There has been much talk lately of the ‘Star Wars’ spin-off movies, with Disney wanting to pursue a similar approach to their work with Marvel in using the ‘Star Wars’ movies as the central point around which they can break-out characters into stories. Debates within ‘Star Wars’ fandom have raged about which characters should deserve spin-off movies. Some want a Boba Fett reboot, shunning the character’s origins from the prequels and focusing on his ‘man with no name’ persona from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Personally, I find Fett to be a cool-looking but immensely dull character. You only have to read KW Jeter’s ‘The Bounty Hunter Wars’ novels to realise how much of the story has to be carried by Dengar (he’s the bounty hunter in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with a towel wrapped around his head). One character worth looking at, because he has character is smuggler, gambler, gunslinger, charmer and rough diamond Han Solo. If Disney did decide to make a ‘young Han Solo’ movie (with Bradley Cooper whose name keeps cropping-up in discussion around some early ‘Indiana Jones’ adventures as Disney recently purchased the distribution rights from Paramount) then the source material they should start with is ‘The Han Solo Adventures’ made up of the novels ‘Han Solo At Stars’ End’, ‘Han Solo’s Revenge’ (both 1979) and ‘Han Solo And The Lost Legacy’ (1980) written with a wry smile and a sense of high adventure by Brian Daley.
Author Brian Daley was a Vietnam veteran who had done a tour of duty in 1965, straight out of leaving high school. A Science Fiction fan, his first novel ‘The Doomfarers Of Coromande’ was picked up from Del Ray’s slush pile and commissioned. After seeing ‘Star Wars’ in 1977, Daley was asked by his editor which character he would like to write a movie-related tie-in about. He replied ‘Han Solo’ because Han was a character who had made a moral choice. His wish came true and he was responsible for writing the first true ‘Star Wars’ prequels.
And what prequels they are. I confess my interest in reading these books had been piqued by getting the chance to review two more ‘Star Wars’ novels ‘Scoundrels’ and ‘Honour Among Thieves’, but I am glad that I started with ‘The Han Solo Adventures’. All three books are exciting, fast-paced adventures that see Han and Chewbacca breaking-into a data centre to recover information on ‘disappeared persons’, taking on slave traders and undertaking a quest for lost treasure. Daley never lets the pace flag, it’s worthy of Alfred Bester. The Millennium Falcon punches across the galaxy at such speed that you can’t help but turn the pages. Accompanying our heroes are two droids: the unfortunately named Bollux and his tiny companion, Blue Max. Sensing that ‘Star Wars’ had worked because of two double acts (Han/Chewie and C3PO/R2D2) he introduces the characters in ‘Han Solo At Stars’ End’ and sensibly keeps them aboard the Falcon for the next two books. Bollux is dependable and polite while Max is excitable and creative. The pair complement Han and Chewie admirably and Daley writes them with enthusiasm and I can hear what Blue Max’s voice is like.
Daley, crucially, nails Han and Chewie. He strengthens their friendship and revels in their desire for a quiet life smuggling and making money. Naturally, things never quite work out like that. Each novel brings in a capable, smart woman for Han to tangle with and keeps the relationship the right side of entertaining, romantic adventure. Again, Daley took what worked about ‘Star Wars’, the smart-ass dialogue between Han and Leia and rearticulated for these novels.
It is remarkable given that Daley only had the single ‘Star Wars’ film to work with how much of the universe he has managed to capture. References to the Clone Wars feel right. The Empire is, sensibly, kept at a distant. There is no mention of the Imperial Dark Lord and, instead, the Authority who control trade are positioned as antagonists for our heroes. You don’t need Stormtroopers when you’ve got Espos, the Authority’s security police.
Brian Daley’s other contribution to ‘Star Wars’ history was writing the fantastic National Public Radio adaptations of the first three movies. In 2012, a group of ‘Star Wars’ fans and actors from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ got together to record ‘Smuggler’s Gambit’ an excellent Han Solo adventure of their own (http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/2012/11/28/smugglers-gambit-full-audio/). The same team are now talking about adapting Daley’s novels. I would go one better and ask Disney to get them on the big screen, because these novels are loud, brash, exciting adventures, pleasingly angst-free and page-turning gold. Worth seeking out.
(pub: Del Ray Books 564 page paperback. ISBN: 978-0-34537-980-1. Originally published 1979, 1979, 1980. Collection: August 1993. Price: bought second-hand for £ 2.00 (UK))
check out website: www.delreybooks.com