It’s not that I don’t like Han. He’s a great character. As a viewer, I appreciate his humor and his cynicism. I appreciate his smuggler with a heart of gold characterization. I appreciate his relationship with Leia and, even more, his relationship with Luke. As an author, I like that he provides shades of gray and an excellent voice. But it’s no secret that Luke Skywalker captured my heart way before Han Solo could ever have a chance, and I never “grew up” to like Han, as many other people did.
So among the three “Journey to the Force Awakens” young reader novels, Smuggler’s Run was the one I was least looking forward to. I saved it for last, even though people said Moving Target would spoil the end. All that said, I still had good expectations for this book.
I was pleasantly surprised, because Smuggler’s Run is an amazing romp, super fun, and has absolutely fantastic characterizations.
I really liked that this story focused on Han and Chewbacca, away from all the other rebels. We got a glimpse of him in the post-A New Hope era in Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn, but in that story Han is working with a big team. In Smuggler’s Run it’s just Han and Chewie and the Millennium Falcon on a mission to rescue Ematt, a Rebel operative on the run from the Empire. Rucka does a great job with all three of them; I could hear Harrison Ford speaking Han’s dialogue, and I got a great picture of Ematt even though we’ve never seen him on-screen (yet). (Phil Noto’s amazing illustrations helped with that!)
Of all the three young reader books, I think the Empire has the strongest role, and the best villain, in this story. The antagonist of The Weapon of a Jedi is more nebulous — Luke is more on a mission to learn about the Force than fight against the Empire — and while Leia is on the run from a particular Star Destroyer in Moving Target, the big threat seems more like the Empire as a whole than one particular individual. In Smuggler’s Run, Ematt is hunted by Commander Beck of the Imperial Security Bureau, another entry on the list of capable lady Imperials in the new canon. Beck is brutal, ruthless, and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. She also is convinced that she’s absolutely doing the right thing.
I liked her a lot. *evil grin*
But Smuggler’s Run shows what makes Han and Chewie Han and Chewie, and the final chase in the Millennium Falcon proves why she’s the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
Of course, we can’t overlook the Prologue and Epilogue framing stories. We get a glimpse of Han as an Old Man here, and the scene paints a very promising picture for The Force Awakens. (There’s also a line alluding to his (continued) friendship with Luke that made me squeal really loud.)
Smuggler’s Run is a fun, extremely well-written story, and this Luke Skywalker fan highly recommends it. It’s stories like this that make me really appreciate Han Solo and want to see more of him. It also made me super excited to read Rucka’s next book, Before the Awakening, another young reader novel featuring Rey, Finn, and Poe. If he writes those three characters half as well as he writes Han Solo, we’re in for a real treat.