Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review of Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves

Book #51. Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves, by James S. A. Corey. Unabridged audio.

This is the first Star Wars Extended Universe (EU) novel by the well-respected writing team James S. A. Corey. They have been nominated for a Hugo and a Locus for Leviathan Wakes and other books in their The Expanse series. In this book, they tell a tale of adventure and intrigue from the period between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

At Princess Leia’s prompting, rascally Han Solo is contracted to perform the tricky job of extracting a high-level Rebel spy from the heart of the Empire. The spy, Scarlet Hark, is not ready to be removed from the field just yet, as she has heard that a massive weapon is ready to be sold to the Empire. She and Han and Chewbacca are eventually joined by both Leia and Luke Skywalker to keep the weapon out of the Empire’s hands.

Writing in a universe as well-established as the Star Wars EU is hard, especially writing between the movies, as Corey is doing here. They do a good job telling a contained story with real stakes, while also managing to keep the “pieces on the chessboard” for the future stories. The character’s voices and relationships are captured well, and the plotting and action scenes were exciting ad tense.

But novels like this bring up the question of what it takes for a SF novel to become a “Star Wars” novel. There is little mention of the Jedi, few uses (if any) of the Force, and no Darth Vader. The setting and the lead characters behaved like the movie characters, but I feel that many of the distinctives of Star Wars were not here. It was a fun SF novel, an exciting novel, but I don’t know that it HAD TO BE a Star Wars novel.

Narrator Marc Thompson does a fine job handling the many voices in this audiobook. His Han Solo is very reminiscent of Harrison Ford, and the voices he gives other characters are distinctive and strong. There is not constant background music or sound effects, but where they are included, they largely do a good job.

Also included in the audio version of this novel is the short story “Silver and Scarlet.” This brief adventure gives us more information about Scarlet Hark, who I imagine (and hope) will continue to be a character in EU novels.

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