Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Star Wars: Millennium Falcon by James Luceno (unabridged audio book read by Marc Thompson)

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can make you try things you normally wouldn't just in the interest of reexperiencing something you remember fondly. Take for instance, Star Wars. I was six years old when the first film came out (my dad drove several towns over so we could see it), so it has been around since almost my earliest memories. The first trilogy's characters are iconic and lend themselves to wondering what happened after Return of the Jedi.

Almost from the very beginning, there have been novels that carry on the characters' adventures, the so-called Extended Universe books that chronicle events from long before the events of Star Wars to long after, with lots of gaps filled in between. Some of these are iconic in themselves, with Timothy Zahn's "Thrawn trilogy" (beginning with Heir to the Empire) for many fans standing in for the projected third trilogy of films that will likely never reach fruition.

Those three books are probably a good place to start for those interested in seeing what the Star Wars novels can offer. I have to admit it's a lot of fun revisiting favorite characters as well as meeting new ones (though I would still have to file them under "guilty pleasures"). As with any vast collection of writings, the quality of the entire line tends to be uneven, with some being really entertaining and others merely disappointing. This was unfortunately one of the latter.

Star Wars: Millennium Falcon begins 60 years before the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars (the "year 0" for the novels' time line), and it also connects the Legacy of the Force era with events from Revenge of the Sith. Han, Leia, and their granddaughter Allana search for past owners of the Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, Tobb Jadak, one of those past owners, awakes from a 60-year coma, hardly aged, and heads off on the opposite search to find the owners who came after him. Only, Jadak is looking for a treasure connected with the ship.

With two searches underway, it's inevitable that they will convene somewhere in the middle. The only questions are where and when, and what will happen when they do. Author James Luceno (who also wrote the superior Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader) uses this very thin plotline to chronicle the history of the most famous ship in the Star Wars universe.

Despite the pressures of so many players, however, the titular starship herself is the main character in Millennium Falcon, since all the action, narration, and dialogue (other than that continuing the story of Invincible, the last novel in the Legacy of the Force series — a small percentage) is of and about her.

The unabridged audiobook is read by veteran narrator Marc Thompson. His voices greatly enhance the text, and it's always a treat to hear him capture the vocal essences of beloved characters like Han Solo and C-3PO without resorting to mere impersonations of the film actors. His female voices are relatively inferior (his Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker were nearly indistinguishable in the Legacy series), but that doesn't affect the reading much at all.

Luceno makes the events between historic revelations just barely entertaining enough to tie them together. I'm sure the decision to fictionalize this history was based on sales potential (over a drier, "nonfictional" rendering), but Star Wars: Millennium Falcon is a novel in name only.


Chris said...

Thanks for the review on this one. They've generally been mixed from what I've seen. I read Luceno's The Rise of Lord Vader and like it, but have had trouble getting through Cloak of Deception.

Craig Clarke said...

Yeah, Luceno isn't one of my favorites; he's pretty uneven (Vader being a high point), as is Aaron Allston. I've had better luck with Karen Traviss, Troy Denning, and Timothy Zahn.

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