The new Star Wars novel goes deep into the past and future of Han Solo

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters in just over a month. The independent Star Wars movie follows in the footsteps of Rogue One : a story that stands out from the saga of the franchise, that is, the history of the Skywalkers and their fight against the forces of evil in the galaxy. But unlike Rogue One who presented a cast of completely new characters for the franchise, Solo will focus on one of the best-known characters of the franchise: Han Solo.

As we get closer to the release date of the film, something that has been highlighted about Solo is how unenthusiastic everyone seems to be. Unlike The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi It's just a movie that, until recently, kept forgetting that it would be the second Star Wars movie to hit theaters under six months. There are many reasons for this: the problems of production, an advance that did not fall until a few months before the publication of the film, but above all, a general attitude of "Do we really need to know more about the origin of the film? Alone? "

The origins of Han Solo were well covered in the novels of the Expanded Universe, but now that they are no longer canon, the new book by Daniel José Older Star Wars Last Shot ] has arrived. Take another look at the youthful days of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, as well as their more mature years, in two adventures that take place both before and after the next film. It's a fun and lively reading, with lots of humor, Ewok hackers, killer robots and fierce fighting scenes as Han and Lando go from scratching to scratching while trying to locate a long-forgotten enemy. But what makes the book a truly unique read is how Older divides this story into four different timelines, using the technique to juxtapose the lives of the younger and more reckless Han and Lando, and those of older men who They grow to be.

Through the means of the Expanded Universe, there were always a couple of elements of Han's life that were generally well known. He had a difficult childhood growing up on the planet Corellia, enlisted with the Empire to become a pilot, was fired from service to save Chewbacca from slavery, and finally became a famous smuggler. He is a fundamentally good person, but one who is not interested in a greater struggle against good and evil: he just wants to get ahead and do the right thing for his people.

Where the franchise of Star Wars is essentially an epic story about the fight between good and evil in the galaxy, it is difficult to reconcile this with the adventures of a loner stranger. Han is a character that does not fit, or wants to fit, into the civilized world. He prefers to play according to his own rules, but his conscience forces him to do the right thing in the end. We see this again and again in the movies, like when he returns to save Luke Skywalker from the Death Star in A New Hope defends his friends against the Empire in The Empire Strikes Back ] and The Return of the Jedi and reluctantly returns to the Resistance long after he has returned to his old habits in The Force Awakens .

Graphics by Michele Doying / The Verge

These trends have also been translated into the novels of the Extended Universe, including the trilogy of Han Cris (19459003) by AC Crispin that explores Han's life before his first appearance in A new hope . We met him for the first time at The Paradise Snare as a reckless young man of 18 who grew up under a tough local criminal boss named Garris Shrike, and escapes to become a religious cult pilot in a backward world called Ylesia. The book encodes part of that previous story: it is a self-important, but serious, character who falls in love with Bria Tharen, a pilgrim with a brain washed, and helps rescue her from her captors. It is not until the end that we begin to see that some beginnings of a harder edge are forming: kill Shrike in a confrontation, and Bria leaves him, fighting with his brainwashing.

The following novels establish Han's reputation as a smuggler: he was expelled from the Empire in The Hutt Gambit and ingratiates himself with the criminal underworld of the galaxy, and we know other familiar elements of his life on the road : characters like Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett, not to mention the Millennium Falcon. But while he lives outside the law, he still has a good streak in him.

When Bria returns in Rebel Dawn now a member of the Rebel Alliance, appeals to his generous side to help him save the slaves of Ylesia, only to cross it, helping to solidify the cynicism we see in him during A new hope . The whole trilogy is an exercise in transformation: turning a good person into the criminal we know in the movies, who is fundamentally interested in his own welfare, but who never completely abandons that good person.

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

This is what makes Older's novel so interesting, because it plays explicitly with the two directions in which Han (and to some extent, Lando) is dragged. Star Wars the novels have traditionally resisted the books that play with the form, but Mayores shows his narrative in several timelines: the main story takes place two years after the Battle of Endor and bounces between the stories of Han and Lando from a decade earlier (bracketing Solo ), while pursuing and acquiring a mysterious package of a villain named Fryzen Gor, whose origins take place twenty years before the main story.

The Han of the publication – The world of the Galactic Civil War is lost: it is married, has a son and is a visible part of the New Republic. He longs to constantly escape from his home life, even when he wants to be a devoted father and husband. When Lando appears with a problem, take the opportunity to help him, even after Lando greets him with a punch in the face. This is contrasted with the previous timelines, in which we see a younger and freer Han who makes his way as a smuggler and captain of a starship. The book shows how impetuous and willing he and Lando were to take risks as children.

All these novels are, ultimately, different versions of who Han Solo and his associates are: they are trustworthy, generally decent characters who have trouble adapting to the larger galactic civilization. He exists in the limit, where there are few rules and no map where it should be. Despite some of its shortcomings, Crispin's novels show a solid transition between the Han Solo we met, and the person who grew up in it, while Older's novel brings Han Solo to the tired man we saw in The Force Awakens, and the youngest and most enthusiastic we will meet next month at Solo .

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