It probably does not matter if I read Star Wars: Smuggler’s Run second, rather than first, and read Star Wars: Weapon of a Jedi first than second, as neither impact each other. But like the Luke Skywalker tale, this Han Solo and Chewbacca story opens with a prologue set just before The Force Awakens. We have a much older Han Solo sitting in a cantina listening to a bunch of smugglers talk about fast ships. Soon, of course, Han must talk to them about the fastest ship in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, which then leads into a tale set just after the events of A New Hope.
The destruction of the Death Star has put a dent in the Imperial war machine, but the Rebellion has no time to savor its victory. The evil Galactic Empire has recognized the threat the rebels pose, and is now searching the galaxy for any and all information that will lead to the final destruction of the freedom fighters. And Han wants to pay off his debt to Jabba. But before he and Chewie can leave Yavin IV, Leia comes to Han to ask him for another favor: a special-ops crew of Rebels, responsible for safeguarding the secret of the current and next Rebel base, has been discovered and five of six of them killed. She needs him to pick up that agent, Ematt before the Empire gets a hold him. Of course, the planet the rebel is on is in the Outer Rim, a lawless world by the name of Cyrkon. While Han still refuses, it’s Chewie who eventually convinces him that they need to save the young man (a good, well written part, by the way). Meanwhile, Ematt is trying to evade the clutches of Alecia Beck, a Commander in the Imperial Security Bureau. She is ruthless and very competent warrior with a scar and a cybernetic eye to show just how coldblooded she really is. She is also the personification of the brutality of what the Empire truly is: she sees everyone, including those under her, as mere fodder for the advancement of the Imperial fist. After their arrival on Cyrkon, Han and Chewie need to find Ematt, elude Imperial forces and four bounty hunters who’ve come to the planet in search of what will eventually be Jabba’s prize statue.
While the plot is a pretty standard find-the-hunted-man-before-the-villains-do narrative, what makes the book (despite being a Young Adult tale) good is author Greg Rucka’s wonderful, often hilarious relationship between Han and Chewie, as you sort of end up laughing out loud with the back-and-forth dialogue between them. You also kind of end up sort of respecting the villain somewhat as well. She’s very three dimensional here, which is something I like in this new unified canon –everyone seems to be drawn very carefully.
While these books are slim, they are well paced. The elimination of many sub-plots that would’ve filled out a much longer book, helped the keep the story focused, fun and exciting.
Like Weapon of a Jedi, another book in Disney’s Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there is a slim connection to the film, which are the bounty hunters themselves. Han mentions several of them, including the ones who board his freighter in the film. After years of annoying them, is it any reason those dudes took such drastic action against the famous smuggler?