Genre: Sci-Fi / Star Wars
Read Again? In a decade, perhaps
Second in the Han Solo set.
No dusty encrustations decorate his thesaurus: Daley the syllable-smith forges onward!
This is the most complex of the three books; Solo and Chewie each get their own plotlines! Beyond that, it's a straight line "B" book like the other two.
They start off on Kamar, showing travel movies to the natives...when the natives become restless, Solo decides to put in a "blind" offer--pilot and ship need work, no questions asked.
They get a contact, show up, and soon find that they're expected to give some slavers and their "cargo" a ride. Firefight, k'pew, k'pew, bad guys die, Han decides to go to the slavers' contact on Bonadan: someone owes him and Chewie 10,000 credits!
The slavers are waiting. Another fight, slash slash, Chewie and Solo split up--the Wookiee in the Millennium Falcon, Han with his new gal-pal on a slow boat--all headed to Ammuud, the next planet in line. Solo still doesn't have the money, and the slavers are still after him!
On top of all this, a skip-tracer from a collections agency has tracked the Falcon to Bonadan and intends to take the ship as payment for money Han owes someone else. This character's pretty lame as Space Critters go. Remember--it's Sci-Fi, so we have to have anthropomorphized animals-as-people; Lucas gave us Space Mice, Space Trees, Space Wolves, Space Twin Sisters, Space Walruses (Walri?), Space Yaks, Space Squids, Space Goats, and Space Teddy Bears....
Daley gives us...the Space Otter. Or maybe it's a Space Seal. Space Otter sounds better. Spray (get it? Aquatic critter, watery name? ha, ha) is buck-toothed, near-sighted, talks with a lifp around thofe bfig teef. This is supposed to be the comic relief, since Spray stays with Chewie and the Falcon--you've got that whole big, hairy wookie/small Space Otter "Odd Couple" thing...meh.
That's the thing, here. Daley doesn't use ANY of these elements to advantage. Han and the women in all three books don't really have a lot of developed sexual tension to push the characters along. They're set-dressing, all equally anonymous and generic, all pale reflections of Princess Leia.
The various Space Critters--a pair of humanoid Space Cats in "Star's End," the Space Otter here, and the Space Caterpillar in "Lost Legacy"--are underdeveloped, not particularly interesting or funny. They're just boring 2-dimensional people like the other characters, only they're funny-looking.
This is also the book that introduces what has become my least-favorite "Star Wars" critter name: howlrunner. No matter what planet we're on (or what planet someone's from), "howlrunner" is the standard "Star Wars" name for a wolf. Given that most of the language is "translated" for us in the narrative...why not just call it a wolf, or "the wolf-like [alien-sounding name]"?
There are some notable howlers--other than Space Wolves--in the story. Chewie is forced to make a high-altitude mountain landing; while he's setting up a sensor on a nearby ridge, there's a stampede of Space Cattle--and they're getting dangerously close to him! So our Wookiee McGyver builds himself a hang glider!
Yes. A hang glider.
From the corpse of a pterosaur, the sensor tripod, some clamps, and some cable!
He glides too far...face-plants into the nearby lake...and Space Otter is there! Chewie is saved!!
You can safely skip all three of these books. But it's good news for Alan Dean Foster: He's not the worst "Star Wars" writer anymore. This is subject to change, because I'm considering reading his ghost-written "Star Wars" novelization. I haven't cracked it open in more than 20 years, and I remember really disliking it.
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