Thursday, May 24, 2018

Here are some Han Solo stories worth checking out

In run up to Solo, a lot of websites have put together listicles about "5 Han Solo Stories You Should Read Before and/or After seeing Solo."  My gaps in Star Wars reading are weird. I haven't read the Han Solo Trilogy, and I just finished the first book in The Han Solo Adventures(both of which are probably worth checking out.) Anyway, here are some of the things I have read that are worth the price of admission if you're a fan of everyone's favorite scruffy looking nerf herder.

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn:

This is, without a doubt, the best, most essential, Han, Chewie, and Lando book.  If you're going to read one, make it this one.  In fact, skip the rest of this article and go read Scoundrels.  Basically Ocean's 11 with Star Wars.  It takes place just after the destruction of the first Death Star.  Han and Chewie aren't really part of the Rebellion, and they take a job stealing from a Black Sun Vigo.  Han gets a ragtag group together, works with the mysterious figure who hired them, and does everything you could possibly ask of a Han Solo story. 

On a side note, this book also has one of my favorite moments in any Star Wars novel.  Han is confronted in a bar by one of Jabba's thugs.  Things escalate and Han shoots him.  He then looks around the bar and says "You all saw it.  He shot first!"

Honor Among Thieves James S.A. Corey:

This novel was released two years after Scoundrels, but I read the two back to back.  It's not as good as Scoundrels, so it did not leave the best impression, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading.  Han takes a job with the Rebellion to extract roguish spy Scarlet Hark from behind enemy lines.  Of course she doesn't want to go back with him and they go on an adventure and so on and so forth.

Fun Fact:  Along with Razor's Edge, which features Leia, this was part of the Empire and Rebellion not quite a trilogy.  Basically, the idea for the trilogy was to have a book featuring each of the big three just after A New Hope, but Disney changed the Expanded Universe in to Legends just after this book came out.  Heir to the Jedi, which would have been the third book in the trilogy, was among the first books in the New Canon.

Star Wars by Brian Wood:

Star Wars comic books don't have the best reputation.  Sometimes they get a little too deep into a corner of the Expanded Universe to be accessible.  Other times, they aren't done by the best talent in the industry.  Toward the end of Dark Horse's time on the license, Brian Wood took everything back to basics with his run.  He picks up the story just after the destruction of the first Death Star with Luke, Han, and Leia.

As you may be able to tell from the previous books, my favorite version of Han is the one just after A New Hope.  He's not afraid to admit that he has loyalty to Luke and Leia, but he's also not formally a part of the Rebellion, always keeping one foot out the door.  The first arc in this run has a great Han and Chewie story about them running around Coruscant, trying to do a job for Mon Mothma.

Tales of the Bounty Hunters by Kevin J. Anderson and others:

You might be thinking "Kendall's running out of ideas.  This book isn't even about Han."  This book tells the story of all six bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back attempting to hunt down Han Solo.  He's not the focus of the book, but he's got a handful of key scenes and acts as a great McGuffin for these amazing characters.

Bossk, Dengar, Boba Fett, Ig-88, Zuckuss, and 4-Lom are some of the most iconic characters in all of Star Wars, all because of one brief scene.  Before and since, these characters have appeared in a number of stories, but for me, this is the place to start for their lore.  When I revisited this book last year, I was amazed how well it held up.  If I were to make a list of my top Expanded Universe books of all time, this one would rank pretty high.

Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older:

I wasn't sure if I wanted to include this one on the list, since the prequel novel to Solo is a pretty obvious choice for something to read right before and/or after seeing Solo, but I also hate when Star Wars fans dismiss new stuff.  Besides, this was literally the novel that I read to get hyped up for the movie.

This novel jumps around in time a little too much, but it does give us a chance to see Lando when he owned the Falcon, young Han Solo going around with the future Sana Solo, and grumpy old Han and Lando that feel like they came straight out of Legends continuity.  The character work is terrific, even if the story about a cult of droid worshipers is more complicated than necessary.  The other thing about this book is, it's the first Han and Lando story to be released since we got new actors for the two iconic characters.  This allowed me to picture the new guys in the roles, so I'm a little more comfortable with the idea going into Solo.

Well, that's all I've got for you today.  I hope you all have a blast seeing Solo this weekend and encourage you to use this as an excuse to dive into Star Wars literature.  What's your favorite Han Solo story?  Did I miss any important ones?

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