Sunday, May 8, 2016

Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial - The Review

Ah, we are falling behind on these, aren't we? After several years off, it is probably ok though. I actually finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago but I'm finally getting around to writing the review.

If there is an award for the book where Han is the biggest asshole, I think this one wins.

When last we left our heroes, we actually really weren't hearing much about our favorite couple. I guess this wasn't so bad though since Han is just a complete mess and Leia is busy doing her thing. But still, there wasn't a lot going on for them in the last couple of books. This book seems to want to make up for that. From what I recall of reading this series fifteen years ago when it came out, that's kind of how it went. One book would focus more on some characters, the next one on others. This particular duology focuses on Han specifically more than most. But don't get too excited about that, because he is definitely still not himself. 

We begin on Kashyyyk, where a memorial service is taking place for Chewbacca. I'm not really sure how or why it took us several books between his death to actually get here, but at least it is finally happening, and we're told it's six months after his death. And for the first time in several books, the entire Solo family is together, and they are kind of, sort of, almost seeming normal in spite of the circumstances. Apparently there is some sort of Wookiee tradition in death that even the humans closest to them, including Han, don't know about. That's not what this is, though. And apparently whatever ritual that might have been was not possible because Chewie's body could not be returned home, which is pretty sad. 

The scene of this funeral is told from Threepio's perspective. During the Wookiee speech he sees Jaina holding Han's hand in both of hers while Han's eyes look red. There are a lot of little things in this book where Jaina is sort of Han's go-to while he is really trying not to get into it with Leia too much. I think while of course I'd prefer it if he went to Leia more, it seems kind of in character that he is more in tune with Jaina here. I can see him feeling a lot of guilt when it comes to Leia, and not so much with Jaina. So he can accept comfort from her without worrying about being called out on what he's been doing, which Leia would surely be doing. And Han and Jaina have always seemed to share a close bond. 

He also mentions that apparently Han had tried to get into his old Corellian Bloodstripe pants but his "increased waistline" would not allow it and he had to help him add the stripes to some new ones. In the last book they were talking about how Han was all thin and haggard, so again they can never seem to decide on things to be consistent in these books. It goes on to say that Leia and Jacen are standing across from Han and Jaina, Leia's head on Jacen's shoulder. 

After the talking is finished, Han mentions to Jaina that he actually kind of envies Threepio, because he can never know the pain of grieving. Jaina tries in a motherly way to get him to eat, and he is not interested but at least he is pretty nice to Jaina and not snippy. Chewie's wife gives Han a bowcaster that Chewie had made, and his son gives him a satchel that was also his. There is a brief discussion that apparently Waroo and Lowbacca will be taking over Chewie's lifedebt. I remember reading this part when this book first came out and thinking, oh great, so we're just going to get a replacement Wookiee and act like nothing has changed except the name of his copilot? Fortunately, Han does not like this idea and does manage to get them not to come with him.

A little while later, we finally get a quiet Han and Leia moment for the first time in a very long time. Han is standing over a section of walkway without any railing among the very, very tall trees.

"You'll want to watch that first step, flyboy," Leia said from behind him.  

 Han gave a start but didn't turn around. "Funny thing is, ground zero's always a lot closer than you think."  

 Leia's footsteps drew nearer. "Even if that's true, you might want to consider a sturdy pair of repulsor boots."  

 He aimed a skewed grin over his shoulder. Kashyyyk's humidity had fashioned a mane of Leia's long hair, and updrafts tugged at her flowing skirt and sleeveless blouse.  

 "No need to worry, sweetheart. I'm already down there."  

 Leia came alongside him and glanced warily over the edge. "And I thought the view from our apartment was unnerving ..." She took gentle hold of Han's arm and eased him back from the edge. "You're making me nervous."  

 "That's gotta be a first." He forced a smile. "I'm fine."  

 Leia's brow furrowed. "Are you, Han? I heard about what happened with Malla and Waroo."  

 He shook his head in renewed agitation. "I have to put an end to this life-debt business once and for all."  

Well, at least Han and Leia are talking again, and it is almost sort of normal and he isn't hiding away from her.

Chilled by Han's scowl, Leia straightened her smile. "I didn't mean to sound flippant, Han. I understand what you're feeling. Today couldn't have been easy for you."  

 He averted his gaze. "I wish I understood what I was feeling. I thought the ceremony would help put things to rest, but it's only made matters worse. Maybe if I'd been able to retrieve Chewie's body and there'd been some kind of funeral ..." He allowed his words to trail off, then shook his head angrily. 

"What am I talking about? It's more than missing out on some ritual."  

 Leia waited for him to continue.  

 "I know I can't change what happened at Sernpidal, but I blame myself for getting us into that fix to begin with."  

 "You were trying to save lives, Han." 

 "And a lot of good it did anyone."  

 "Have you told Anakin that you've made your peace with not being able to save Chewie?" Leia asked cautiously.  

 Bitterness contorted Han's face. "That was my biggest mistake - putting him in the pilot's seat."  

 "Han -" 

 "I don't mean that it was Anakin's fault. But I know I wouldn't have made the same decisions he made." He snorted a bitter laugh. "We'd all be dead - Chewie, Anakin, me ... And now this craziness about continuing the life debt." Han paced away, then whirled to face her. "There's no way I'm going to be responsible for the death of another member of the honor family, Leia."  

 "You weren't responsible."  

 "I was," he snapped. "Who knows what kind of life Chewie would have had if I hadn't dragged him all over the galaxy running spice and chakroot and whatever else we could smuggle."  

 Leia frowned. "Meaning what, Han? That you shouldn't have rescued him from slavery? For all you know, Chewie might have ended up dying in an Imperial labor camp or in some construction accident. You can't allow yourself to think that way. Besides, don't try to tell me that Chewie didn't enjoy gallivanting around, with you - and that had nothing to do with a life debt. You heard what Ralrra said: Adventure was the reason Chewie left Kashyyyk to begin with. You and he were two of a kind."  

 Han firmed his lips. "I guess I know that. Still ..." He shook his head mournfully.  

 Leia placed her fingers under Han's chin and turned his head. Positioning herself in his gaze, she smiled broadly. "You know what I remember most? The time Chewie strapped me to his chest and carried me across the underside of Rwookrrorro. Like I was a toddler."  

 Han snorted. "Consider yourself lucky. One time I had to ride in a quulaar slung from Tarkazza."  

 Leia clamped a hand over her mouth but laughed anyway. "Katara's father - the one with the silver stripe on his back?"  

 "That's the one." Han laughed with her, but only for a moment. Then he turned and gazed but over the tree-tops. "It gets easier for a moment, then I'm right back to remembering. How long does it take, Leia? Till you're past it?"  

 She sighed. "I don't know how to answer that without sounding trite. Life is all about change, Han. Look at this place: luma-poles have begun to replace phosflea lanterns, repulsorlift vehicles are replacing banthas ... Things have a strange way of reversing direction when you least expect them to. Enemies become friends, adversaries become confederates. The very Noghri who tried to kill me became my protectors. Gilad Pellaeon, who once came here to enslave Wookiees, fought with us at Ithor against the Yuuzhan Vong. Could anyone have predicted that?" Leia extended her hands to massage his shoulders. "Eventually the heartache fades."  

 Han's muscles bunched under her touch. "That's the problem. The heartache fades."  

 He sat down, letting his feet dangle over the edge of the bridge. Leia squatted behind him and wrapped her arms around him. They remained unmoving for a long moment.  

 "I'm losing him, Leia," he said despondently. "I know he's dead, but I used to be able to feel him alongside me, just outside the edge of my vision. It's like if I turned quickly enough, I'd catch sight of him. I could hear him, too, clear as day, laughing or complaining about something I'd done. I swear, I've had conversations with him that were as real as this one. But something's changed. I have to think long and hard to really see him, or hear him."  

 "You're getting on with your life, Han," Leia said softly. 

  He laughed shortly. "Getting on with my life? I don't think so. Not till I've found some way to make his death count for something."  

 "He saved Anakin," Leia reminded.  

 "That's not what I mean. I want the Yuuzhan Vong to pay for what they did at Sernpidal - and for all that they're continuing to do."  

 Leia stiffened. "I can understand that coining from Anakin, Han, because he's young and hasn't figured things out. But please don't make me hear it from you."  

 He shrugged out of her hold. "What makes you think I know any more about life than Anakin knows?"  

 She dropped her hands by her sides and stood up. "That's something I hadn't considered, Han." 
 "Well, maybe you should," he rasped, without turning around.

And that is the abrupt end of that chapter. Well, at least briefly they smiled and laughed at each other, and there was some affection and tenderness there. It is clear that Leia handles grief better than anyone in the history of the galaxy. At least Han let Leia hug him before he started being angry again.

Eventually we jump ahead and Han seems to suddenly be in a rush to get off Kashyyyk rather than waiting another day as initially planned. Luke starts questioning Han about his sudden need for hasty retreat and Han has to catch himself before he gets angry and lets him know he is tired of all of this sympathy. Then he turns to Luke:

Han started up the ramp, then stopped and whirled. "You know, I don't know what's worse, everybody's fumbling attempts to make me feel better or your self-importance. You may think you have me figured out, pal, but you don't. Not by a long shot. Oh, I know you've lost friends and family, and now, with Mara being sick and all, but Chewie gave his life for my son, and that makes it different. You can't know about that, Luke." 

  "I don't pretend to know about that," Luke said calmly. "But as you say, I do know something about grief."  

 Han held up his hands. "Don't talk to me about the Force - not now. I told you a long time ago I don't believe in one power controlling everything, and maybe I was right, after all."  

 "After all we've been through?"  

 "What we've been through," Han said, pointing his forefinger at Luke's face, "had a lot more to do with blasterfire than swordplay, and you know it."  

 "It was the Force that brought down the Empire."  

 "And just how does that help me?" Han glanced around at Leia, their three children, Lowbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, all of whom looked uncomfortable. "I don't have the abilities of a Jedi or the delete functions of a droid. I'm just a normal guy with normal feelings and maybe more than his share of shortcomings. I don't see Chewie, Luke. Not the way you claim to have seen Obi-Wan, Yoda, and your father. I don't have the Force at my back."  

 "But you do, Han. That's all I'm trying to tell you. Let go of your anger and bitterness and you will see Chewie."

Han opened his mouth and closed it. He spun on his heels and hurried up the ramp only to stop and reverse directions again. "I'm not ready to walk this plank," he grated as he passed Luke.  

 "Han!" Leia shouted.  

 He turned, but looked through her at Jaina. "Take the Falcon back to Coruscant."  

 Jaina's eyes widened. She swallowed hard and stammered, "But what about you?"  

 "I'll find my own way back," he yelled over his shoulder as he marched off.

While I don't love the idea of Han turning his back on his family like this and running away yet again, I do kind of find this whole thing in character. He feels like an outsider. I think that when he isn't feeling quite so lost, the fact that he is the only one in his family without the Force doesn't really bother him. And before he always had Chewie to share that with anyway. But now, sure, I think he would feel more lost about it than ever. And again, I also for some reason like that in the end it is Jaina he looks to for taking his ship back. It's like he knows he can still tell his daughter what to do and she won't argue with him, unlike Leia who most certainly would, and he also trusts her completely. 

So now we get a little bit of Leia and Jaina, who are on the Falcon. Jaina was going to go off with Luke but Leia said she didn't want to fly the Falcon alone. This is another one of those things that has never been clear to me, there are books that say that you actually can't fly it alone, so I don't know what is right, but anyway. Jaina notes that Leia looks especially small in the seat that Chewie used to occupy, and they have been very quiet for the trip thus far.

"Not often I get to fly Dad's ship," Jaina said casually, hoping to open a conversation. 
 Leia reacted as if she had been yanked from a trance. "What?" 

"I said I was surprised Dad asked me to fly the Falcon home." 
Leia smiled at her. "Record holder at Lando's Folly ... Rogue Squadron pilot ... Your father thinks very highly of your skills." 
Jaina was quiet for a moment. "I hope he gets home all right." 
Leia laughed. "Don't worry, he'll hop a freighter or a trader's ship and probably beat us back to Coruscant. He doesn't need help in that area." 
"Or any other area," Jaina said, frowning. 
Leia made her lips a thin line and took her daughter's hand. "Don't confuse refusing help with not needing it."

"Why is he like that?" 
"How much time do we have?" Leia joked. "The short answer is that your father wasn't raised the way you and I were. He didn't have the support of a family or the comfort of a stable home." She shook her head. "He's been so many things - a swoop racer, a pilot, an officer in the Imperial Navy, a smuggler - but all those occupations have one thing in common: they require extreme self-reliance and a certain amount of aloofness. He didn't grow up accustomed to getting help, so he's certainly not about to ask for it." 
"But he's been acting like he's the only one who misses Chewie." 
"He knows that isn't true, and he's aware of how he's been acting. When he and I returned to Sernpidal after Chewie died, he told me he suddenly felt that the world had become unsafe - that he'd always thought of our family and close friends as almost immune to tragedy, living in a kind of bubble. How all of us have managed to survive the things we've been through is nothing short of astonishing. But all the narrow escapes, the flirting with death, only made Han feel more invulnerable. Chewie's death changed that. Your father even included Mara's illness as evidence of how insecure and unpredictable everything has become." 
Leia paused, recalling something. "It didn't occur to me until later on that I'd heard him express the same doubts once before - just after you and Jacen and Anakin had been kidnapped by Hethrir. Do you remember how protective he became?" 
Jaina shook her head. "Not really." 
"Well, you were pretty young. But trust me, your dad wouldn't let any of you kids out of his sight for months." Leia glanced at Jaina. "He'd like to have everyone believe he's a hardened skeptic, but the fact is, he runs on faith." 
"Then why is he keeping such a distance from everyone?" 
"Because giving in to his pain would require him to break down and really grieve, instead of shutting himself off from the world. And he's too slick for that." 
"Is that how he got that nickname?" 
Leia shook her head. "That's another story." 
Jaina tortured her lower lip with her teeth. "Mom, he will come home, won't he? I mean, we're all he has right now, right?" 
"Of course," Leia started to say, when C-3PO interjected, "I only hope it's enough." 

I did enjoy this little exchange, and I think it is a good example of how Leia knows Han so well because her assessment is entirely accurate. Although definitely a little sad that you can tell Leia is concerned that she may have lost him completely at this point. She is still maybe being more patient about it than Han really deserves though. I also liked the little call back to when the kids had been kidnapped and that after they came home Han wouldn't let any of them out of his sight. I can definitely see that being the case. Also good that Jaina doesn't really remember it, because go read the review of that book, you forget how traumatizing that ordeal would've been for those poor kids. I also liked the bit where Leia says Han still wants everyone to believe he is a hardened skeptic, but she knows he is not.

Oh, now random aside, remember how Mara is very sick? In this book she is doing especially poorly and was not able to accompany everyone to Kashyyyk. We also got this annoying line when Luke is with her: "... one of the more devastating aspects of Mara's illness had been its detrimental effect on the depth and intensity of their bond."

Ok, we get it, they are SOOOOO special and no couple ever has been so intensely bonded. Whatever, moving on.

Han finally makes it back to Coruscant and waited a few days to finally go check out the Falcon. Then we have a very lengthy passage where Han recounts every major event in its history, from the time he won her from Lando, narrow escapes, meeting Luke, his first kiss with Leia, all of the various modifications made over the years. Of course he desperately misses Chewie because he was such a big part of most of those memories. But after going over every detail of the exterior and the interior, he is interrupted. It's Roa, one of Han's old friends from way back in his smuggling days, and he wants Han's help. This is the beginning of bringing back some old school Han from before he became the family man. And I would even venture to say that doing it this way, like they do in these books, in this temporary way, is much more acceptable than how it happens in the so-called "new canon." But again, anyway....

Han brings Roa back to his apartment, and Roa gives Han a hard time about the fact that he is living in such a big, fancy place, where Han downplays it and says it's all just because of Leia. Han goes up to see her when Threepio tells him she is packing to leave again. She has been busy dealing with refugees. I think that is one of the things that makes this all more believable, Leia is not chasing after Han and trying to figure out what to do about him because she is way too busy dealing with this war. They share a rather short conversation and Han mentions he is not taking the Falcon and she can take it out if she wants.

Leia studied him. "Han, what's all this about?" 
"We're just going to check up on a mutual friend." 
"And you have to leave immediately?" 

 Han shot her a look. "Now or never, Leia. It's that simple." He grabbed a travel pack from the closet and began to stuff clothes into it. 

 Leia watched him for a long moment. "Can you at least stay until Anakin gets home? You've been avoiding him all week." 

 Han kept his back to her. "You can tell him good-bye for me." 
Leia moved deliberately into his view. "You two have more to say to each other than good-bye. He's confused, Han. You tell him he shouldn't feel responsible for what happened on Sernpidal, but your silence and anger send the opposite message. You have to help him through this." 
Han looked at her. "What's he need me for? He's got the Force." His eyes narrowed. "What was it Luke said to me? Something like, because the kids are Jedi, I won't be able to keep up with them much longer. Well, that's exactly what's happened. They've grown beyond me." 
"Luke didn't mean that the way you're taking it." Leia approached him. "Han, listen to me. Anakin's need to avenge Chewie has as much to do with pleasing you as absolving himself. He needs your understanding and your support. He needs your love, Han. Even the Force can't grant him that." 
Han blew out his breath. "If you're trying to make me feel guilty, award yourself a medal." 
"I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm only trying to -" She stopped herself and let her shoulders sink. "Forget it, Han. You know what? Maybe it'll be good for you to get away for a while." 
Without comment, Han went to the wall unit and began to rummage through one of the drawers. In a moment he had hold of his thirty-yearold BlasTech DL-44. He ran his thumb over the nub of the front sight blade, then he slipped the weapon into its holster, purposely cut to expose the blaster's trigger guard. 
Leia watched him place the handgun in his pack. "Promise me that's for a quick-draw contest," she said worriedly.  

End of chapter. So, once again, Han and Leia are headed off on their own. I guess at least that last interaction could've probably been a lot worse, right? So, Han is on the ship with Roa, about ready to go, when Anakin shows up. They're still kind of awkward around each other, but I guess at least on slightly better terms than before and Anakin doesn't seem quite so afraid of Han.

"I - I have something for you." Anakin unclipped a small leather case from the belt that cinched his tunic. "Consider it a going-away present." 
The lightweight cylinder Han prized from the case was shorter than his hand and no more than four fingers wide. Scored along its length, it appeared to be made of some sort of shape-memory alloy. 
"I give up," he said at last. "What is it?" 
"A survival tool." Brightening slightly, Anakin took back the device and ran through procedures for accessing a score of miniature utensils, including knife blades, spanners, a luma, and the like. The tool even featured a macrofuser and a miniature transpirator. 

 For a moment, Han didn't know what to say. "Look, kid, it's a clever piece of hardware, but I don't have any hiking trips planned for the near future." 

"Chewie made it for me," Anakin said evenly. 
Han's face fell. "All the more reason I can't take it, if he made it for you." 
Anakin placed it in Han's hand nevertheless. "I want you to have it, Dad." His eyes darted nervously. 

 Han started to protest but thought better of it. The tool was a peace offering, and refusing to accept it would only widen the rift that had separated them since Sernpidal. 
"First, Chewie's bowcaster and shoulder bag, now a survival tool. I usually don't do this well at birthdays." He forced a smile and turned the tool about in his hands. "Who knows, maybe it'll come in handy." 
"I hope it does," Anakin muttered. 
Han lifted an eyebrow. "Why's that sound like some cryptic remark your uncle would make?" 
"I only meant that Chewie would get a kick out of your using something he made." 
"Yeah, he probably would at that," Han said, averting his gaze. "Thanks, kid." 
Anakin was about to speak when Roa called down to Han from the top of the ramp. 
"We're cleared for liftoff." 
Han turned to Anakin. "Time to go." 
"Sure, Dad. Take care."
They embraced, stiffly and briefly. Han started for the Happy Dagger but stopped halfway up the ramp and swung back to Anakin. "It's going to be all right, you know." 

Anakin stared at him, blinking back tears. "What is - the war, my feeling terrible about Chewie, or your taking off without letting anyone know where you're going?" 

And again, end of chapter. Honestly, this book is kind of annoying with abrupt chapter ends, seeming to leave off final remarks from Han. What did he say? Did he give any indication either way even if he didn't respond verbally? Apparently we'll never know. I guess we should at least be glad that Anakin is back to talking to Han and Han is no longer mad at Anakin. But seriously Han, give your family a break, huh? The small good thing is that not long after this as Han is remembering that terrible day he lost Chewie, he remembers his words to Anakin, "You left him." And he very much regrets having said that to him and wishes there were some way he could take it back. So I guess that's good. But maybe he should try telling his son that.

Han had not known where he was going when he left, and he wound up on..... Ord Mantell. The galaxy is really small in Star Wars because they are always mentioning and going to the same planets. That was also where Leia was going, and Han knows that. And not long later, we find out it also happens to be the Vong's next target.

Things start to get crazy and Han loses Roa, who may or may not be dead, and then finds himself saving a Ryn who won't leave him alone. At one point as they are escaping the Ryn says he is too young to die, and Han says, "Yeah, and I'm too well known." Exactly. Han Solo can't die. Even he knows that. Han also then finds himself in a similar situation that Anakin had been in on Sernpidal:

It also dawned on Han that he was in the same position Anakin had found himself in on Sernpidal, forced to choose between the lives of a shipload of strangers and the life of one friend. The realization pierced Han's heart like a vibroblade, and he swore to himself that if he made it home in one piece, he would put things right with his estranged son.

FINALLY he sounds like maybe he will soon come to his senses. After some more chaos, things calm down and Han actually runs into Threepio, and knowing the droid will not be able to keep this meeting to himself, Han relents and goes to see Leia in her hotel. She does at least attend to some of his wounds, applying bacta to his forehead. This little meeting though does not go well.

"What will you do now?" 
Abruptly Han stood up and paced away from the vanity, combing his hair back from his face with his fingers. "I don't know. Look for him, I guess." 
Leia regarded him with disbelief. "Look for him? How do you intend to do that?" 
Han shook his head. "I don't know yet." He glanced at Leia and scowled. "What do you expect me to do - pretend it never happened?" 
"Of course not. I only meant -"

Han waved his hand at her. "Ah, how could I expect you to understand?" 
Leia folded her arms and squinted. "You think I don't know what it's like to lose a friend?" 
Han held up a hand. "I don't need you reminding me about Alderaan or Elegos A'Kla -" 
Leia's eyes flashed. "Have you completely lost your mind? How dare you say that?" 
Han met her gaze. "Careful, Leia," he advised, "I'm not in the best mood." 
Leia clutched her neck in elaborate concern. "And I certainly wouldn't want my name added to the list of people who have crossed the infamous Han Solo." 
Han pivoted slightly to throw C-3PO a wry glance. "Great little fighter for her weight, don't you think, Threepio?" 
C-3PO stared at him. "Pardon me for asking, sir, but -" 
"Are you coming back to Coruscant with us?" Leia asked, planting her fists on her hips. 
Han shook his head. "It's like I told you, Roa and I were interrupted." 
"And you've no intention of telling me what this is about."
 Han shrugged. 
"What happened to the man who preferred a straight fight to sneaking around?" 
Han's brow furrowed and his jaw dropped a bit. "Who's sneaking around?" 
She frowned in disappointment. "You've changed, Han." 
"What are you talking about?" he protested. "I'm the same as ever. Timeproof, weatherproof, rust resistant." 

"You think so?" Leia took him by the shoulders and swung him around to face the mirror. "Take a good look." 
Han fell silent for a moment. "That's not the years, it's the parsecs." 
Leia exhaled wearily. "You can be so exasperating." 
He snorted. "Yeah, I guess you wish you'd married some pro zoneball player instead of a smuggler, huh?" 
Leia firmed her lips in anger. "That's not it at all." She gestured to the window. "It's reckless of you to be roaming about out there. For all you know, the Yuuzhan Vong have some kind of dossier on you. 
There might even be a price on your head." 
"I'm not exactly 'roaming about,' Leia." 
"Then tell me what you're doing." 

Han started to say something but stopped himself and began again. "I knew it would be a mistake to come here," he mumbled. 
Leia stepped back in genuine dismay. Now she stopped Han when he started to speak. "You know what I think, Han? I think that you should plot a course around Coruscant until you've worked this out. I mean it." 
Han nodded, tight-lipped. "Maybe you're right, Leia. Maybe that's for the best." 
She made no attempt to restrain him as he snatched his travel pack from the floor and let himself out. But no sooner did the door seal than she sank to the bed, as if stunned. 
"Well, that certainly wasn't in the plans," she said flatly to C3PO. 
"The plans, Mistress?" 
She looked at him askance. "It's an expression, Threepio. I didn't really have any plans." 
C-3PO appeared to slouch. Leia smiled in spite of herself. "Human thinking isn't all it's prized to be, Threepio. In fact, sometimes it's better not to know what's on someone else's mind."

This might be my least favorite Han and Leia passage in the EU that is not in COPL. So many things wrong here, and I'd also argue that this, to me, doesn't really feel like them, does it? Han is practically heartless, throwing Alderaan into the conversation. And given how he is acting, I actually don't think Leia gets nearly as mad as he probably deserves. I guess I can't really see Han being quite this selfish and talking to Leia like that. There were parts of this estrangement that seemed to make more sense to me, this was definitely not one of them. What do you think? Given this exchange, I wouldn't blame Leia for never wanting to speak to him again.

So, Han goes and gets drunk again. And then he decides he needs to get to Bilbringi and has Threepio arrange passage by impersonating Leia. Han still just seems like a heartless jerk through all of this. Han boards the Queen of the Empire, and briefly - BRIEFLY - thinks about how Lando apparently had met Bria aboard that ship. Then he runs into the Ryn he had helped escape before and learns his name is Droma. Droma is like the alien version of what you think John Boyega was probably like with Harrison Ford, acting like they are totally best friends and not leaving him alone. Of course he is a pilot, because just, of course he is. Han is still acting under an alias though and tells him he is more of a mechanic. Oh, but Han hears a song, and this happens:

From the restaurant came the strains of "Smoky Dreams," a song that had been perfectly matched to Bria Tharen's whiskey contralto, and one she would often sing.  
"The song reminds you of something," Droma said, observing Han cannily. 
Han smiled without showing his teeth. "Good old days." 
"How old?" 
"Old enough to be good," Han told him.

Stop thinking about your old girlfriend, Han!!! Ugh, it's so hard to tell if he is thinking of her because he wants her back or if it's just because Chewie was alive then. Newsflash, Han, Chewie was also alive most of the time you were with Leia! But Han just keeps on playing sabacc and pretending he is 22 again.

Leia is back with Luke and Mara, telling them about the whole incident and she is none too pleased with Han accusing her of not understanding his grief. Luke tries to be reassuring.

"When Han and I first met, he had me convinced that he was as reckless as he pretends to be," Luke continued. "But Obi-Wan said something I'll never forget. He said that there was more to Han than met the eye, and that he had real substance beneath his callous front." He smiled in recollection and looked at Leia. "Obi-Wan also said that only a special person would have a Wookiee for a companion - and that not just any Wookiee would be found roving the galaxy in the company of someone like Han." 
Leia smiled sadly. "You don't have to remind me that Han's special. But that's just the problem. He needs that kind of companionship. Chewie and Han, I don't know, they seemed to steady each other. Chewie kept Han in check."

Leia at least still thinks Han is special. Again, probably more than he deserves at this point. Threepio then bursts in frantically to tell them that the Queen of the Empire is under attack. They have no idea why he is so worked up over it, and he explains how Han is on board and it was his fault. So of course they decide they need to go after him.

"We could go," Luke said. 
Mara threw him a dubious glance. "Even if we used the Namadii Corridor, we'd never make it in time." 

 Leia shot to her feet. "You're forgetting one thing. We'll be flying the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy!"

At least Han leaving Leia the Falcon turned out to be a good thing. 

Ok, so more battle stuff, craziness, and, like always, they all run into each other again amidst the chaos.
Leia's face lit up. She tried to run to Han's arms, but he deftly avoided contact. 
"Did you spot any departing shuttles when you were coming in?" he asked. 
She shook her head. "We -" 
"Leia, meet Droma," he said in a rush, dragging the Ryn between them. "Droma: my wife, Leia." Leia blinked. "Droma? Who -" 
"The corvette," Han said to Luke. "Is it away?" 
"No, Han -" 
"Reck must be headed for the Yuuzhan Vong ship," Han said, shooting Droma a look. "Reck?" Leia asked. "Peace Brigade," Han said, as if one word. "They reclaimed the defectors." 
Luke regarded him with intense interest. "Defectors?" Han turned to him and a fragile-looking Mara, clenching his fists in recall of what Elan had said about a Yuuzhan Vong-introduced illness. 
"No time to explain." He raced up the ramp. Droma glanced at Leia. "Nice to meet you," he said, then dashed up the ramp, stiff tail shaking behind him. 
Luke looked at Leia in puzzlement. "Han, wait," he started to say, when Leia laid a restraining hand on his arm. 
"No, Luke, let him go." She gazed up the ramp as Han and his accomplice were vanishing from view. "I've a feeling he needs this."

Ok, seriously? How understanding are we expecting Leia to be by now? Han has been trying to avoid her completely, and when that isn't possible, he just ignores her. It's all just getting to be a little too much and she doesn't seem to be all that bothered by any of it.

There was a bunch of stuff with 2 Vong, 1 being Vergere who you have heard/will hear more about. Apparently they were going to kill Han, but as you can imagine, they were not successful. They do, however, get a hold of Vergere's tears, which prove to be some sort of antidote to Mara's illness, and she utilizes them and immediately starts to feel better. So, good news there, I guess.

Eventually we skip ahead to the Solos actually being home, which should probably be nice but of course isn't really. Han mentions how something told him that he could've died at the hands of the Vong there but he was able to evade it, and he is telling this to Anakin while Leia looks on.

Anakin's brooding look changed to one of perplexity. "For what, Dad?" 
"For not telling me that I was hearing Chewie through the Force." 
Anakin smiled. "Yeah, like I'd even think about saying that to you." 
Han raised his index finger. "And don't even think about telling your uncle, either. All I need is for Luke to hear that I'm hearing voices. This is strictly between you and me and the stair pillar, got it?" He turned slightly in Leia's direction. "No offense, sweetheart." 
Leia showed him a blatantly counterfeit smile. "Better the stair pillar than the tread, sweetheart."

I never thought I would dislike reading Leia calling Han sweetheart, but it's like you can just tell she is saying it in anything but an endearing manner. But, there is at least some good news for father and son.

Han nodded smugly, stood up, and approached Anakin. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for showing up at Roa's ship that day." He proffered the survival tool. "If it wasn't for this ... well, you know all about that." 
"Thank Chewie," Anakin said. "He made it." 
Han shook his head. "I've already thanked Chewie. This is something between you and me." He grasped Anakin by the shoulders and tugged him into a tight embrace. 
Leia thought her heart might break. Her hand flew to her mouth and she fought back tears. 

 Han moved Anakin away, but he kept his hands on his son's shoulders. "I'm sorry for what I said and the way I've been acting since Chewie died, Anakin. We did everything we could have done at Sernpidal, and Chewie knew that. We both know who's responsible for his dying. But I don't want vengeance prompting you to do anything foolish, you understand? You and Jacen and Jaina are more important to me than you'll ever know." 
Anakin nodded and almost grinned. He and Han embraced once more.

Finally! A direct, unambiguous resolution to something, and Han admitting he was wrong. It's about time. Anakin tells Han that he has to go off with Luke, and Leia interrupts and tells them that Mara is on the upswing, and they share a little family group hug. Anakin finally goes to leave.

"Hey, kid," Han shouted as Anakin was heading for the skyway bridge. "Any chance that Lowbacca's become so busy with Jedi stuff that he and Waroo have forgotten about the life debt?" 
"Not when I spoke to him last." 
"Blast," Han muttered. "I guess I'm going to have to deal with this sooner or later." He glanced at Leia and smiled. "So Vergere was on the level, after all." He gave his head an incredulous shake. "It's funny the way things work out. You go in search of one thing and end up finding something else. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was the Force at work." 
Leia kept quiet. 
Han narrowed his eyes and nodded. "Wookiees have an expression, that the real quarry of every hunt is the unexpected. But I guess you tend to forget that when you've been out of the game for a long while." 

 Leia heard something different and troublesome in his tone. She indicated his travel pack. "That hasn't left your side since you got back," she said, as casually as she could. "Are you going to unpack or are you planning to have it stuffed and mounted?" 
Han moved for the pack. "No use in unpacking just yet." 
Leia folded her arms under her breasts. "I guess I should have seen this coming. Then you're not really home." 
"I've been home too much lately." He grinned at her. "I figured you must be getting tired of seeing me hanging around." 
Leia didn't move. "Don't try to turn this around, Han."

Sigh, here we go again. Han mentions going back out to help with Droma.

She took a step toward him. "Do Wookiees have anything to say about taking senseless risks? Not a moment ago I stood here listening to you caution Anakin against doing anything foolish, and now you tell me you're going off after Roa and Droma's missing clanmates. Make up your mind which way you want it to be, Han." 
"What's wrong with having it both ways?" 

 Leia snorted. "Relapse complete. Say hello to your former self, Han." 
"Relapse, nothing. This is the same me you married, sweetheart. Besides, you're one to talk. While I was moping around here, you were on Dantooine, in Imperial Remnant space, all over the place, taking exactly the same kind of risks." 
"Are you saying that if I give up helping refugees, you'll give up your fling with the past?" 
"My fling?" he said. "What do you call what you're doing?" 
Leia started to say something but changed her mind and began again. "The New Republic is in a tough spot, Han. I could use your help." 
Han held up his hands. "I've heard that before." 
"And you've usually listened." 
Han paced to the railing and back, avoiding her gaze. "In a way I'm already helping you out. I mean with Droma's family being refugees and all ..." 
Leia fell silent for a moment. As relieved as she was to see him finally emerging from grief, she couldn't help but sense that he was intent on starting over, as he had done all his life - from abandoned kid to Imperial officer, and from smuggler to Rebel leader - always recreating himself. From what little she knew of Droma from their few encounters, he seemed cut from the same cloth. For all Droma's concerns about his scattered clanmates, he was a drifter and a rogue at heart, addicted to adventure. 
Leia watched Han pace the edge of the balcony. "I don't know how you've done it for so long," she said finally. 
He stopped to look at her. "Done what?" 
"Raise a family. Walk so far from the edge." 
"That was just my 'fling' with stability." He tried out his grin, but it didn't work. "Look, I'm just leaving, okay? I've got obligations." 
"What about your obligations to us?" 
"This has nothing to do with us." 
"Oh, no?" She advanced on him. "I learned a long time ago that you couldn't be bound by anyone's preconceived ideas of who you should be. And I'll admit I love that about you. But keep one thing in mind: I'm not Malla, Han. I won't have you dropping by here once a year, using our home as a base for your escapades." 
Han curled his upper lip. "You're way off the mark." 
She smiled faintly. "I suppose we'll just have to see about that." 
Han frowned sadly, then put his arms around her. "Trust me." 
She leaned away to show him a dubious look. "I've heard that before." 
He raised her hand and kissed the palm. "Tuck that in your pocket for later on." 
Scooping up his pack, he made for the sky bridge without looking back.

I am getting PTSD reading this stuff. I remembered hating it when I read it all 15 or so years ago, and I might hate it even more now. And again, I'm not even sure how to take any of this. I mean, I guess at the very end Han is almost kinda sorta reassuring to her by saying that what is going on isn't really about them? And that Leia shouldn't worry that she is going to be like Malla? He's not doing a great job of being reassuring though, and continues to behave without any regard whatsoever for her feelings on anything.

Han then flies off with Droma, and they are trying to find his sister who is a refugee. It basically seems as though Droma is being set up to replace Chewie as Han's new copilot no matter how much Han tries to insist otherwise. And, end of book.

I think I'm going to have to give this one a Han and Leia factor of 1 again. Yes, another 1. But you read this review, right? Seriously, Han is just way too callous and selfish here. Being grief-stricken and running away is one thing, but being so seemingly heartless in his interactions with Leia is just too much for me. No, no, no. It's like how in COPL if Leia had really treated Han like that, I would want him to leave her. Well, here, if Han really treated Leia like that, I think I'd want her to leave him.

I can't tell you how much I want to get to the part of this series where they reconcile!



  1. I forgot how much I hate this book LOL. While I can believe that grief would distance them, I can't see Han being this cruel to Leia as to throw Alderaan back in her face. Leia's way too forgiving of him. And as for the Bria reference, I remember that James Luceno wanted to put Han having an affair with an ex-girlfriend into the book, but Lucas nixed it when he heard about it. So the Bria reference may have been a compromise to show Han was thinking of straying, without going there.

    1. I remember reading that was well, that he wanted Han to sleep around while he was off on his little adventure. I am so, so glad that they didn't go there. Han for sure would not have deserved forgiveness if he did that. Seriously, he is just SO far gone in this book.

    2. Oh no. Having Han sleep around with other women would have been the kiss of death for this character. I'm so glad they avoided that.

    3. If Han had slept with someone else during that time, I don't see HOW they could have ever properly reconcilled. It's just not in Leia's character to forgive something that huge. So I don't know why that author would think it was a good thing to put in there. I wonder which ex-girlfriend it was going to be though, since Bria was dead.

      Hopefully in the new canon they also don't show Han sleeping around while he's separated from Leia.

      I could be wrong, but I remember also reading somewhere that there were plans for their separation to be permanent ending in divorce right? And that was only cancelled because either Lucas nixed it or the fans got upset, can't remember.

    4. If Han had slept with someone else during that time, I don't see HOW they could have ever properly reconcilled. It's just not in Leia's character to forgive something that huge. So I don't know why that author would think it was a good thing to put in there. I wonder which ex-girlfriend it was going to be though, since Bria was dead.

      Hopefully in the new canon they also don't show Han sleeping around while he's separated from Leia.

      I could be wrong, but I remember also reading somewhere that there were plans for their separation to be permanent ending in divorce right? And that was only cancelled because either Lucas nixed it or the fans got upset, can't remember.

    5. It was probably the fans getting upset because this was around the time that Lucasfilm was being bombarded with stuff from VERY angry fans and that ultimately led to them treating Han and Leia a LOT better. They were written so well once they reconciled a X became closer than ever.

      I've never read this book, I couldn't bare it. I heard enough to put me off.

      And lol at that awful cover art. That's supposed to be Han??

    6. Looks a hell of a lot more like Roy Scheider in Jaws than Han Solo to me, if that's supposed to be Han.
      He's going to need a bigger boat.

  2. Don't get me started on the whole idea of Han having an affair. It almost makes me sick to my stomach, it disturbs me that much. Sounds like something that would be canon in JJ's universe . . .

    1. What's interesting is that Luceno actually said in an interview he regretted making the split between Han and Leia go that far. He said something like "I think we got a little too far into reality there by having them teeter on divorce." And then he later went on to write them as a super in love bonded couple in The Unifying Force and the Millennium Falcon.

      I forgot how much I hated this estrangement plotline, and how sloppily they wrapped it up in Balance Point to concentrate on Luke and Mara instead! Can we just skip ahead to the Dark Nest Trilogy and LOTF where they're super in love and inseparable? :P

    2. Just get me to Recovery! Consider it my comfort zone, the spa place/scene in Recovery where my OTP finally heals.
      I finally got Bloodline! I'm not very far, but it saddened me reading that line early on about Han and Leia being apart most of their marriage. I thought, well shoot, This is no better than some of those EU books. Still, however, I remain dead-loyal to the EU and happy times for my precious ship. I must drive TFA fans absolutely insane!

  3. Thinking about this all some more. One of the things that really bothered me about Han's grief over Chewie was that it was an interesting scenario and I think if done differently and correctly, could've been a really compelling story line. I did like the idea that Han is feeling sort of lost and a lot more alone now that he really is the only one in the family without the Force.

    But the way he COMPLETELY turns his back on his family is just way too much. Not just that he does it, but that he hardly even seems to give them a second thought while he is off doing whatever he's doing. And keep in mind, in the timeline he is like in his mid 50s. Whatever, this was all just so much bad news all around.

    1. Yes, exactly. I see Han's grief very plausibly manifesting this way. I can see this nugget of a plotline really getting into the nitty gritty of their relationship and earning them the better characterization so we get post-Recovery. But it's not written well. It's a cheap gimmick. Han leaving for months at a time? Sure. Han feeling guilty? Sure. Han tearing his family apart in an effort to relieve singledom? Nope. I remember the fic going crazy right around this time - lots of Leia death as a plot device to get Han back in shape. No thank you to that, either. Haha.

  4. I don't know why I feel compelled to look for some saving graces here, but I do. I guess comparing anything to TFA makes it seem less awful to me than before. I can't be the only one, am I right?

    If I had to look for positives here, I'd have to say that at least they talk a bit in this book and there seems to be an underlying theme that Leia just "gets" Han and seems to understand (if not approve) of how he is trying to deal with things. She does seem really forgiving, but years of marriage and love sometimes does that to a person.

    Han does say some terrible things. But people say things in anger. Han is acting like a jerk, but I prefer it to the drunken, slob, loser from the previous books, so there's that. I actually feel a little better seeing Han DOING something in these books, even if it involves ignoring his family and saying cruel things. I just DID NOT LIKE the wallowing, drunken Han AT ALL and even this seems like a step in the right direction and maybe Leia sees that, too?? I mean he's moved on from lying around drunk on the couch to getting dressed and leaving. Win?!?

    IDK. Life can be messy and people can act uncharacteristically and stupidly, especially after traumatic events. I totally agree on the "1" rating as far as Han and Leia factor goes and I agree with all the comments above, but I still would totally take the worst of the EU over TFA any day, hands down.

    How sad is that? :-(

    1. Sad. But honest.

      Although since I'm a total sucker, I'm still hoping that Disney fixes this somehow, no matter how unbelievable -- even if that means Kylo fathered Rey at age 11 because What Happens at Jedi Camp Stays at Jedi Camp and she's Han and Leia's granddaughter, and she's so strong in the force that she brings her grandpa back to life and he and grandma live happily ever after.

      That said, getting back on topic, I'm seriously not going to read these books. They're in a box in my storage locker at the moment, because I started scooping up all the EU I could find after TFA, and someone was selling all the Jedi Order books as a box set. Now I know why he wanted to get rid of them, although Zyra has promised me that things get better for the OTP in later books, which maybe I'll start reading someday.

      That said, I'm really enjoying these reviews as they let me know what NOT to pick up to read. :)

    2. If it's truly sad, then we're in the same ship. I'd rather read the first few books of the EU fifty times over than watch all of Han and Leia's scenes in TFA fifty times. Or at all. I do really like the theme of Leia "getting" Han, too like Push said. And the scene with Han and Anakin and Leia watching them . . . I cry every time! I like that they show Han with Jaina and Anakin healing somewhat, that he can lean on them and he feels better. Or, at least he's acting like it. I really love those scenes with him and the kids!

    3. Yes, as we re-read this and other version of events, and even knowing that truly awful stuff happens in it (and really, COPL and this estrangement have nothing on losing both of their sons) I still wish it was like this instead of the movie.

      And thanks for the different perspective, Push. I know I personally tend to be very black and white in my thinking on this kind of thing, that you just wouldn't treat someone you loved that way, nor would you be so forgiving if someone treated you that way, but you may have a point.

  5. Very uncomfortable with this mean and shitty Han. It is really ugly. Again, disagreements, conflict, angst, even ugly fights are part of any longterm relationship. but this level of meanness and disregard of his family and kids is just unlikeable.That said, it is part of an overall storyline, and did help lead to some of the best H/L and SWEU stuff out there, so good and bad.

  6. wow... I'm glad I never read this one, and yet would you have ever- in your wildest nightmares- ever thought that most of the EU would be better than what Disney would create?:(

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I think some people still do not want to be spoiled so can we refrain from mentioning rumors on the blog? Same goes for using book review topics for comments that have nothing to do with the review. Thanks.

    2. Sorry, I'll delete my comment. Is this blog going to remain spoiler free until Episode VIII or will there be any place to discuss spoilers as they come in?

    3. For now I would prefer to keep us spoiler free. Personally at this point I don't care what I hear about it. It has become apparent they will never give me what I consider a GOOD surprise, so I might as well know all of the bad news before I see it. But I don't want people who want to remain spoiler free to be nervous about what they may accidentally read.

      Also at this point all we are hearing are rumors, which may or may not have any basis in reality. And even in the comment you deleted all that is mentioned is who is maybe sharing a scene together and then drawing crazy conclusions based on one small piece of information. It just seems pointless to get into long discussions about something like that when we really have no clue. I have no plans either to have a spoiler post or section here either. The spoiler thread for the last one went up mere days before the movie came out and had over 300 comments. I get email alerts for every comment and I was afraid to open my own email in case I read something I didn't want to read. I do not want to be dealing with that. There are plenty of other places you can talk about spoilers and it seems like you already are anyway. And for Han and Leia fans anyway what do we even need to discuss? Han's dead. Right before the movie comes out I may open a post for spoilers but that is a long way off.

  8. The only redeeming thing in this book for me when i read it (the one time I read it) was the Indiana Jones callout - "it's not the years, it's the parsecs." Makes me giggle after all this time.