The Stolen Data Tapes
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.

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.

The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster (2002, Del Rey)
Anakin Skywalker must be strong in the Force, indeed; according to this cover, he is apparently able to grasp a lightsaber by the blade with no discernible negative consequences.

When I look at this cover, however, I’m less interested in the questionable placement of Anakin’s hand than I am in the name at the bottom. The Approaching Storm is the third, and so far final, Star Wars novel by Alan Dean Foster, and comes to us more than twenty years after his last entry in the Star Wars saga. Foster, as you may recall from prior knowledge or my previous reviews, is the author of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (the novelization of the original film) and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (the very first expanded universe novel).

The Approaching Storm, set shortly before the events of Attack of the Clones, follows Luminara Unduli, Barriss Offee, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker as they are sent by the Jedi Council to a seemingly unimportant world called Ansion. The planet, through multiple treaties and agreements, is connected to many other worlds, making its allegiance pivotal. The Separatist movement is already gaining momentum, and Ansion is poised to vote on the issue of leaving or remaining within the Republic. The Jedi, of course, are sent to persuade the Ansionians to stay.

This basic formula would later be followed by an exhausting number of Clone Wars-era Star Wars stories—a phenomenon I discuss with a fair degree of exasperation in my review of The Cestus Deception. The primary difference here is that Foster actually manages not to put me to sleep with this.

To begin with, Foster realizes two things that can be a real pitfall for people writing Star Wars stories, or really any science fiction: 1) If your entire story is set on one planet, that planet has to actually be interesting, and 2) you can’t focus on how neat your newly created planet is at the expense of character exploration.

The Approaching Storm succeeds on both counts. Ansion, with its creatures and civilization, are very well-thought out. Foster gives most of the animals features in common with the sentient Ansionians (like a single nostril), suggesting evolution of all life on the planet from a common ancestor. This was a nice touch that most writers don’t consider. The dominant sentient species, known simply as Ansionians, are divided, broadly, into two distinct civilizations: there are the “civilized” city-dwellers, and the nomadic, plains-dwelling Ansionians known collectively as the Alwari. The Alwari themselves are divided into an indeterminate number of clans.

Most of this novel concerns itself with the mission of the Jedi to make peace between the city folk and the nomads, a condition of Ansion’s continued membership in the Republic. To do this, they must seek out the Borokii, the most powerful of the Alwari clans, and they must do so without the aid of landspeeders or other modern transport, which all of the clans would consider disrespectful.

These conditions make for a long journey full of conversation, character interactions, and encounters with bizarre creatures that certainly held my interest. Foster introduces a solid supporting cast, including two formerly brain-damaged Alwari who are healed by Barriss and, later, a comic relief character called Tooqui, who I fear would be quite annoying on film, but manages to get laughs out of me on the page.

The nurturing personalities of Luminara and Barriss (the latter of whom makes her first appearance in this novel) are given a fair degree of elaboration, as opposed to the quiet reserve of Obi-Wan or, more strikingly, the restlessness of Anakin. Indeed, it’s Anakin who receives the most exploration. His conversations with Barriss about the state of the Republic emphasize the desire for justice fatally combined with impatience that we know will eventually make him into the clenched fist of fascism… but for now, we can find sympathy for his frustration with a bloated and corrupt system.

I very much appreciate this novel’s somewhat leisurely pace. Several digressions are found here, most of them exploring morality, philosophy, or even, in one surprisingly stirring passage, the power of story and myth. The plot wraps up rather predictably with a newly united Ansion remaining within the Republic, but from the outset, this book was more about the journey than the destination. 

The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster (2002, Del Rey)

Anakin Skywalker must be strong in the Force, indeed; according to this cover, he is apparently able to grasp a lightsaber by the blade with no discernible negative consequences.

When I look at this cover, however, I’m less interested in the questionable placement of Anakin’s hand than I am in the name at the bottom. The Approaching Storm is the third, and so far final, Star Wars novel by Alan Dean Foster, and comes to us more than twenty years after his last entry in the Star Wars saga. Foster, as you may recall from prior knowledge or my previous reviews, is the author of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (the novelization of the original film) and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (the very first expanded universe novel).

The Approaching Storm, set shortly before the events of Attack of the Clones, follows Luminara Unduli, Barriss Offee, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker as they are sent by the Jedi Council to a seemingly unimportant world called Ansion. The planet, through multiple treaties and agreements, is connected to many other worlds, making its allegiance pivotal. The Separatist movement is already gaining momentum, and Ansion is poised to vote on the issue of leaving or remaining within the Republic. The Jedi, of course, are sent to persuade the Ansionians to stay.

This basic formula would later be followed by an exhausting number of Clone Wars-era Star Wars stories—a phenomenon I discuss with a fair degree of exasperation in my review of The Cestus Deception. The primary difference here is that Foster actually manages not to put me to sleep with this.

To begin with, Foster realizes two things that can be a real pitfall for people writing Star Wars stories, or really any science fiction: 1) If your entire story is set on one planet, that planet has to actually be interesting, and 2) you can’t focus on how neat your newly created planet is at the expense of character exploration.

The Approaching Storm succeeds on both counts. Ansion, with its creatures and civilization, are very well-thought out. Foster gives most of the animals features in common with the sentient Ansionians (like a single nostril), suggesting evolution of all life on the planet from a common ancestor. This was a nice touch that most writers don’t consider. The dominant sentient species, known simply as Ansionians, are divided, broadly, into two distinct civilizations: there are the “civilized” city-dwellers, and the nomadic, plains-dwelling Ansionians known collectively as the Alwari. The Alwari themselves are divided into an indeterminate number of clans.

Most of this novel concerns itself with the mission of the Jedi to make peace between the city folk and the nomads, a condition of Ansion’s continued membership in the Republic. To do this, they must seek out the Borokii, the most powerful of the Alwari clans, and they must do so without the aid of landspeeders or other modern transport, which all of the clans would consider disrespectful.

These conditions make for a long journey full of conversation, character interactions, and encounters with bizarre creatures that certainly held my interest. Foster introduces a solid supporting cast, including two formerly brain-damaged Alwari who are healed by Barriss and, later, a comic relief character called Tooqui, who I fear would be quite annoying on film, but manages to get laughs out of me on the page.

The nurturing personalities of Luminara and Barriss (the latter of whom makes her first appearance in this novel) are given a fair degree of elaboration, as opposed to the quiet reserve of Obi-Wan or, more strikingly, the restlessness of Anakin. Indeed, it’s Anakin who receives the most exploration. His conversations with Barriss about the state of the Republic emphasize the desire for justice fatally combined with impatience that we know will eventually make him into the clenched fist of fascism… but for now, we can find sympathy for his frustration with a bloated and corrupt system.

I very much appreciate this novel’s somewhat leisurely pace. Several digressions are found here, most of them exploring morality, philosophy, or even, in one surprisingly stirring passage, the power of story and myth. The plot wraps up rather predictably with a newly united Ansion remaining within the Republic, but from the outset, this book was more about the journey than the destination. 

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster (1978, Del Rey)
As I mentioned in a previous review, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was the first prose entry in the Star Wars expanded universe. Published in 1978, a year after the first movie, its general feel is somewhat different from that of books published after the entire trilogy had been completed. Furthermore, according to Wookiepedia, this book was written in part as the story for a possible low-budget movie sequel to Star Wars in the event that the film was not a financial success and includes some unused ideas for the first movie.
The story follows Luke and Leia who, on their way to a meeting with underground rebel leaders on Circarpous, are forced to make an emergency landing on another world in the system, Mimban. The mist-shrouded planet is home to, in addition to ancient ruins and an array of bizarre creatures, an Imperial mining colony. After doffing their flight suits in favor of mining outfits and infiltrating the colony with relative ease, Luke and Leia meet a spirited old woman named Halla, who introduces the book’s MacGuffin: the Kaiburr crystal, an ancient artifact capable of amplifying the user’s perception of the Force.
Halla has a piece of the crystal and has been searching for its parent for years, but she isn’t the only one. After Imperial capture and escape, Luke senses the presence of Darth Vader, who has arrived on Mimban to capture Luke and Leia—and now seeks the crystal for himself.
The novel reaches its conclusion at the Temple of Pomojema, where the crystal is located. Here both Leia and Luke duel Vader. Leia sustains very serious wounds that Luke is later able to heal with the crystal’s power. Vader launches a globe of Force energy at Luke, interesting because such a technique is never used again, to my knowledge… except by this guy:

Luke actually hacks Vader’s arm off, adding even more symmetry to all the limb-chopping that goes on in the Star Wars saga. Leia, as I said, is healed, and Luke and Vader both live to sever appendages another day, but the crystal is safe from Vader and the Empire.
Alan Dean Foster, in addition to several original works, had already written the novelization of the first (and at that time only) movie. This gives him a fair amount of experience writing Luke, Leia, Threepio, and Artoo. Splinter contains one of the best characterizations of Leia I’ve seen outside the movies, and while the romantic tension between Luke and Leia in the first two movies and in works like this seems to retroactively gross everyone out, it doesn’t bother me at all; in fact, it’s one of the most entertaining aspects of the novel.
Some of the techno-chatter near the beginning of the book sounds a little stilted coming out of Luke and Leia, and Vader’s characterization is perhaps a little inconsistent with the way we’ve come to know him (though that’s hardly the book’s fault). Overall, though, I would say that in Splinter, Foster has created an entertaining, uncomplicated Star Wars adventure featuring skillful prose and well-executed character relationships, both between established and new characters. Not only by virtue of being the first, this book set the tone for what would eventually become the vast world of Star Wars novels. 

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster (1978, Del Rey)

As I mentioned in a previous review, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was the first prose entry in the Star Wars expanded universe. Published in 1978, a year after the first movie, its general feel is somewhat different from that of books published after the entire trilogy had been completed. Furthermore, according to Wookiepedia, this book was written in part as the story for a possible low-budget movie sequel to Star Wars in the event that the film was not a financial success and includes some unused ideas for the first movie.

The story follows Luke and Leia who, on their way to a meeting with underground rebel leaders on Circarpous, are forced to make an emergency landing on another world in the system, Mimban. The mist-shrouded planet is home to, in addition to ancient ruins and an array of bizarre creatures, an Imperial mining colony. After doffing their flight suits in favor of mining outfits and infiltrating the colony with relative ease, Luke and Leia meet a spirited old woman named Halla, who introduces the book’s MacGuffin: the Kaiburr crystal, an ancient artifact capable of amplifying the user’s perception of the Force.

Halla has a piece of the crystal and has been searching for its parent for years, but she isn’t the only one. After Imperial capture and escape, Luke senses the presence of Darth Vader, who has arrived on Mimban to capture Luke and Leia—and now seeks the crystal for himself.

The novel reaches its conclusion at the Temple of Pomojema, where the crystal is located. Here both Leia and Luke duel Vader. Leia sustains very serious wounds that Luke is later able to heal with the crystal’s power. Vader launches a globe of Force energy at Luke, interesting because such a technique is never used again, to my knowledge… except by this guy:

Luke actually hacks Vader’s arm off, adding even more symmetry to all the limb-chopping that goes on in the Star Wars saga. Leia, as I said, is healed, and Luke and Vader both live to sever appendages another day, but the crystal is safe from Vader and the Empire.

Alan Dean Foster, in addition to several original works, had already written the novelization of the first (and at that time only) movie. This gives him a fair amount of experience writing Luke, Leia, Threepio, and Artoo. Splinter contains one of the best characterizations of Leia I’ve seen outside the movies, and while the romantic tension between Luke and Leia in the first two movies and in works like this seems to retroactively gross everyone out, it doesn’t bother me at all; in fact, it’s one of the most entertaining aspects of the novel.

Some of the techno-chatter near the beginning of the book sounds a little stilted coming out of Luke and Leia, and Vader’s characterization is perhaps a little inconsistent with the way we’ve come to know him (though that’s hardly the book’s fault). Overall, though, I would say that in Splinter, Foster has created an entertaining, uncomplicated Star Wars adventure featuring skillful prose and well-executed character relationships, both between established and new characters. Not only by virtue of being the first, this book set the tone for what would eventually become the vast world of Star Wars novels. 

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover (2008, Del Rey)
I knew I was in for something good when I opened this book and saw Matt Stover’s dedication “to the legendary Alan Dean Foster, and to the memory of the late, great Brian Daley, for showing us what it looks like when this stuff is done right.” As a long-time fan of Daley’s Han Solo Adventures and having recently read and greatly enjoyed Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (reviews forthcoming), I knew that a book consciously trying to recapture that seventies and eighties EU feel had potential.
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor certainly delivers. Stover obviously loves Star Wars and its expanded universe, and there is much for the hard core fan to appreciate: The villain here is “Lord Shadowspawn,” A.K.A. Blackhole, A.K.A. Cronal, whose most notable appearance before this book was in a newspaper comic strip that ran for half a year in 1979. The pre-X-wing series roster of Rogue Squadron shows up, as do aging clone troopers. The Battle of Mindor, this novel’s centerpiece, is itself something occasionally mentioned in previous sources, but never explored in detail for years. And, of course, it has all the usual suspects—Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Artoo, and Threepio. Stover has all of these characters down pat and provides us with some very edge-of-your-seat action sequences and a story that, in general, feels very much like the fun, pulpy adventure serials that inspired George Lucas.
As much as Mindor is an homage to all things Star Wars, there’s every bit as much here to support it as a piece of sharp, clever, and well-considered writing. This book’s story is framed in a narrative set after the novel’s events, in which a downcast Luke approaches a military investigator named Lorz Geptun about building a case against Luke as a war criminal. Instead, Geptun winds up composing a holo-thriller about Luke’s over-the-top heroics which, it is highly implied, constitutes the text of the book the reader just finished, right down to Luke’s mention of the silly similes that pepper its pages. It seems Luke, like most prominent historical figures in our own world, is unable to escape being transformed into story and legend.
Luke is put through an interesting character arc here. Cronal, a user of the Force, does not believe in a dark side or light side. Rather, Cronal believes only in the Dark. He and others from his remote sector of space believe that destruction is the ultimate end of all things, and therefore nothing else is relevant. In short, these men are nihilists.

When Cronal, in truth a feeble old man using “Shadowspawn” and several other innocents as unwilling puppets, attempts to take Luke’s body for himself using his Force abilities and the unique properties of a stone called meltmassif, Luke gets a taste of Cronal’s philosophy. Because he didn’t simply hear Cronal explain these things to him, but rather Cronal was in Luke’s head, Luke’s faith in the teachings of Obi-Wan and Yoda are called into question. He wonders if everything he’s devoted his life to is, in fact meaningless—a fear that I think all thoughtful people of conviction face from time to time. Ultimately, however, Luke decides that the people he cares for and the lives of those he is charged to protect do matter, and chooses to no longer fear the Dark—or the dark side.
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor succeeds as fun, fast-paced sci-fi action, but also carries a fair degree of subtextual weight, and strikes this balance as well as it does through its attention to craft. Definitely one to check out.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover (2008, Del Rey)

I knew I was in for something good when I opened this book and saw Matt Stover’s dedication “to the legendary Alan Dean Foster, and to the memory of the late, great Brian Daley, for showing us what it looks like when this stuff is done right.” As a long-time fan of Daley’s Han Solo Adventures and having recently read and greatly enjoyed Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (reviews forthcoming), I knew that a book consciously trying to recapture that seventies and eighties EU feel had potential.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor certainly delivers. Stover obviously loves Star Wars and its expanded universe, and there is much for the hard core fan to appreciate: The villain here is “Lord Shadowspawn,” A.K.A. Blackhole, A.K.A. Cronal, whose most notable appearance before this book was in a newspaper comic strip that ran for half a year in 1979. The pre-X-wing series roster of Rogue Squadron shows up, as do aging clone troopers. The Battle of Mindor, this novel’s centerpiece, is itself something occasionally mentioned in previous sources, but never explored in detail for years. And, of course, it has all the usual suspects—Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Artoo, and Threepio. Stover has all of these characters down pat and provides us with some very edge-of-your-seat action sequences and a story that, in general, feels very much like the fun, pulpy adventure serials that inspired George Lucas.

As much as Mindor is an homage to all things Star Wars, there’s every bit as much here to support it as a piece of sharp, clever, and well-considered writing. This book’s story is framed in a narrative set after the novel’s events, in which a downcast Luke approaches a military investigator named Lorz Geptun about building a case against Luke as a war criminal. Instead, Geptun winds up composing a holo-thriller about Luke’s over-the-top heroics which, it is highly implied, constitutes the text of the book the reader just finished, right down to Luke’s mention of the silly similes that pepper its pages. It seems Luke, like most prominent historical figures in our own world, is unable to escape being transformed into story and legend.

Luke is put through an interesting character arc here. Cronal, a user of the Force, does not believe in a dark side or light side. Rather, Cronal believes only in the Dark. He and others from his remote sector of space believe that destruction is the ultimate end of all things, and therefore nothing else is relevant. In short, these men are nihilists.

When Cronal, in truth a feeble old man using “Shadowspawn” and several other innocents as unwilling puppets, attempts to take Luke’s body for himself using his Force abilities and the unique properties of a stone called meltmassif, Luke gets a taste of Cronal’s philosophy. Because he didn’t simply hear Cronal explain these things to him, but rather Cronal was in Luke’s head, Luke’s faith in the teachings of Obi-Wan and Yoda are called into question. He wonders if everything he’s devoted his life to is, in fact meaningless—a fear that I think all thoughtful people of conviction face from time to time. Ultimately, however, Luke decides that the people he cares for and the lives of those he is charged to protect do matter, and chooses to no longer fear the Dark—or the dark side.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor succeeds as fun, fast-paced sci-fi action, but also carries a fair degree of subtextual weight, and strikes this balance as well as it does through its attention to craft. Definitely one to check out.

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Alan Dean Foster [as George Lucas] (1976, Del Rey)
I started The Stolen Data Tapes too late for the “official” Star Wars day, May 4th (as in “May the Fourth be with you.” Ugh). If you’re a true fan like me, every day is Star Wars day. If you need a special calendar date, though, why choose an all but arbitrary one based on an abysmal pun when you could celebrate May 25th, the anniversary of the release of Star Wars in 1977?
That’s what I’m doing. Today, I’ll be watching all six films with my brother and a few friends. For the purposes of this blog, however, I thought I’d read the novelization of the film that, as it has become trite to say in Star Wars novel dedications, “started it all.”
As you may have noticed at the top of this post, this novel was published in 1976, a year before the film’s release. The practice of putting out a novelization first was more common back then, but it is still done occasionally now. The idea, of course, is to create hype for the film before its premier date, and to lend the film some sort of nebulous “based on a novel” credence.
You’ll also notice that the book is written by “George Lucas.” This is true in the sense that it is faithful to Lucas’s screenplay, at least in terms of the sequence of events. However, the novel was in fact ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who would go on to write the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, two years later.
It’s interesting to note differences between this novel and the film I’ve seen countless times. The book includes a scene between Luke and Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, as well as the later-included dialogue between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut [sic], who is only vaguely described, but seems to be based on the likeness of the actor who played Jabba when the scene was shot.

Well, at least it wasn’t this joker:

While they don’t have a profound impact on the story, the biggest changes make Darth Vader one of presumably several Dark Lords and Palpatine an ineffectual figurehead manipulated by Vader, Tarkin, and others.
Foster’s prose, particularly in the first half of the novel, captures the wistful spirit of Luke Skywalker gazing out over the dunes at Tatooine’s dual sunset. The inclusion of Luke’s conversation with Biggs underscores Luke’s naiveté and his subsequent transition to experience.
There are several places, however, where less in the movie would also have been more in the novel. Vader, in particular, is much more verbose than he needs to be, but many lines of dialogue suffer from being a sentence or two too long. The Death Star battle maintains that David and Goliath sense of overwhelming odds present in the film, but lacks the momentum of that iconic sequence.
Foster nevertheless proves himself a good fit for Star Wars through a firm grasp on the thoughts and feelings of the characters that first captured our imaginations.

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Alan Dean Foster [as George Lucas] (1976, Del Rey)

I started The Stolen Data Tapes too late for the “official” Star Wars day, May 4th (as in “May the Fourth be with you.” Ugh). If you’re a true fan like me, every day is Star Wars day. If you need a special calendar date, though, why choose an all but arbitrary one based on an abysmal pun when you could celebrate May 25th, the anniversary of the release of Star Wars in 1977?

That’s what I’m doing. Today, I’ll be watching all six films with my brother and a few friends. For the purposes of this blog, however, I thought I’d read the novelization of the film that, as it has become trite to say in Star Wars novel dedications, “started it all.”

As you may have noticed at the top of this post, this novel was published in 1976, a year before the film’s release. The practice of putting out a novelization first was more common back then, but it is still done occasionally now. The idea, of course, is to create hype for the film before its premier date, and to lend the film some sort of nebulous “based on a novel” credence.

You’ll also notice that the book is written by “George Lucas.” This is true in the sense that it is faithful to Lucas’s screenplay, at least in terms of the sequence of events. However, the novel was in fact ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who would go on to write the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, two years later.

It’s interesting to note differences between this novel and the film I’ve seen countless times. The book includes a scene between Luke and Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, as well as the later-included dialogue between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut [sic], who is only vaguely described, but seems to be based on the likeness of the actor who played Jabba when the scene was shot.

Well, at least it wasn’t this joker:

While they don’t have a profound impact on the story, the biggest changes make Darth Vader one of presumably several Dark Lords and Palpatine an ineffectual figurehead manipulated by Vader, Tarkin, and others.

Foster’s prose, particularly in the first half of the novel, captures the wistful spirit of Luke Skywalker gazing out over the dunes at Tatooine’s dual sunset. The inclusion of Luke’s conversation with Biggs underscores Luke’s naiveté and his subsequent transition to experience.

There are several places, however, where less in the movie would also have been more in the novel. Vader, in particular, is much more verbose than he needs to be, but many lines of dialogue suffer from being a sentence or two too long. The Death Star battle maintains that David and Goliath sense of overwhelming odds present in the film, but lacks the momentum of that iconic sequence.

Foster nevertheless proves himself a good fit for Star Wars through a firm grasp on the thoughts and feelings of the characters that first captured our imaginations.