Nar Shaddaa and Brownie Points:

Han Solo and The Hutt Gambit

           Coming of age is a theme that is forever linked to the title Star Wars.  In the original films, Luke Skywalker comes of age to redeem his father and return him from the Dark Side.  Han Solo went through a slightly similar coming of age before the original Star Wars Trilogy.  His coming of age is detailed in the Han Solo Trilogy by Ann (A.C.) Crispin.  Of the three books in the Trilogy, the Han Solo that many have come to remember as a leader and an incorrigible rogue can be found most prominently in the second book in the set, The Hutt Gambit.

          Cashiered out of the Imperial Navy for freeing a slave and blacklisted as a pilot, Han Solo found himself without a direction in life but with a companion, the Wookiee Chewbacca, the slave who cost him his career.  He is forced to decided what he should do with his life, so he returns to something he knew, smuggling, due to the lack of legitimate work.

          Meanwhile, Han’s former lover, Bria Tharen, is working for the fledgling Rebel Alliance as a cell leader.  A former victim of Ylesian priests and their diabolical schemes to export trained, mindless slaves from their “religious retreats,” Bria has turned to the Alliance to fight against evil such as that.  However, her love for Han Solo still remains strong, and she constantly wonders about him as she works undercover, sometimes as the consort of high-ranking Imperial officials.

          When called to save Nar Shaddaa, his home, from Imperial forces that have been discovered to be readying an attack on the world, Han Solo swings into action, forging alliances on the Smugglers’ Moon so they might save it.  Bria Tharen watches from a distance, posing as the trophy-lover of the sector Moff.  A chance encounter with Han tears them both apart inside, but neither of them speak of it to each other or anyone else—they have no real contact throughout the entire ordeal.

          After a titanic battle in the space between Nal Hutta and Nar Shaddaa, the smugglers emerge victorious.  Having been forced to dodge bounty hunters seeking to collect the price on his head before the battle, Han is freed from this impediment mysteriously, heading for Corellia and then Bespin for a massive sabacc tournament, hoping to win a new ship for himself.  This sets things up for the third and aptly named novel in the trilogy, Rebel Dawn, which carries Han Solo up to his fateful meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in Chalmun’s Cantina on Tatooine.

          Han Solo is many things, among them a smuggler, a rogue, but an honorable man.  He was once one of the most talented young officers in the Imperial Navy, but turned away from that, and would have eventually anyway.  He hates slavers and the sheer idea of slavery, probably because he was once a slave himself—stopping the death of Chewbacca the Wookiee is what got him kicked out of the Imperial Navy.  He is a pilot of the highest caliber, smart, and crafty—to work for the Hutts and to be respected by them, as he is, requires nothing less.  He is also a sweet, caring, emotional man with deep feelings and strong loyalties.  He is slightly embittered at losing track of the woman he wanted to marry, Bria Tharen, but he does not let that stop him from doing things that need to get done.

          Bria Tharen, the young Corellian woman, the first person that Han ever truly loved, left him and joined the Rebel Alliance.  Driven and courageous, Bria worked as an undercover operative for the Rebellion in addition to leading her own cell, which would later come to be called Red Hand Squadron.  Bria deeply misses Han, although she continually denies the fact that she is still very much in love with him, saying to her friends “‘I got over Han a long time ago.’” but she does still love him except she knows that she cannot go back to him, not with her work and what she does.

          Chewbacca, also known as the “walking carpet,” is a Wookiee who has sworn a life-debt to Han Solo, who saved his life.  Chewie has a girl on Kashyyyk, his homeworld, but remains with Han because they have become close friends and tend to get each other into and out of scrapes.  Chewie is a good pilot and mechanic, deeply loyal and pretty friendly.

          The Hutt Gambit is wrought with the terror, history, and galactic difficulties inherent in Star Wars.  The main problems that Han Solo has through this portion of his life is finding his place in the galaxy and saving the world that has become his home.  For this major conflict—the smugglers defending their home against Imperial forces—it is certainly man against man on a huge scale.  Sorely outnumbered and outgunned, the smugglers have to somehow beat the odds as well to save their home.  However, they succeed in this.

          It is impossible to say that no one saw the attack on Nar Shaddaa coming, in fact, almost everyone on both Nal Hutta, the planet that Nar Shaddaa orbits, and the moon itself saw it coming, that was the only reason they had time to prepare.  It was evident something would come of Sarn Shild’s loose grip in dealing with his sector as all the Hutts felt that they were more than safe from the hand of the Empire on their “Glorious Jewel” homeworld of mobs and crime.

          Set in a universe of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, this phenomena that is Star Wars has escaped the need to include or explain Earth or how their technologies came into existence and all the other things that science fiction authors often are forced to think about.  Were it set in a different time and place, things would be different, but the main themes—courage, coming of age, redemption, hope—would be the same.  The characters not just in The Hutt Gambit but in all Star Wars are forged by their environments and the experiences they have had in those environments.

          It’s easy to tell that this novel is just part of a larger story, the coming of age of Han Solo, the beloved smuggler and rogue of the Star Wars Trilogy.  It emphasizes his courage and his audacity and helps to show how he became the man that people know him for in the movies.