Review: Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves

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Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves (Empire and Rebellion, Book 2)
by James S.A. Corey, read by Marc Thompson
Length: 9 Hours, 52 Minutes

This is the Han Solo book you’re looking for.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I read all the Star Wars books. I stopped right before the New Jedi Order (when I was in college), and since then have only read two — Zahn’s Scoundrels and Schreiber’s Death Troopers. In general, the Expanded Star Wars Universe became too much of a chore for me – the continuity got too bloated, I heard some of my favorite characters were needlessly killed off, and it just wasn’t as much fun as when Zahn’s first books came out. So when I heard that James S.A. Corey – the writing duo of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham who write the kick ass Expanse space operas – were doing a Star Wars book, and that it’d be a stand-alone Han Solo Star Wars books, AND that it’d be set between A New Hope andย The Empire Strikes Back, well, I knew I’d have to make the jump to lightspeed and pick this nerf-herder up.

Han Solo and Chewbacca are recruited by the Rebel Alliance to pull out spy Scarlet Hark from her assignment on a planet in the Imperial Core. The extraction doesn’t go as simply as planned (their plans are awful). Scarlet has some loose ends to tie up, Han has a price on his head, and the Empire has their sights on a new super weapon. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say blasters are drawn, planets are scorched, and Chewbacca is a far more profane wookie than I ever realized. (We always did wonder what he was saying, right?)

In other words: Franck and Abraham do not disappoint. There were times when I was worried the story was going to take a long time building up to a plot point – say a heist – and then, like the Expanse books, they barrel right into the action, never sacrificing characterization, and move onto the next play. The characters we know feel like they’ve walked right off the screen, just as we remembered them. And we’re introduced to several fascinating new characters: the aforementioned Scarlet Hark, who is as stubborn, gutsy, and wise-cracking as Han; Hunter Maas, an arrogant would-be alpha male who always talks about himself in the third person; and Baasen Ray, a down-on-his-luck smuggler and old friend of Han. Saying too much about any of them would be spoiling the fun, but I do want to say that they were all very well-developed. I was pleased Scarlet never became part of a romantic triangle with Han and Leia – their relationship and camaraderie had a very business casual professional feel to it, playing against the obvious type. But most of all, I was surprised and delighted by the shades of grey displayed by one character. Often, we generally know which side someone is on when they walk onto the screen (or page) in Star Wars. However, one character’s journey really surprised me, and it was nice to see that there can be acts of kindness and grace, even by characters who often came off as an utter bastard. It’s a nice bit of characterization, and one I feel like we don’t often see in Star Wars.

Is it as good as The Expanse or The Dagger in the Coin books? No. Not even close. But I’d be lying if it wasn’t loads of fun, and had me wishing that they’d do another Star Wars book someday, in all their free time. If you like any of their books, and Star Wars, you’re gonna get a kick out of this one. It’ll make you want to invite your buddies over for beer and an original trilogy marathon. And it’ll probably make you want to check out all their other non-Star Wars books too.

(And being a big fan of both Expanse series, and Abraham’s Dagger and the Coin series, it’s fun to pick out some of their kinks – whether it’s where does the Rebel Alliance get their money from, a traveling Opera troupe, a labyrinth-like mad scientist laboratory filled with dead Storm Troopers. The only thing missing is vomit zombies. Basically, if they thought something was cool, and they could use it, they did.)

I’ve listened to exactly three Star Wars books now, two of which have been narrated by Marc Thompson (no relation). I have to give Thompson credit – it’s gotta be hard to come into something like Star Wars where the sound of the characters are pretty ingrained in our minds. In that regard, Thompson is a winner – his Han Solo isn’t Harrison Ford, but it’s the next best thing. And he gets all the bravado, cockiness, and general scoundrelness across well. His voices for other favorites like Luke and Leia aren’t quite as good, but he makes up for it with the supporting cast and characters like Scarlet, Hunter, and Baasen. Where Thompson doesn’t work so well is the line-to-line delivery. Often simple actions – like Han picking up a tool to repair the Falcon – are delivered with Shatner-esque forced excitement, and I would’ve preferred he let the material speak for himself a little more.

The book is jam-packed with the standard sound effects and John Williams score that’s have become custom for these things. The F/X are actually kind of fun, but the over-reliance on the John Williams score is distracting. When Han gets into a fistfight with an alien, and the SW soundtrack starts up, some of the tension gets lost for me. That said, it wasn’t enough of a distraction to keep me from wanting to press play when I had the chance.

If you’ve been nostalgic at all about Star Wars, and considered diving into one of the novels – Honor Among Thieves is your ticket to all the charm and excitement that made you fall in love with this scoundrel and his wookie co-pilot from a galaxy far, far away.

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4 Responses to Review: Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves

  1. Scott Parker says:

    I’m a tad older than you, but, like you, got very tired of the EU. And the two you mentioned–Death Troopers and Scoundrels–are the only 2 SW novels I’ve read in the past years. I LOVE the Expanse series (and, incidentally, really enjoy the narrator) and the fact that they wrote a Han Solo novel had me sold at the title. This is the next book I’m listening to after The Martian.

  2. Dave Thompson says:

    Then I think you’ll enjoy it, Scott. If nothing else, it’s a nice way to pass time while we wait for the next Expanse novel ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. trish says:

    I’m not a fan of audiobooks (they take too damn long), but even with standard on-page (ok, ebook) reading, this was far better than Scoundrels. I agree with your review of that one, also. It would seem difficult to create an EU book with the characterization so. . .flat. Another one you might enjoy, if it’s available in your format is the Martha Wells one, Razor’s Edge, which is also between ANH and ESB.

    I’m not an EU fan in general, but Wells and Corey have changed that a bit. My favorite characters have always been Han and Leia, and these books seem to get those characterizations right for change. OK, so I was 10 when Star Wars came out, and Solo was my first crush, so sue me.

  4. Dave Thompson says:

    I’ve actually been meaning to check out Razor’s Edge. I think part of the appeal is – not only is it a Leia (which I think is somehow a first?) but it’s standalone. Also curious about the Luke Skywalker one Hearne is writing, and “Kenobi” that came out last year.

    I think I might have a soft spot for standalones ๐Ÿ™‚

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