In 2015, the release of Star Wars books, new additions to the new Expanded Universe, picked up a hurried pace in thanks to The Force Awakens, which premiered in December, 2015. As part of this wave of releases were three Young Adult level books, each just under 200 pages in length, and each telling the story about one of the main principle characters of the Original Trilogy. Billed rather misleadingly under “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” each of the books all take place shortly after A New Hope. Those three books are The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry, Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka, and Moving Target coauthored by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry. All three also have illustrations by Marvel Comics artist, Phil Noto. Ideally, someday these books will be published together as one collection, given their length and similar chronological context.
The extent to which any of these three really have to do with The Force Awakens is almost non-existent, with all three framing each adventure as a story told by Original Trilogy characters to someone else in the time period prior to The Force Awakens. While something of each of the plots may appear or were intended to appear in The Force Awakens, none so far have been significant in any manner. This is not a slam against the books, themselves, but about merchandising and feeding into the frenzy of everything The Force Awakens. Accepting this fact and moving on allows for one to read the stories and enjoy them. We have already reviewed Jason Fry’s The Weapon of a Jedi (favorably) and have Moving Target in our sights for the near future, leaving us presently to review Smuggler’s Run.
Subtitled “A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure,” Smuggler’s Run is Greg Rucka’s first Star Wars novel, which he soon followed with Before the Awakening. Additionally, he penned Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Shattered Empire, which was one of the first post-Return of the Jedi additions to the Expanded Universe since its epic slate cleaning. In every endeavor, he remains successful, and Smuggler’s Run is no different.
Framed with an unidentified older Han Solo relating the story, Smuggler’s Run is set days after the destruction of the First Death Star. Han and Chewbacca are coerced (Han’s interpretation) into a dashing mission to a distant planet on the edge of the Outer Rim to rescue a Rebellion operativee from the potential clutches of the Empire. Why the duo? Because they own the ‘fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy’ (not quoted in the book) and speed is of the necessity. The operative is Caluan Ematt, the sole survivor of a rebel band known as the Shrikes, whose sole concern is plotting out future homes of the Rebel Alliance and their supplies. In short, if one wants to destroy the rebels, the information needed resides entirely in this man’s brain. Hot on the heels of Ematt and the chief protagonist in Smuggler’s Run is Commander Alecia Beck, a ruthless member of the Imperial Security Bureau. Adorned with a glaring red artificial eye, a legacy of her first big success hunting down corruption, Beck bleeds Imperial efficiency and the unappreciated by rank and file willingness to sacrifice almost anything in the pursuit of victory.
The majority of the action in the book takes place on the ruined planet of Cyrkon and its capital, the domed city Motok. On the planet, Chewbacca and Han encounter both bounty hunters sent by Jabba to bring the pair in over the loss of a cargo of smuggled goods (see A New Hope) and much more to their chagrin, Commander Beck and plenty of storm troopers. In the midst of these two factions, Rucka introduces two additional new characters, Delia Leighton, the captain of the ship Miss Fortune and proprietor of the cantina in the ship’s cargo bay, Serendipity, and her bouncer, Curtis, a wolf-like alien Shistavanen. Needless to say, with the help of Delia, Solo and Chewbacca find Ematt, who suffers from too little time in too short a novel to receive any real characterization other than loyal to the core rebel. Likewise, with the help of Delia and her ship, the trio break free from capture by Beck, and make a mad dash for hyperspace above Cyrkon.
The hyperspace jump to safety does not come easily with Beck’s star destroyer in orbit and at play, but ultimately, Han Solo at the helm of the Millennium Falcon, manages to save not only Delia, but also themselves through an all credits on the table gamble which forces Beck to balance a successful capture of Ematt against decimating a city of millions. Beck does the math and our heroes make their escape and on that note, Smuggler’s Run comes to a conclusion, minus a few pages jumping back into the time period of The Force Awakens framing device.
Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka is a fun, quick read for anyone hankering for a Han Solo and Chewbacca story. Both characters are well depicted by Rucka who definitely got inside the head of not just the Corellian, but the Wookie, too. Beck, while interesting, suffers something of the same problem as virtually every other character introduced, a lack of time to really know her. Thus, her development is a little thin and a bit too cut from one’s typical Imperial bad guy persona, but as an introductory story, she’s fine enough and fascinating enough that we can only hope Rucka is given the opportunity to further develop the character. Chewbacca is given a bit of a nudge forward in his own personal love of the Millennium Falcon, which might help underline his future and inevitable decision to remain with it after the grim loss of The Force Awakens. Overall, any Star Wars fan should enjoy the brief diversion into the adventure of Smuggler’s Run and hopefully will have the opportunity to revisit some of its new characters in the future.