is sci-fi, with plenty of police corruption, hidden identities, and double-crosses. Gallandro lends the novel that western-in-space vibe that the character of Han Solo and Harrison Ford’s performance always brought to the films. All of this is a recipe for a great time with Han Solo.
Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
The third and final book of The Han Solo Adventures stretches beyond the Corporate Sector to a region of space known as the Tion Hegemony, where, thousands of years ago, a man known to history as Xim the Despot ruled over a vast empire. An old friend of Han’s—to whom he owes a favor—believes that some associates of his have a good lead on the location of the Queen of Ranroon, an ancient spaceship belonging to Xim, fabled to contain untold wealth.
In their quest for the lost treasure, Han and his companions must contend with the theft of the Millennium Falcon; a group of people descended from the survivors of a starship crash who now offer up sentient beings in ritual sacrifice in an attempt send a distress signal to High Command; an ancient army of Xim’s killer war robots; and the gunman Gallandro, intent on settling his score with Han.
Lost Legacy is my favorite of the three, with the strongest assembly of supporting characters, a sort of pre-Indiana Jones vibe, an exciting one-on-one showdown in the book’s climax, and a great twist ending.
The Han Solo Adventures are three highly entertaining, more-or-less stand-alone pulp adventures. Without even the benefit of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Brian Daley understood exactly what made Han Solo tick and wrote the character to perfection while putting him through his paces. I only wish more fun, small stories like these were told in today’s Star Wars fiction.