“I’m here ‘cause I struck a deal, Torm. I’m strictly a businessman. I fly for money and I look out for number one, clear?” — Han Solo
After having heard great things about Brian Daley’s trilogy of Han Solo novels for years, I was very excited to finally read the first one, Han Solo at Stars’ End, for my first time.
Han Solo at Stars’ End was released on April 1st, 1979, one year after Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and still a year before Empire Strikes Back first played in theaters. It is the second book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (not counting the original movie novelization), and the first Star Wars book written by somebody other than Alan Dean Foster.
Instead of continuing the story that the movie established, like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye did, Daley’s trilogy (which later became known as The Han Solo Adventures) acts as a prequel to the movie, taking place a couple years before A New Hope.
Han Solo at Stars’ End is simply a very fun read. It has great action, great characters, and is a little over-the-top without being too out-there to feel like a Star Wars story. The book begins with Han Solo and Chewbacca on a smuggling run, delivering cargo to a colony of aliens living on a planet that is controlled by the Corporate Sector Authority. For Han, the less he knows about what he is smuggling, the better. He doesn’t want to know details that could end up getting him into trouble. He just wants to get paid.
This is the Han Solo we first see in A New Hope. He is exactly how you’d expect him to be, and for that I have to commend Daley. His characterization of Han throughout the story is spot-on, aside from making him use a couple words or phrases that felt a little odd coming from the smuggler (“bright lad” and “spare us the guano” among others).
Han makes his delivery successfully, but then has to escape “the Authority” who are trying to follow him off world. He gets away, just barely. It is an exciting first chapter that sets the pace for the rest of the story.
Han learns that the Corporate Sector Authority has updated their security protocol, and finds out that the Millennium Falcon will not be allowed to fly in Corporate Sector Authority space unless he gets a waiver for his ship. This is not an easy thing to do, so Han goes to hunt down a man called Doc, who has helped him with problems like this before.
When he arrives at Doc’s base of operations he only find’s the man’s daughter, Jessa, a young woman Han already knows well from past experiences. Jessa informs Han that Doc is missing, and because of that Jessa is now in charge of Doc’s organization. One thing leads to another, and Han finds himself on a mission to find Doc and other missing people in a heavily-armored prison called Stars’ End, which is run by the Corporate Sector Authority.
Han is joined by a great cast of characters to help him on his mission. My favorites being a pair of droids known as Bollux and Max. Max is more of a cube-shaped computer that fits into Bollux’s chest, and can be removed whenever necessary. Bollux is more of a means of transportation for Max, who cannot move on his own. They are a fun pair who remind me slightly of C-3PO and R2-D2 while still being different enough and original enough to not feel like rip-offs. I’d love to see more of these two in the future.
Han and Chewbacca are the only characters from the movies to make an appearance. Their relationship is expanded upon, and you get to learn a little bit about Han Solo through his interactions with, and feelings towards, the big Wookie. As self-absorbed as Han Solo is (“I fly for money and I look out for number one, clear?”), it seems there actually is one being in the galaxy that he cares about more than himself: his friend Chewbacca. When Chewbacca is in trouble, Han will act irrationally and dangerously to help him, throwing all concern for his own wellbeing out the window. This was something I really liked about the story, and I hope Daley further expands upon their relationship in his next two novels.
There are some fun things I noticed while reading that stuck out to me. As far as I know, Han Solo at Stars’ End features the first mention of Z-95 Headhunters in the Star Wars universe. These are ships that basically feel like early versions of X-wings, and they appear a lot in later Star Wars stories. There is a great dogfight scene in the book where Han is piloting one of these.
Another thing that caught my attention was how this book mentions that Chewbacca is “far older” than a human. I don’t recall this being mentioned in any of the original movies (though it is made clear when we see Chewbacca in Revenge of the Sith and he looks exactly the same age as he does in A New Hope, which takes place two decades later) or in the novelization of A New Hope. Was it this book that “canonized” Wookiee’s having long lifespans? I don’t know, but I thought it was interesting.
Some of the language used in the book is interesting as well. There is no mention of “days” or “hours.” Just “rotations” and “Standard Time-Parts.” Really? Time-Parts? I don’t think this language continues to be used in later Star Wars stories (as of right now I have read over 20 different Star Wars novels, and I do not remember ever seeing this), but I may be mistaken. The word “droid” is spelled with an apostrophe at the beginning (‘droid) implying that it is an abbreviation for “android.” This was also done in Alan Dean Foster’s novels.
There is some technology in this story that almost feels like it was pulled straight out of Futurama (not possible, by the way), including transport chutes. That never felt quite like Star Wars to me. Then again, every planet in the Star Wars universe seems to have its own unique technology, which makes complete sense.
One of my favorite moments from the book is when Han is startled by someone banging on the door, so he and Chewbacca pull out their weapons, ready to kill whoever it is on the other side. Rekkon—one of the important characters from this story who is working with Han—asks Han to “Kindly put your weapons up, Captain. That is Torm, one of my group. Even if it weren’t, would it not have been wiser to find out what was happening before preparing to shoot?” To which Han replies “I happen to like to shoot first, Rekkon. As opposed to shooting second.” Keep in mind, this book came out 18 years before the Special Edition of A New Hope. Looks like Han did shoot first after all.
My final thoughts on this story are these: I really liked this book. It was just a fun, fast read. The characterization was great, and the story was exciting. This is something that any fan of Han Solo should read. It left me wanting more, which is fortunate, since there are two more books in this trilogy for me to read. Of the three Expanded Universe books I have read and reviewed so far, this one has been my favorite, though like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye I don’t think that this story is a very important one when it comes to the story of Star Wars as a whole. I can’t imagine this story having much of an effect on Star Wars lore and stories to come. With that said, I am excited to read the sequel, Han Solo’s Revenge, and the final book of the trilogy, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. If they are anything like this one was, they will be great reads too.