So we've come to the final book in the Han Solo trilogy. Again, I found this book enjoyable. I knew I enjoyed it before but I couldn't really remember specifically why. A lot of things happen in this book that take us straight from where the last book left off up until pretty much the second we meet Han in the movies.
As we begin, Han is in a sabacc tournament with big stakes along with Lando, who has already taken up residence on Bespin. Lando bets Han any ship on his lot and of course when Han wins he picks the Falcon, even though Lando tries to tell him he meant the ships that were for sale on his lot, not his own personal ship. But of course Han takes it anyway and is immediately in love and obsessed with making her the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
His first stop in his new ship is Kashyyyk to take Chewie home to see his girlfriend and his family and Han winds up witnessing Chewie and Malla's wedding, which I did not remember hadn't occurred before Chewie met Han. It's quite sweet when Han is watching and he ponders a moment when Malla looks at Chewie with such love and he thinks about how nobody has ever loved him that much. Chewie and Malla go off for some private time and Han assumes that he is now on his own, or at least just has Jarik who has still been traveling with him. Just before he is about to leave the Wookiees chase him down, furious that he would think of leaving Chewie behind and unable to fulfill his lifedebt. So off they go.
Han returns to Nar Shaddaa to continue running spice for Jabba and is back with Salla, who he has been with for two years. They are actually a very good match, especially since neither one of them seems to care if the relationship progresses to any formal commitment, never uttering any words of love but simply having fun. They spend some of their time racing each other on the Kessel Run, and Han is especially anxious to take up the challenge once again now that he has a faster, more reliable ship.
Han is basically as content as he's ever been in his life with his ship, his friends, and Salla. But on their race through the Kessel Run things don't go well for Salla, and Han winds up having to rescue her from certain death, involving the loss of her ship. After this near-death experience suddenly Salla starts acting strange, talking about commitment and telling Han that she loves him and wants them to get married, but not really bothering to ask his opinion on the matter. He doesn't really want things to end because he enjoyed her company, but she wouldn't listen any time he told her marriage was not something he wanted. She even went so far as to plan a wedding without asking him, but Han decides the only thing he can do if she won't listen is to leave, so off he goes, leaving her behind and not being particularly torn up over it.
Han wastes no time getting over her in the company of at least three other women who are named (I think now ten times more implied sex in these books than ever with Leia in like fifty books). But while Han is busy with that, Bria is busy basically starting the Rebellion. Early in the book she has a long conversation with a young Winter and they even talk about Leia. Apparently Bria is the one who convinces Bail Organa to join the Rebellion and break Alderaan's normal, peaceful nature. Yes, she's apparently way more important than Leia ever was.
But Boba Fett has been on her tail for a change, following her everywhere as she continues being super, overly important. And just when he pretty much as her, Lando comes to the rescue. They get away, and figure out that they both know Han. For a while there it seems as though they are going to have a little fling, but Bria tells him how Han was her only love, and they never do anything more than dance. Now, while I wouldn't have cared really if Bria slept with someone else - actually, I might have preferred that so she can maybe have one blemish from being so perfect - but I hate the idea that basically Han and Lando have had all of the same girlfriends.
Sometime later, Lando had mentioned he'd run into Bria and Han gets furious over what his friend might have done to and/or with her, but he assures Han that they just danced. But a while later, she just happens to walk into the bar he's in, their first opportunity to talk since she left. He maintains being incredibly angry with her, not wanting to be affected by her at all. Eventually he softens a bit, and she had only come there for his help to go to Ylesia with them so that they could acquire massive amounts of credits to help fund the Corellian Resistance. Han remains angry at her and they have a fight and he leaves. After he calms down though, he goes back and finds her and blames his anger on what happened years ago and decides to let that go and agrees to help her.
On their mission they wind up visiting old friends Muuurgh and Mrrov, Han's old co-pilot/bodyguard from the first book, and they assume Han and Bria are still together and leave them one room to stay with them. There is talk of who will sleep on the bed and who will sleep on the floor, but in the end they flip for it: heads they share the bed, tails they share the floor. Then they share a passionate kiss. And now I think if there was even implied sex for Han and Leia just once in every book they're in together it would not top these...
Before their mission but after more implied sex Han makes Bria promise that they will always be together. But after the mission on Ylesia, when they get all of their credits and treasures, Bria and her other Resistance members turn their weapons on Han and Lando and his people and tells them that they will not be getting their compensation. Bria betrays Han and leaves and he tells her that if he sees her again he'll shoot her on sight (finally, he's making sense!). Lando is irate with Han because he thinks he was in on it. Also during this battle, young Jarik dies and confesses to Han that Solo was not his real name. It is a sad little scene, but at the same time I don't really understand what the point of that character was. Even if he was there he was mostly only mentioned in passing. I guess they just needed another gunner and a bit more drama by killing him.
Anyway, Han and Chewie go back to running spice for Jabba and have that infamous incident in which Han is forced to dump his cargo when he's boarded and Jabba is of course very angry that this has happened. Meanwhile, Bria was busy once again being integral to the entire story of Star Wars by helping deliver the Death Star plans to Princess Leia on Tantive IV. Under attack during this mission, they are able to transmit the plans but aren't able to escape. Bria takes poison to avoid capture and dies. She died a martyr and a hero basically. And I just threw up.
By now Han is on Tatooine and Boba Fett comes to find him. When Fett was going to kill Tharen before Lando intervened, she asked him to tell her father that she was dead so he knew. Fett didn't know how to contact him, so he went to tell Han instead, so that he could get the news across. The good thing here is that Han is not entirely devastated by the news. He sends a message to her father and then he sees some crazy old guy with a lightsaber cutting someone's arm off...
If you remove Bria Tharen from this book, I liked it. A lot, actually. I like seeing Han with his smuggler friends and having a good time and taking Chewie home to get married and later to meet his son. But a lot of this book focused so much on Bria and all of the amazing things she accomplished before she died for the good of mankind. It drove me out of my mind and it still does now that it says basically that without her the Rebellion could've never happened. Why does Han's old girlfriend have to be so important? Why can't she just be someone he had fun with? That's why Salla, for example, doesn't bother me at all.
Apparently the author wanted to give Han a concrete (duracrete?) reason to not pursue Leia at first. He doesn't want anything to do with women who was so committed to their causes. Sorry, I can come up with a whole bunch of other reasons that had nothing to do with old girlfriends. I guess the only thing that relieves me is that Han isn't not with her at the end simply because she died, he's not with her because she had betrayed him and her death is not a terrible blow to his morale. Still, having her die I think was the author's way of making sure that Han's "true love" couldn't come back later and complicate his relationship with Leia. I want him to be with Leia because while he might have had some fun with other girls in his past, none of them meant nearly as much.
Anyway, aside from that, we get Han and Chewie being the best of friends, we learn of why Lando was not so happy with Han when he first saw him on Bespin, and we see Han's obsession with the Falcon. All of these things seem like the Han Solo I could picture before what we see in the movies. I say I'd give this one another maybe 3.5 like the last one. At times I'd think about bumping it to a four, but the exhausting amounts of just Bria or just Hutts stuff brings the score down. There are times that we go pages and pages not reading about Han at all, and to me that is really the whole point of these books, not putting almost equal emphasis on what his ex-girlfriend was doing.
Next up: "Star Wars Episode IV" novelization.