Millennium Falcon, by James Luceno

January 28, 2012 at 15:51 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Star Wars Saturday!) (, , , )

8/10

James Luceno provides a very unexpected surprise in this recent addition to the Star Wars library. Star Wars books tend to be erratically hit-and-miss at the best of times, and even sticking to tried and tested authors is no guarantee of finding a good book. A general rule is to avoid books based solely around a background figure or an inanimate object, and it is difficult to pick up Millennium Falcon with anything but a sense of foreboding.

Even more ominously, this book does not begin well. It commits the cardinal sin of switching narrative perspective no less than three times in the first eight pages, and then killing off most of the main characters that have been introduced by the end of the second chapter. Luceno’s method in tracing the history of the titular ship is to weave together a selection of short stories told by the various ne’er-do-wells who have had it slip through their greasy fingers over the years, and the weakness of the start makes this prospect look shaky at best.

“Like a school of fish discombobulated by the sudden appearance of a predator, ships were suddenly diverting from their courses, doing what they could to avoid accidents but in many cases slamming against nearby vessels and initiating chain reactions of collisions.”

-Millennium Falcon

That Luceno succeeds is exciting, and bodes well for the franchise in general. That he manages to tell a story with some real complexity and some intriguing symmetry is impressive, and that he manages to avoid the constantly looming pitfall of a palid story wrapped around a lonesome single idea is nothing short of astounding. With real skill he makes the story his own, and while the Falcon definitely figures heavily in the book, it is a book about interesting and full characters, not a book about milking the last few coins out of an increasingly irrelevant franchise.

Part of the success of this book is the air of mystery that Luceno maintains ably throughout: never giving too much away, but never dropping the ball. He is also aware of the need for subtlety, and never belabours his reader with his clues or his hints. He provides a charming and beautiful sketch of Han and Leia’s young granddaughter, proving maybe for the first time that it is not impossible for Star Wars authors to convincingly write about children. His largest technical problem seems to be his similes (several of which are hilariously stilted and awkward), but these cannot possibly detract from the relief and excitement in finding one of the best written Star Wars novels in years.

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