Star Wars: Empire And Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey (book review).
‘Star Wars: Honour Among Thieves’ and includes the short story ‘Silver and Scarlet’, all by James SA Corey now occupies a unique place in ‘Star Wars’ history. It is the last novel to be published by Del Rey within the continuity of the ‘Expanded Universe’. Last month, Lucasfilm announced that the books, outside of the movie novelisations, comics and computer games were all non-canon. With a creative team firmly focused on the new movies, the timeline before, between and after the six existing episodes and ‘The Clone Wars’ TV series has been junked. Hundreds of novels, beginning with Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir To The Empire’ in 1991 have now been moved under the banner ‘Star Wars Legends’, their part in the saga declared null and void.
Interestingly, ‘Honour Among Thieves’ is one of the least continuity heavy novels of recent years. Set firmly between ‘A New Hope’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, the book sees Han Solo and Chewbacca dispatched by Princess Leia to Imperial Space to rescue a spy, the smart and capable Scarlet Hark. Naturally, the mission isn’t that simple and Han finds himself on the quest for an ancient device that could prove to be of great power to both the Empire and the Rebellion. What follows then is a planet-spanning romp that sees Han and Chewie fly, shoot and wisecrack their way through the galaxy. As they should do, really.
This is James SA Corey’s first ‘Star Wars’ novel. The author’s name is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who have risen to prominence with their ‘Expanse’ series of space opera novels. The pair have also collaborated with and worked for George RR Martin, which can’t hurt. Bizarrely, despite the book clearly stating that the author is a partnership and giving their real names, the most recent issue of ‘Star Wars Insider’ magazine chose to interview them as ‘James SA Corey’. Pseudonyms aside, the ‘Star Wars’ book editors should be proud in picking Abraham and Franck, because their novel plays out very well.
It does this for three reasons. Firstly, they know how to write tense, exciting space scenes which are perfect for the Millennium Falcon escaping the Imperial fleet and bounty hunters. Secondly, as I explained in my review of Brian Daley’s ‘The Han Solo Adventures’ (http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/the-han-solo-adventures-featuring-han-solo-at-stars-end-han-solos-revenge-and-han-solo-and-the-lost-legacy-by-brian-daley-book-review/) getting the characterisation right is vital for a ‘Star Wars’ novel that relies on the movie versions of the characters. The authors concentrate on Han and, while Chewbacca feels a little relegated, it’s the right move to make. Han is smart most of the time and, in the final third of the book, really comes into his own.
The third reason the book works is that it has a cross-franchise feel. While Indiana Jones himself does not appear, the plot is essentially a retelling of ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ or ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’. Instead of a religious artefact, you have a galactic weapon. For Nazis read the Empire. The final third of the book sees our heroes enter a temple of doom right out of the ‘Raiders’ opening. Han even puts Chewie off entering the jungle because there will be snakes. If there’s a reason the book feels like George Lucas, it’s because it has channelled Lucas through other stories. ‘Howard The Duck’ does not appear (that we noticed).
This final foray into the ‘Expanded Universe’ features neither Mara Jade or Jacen Solo. It doesn’t tie-itself into knots trying to reconcile the Clone Wars or Luke’s Jedi training. It stands firmly on its own two feet as a highly enjoyable ‘Star Wars’ adventure. Outside of Han and Chewie, the authors have created a likeable foil in Scarlet Hark and also get Leia’s mixture of determination and diplomacy right. Luke is the good-hearted if whiny farm boy, though his appearance in the novel is not that great.
‘Honour Among Thieves’ may not add much to the saga, but if it is indication of the continued adventures of the Falcon crew, then I would certainly welcome a return for Abraham and Franck. They’ve written a fast-paced, humorous and exciting book that stands proudly alongside Daley’s work in getting the adventures of Han Solo just right. Oh and on page 70, Han definitely shoots first.
(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books/Lucas Books. 247 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $32.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-54685-2)
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com and www.starwars.com