Monday, April 5, 2010

Millennium Falcon

Millennium Falcon
© 2008 James Luceno
317 pages

Han Solo: Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon? 
Obi-Wan: Should I have? 
Han Solo: It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs!

The Millennium Falcon is almost a character in its own right in the Star Wars canon, perhaps beloved of by more than than perhaps some of the people in the franchise. In looking for an adventure story, I assumed Millennium Falcon would be a collection of short stories about the Falcon's former owners, but Luceno has delivered a novel with a more elegant structure. Although he opening chapters introduce us to a few of the Falcon's earliest owners and pilots, each merits only a chapter and each character will play a part in a larger story. The novel proper is set in the Expanded Universe, decades after The Empire Strikes Back and the Thrawn trilogy. The twins that Lei gave birth to there are adults now, who have been as involved in the history of the post-imperial universe as their parents were during the first three movies. Some of them have even died. When the novel opens, Han and Lei are preparing to begin a quest of sorts, along with their granddaughter: they're going to track down as many of the previous owners of the Falcon as they can. Across the galaxy, a man who has been kept in stasis since his supposed death at the close of the Clone Wars has just woken up to a galaxy very different from the one he grew up in. The Republic has fallen, as has the Empire that destroyed it. The decades between Jadak's "death" following the partial destruction of his ship The Stellar Envoy in the course of an intelligence mission have seen decades of brutal wars, but the disconnect does not prevent him from feeling the urge to complete his mission. Something aboard the Envoy was the key to fulfilling his mission, and so he must find it so that his last orders can be carried out. Only then can he move on with his life.

The Stellar Envoy would take on many names in the decades that followed as she was transferred from one organization or individual to another. Eventually, of course, she acquires the name Millennium Falcon and serves Han Solo through the wars that followed the destruction of the Empire. While Han works backwards -- beginning with finding out who owned the ship before losing it to the man who would lose it to Solo --  Jadak attempts to find out what happened to the Envoy after it was salvaged following his accident. Both men hear stories of their ship, serving both scoundrels and saints through the years. Eventually their paths will intersect, but in the shadows one man watches them both. The novel will eventually take both Solo and Jadak to a forgotten planet in its death throes, where the key to the mystery surrounding Jadak's mission waits.

I have read Luceno before, although not recently enough to have mentioned his work here. I enjoyed those, and Millennium Falcon is not an exception. The various stories in which the Falcon has played a large part were interesting enough in themselves, but the way Luceno fits them together is especially enjoyable. His use of a character from the past provides an interesting perspective, and the "history" he is filled in on also serves as background exposition,  helping readers alien to the extended universe establish context. As I have not read beyond the Thrawn series, I appreciated this.  I doubt Extended Universe readers would need a recommendation to read this, but even those who just enjoyed the movies will be able to pick this up and read it given the background exposition.

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