Thursday, 6 February 2014

'Star Wars: Honour Among Thieves' - James S.A. Corey (Del Rey)

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

So much for me saying that I wouldn’t be reading any more Star Wars books now that the licencing is headed Marvel’s way. More and more these days, my reading is about revisiting old friends and friends don’t get any older than Han, Leia and Luke (and the rest). More than that though, ‘Honour Among Thieves’ is James S.A. Corey’s first foray into the Star Wars universe (nice timing there…) and, given how he nails Space Opera in the ‘Expanse’ series, I really wanted to be in at the start to see what he made of this very established setting. The answer is ‘quite a lot as it happens’. Corey falls foul of some familiar pitfalls (that have taken other Star Wars authors) but ‘Honour Among Thieves’ is still a lot of fun and well worth the read.

I’ve said all this before but this is a new blog so I think I can get away with saying it one more time here… ;o) The Star Wars books are hamstrung every time by the fact that certain characters are not allowed to die, especially if (in the case of this book) events are being recounted that come in between films. And that’s the other thing, we know how things are going to turn out and that kind of renders the whole book pointless really. ‘Honour Among Thieves' suffers from this just as much as you would expect. To be fair to Corey, he tries his hardest to please with a super weapon that beats all others (seriously) and loads of set piece moments designed to thrill. They almost do but, with the book being set so early on in the series (between 'A New Hope' and 'The Empire Strikes Back') there are no real surprises at all. You know that everyone will be just fine and they are. Job done, we can all go home now. I know some people say that this is the whole point and I agree with them but only up to a point. I think books need to have a little more than that if they are truly going to engage.

But I did say that 'Honour Among Thieves' was a lot of fun despite all that and it really is. Corey does an amazing job of not only digging into the seamy underbelly of the Star Wars universe but then tying it all into Solo's constantly questioning himself about his role in the Rebellion. What happens when the smuggling work runs out, what does a man do next? These are the questions that lend a thoughtful air to 'Honour Among Thieves' and a side to Solo only hinted at in the films.

'Honour Among Thieves' has a lot going for it then, falling into those familiar pitfalls but engaging in different ways entirely. If there are more Star Wars books to come from James S. A. Corey then I would certainly read them (even if I know how they will end...)


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one. I haven't read many Star Wars novels, but I have been making an exception with this new series. I enjoyed the Martha Wells book and am very curious to see the James S.A. Corey duo play in this sandbox. I'll be picking it up and diving right in as soon as it hits store shelves.

    I don't know that I entirely agree that any book is hamstrung just because characters are not allowed to die. For me it just means the author has to work harder, or perhaps just differently, to increased the dramatic tension. Death is the only price to be paid in story that matters. For the Star Wars universe, just the discomfort of characters you are fond of puts enough dramatic tension in to make the stories entertaining. And with tie-in fiction of this sort, fans...most fans...aren't interested in seeing their characters die. They want to revisit old friends.

    I think that some fiction, or some story, has swung too far in the other direction where writers feel it is necessary to kill characters just for the story to somehow be legitimate. I blame GRRM for that current phenomenon.

    I'm sounding contrary and don't mean to, as I do take your point and am not meaning to be cantankerous. Your thoughts just stirred my own.

  2. Certain characters not allowed to die and knowing how things must turn out . . . pretty much my reaction to Martha Wells' contribution. It was an okay read, but I think it's time to say goodbye to old friends and start telling new stories, ones with genuine surprises and legitimate consequences.

  3. This one's on my list! Very much looking forward to it. James S.A. Corey + Han Solo, what more is there to say? Can't go wrong! :)