While every single Star Wars film from here on out will garner an absurd amount of speculation and pre-release analysis, the one which might cause the most freak-outs is the stand-alone Han Solo movie. Directed by comedy masterminds Chris Miller and Phil Lord, and starring Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!), the film will chronicle the exploits of a younger, possibly slightly less cocksure Han Solo. This week, news came (via Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig) that the Solo script will make you “laugh and cry.”
That’s a nice promise, but doesn’t deliver what we really want to know: which story-line will this movie follow? How can we possibly accept an entirely new adventure for Han Solo, while also being convinced that this is old Han Solo, too? It’s a tough challenge, but luckily, there’s a deep history of Han Solo stories from which to pull. To that end, here’s six great Han Solo novels we hope screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and his son, Jon Kasdan, cribbed from in crafting the Han Solo movie.
Han Solo at Star’s End
This was the first of three Han Solo books written by Brian Daley and published in 1979. If you have copies of any of the original editions of these books, you’ll find there’s not a Star Wars logo anywhere on them, as if to put him forward as an established literary action-character, joining the ranks of James Bond, or Doc Savage. These books also all contained the phrase “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Based on Characters and Situations Created by George Lucas.” As someone who worked at a bookstore in 1999, let me tell you, this kind of thing really helped fuel the misconception that Star Wars was a series of books before it was a series of films. Either way, the non-branding of these books was sly as hell and the original covers still look great.
In the book, like the next two Brian Daley sequels, Han and Chewbacca are hanging out in a part of the galaxy that isn’t technically under the influence of the Empire. In this book and, the next one, they’re in the “Corporate Sector,” and doing battle with Corporate Authority Security Police. All of this has the effect protecting the political actions of Han and Chewbacca from having any real impact on the larger Star Wars storyline.
In this one, Han is tasked by an ex-girlfriend named Jessa to rescue her father, Doc, from a secret prison. Somewhat predictable chaos ensues, but what is really cool about this book is that it introduces two robot sidekicks for Han and Chewie: Bollux and Blue Max. Think of Bollux and a big brute of a robot, like Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. BUT, inside of Bollux is a separate little talking cube, named Blue Max. This thing is totally brilliant and is sort of like a calm and collected Max Headroom. Blue Max is a “slicer,” which in the Star Wars vernacular equals “hacker. Totally useful for outlaw smugglers like Han Solo and Chewbacca!
Big take-away for the Han Solo Film: Include Bollux and Blue Max!
Han Solo’s Revenge
Picking up loosely where the previous book left off, Bollux and Blue Max are chilling with Han and Chewie on the Falcon. Soon, Han gets tricked into smuggling slaves which, obviously, he’s totally against. (In some versions of Han’s origin story, Han freed Chewbacca from Imperial slavers, which is why he stopped flying for the Empire.) While this book has a pretty sweet title, its not as great overall as the previous installment, but still. Having Han and Chewie fight against slavers seems like something they would do.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Film: Show us an origin story where Han rescues Chewie from Imperial Slavery. And/or just call this movie “Han Solo’s Revenge.”
Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
If you glance at the cover of this book, you might think you’re looking at fan-art which inserts Han Solo, instead of Indiana Jones, into the storyline of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And even though this is a Han Solo adventure, it certainly feels like Indiana Jones! Han and Chewie are after some fabled treasure in this one, and have to stop a gang of war-bots, too. There’s a fairly disappointing twist with the hidden treasure at the end, but it could be salvaged if re-worked properly.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Film: Give Han and Chewie a mysterious treasure to hunt down, but then have it be revealed to be some awesome Star Wars thing that they’re totally unaware of, but that the audience understands. (Like Qui-Gon Jinn’s hairbrush or something actually cool.)
The Paradise Snare
In 1997, the late A.C. Crispin (previously, a really fantastic Star Trek novelist) wrote a trilogy of books about Han Solo’s early life. The first one jumps around a decent amount, and includes flashbacks to Han Solo’s childhood. Han is an orphan. Han is a criminal. Han is down on his luck, and out of desperation, applies to the Imperial Academy in order to straighten his life out. While not one specific plot-point in this book jumps out as being supremely awesome, the book does give us a sense of Han being someone who has had some bad luck from early days. We might not think of Han Solo as being a tragic character, but there is an element of that when we consider his fate in The Force Awakens.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Film: Make Han’s early days very unlucky so we sympathize with him hugely.
The Hutt Gambit
Okay. This one is straight-up awesome. In order to fight of the Empire, Han has to organize a bunch of criminals into a militia. The idea is they have to keep the smugglers moon of Nar Shaadaa independent from Imperial Control. (Criminals have to be criminals! Not puppets of the man!) Hardcore fans will recall that Nar Shaadaa is the moon of Nal Hutta, the home world of the Hutts, like Jabba. The conflict here is all about preserving the criminal element in its entirety, which is viewed as better than the hegemony of the Empire.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Film: Feels like the defense of Nar Shaadaa against the Empire would make for a great climax for a movie. Imagine Han leading a gang of criminals and Bounty Hunters against Stormtroopers. This militia could even include Boba Fett!
Of Crispin’s three Han Solo books, this has the most direct connections to the original trilogy. She also reconciles the stories from the Brian Daley books retroactively in little vignettes here. (Not that retcon really matters with stuff that isn’t “canon” anymore. Still, it’s cool the various Star Wars novelists of the past actually cared.) Other than creating the basic business arrangement between Han and Jabba, this novel also gives us the scene everyone wants to see: Han Solo winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a card game. This book is solid in general, but that’s the one thing the new film must use.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Movie: We must see Han gamble and win the Falcon!!
Bonus: “Sana Solo” from the Contemporary Marvel Comics Run
While Han has an on-again, off-again girlfriend named Bria Tharen in the Crispin novels, he was also revealed to have a wife in a brief storyline from Marvel’s current ongoing Star Wars comic book series. Last, year, this sent minor shockwaves in fan-circles, as it indicated that Han was a huge asshole for hiding a secret marriage from Leia. Sana Solo, however, was revealed to not really be Han’s wife, though they did pretend to be married once in order to pull off a smuggling job. Her real name was really Sana Starros, and she was all about shooting bounty hunters under tables and not looking back.
Big take-away for the Han Solo Movie: Include Sana Starros! I mean, why not? Considering this character is supposed to be actually part of the “new canon, it seems like the obvious choice.
In truth, the Kasdans are probably doing their own thing entirely with the Han Solo movies. But, considering how The Force Awakens vaguely homaged Star Wars books of the past by having Han and Leia’s son turn to the Dark Side of the Force, it’s not totally insane to think the Han Solo movie would take at least one of these ideas. Sure. The odds aren’t good. But you know how Han Solo feels about the odds