Last year, I re-read a lot of the Star Wars prequel era stories, and it was a lot of fun (even if some of those things aren’t as good as I remembered!) After a bit of thought, I’ve decided this year I would like to get back to some of the other great (or not!) Star Wars books from my youth, and so have started with aplomb, with the Han Solo trilogy by AC Crispin.
First published back in 1997, the trilogy begins with The Paradise Snare, which sees a young (19, I think) Han escape his life as a pickpocket and thief with the criminal Garris Shrike, and make for the planet Ylesia, on the edge of Hutt space, to begin a new life as a pilot. Ylesia, a popular pilgrim retreat, turns out to be a spice processing operation run by the Hutts of clan Besadii, with the t’landa Til “priests” employed to give faux religious services, thanks to a biological quirk that allows them to project feel-good vibes.
Han meets one of the pilgrims, Bria Tharen, and slowly a romance blossoms, culminating with the two escaping the planet after stealing some of the “high priest” Teroenza’s treasures to finance their new life. However, their bad luck starts almost as soon as Han tries to fence the stolen goods and ship, and only sours further when they meet up with Bria’s family. Han, who has dreamt of becoming an Imperial officer for as long as he knows, decides to go to Coruscant, but their bad luck gets worse, and in desperation Bria calls in a favour from her father to give Han the credits he needs, but then leaves him as she is fighting the urge to return to Ylesia for those feel-good vibes.
Embittered, Han follows through and joins the Imperial Academy, and after a final showdown with Garris Shrike on Coruscant, he is ready to begin his new life with the Empire – Solo.
I have to say, I do like this trilogy. I know that it has, at best, a mixed reception from the fans, and I think the accusations of “bad fan-fiction” and the like are sometimes quite justified. However, I do like it all the same! Bria Tharen is hands-down the biggest Mary Sue in the expanded universe – if you ever see a photo of the late Ann C Crispin, you’ll basically be looking at Bria Tharen. The romance between Han and Bria reads somewhat tawdry at times, as well – even trying to remember that this is a prequel, and so we can’t expect to read Han as he is in the original trilogy, it’s still a bit sappy at times.
The criminal stuff is a bit slap-dash, and reading it this time around I found myself smiling at the efforts to make Ylesia seem dangerous, and the like. We get the Oliver Twist knock-off that describes Han’s upbringing, complete with theft training droid called F8GN. Han also gets a Chewie surrogate in the shape of his Togorian minder, Mrrrov. It’s all a bit convenient, but who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the adventure. It’s not trying to be something that it’s not, but despite the convenient plot line, it’s still quite nicely written, regardless.
Of course, in the past I’ve talked about this sort of book far more critically. I suppose there is an element of nostalgia coming through for me here, as I did enjoy these books back in the day. Which makes me curious because I also had a soft spot for the Jedi Academy trilogy, but wasn’t impressed when I read it again a few years back. I’m thinking that this series is perhaps a little more grown-up than the others, maybe? Jedi Academy can be quite childish (blob races?) whereas the Han trilogy doesn’t quite go there. It does actually deal with some pretty strong stuff, the slavery and addiction storylines being at the fore there. It doesn’t take a long or hard look, of course, but it’s in there – and the way it’s handled makes for a very good storyline. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s solid.
But then, I’m strongly reminded that Star Wars isn’t actually meant to be a grim and gritty sci-fi story. I think that’s something that a lot of people seem to forget, really, but it came across real strongly when I was watching the award-winning Empire of Dreams documentary over Easter, as well as the Disney+ documentary on ILM. Star Wars is meant to be a story that gives people optimism, it’s meant to be a heroic space fantasy, buckling those swashes and all the rest of it! It’s the film that was such a success because it cheered up America after the Vietnam War, and went against almost the whole of Hollywood by being bright and optimistic in the face of the dark and gritty movies of the 70s. In this respect, I think a lot of the Bantam-era novels hit the mark really well. They aren’t the grim and gritty sci-fi of the New Jedi Order, or Shatterpoint, or anything else – they’re that Golden Age feel of stories of heroism and derring-do.
The Paradise Snare is a pretty fun story, as we see a young and fairly naïve Han Solo begin on the path that leads him to the cantina in Mos Eisley (quite literally – the third book ends as Han walks towards the table with Obi-Wan and Luke). It’s not a great book, but I did like it all the same!!
11 thoughts on “The Paradise Snare”
My memories of this trilogy were mainly contrasting it to the original Han Solo trilogy by Brian Daley. They were two completely different beasts though.
I did not realize ACC was Ann Crispin. That would certainly explain the romance’y feeling I got from the trilogy 🙂
Did Crispin go on to write any more in the EU? Nothing springs to mind…
I have only read the Daley trilogy once, and was not a fan. Though I realise a lot of people like those books! Definitely better than the Lando trilogy. I do like how those Han books are handled in this trilogy, though – I think it’s a bit of a theme throughout the whole trilogy, really, how she was able to take all the established stuff about Han, particularly the ex-girlfriends, and weave her story around it all.
I think the only other stuff she wrote was short stories in the Tales Of books – she did the one about the “Fat Dancer” from Jabba’s Palace, from memory…
Probably helps that I read the Daley Solo stories back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. So I had the original movies and those stories.
Oh, I LIKED those tales books. They were all good…
My current plan for the year is to reread those as well. I’m also toying with The Crystal Star, because why not?!
If you re-read the Crystal Star, you deserve all the pain you’re probably going to get 😀
🤣 I’d be doing it for exactly two reasons: I’ve not read it since the 90s, and want to see if it’s still as bad as I remember, and I want your comments!! 😃
Good luck. Get a good book to read right after though, gonna need something to wash the taste of your mind…
…like the Corellian trilogy, perhaps?
Ohhhh, the man thinks he’s a comedian!
Ba dum tish