Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Star Wars Legends: The Han Solo Trilogy by AC Crispin

The Paradise Snare #1
Here is the first book in the blockbuster trilogy that chronicles the never-before-told story of the young Han Solo. Set before the Star Wars movie adventures, these books chronicle the coming-of-age of the galaxy's most famous con man, smuggler, and thief.

The first book in this exciting Han Solo series begins with a recounting of Han's late teen years and shows us how he escaped an unhappy adopted home situation to carve out an adventurous new life for himself as a pilot. Han Solo, the handsome rogue, is every girl's dream man, and every boy's hero.

The Hutt Gambit #2
Here is the second novel in the blockbuster new trilogy that reveals the never-before-told story of the young Han Solo.  Set before the Star Wars(r) movie adventures, these books chronicle the coming-of-age of the galaxy's most famous con man, smuggler and thief.

Solo is now a fugitive from the Imperial Navy.  But he has made a valuable friend in a former Wookiee slave named Chewbacca, who has sworn Han a  life debt.  Han will need all the help he can get.  For the Ylesian Hutts have dispatched the dreaded bounty hunter Boba Fett to track down the man who already outsmarted them once.  But Han and Chewie find themselves in even bigger trouble when they agree to lend their services to the crime lords Jiliac and Jabba the Hutt.  Suddenly the two smugglers are thrust into the middle of a battle between the might of the Empire and the treachery of their outlaw allies...a battle where even victory means death!

Rebel Dawn #3
Here is the explosive conclusion of the blockbuster trilogy that chronicles the never-before-told story of the young Han Solo.

Set before the Star Wars movie adventures (the second trilogy), these books chronicle the coming-of-age of the galaxy's most famous con man, smuggler, and thief.

The Millennium Falcon is "the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy."  So when Han Solo wins it in a game of sabacc, he and Chewbacca become kings of the smugglers—uncatchable, unstoppable.  But with the Empire clamping down, Han knows his luck can't last.  Still, when an old girlfriend who is now the leader of an insurgent Rebel group offers him a shot at an incredible fortune, Han can't resist. The plan seems a sure thing. The resistance will be light and the take enormous. Han and his friends will divide it equally with the Rebels.

Too bad for Han that the planet of Ylesia is far from a pushover, that the Rebels have an agenda of their own, and that smuggler friends can often turn into enemies...quicker than lightspeed.

It has been nearly 20 years since I first read this installment of the Star Wars Expanded Universe which has now been deemed non-canon and changed to Star Wars Legends.  Personally, the Legends will always be canon but either way they are still immensely entertaining as only Star Wars can be.  It's an interesting and intriguing take on the early life of our reluctant hero, Han Solo and how he came to be in the Mos Eisley cantina that day.


The Paradise Snare #1
Han Solo gripped the stolen blaster as he tiptoed along the narrow metal corridor.  When he'd wired into the sim and jimmied the lock into the weapons cache, he'd only had a moment to reach in and grab the first weapon that came to hand.  There'd been no time to pick and choose.

Nervously, he pushed strands of damp brown hair back from his forehead, realizing he was sweating.  The blaster felt heavy and awkward in his hand as he examined it.  Han had seldom held one before, and he only knew how to check the charge from the reading he'd done.  He'd never actually fired a weapon. Garris Shrike didn't permit anyone but his officers to walk around armed. Squinting in the dim light, the young swoop pilot flipped open a small panel in the thickest part of the barrel and peered down at the readouts.  Good. Fully charged.  Shrike may be a bully and a fool, but he runs a taut ship.

Not even to himself would the youth admit how much he actually feared and hated the captain of Trader's Luck. He'd learned long ago that showing fear of any sort was a swift guarantee of a beating--or worse.  The only thing bullies and fools respected was courage--or, at least, bravado.  So Han Solo had learned never to allow fear to surface in his mind or heart.  There were times when he was dimly aware that it was there, deep down, buried under layers of street toughness, but anytime he recognized it for what it was, Han resolutely buried it even deeper.

Experimentally, he swung the blaster up to eye level and awkwardly closed one brown eye as he sighted along the barrel.  The muzzle of the weapon wavered slightly, and Han cursed softly under his breath as he realized his hand was trembling.  Come on, he told himself, show some backbone, Solo. Getting off this ship and away from Shrike is worth a little risk.

Reflexively, he glanced over his shoulder, then turned back just in time to duck under a low-hanging power coupling.  He'd chosen this route because it avoided all the living quarters and recreation areas, but it was so narrow and low-ceilinged that he was beginning to feel claustrophobic as he tiptoed forward, resisting the urge to turn and look back over his shoulder.

Ahead of him, the near tunnel widened out, and Han realized he was almost at his destination.  Only a few more minutes, he told himself, continuing to move with a stealthy grace that made his progress as soundless as that of a wonat's furred toe-pads.  He was skirting the hyperdrive modules now, and then a larger corridor intersected.  Han turned right, relieved that he could now walk without stooping.

He crept up to the door of the big galley and hesitated outside, his ears and nose busy.  Sounds...yes, only the ones he'd been expecting to hear.  The soft clatter of metal pans, the splooooch of dough being punched, and then the faint sounds of it being kneaded.

He could smell the dough, now.  Wastril bread, his favorite.  Han's mouth tightened.  With any luck, he wouldn't be here to eat any of this particular batch.

Sticking the blaster into his belt, he opened the door and stepped into the galley.  "Hey...Dewlanna..." he said softly.  "It's me.  I've come to say good-bye."

The tall, furred being who had been vigorously kneading the wastril dough swung around to face him with a soft, inquiring growl.

Dewlanna's real name was Dewlannamapia, and she had been Han's closest friend since she'd come to live aboard Trader's Luck nearly ten years ago, when Han had been about nine.  (The young swoop pilot had no idea of when he'd been born, of course.  Or who his parents had been.  If it hadn't been for Dewlanna, he wouldn't even have known that his last name was "Solo.")

Han couldn't speak Wookiee--trying to reproduce the growls, barks, roars, and rumbling grunts made his throat sore, and he knew he sounded ridiculous--but he understood it very well.  For her part, Dewlanna couldn't speak Basic, but she understood it as well as she did her own language.  So communication between the human youth and the elderly Wookiee widow was fluent, but...different.

Han had gotten used to it years ago and never thought about it anymore.  He and Dewlanna just...talked.  They understood each other perfectly.  Now he hefted the stolen blaster, careful not to point it at his friend.  "Yes," he replied, in response to Dewlanna's comment, "tonight's the night.  I'm getting off Trader's Luck and I'm never coming back."

Dewlanna rumbled at him worriedly as she automatically resumed kneading her dough.  Han shook his head, giving her a lopsided grin.  "You worry too much, Dewlanna.  Of course I've got it all planned.  I've got a spacesuit stashed in a locker near the robot freighter docks, and there's a ship docked there now that will be departing as soon as it's unloaded and refueled.  A robot freighter, and it's headed where I want to go."

Dewlanna punched her dough, then growled a soft interrogatory.

"I'm heading for Ylesia," Han told her.  "Remember I told you all about it? It's a religious colony near Hutt space, and they offer pilgrims sanctuary from the outside universe.  I'll be safe from Shrike there.  And"--he held up a small holodisk where the Wookiee cook could see it--"look at this! They're advertising for a pilot!  I already used up the last of my payout credits from that job we pulled, to send a message, telling them I'm coming to interview for the job."

Dewlanna roared softly.

"Hey, I can't let you do that," Han protested, watching the cook set the loaves into pans and slide them into the thermal grid to bake.  "I'll be okay.  I'll lift some credits on my way to the robot ship.  Don't worry, Dewlanna."

The Wookiee ignored him as she shuffled quickly across the galley, her hairy, slightly stooped form moving rapidly despite her advanced age.  Dewlanna was nearly six hundred years old, Han knew.  Old even for a Wookiee.

She disappeared into the door of her private living quarters, and then, a moment later, reappeared, clutching a pouch woven of some silky material that might even, from the look of it, be Wookiee fur.

She held it out to him with a soft, insistent whine.

Han shook his head again, and childishly put his hands behind his back. "No," he said firmly.  "I'm not taking your savings, Dewlanna.  You'll need those credits to buy passage to join me."

The Wookiee cocked her head and made a short, questioning sound.

"Of course you're going to join me!" Han said.  "You don't think I'm going to leave you here to rot on this hulk, do you? Shrike gets crazier every year. Nobody's safe aboard the Luck. When I get to Ylesia and get settled in, I'm going to send for you to join me.  Ylesia's a religious retreat, and they offer their pilgrims sanctuary.  Shrike won't be able to touch us there."

Dewlanna reached inside the pouch, her hairy fingers surprisingly dexterous as she sifted through the credit vouchers inside.  She handed several to her young friend.  With a sigh, Han relented and took them.  "Well...okay.  But this is just a loan,  okay? I'm going to pay you back.  The salary the Ylesian priests are offering is a good one."

She growled her assent, then, without warning, reached out to ruffle his hair with her massive paw, leaving it sticking out in wild disarray.  "Hey!" Han yelped.  Wookiee head rubs were not to be taken lightly.  "I just combed my hair!"

Dewlanna growled, amused, and Han drew himself up indignantly.  "I do not look better scruffy.  I keep telling you, the term 'scruffy' ain't complimentary among humans."

He stared at her, his indignation vanishing as he realized that this was the last time he'd see her beloved furry face, her gentle blue eyes, for a long time.  Dewlanna had been his closest--and frequently only--friend for so long now.  Leaving her was hard, very hard.

Impulsively, the Corellian youth threw himself against her warm, solid bulk, hugging her fiercely.  His head reached only to the middle of her chest.  Han could remember when he'd barely stood as tall as her waist.  "I'm going to miss you," he said, his face muffled against her fur, his eyes stinging.  "You take care of yourself, Dewlanna."

She roared softly, and her long, hairy arms came around him as she returned the embrace.

"Well, ain't this a touching sight," said a cold, all-too-familiar voice.

Han and Dewlanna both froze, then wheeled to face the man who'd entered through the Wookiee's quarters.  Garris Shrike lounged in the doorway, his handsome features set in a smile that made Han's blood coagulate in his veins.

The Hutt Gambit #2
Han Solo, former Imperial officer, sat despondently at a sticky table in a dingy bar on Devaron, sipping an inferior Alderaanian ale and wishing he were alone.  Not that he minded the other denizens of the bar--horned Devish males and furry Devish females, plus a smattering of nonhumans from other worlds.  Han was used to aliens; he'd grown up with them aboard Trader's Luck, a large trading ship that wandered the spacelanes of the galaxy.  By the time he was ten, Han had been able to speak and understand half a dozen nonhuman languages.

No, it wasn't the aliens around him.  It was the alien beside him.  Han took a swig of his ale, grimaced at the sour taste, then glanced sidelong at the cause of all his troubles.  The huge, hairy being gazed back at him with concerned blue eyes.  Han sighed heavily.  If only he'd go home!  But the Wookiee--Chew-something--utterly refused to go home to Kashyyyk, despite Han's repeated urging.  The alien claimed he owed something called a "life debt" to former Imperial Lieutenant Han Solo.

Life debt .  .  .  great.  Just what I need, Han thought bitterly.  A big furry nursemaid trailing after me, giving me advice, fussing over me if I drink too much, telling me he's gonna take care of me.  Great.  Just great.

Han scowled into his ale, and the pale, watery brew reflected his countenance back at him, distorting his features until he appeared nearly as alien as the Wookiee.  What was his name?  Chew-something.  The Wookiee had told him, but Han wasn't good at pronouncing Wookiee, even though he understood it perfectly.

Besides, he didn't want to learn this particular Wookiee's name.  If he learned his name, he'd likely never get rid of his hairy shadow.

Han rubbed a hand over his face blearily, feeling several days' stubble.  Ever since he'd been kicked out of the service, he kept forgetting to shave.  When he'd been a cadet, then a junior lieutenant, then a full lieutenant, he'd been meticulous with his grooming, the way an officer and a gentleman should be .  .  .  but now .  .  .  what difference did it make?

Han raised his glass in a slightly unsteady hand and gulped the sour ale.  He put the empty tankard down, and glanced around the bar for the server.  Need another drink.  One more, and I'll feel much better.  Just one more .  .  .

The Wookiee moaned quietly.  Han's scowl deepened.  "Keep your opinions to yourself, hairball," he snarled.  "I'll know when I've had enough.  Th' las' thing I need is a Wookiee playin' nursemaid for me."

The Wookiee--Chewbacca, that was it--growled softly, his blue eyes shadowed with concern.  Han's lip curled.  "I'm perfectly capable of lookin' after myself, and don't you forget it.  Just 'cause I saved your furry butt from being vaporized doesn't mean you owe me a thing.  I tol' you before--I owed a Wookiee, long ago.  Owed her my life, coupla times over.  So I saved you, 'cause I owed her."

Chewbacca made a sound halfway between a moan and a snarl.  Han shook his head.  "No, that means you don't owe me a thing, don't you get it?  I owed her, but I couldn't repay her.  So I helped you out, which makes us even .  .  .  square.  So will you please take those credits I gave you, and go back to Kashyyyk?  You ain't doin' me any favors staying here, hairball.  I need you like I need a blaster burn on my butt."

Affronted, Chewbacca drew himself up to his full Wookiee height.  He growled low in his throat.

"Yeah, I know I tossed away my career and my livin' that day on Coruscant when I stopped Commander Nyklas from shootin' you.  I hate slavery, and watchin' Nyklas use a force whip ain't a particularly appetizing sight.  I know Wookiees, you see.  When I was growin' up, a Wookiee was my best friend.  I knew you were gonna turn on Nyklas before you did it--just like I knew Nyklas would go for his blaster.  I couldn't just stand there and watch him blast you.  But don't go tryin' to make me out as some kinda hero, Chewie.  I don't need a partner, and I don't want a friend.  My name says it all, pal.  Solo."

Han jerked a thumb at his chest.  "Solo.  In my language, that means me, alone, by myself.  Get it?  That's the way it is, and that's the way I like it.  So .  .  .  no offense, Chewie, but why don't you just scram.  As in, go away.  Permanently."

Chewie stared at Han for a long moment, then he snorted disdainfully, turned, and strode out of the bar.

Han wondered disinterestedly if he'd actually managed to convince the big hairy oaf to leave for good.  If he had, that was reason for celebration.  For another drink .  .  .

As he glanced around the bar, he saw that over in the corner several patrons were gathering around a table.  A sabacc game was forming.  Han wondered whether he ought to try to get in on it.  Mentally he reviewed the contents of his credit pouch, and decided that might not be a bad idea.  He usually had very good luck at sabacc, and every credit counted, these days.

These days .  .  .

Han sighed.  How long had it been since that fateful day when he'd been sent to assist Commander Nyklas with the crew of Wookiee laborers assigned to complete a new wing on the Imperial Hall of Heroes?  He counted, grimacing as he realized that he'd lost days on end in there .  .  .  days probably spent in a dark haze of ale and bitter recrimination.  In two days it would be two months.

Han's mouth tightened and he ran an unsteady hand through his unruly brown hair.  For the past five years he'd kept it cut short in approved military fashion, but now it was growing out, getting almost shaggy.  He had a sudden, sharp mental image of himself as he'd been then--immaculately groomed, insignia polished, boots shining--and glanced down at himself.

What a contrast between then and now.  He was wearing a stained, grayish shirt that had once been white, a stained, gray neo-leather jacket he'd purchased secondhand, and dark blue military-style trousers with his Corellian bloodstripe running down the outside seam.  Only the boots were the same.  They were custom-fitted when each cadet was commissioned, so the Empire hadn't wanted them back.  Han had been commissioned just a little over eight months ago, and no junior lieutenant had ever been prouder of his rank--or of those shining boots.

The boots were scuffed now, and worn.  Han's lip curled as he regarded them.  Scuffed and worn by life, all the spit and polish gone .  .  .  that about described him these days, too.

In a moment of painful honesty, Han admitted that he probably wouldn't have been able to stay in the Imperial Navy even if he hadn't gotten himself cashiered for rescuing and freeing Chewbacca.  He'd started his career with high hopes, but disillusionment had quickly set in.  The prejudice against nonhumans had been hard to take for someone raised the way Han had been, but he'd bitten his tongue and remained silent.  But the endless, silly bureaucratic regs, the blind stupidityof so many of the officers--Han had already begun to wonder how long he'd be able to take it.

But he'd never figured on a dishonorable discharge, loss of pension and back pay, and--worst of all--being blacklisted as a pilot.  They hadn't taken his license, but Han had quickly discovered that no legitimate company would hire him.  He'd tramped the permacrete of Coruscant for weeks, in between alcoholic binges, looking for work--and found all respectable doors closed to him.

Then, one night, as he'd tavern-hopped in a section of the planet-wide city near the alien ghetto, a huge, furred shadow had flowed out of the deeper shadows of an alley and confronted Han.

For long moments Han's ale-fogged brain hadn't even recognized the Wookiee as the one he'd saved.  It was only when Chewbacca began speaking, thanking Han for saving his life and freeing him from slavery, that Han had realized who he was.  Chewie had been quite direct--his people didn't mince words.  He, Chewbacca, had sworn a life debt to Han Solo.  Where Han went, from that day forward, he would go, too.

And he had.

Rebel Dawn #3
Han Solo leaned forward in the pilot's seat of the Wayward Girl. "Entering atmosphere, Captain," he said. He watched the system's big, pale sun slip into the great curve of ruddy light at the world's edge and disappear behind the planet's limb. Bespin's huge, dark nightside loomed up to blot out the stars. Han checked his sensors. "They say Bespin's got some big flyin'--or should I say, floatin'--creatures in its atmosphere, so keep those forward shields at maximum strength."

One-handed, his co-pilot made an adjustment. "What's our ETA to Cloud City, Han?" she asked, a hint of strain in her voice.

"Not long now," Han replied reassuringly, as the Girl sliced into the upper atmosphere, swooping over the planet's dark pole, lightning far below making a flickering fog of dim light. "ETA twenty-six minutes. We ought to be in Cloud City in time to catch a late dinner."

"The sooner the better," she commented, grimacing as she flexed her right arm in its pressure-sling. "This thing itches like fury."

"Just hang on, Jadonna," Han said. "We'll get you straight to the med-facility."

She nodded. "Hey, Han, no complaints from me. You've done great. I'll just be glad to get this arm into bacta."

Han shook his head. "Ripped cartilage and ligaments . . . that's gotta hurt," he said. "But Cloud City's sure to have adequate meds."

She nodded. "Oh, they do. It's quite a place, Han. You'll see."

Jadonna Veloz was a short, stocky, dark-skinned woman with long, straight black hair. Han had met her two days ago, after she'd advertised from Alderaan on the spacer-nets for a pilot to fly her ship to Bespin. Veloz's arm had been injured when it was struck by a malfunctioning anti-grav loader, but, determined to meet her tight shipping deadline, she'd postponed real treatment until she delivered her cargo.

After paying Han's passage from Corellia on a fast shuttle to Alderaan, he'd taken over as pilot, and brought them to Bespin right on schedule.

The Wayward Girl was through the wispy exosphere now, and plunging deeper, moving toward the evening twilight, blue sky building above them. Han altered course, heading southwest, toward where the setting sun must be. As they streaked along, the tops of the piled, puffy masses of clouds far below began taking on colors, deep crimson and coral, then yellow-orange.

Han Solo had his own reasons for needing a ride to Bespin. If it hadn't been for Jadonna's ad on the nets, he'd have had to dip into his rapidly dwindling stash of credits to buy passage for himself on a commercial vessel.

Veloz's accident couldn't have come at a better time, as far as Han was concerned. With the credits she'd promised him, he'd be able to afford a cheap room and a few meals during the big sabacc tournament. The buy-in alone was a staggering ten thousand credits. Han had barely managed to scrape those credits together by fencing the small golden palador figurine he'd stolen from the Ylesian High Priest Teroenza, plus the dragon pearl he'd discovered in Admiral Greelanx's office.

The Corellian wished for a moment that Chewie was here with him, but he'd had to leave the Wookiee behind in their little flat on Nar Shaddaa because he couldn't afford to buy his passage.

They were deep into the atmosphere now, and Han could actually see Bespin's sun, a squashed looking orange ball just clearing a massive bank of clouds. The Girl was surrounded by a golden glory of heaped clouds--as golden as Han Solo's dreams of wealth.

Han was staking everything on this big gamble . . . and he'd always been lucky at sabacc. But would luck be enough to let him win? He'd be playing against professional gamblers like Lando.

The Corellian swallowed, then resolutely concentrated on his piloting. This was no time to get an attack of nerves. Han made another adjustment to the Girl's approach vector, thinking that he ought to be within range of Cloud City traffic control any time now.

As if in answer to his thoughts, a voice spoke up from his com. "Incoming vessel, please identify yourself."

Jadonna Veloz reached left-handed to activate their comm. "Cloud City traffic control, this is the Wayward Girl out of Alderaan. Our approach vector is . . ." she glanced at Han's instruments and reeled off a string of numbers.

"Wayward Girl, we confirm your vector. Cloud City is your destination?"

"That's an affirmative, traffic control," Jadonna said. Han grinned. From what he'd heard, Cloud City was about all there was to Bespin. There were the mining facilities, of course, and gas refining, storage and shipping facilities, but more than half of all incoming traffic was probably bound for the luxurious resort hotels. In the past few years, bored tourists had made the city in the clouds one of their favorite vacation playgrounds.

"Traffic control," Jadonna continued, "We have a priority shipment for the Yarith Bespin kitchens. Nerf tenderloins in stasis. Request a landing vector."

"Permission granted, Wayward Girl," came the voice of the traffic controller. The controller's voice took on a more informal note. "Nerf steaks, eh? I'll have to take my wife out this week. She's been wanting something fancy, and that's a treat we don't get too often."

"These are prime cuts, traffic control," Veloz said. "Hope the chef at the Yarith Bespin appreciates them."

"Oh, he's good," the voice said, then the controller reverted to his of ficial tones. "Wayward Girl, I have you slotted in at Level 65, Docking Bay 7A. Repeat. Level 65, 7A. Do you copy?"

"We copy, Cloud City Controller."

"And your assigned landing vector is . . ." the voice hesitated, then gave them more coordinates.

Han punched them into the navicomputer, then they settled back to enjoy the ride. He found himself looking forward to seeing the fabled Cloud City. Bespin itself had already been famous, even before the resort was built. They mined tibanna gas here, which was used in starship engines, and in powering blasters.

Han wasn't sure how they actually mined the gas, but he knew that tibanna gas was very valuable, so the miners must be doing well. Before it was discovered in Bespin's atmosphere, tibanna gas had usually been found in stellar chromospheres and nebular clusters-- which made harvesting it hazardous, to say the least. Then somebody had stumbled across the fact that Bespin's atmosphere was loaded with it.

Picking up a sudden burst of electrical activity on his sensors, Han hastily changed course. "Hey--what's that?" He pointed at the viewscreen. To their right now, was a monstrous, half-seen shape, drifting amid those incredible aurulent clouds. The thing was so large that it would have dwarfed many small Corellian cities.

Jadonna leaned forward. "That's a beldon!" she exclaimed. "They're really rare. In all the years I've been flying through these clouds, I've never seen one."

Han squinted at the mammoth creature as the Girl streaked by it. The beldon resembled some of the gelatinous ocean creatures he'd seen on some worlds, with a huge, dome-like top, and many small feeding tentacles hanging down beneath it.

Han checked his landing vector. "Right on the credits, Captain," he said. Behind them, the leviathan faded into the distance. Han saw another, smaller shape ahead of them that almost resembled an upside-down beldon, and realized it was Cloud City.

It hung in the clouds like some kind of exotic wineglass, topped with a jeweled crown of rounded towers, domed buildings, communication spires, and refinery stacks. In the last wash of sunset, it glowed like a corusca gem.

Author Bio:
A.C. Crispin, a best-selling science fiction and fantasy author who wrote tie-in novels for the “Star Wars” franchise and a prequel providing the back story for the popular movie series “Pirates of the Caribbean,” died Sept. 6, 2013 at the Hospice of Charles County in Waldorf. She was 63.

Ann Carol Crispin was an American science fiction writer, the author of over twenty published novels. She wrote professionally since 1983. She wrote several Star Trek and Star Wars novels, and created her own original science fiction series called Starbridge.

Crispin also served as Eastern Regional Director, and then Vice President, of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. With Victoria Strauss, she founded Writer Beware, a "watchdog" group that is part of SFWA that warns aspiring writers about the dangers of scam agents, editors, and publishers. Writer Beware was founded in 1998, and has assisted law enforcement and civil authorities in tracking and shutting down writing scams.


The Paradise Snare #1

The Hutt Gambit #2

Rebel Dawn #3