Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
Smuggler’s Run is, as the subtitle states, a Han Solo and Chewbacca adventure. It’s fun, it has action, shoot outs, bounty hunters, merciless Imperials, dog fights, narrow escapes, cantinas and colorful smugglers. If you were to imagine what a Han Solo spin-off movie might be like, the end result would be pretty close to Smuggler’s Run. With Han taking on a crazy mission from the Rebel Alliance after their close call at Yavin, he and Chewie wind up going to Hutt Space to save a Rebel soldier. They run into old friends, dodge Imperials, and deal with determined bounty hunters who want to collect on Jabba’s reward. The brisk pace, solid prose and great characterizations all come together for a captivating read.
As would be fitting for any Han Solo story, the book opens in a cantina. But here’s the fun part: it’s set during the time period of The Force Awakens. Framing the story, the prologue and epilogue gives readers a glimpse of old Han—the seasoned spacer who’s been around the galaxy a time or two and has wisdom to spare, as well some great stories. Smuggler’s Run is one of the stories. As a reader, this was a fun way to dive in, and as part of the whole Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I liked the gimmick. It fit perfectly.
When the story proper kicks in, Rucka raises the stakes another notch by telling things from Chewbacca’s perspective. Now the whole book doesn’t do this, but every now and then, Chewie gets his part, and the end result is that Chewbacca gets a lot of attention in the story. He’s much more than some side character that gets dragged along with Han or some obstacle that has to be shuffled off to the side. Instead, he’s an integral part of the adventure. It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten some good use of Chewbacca in the literary universe, and I really enjoyed what Rucka did with him.
Adding to the joy of the story is how well Rucka captured Han’s voice. It’s not always easy to capture a character’s voice, but Smuggler’s Run pulls it off. Between his banter with Leia, Chewbacca or the Imperials, bounty hunters and smugglers they meet, it always sounds like something Han would say. Best of all, it’s not just a bunch of regurgitated dialog from the movies. Somehow Rucka finds his own voice for Han which sounds true to the character but with completely new dialog. Couple that with the excellent use of Chewbacca, and you’ve got a winning combination.
As for the story, it’s very much a rescue mission that takes some wild turns. Han and Chewie volunteer to travel to a seedy planet on the fringes of Hutt Space called Cyrkon. They’re racing against the Empire to be the first to find a Rebel agent named Ematt who knows all the potential bases and hideouts for the Rebellion. Of course things don’t go as planned. Han and Chewie have to deal with an ISB agent who’s pretty competent at their job. On top of that, there’s a group of bounty hunters (pictured on the back of the book) who are after the bounty on Han’s head. So while Han is racing the Empire to find the Rebel, the bounty hunters and the Empire are also racing each other to get Han. The hunt turns into shoot outs and close calls as Han and Chewie use every trick they can think of to escape and succeed. The whole thing has a great Star Wars vibe to it. It nails the characters, throws in all kinds of fun tidbits, and is just a fun ride.
Aside from the story, Smuggler’s Run does a couple things that are very different from the normal Star Wars books we typically get. For starters, the cover artist, Phil Noto, does several interior illustrations depicting scenes from the book. Like the cover, they’re mostly black and white with a few touches of red to add contrast. In total there are five double page illustrations. It’s a nice bonus, and one I wasn’t expecting. On top of that, the material the book itself it coated in—or made of—gives the hardcover a really wild, tactile feel. I’ve never felt a book like this before. It’s almost rubbery. The thing is, everytime you go to pick it up, it adds a new sensation to your reading experience: your sense of touch. So here you have this fun story, this neat feeling book, and these cool illustrations all coming at you and adding to your experience. I have to tip my hat to Disney Lucasfilm Press. This is a cool book.
In the end, I give Smuggler’s Run a five out of five metal bikinis. Greg Rucka impressed me with his ability to jump into this franchise and seamlessly write a fun story that totally captures the experience of Star Wars. The character voices are spot on, the sense of humor, action and adventure is all there, and the whole things comes together to form one captivating experience. If the journey to the new films is formed by books like these, then sign me up for the entire ride. This is one you won’t want to miss.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.