With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soon, Star Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)
Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka (hardback, 2015)
On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars). All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka, billed as “A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure,” features Han and Chewie on a mission for the Rebel Alliance (well, a “job” for the Rebels) shortly after A New Hope to rescue Rebel agent Caluan Ematt, who holds information on all of the Rebels’ potential new bases in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin.
The adventure brings the duo into contact with Imperial Security Bureau Commander Alecia Beck (whom Rucka later also references in his comic mini-series Star Wars: Shattered Empire), an interesting starship-turned-cantina under the ownership of a woman who is an acquaintance of Han and Chewie, and the leader of the Alliance’s “Shrikes” – Ematt himself.
The story is a fairly straightforward chase and “race against the enemy” tale that shows off Han’s wit and introduces Ematt into Star Wars Canon (alongside Moving Target, also released on Force Friday). The extent to which Ematt will affect The Force Awakens, or if he even appears in the film, has yet to be seen, but his appearance as an important member of the Resistance in the era of The Force Awakens in the “framing” segments of Moving Targets suggests that it is his appearance in the story that gives the book its strongest (read: tenuous) link to the film.
Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?
Some will argue that a story set in this era is far too early to count as part of any kind of “journey to The Force Awakens.”
Barring further exploration of Ematt in the film, those people would be right.
The framing story for the tale, told in its prologue and epilogue, does indeed feature an older Han and Chewie in the era of The Force Awakens, but as we know so little about their circumstances leading into the film, one cannot readily see strong ties to the film in those passages. As noted above, the main connection one can expect with the film is the character of Ematt, but even that is just conjecture at this point.
This will be a question best revisited after the film’s release. (For the record, yes, I do intent to revisit and update all of my reviews of material from the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens line once the film is released and more context is given for characters and events from the film.)
A Chronological Note
With so many of the Stroy Group’s new canon stories already being set in the era immediately after A New Hope, it is perhaps important to note where this story fits chronologically.
Given an amusing opening of the first regular chapter that finally answers the question of Chewbacca’s medal in a canonical way, one can surmise that the story takes place during the events of Marvel’s Princess Leia mini-series (with only a tiny bit of the mini-series’ first issue taking place prior to this story’s ANH era opening). Since the story seems to span just one day, it probably ends shortly into the second issue of Princess Leia. That also means that it is set prior to Marvel’s Star Wars and Darth Vader series. (Hey, this is why we have The Star Wars Timeline Gold, isn’t it?)
Smuggler’s Run feels like the least necessary of the three character books released on Force Friday. It is an enjoyable romp with our favorite smuggler and walking carpet, and Ematt is an intriguing new character, but until we have greater context for how the story fits the “journey to The Force Awakens” concept, it feels like a throway story (i.e. a tale with little real impact), even in its prologue and epilogue.
It is a good book, but it is not, so far, an essential story. Perhaps The Force Awakens will surprise us and make me have to revise that assessment.
Recommended for: Those interested in a fun romp with Han and Chewbacca shortly after ANH with the menance of a new, strong female adversary in the form of Alecia Beck.
Not recommended for: Those looking for significant page time for Original Trilogy characters other than Han and Chewie, or those looking for a story that is set in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens concept seems to imply.
(Or those confusing this title with one of the first-ever Star Wars fan-made audio dramas to enter production for online release, Michael Mays’ Smuggler’s Run.)
I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.
POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION
I would suggest that Han’s TFA era segment in the prologue and epilogue are almost certainly quite a few years before TFA, or he no longer has the Falcon (which does not seem to fit his dialogue in the text).