A Review of Smuggler’s Run
By Mark Sutter
*This review contains minor spoilers from the plot setup*
The first of the Force Friday novels chronologically, Smuggler’s Run has been described as having “hints and clues for about the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, making this a must-read for all Star Wars fans.” This is, at least in small part, true. The book itself is framed as an old man’s tale about the Millennium Falcon and her pilot and co-pilot. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that this old man is Han Solo, as Greg Rucka perfectly nails the character in description and dialogue. After a brief prologue, the story takes us back to Yavin 4 as the Rebels are rushing to leave before the Empire shows up.
Interestingly, the flashback begins from Chewbacca’s point of view, right after the medal ceremony shown in A New Hope. We are given a few, VERY SCANT details of Han and Chewie’s backstory, leaving plenty of room for the just-announced Han Solo film to fill in the details. What Chewbacca does go into is his love for the Millennium Falcon and how it has been modified so much that it is simultaneously so finicky it can only be controlled by two skilled pilots AND serves as the single best ship he’s ever flown.
Our first introduction to Han Solo in the story begins with Chewie being summoned to settle an argument between Han and Leia. The dialogue written for Han and Leia, and the description of Chewbacca’s language, really lets the characters shine. The setup for the story is simple: 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. Leia wants to hire Han to pick up the remaining crew member but Han wants to take his reward money to pay Jabba. The argument is brilliant and sharp, with Chewie eventually siding with Leia (much to Han’s chagrin). I won’t spoil it here, but Han has a few choice nicknames for our favorite Princess.
After this initial setup, we are introduced to our villain: Alecia Beck. She is a Commander in the Imperial Security Bureau, described as having a scar on one side of her face with her ruined eye replaced by a technologically advanced cybernetic eye. She is ruthless, cunning, and frighteningly competent, with a troop of accurate and deadly Stormtroopers at her command. Her character is equal parts Imperial Officer, Detective, and Bounty Hunter. She perfectly portrays the brutality of the Empire by regarding those under her command as nothing but grease for the Imperial machine.
After accepting the mission, Han and Chewie travel to the new Outer Rim planet Cyrkon. Their destination, Motok city, really gives a flavor of the cutthroat lawlessness we’ve come to expect from an Outer Rim planet. Han may eventually learn that saying “it could be worse” is just asking for trouble, but not in this story. The phrase is almost immediately followed by the appearance of another set of adversaries: four Bounty Hunters trying to collect Han for Jabba the Hutt. They wish to catch Solo quickly, willing to use any methods necessary to capture him before Boba Fett swoops in and steals their prey out from under them.
What follows is a pretty simple race-for-the-hunted-man narrative that is Young Adult in length only. While the same basic story as the previous novel Heir to the Jedi (which stretched that plot so thin it was transparent), Smuggler’s Run is a tight narrative with perfect pacing. It’s the kind of story that, had it been written during the Expanded Universe era, would have been intermixed with obligatory sub par side plots involving Luke and Leia’s exploits, goading you into reading through plodding, mediocre bits to get back to the exciting stuff. Here, they’ve narrowed down the story to a Han-and-Chewie-only adventure, and it’s a good one! I often found myself laughing out loud at the back-and-forth between Han and Chewie. Greg Rucka’s writing perfectly captured the characters we all know from that galaxy far, far away. Smuggler’s Run is tense, exciting, and fun. The book is fast, agile, and has it where it counts: just like the Millennium Falcon.
• This book has an appearance of a new race, the Abednedo, that show up in at least four of the new novels. Resistance Pilot Atsy is said to be Abednedo.
• By implication, Leia is already a very skilled pilot by the time of A New Hope because she was able to co-pilot the Millennium Falcon during the Death Star Escape.
• A new planet added to the galaxy: Cyrkon and the city Motok.
• Though there are a few clones left in the ranks (such as the Imperial Guard in Lords of the Sith), most Stormtroopers are now enlisted men and the remaining Clones are very few. The Clone Wars background even elicits some small sympathy for a character with an also-small role.