With the release of Timothy Zahn’s smuggler-centric novel Star Wars: Scoundrels next month, we chose a Han Solo adventure as the next part of the Unbound Worlds Star Wars Gateway Series. From the moment he appeared on screen for the first time in A New Hope, audiences knew that Han Solo was a complicated character with a checkered past –– but how did he come to be that way? What parts of his past had so profoundly affected him? In the decades after the Original Trilogy hit theaters, the Expanded Universe stepped in to fill the void in Han’s biography. Our November Gateway post presents The Paradise Snare, the first novel in The Han Solo Trilogy.
This trilogy brings us the story of Han Solo from his early adulthood until the moment he meets Obi-Wan and Luke in Chalmun’s Cantina. Once you read The Paradise Snare, you’ll want to read the next two books (The Hutt Gambit and Rebel Dawn), but on its own, this first installment provides excellent background material that will give you a greater appreciation for the private struggles that Han Solo experiences in Star Wars: Scoundrels.
The Han Solo Trilogy: The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin
Released in paperback on May 5, 1997 and now available in eBook formats as well.
Set in the Rise of the Empire era, 10 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin, the destruction of the Death Star as seen in the original film)
- Nooni Dalvo
- Aryn Dro
- Jenos Idanian
- Marsden Latham
- Dael Levare
- Darak Lyll
- Jalus Nebl
- Galidon Okanor
- Bail Prestor Organa
- Leia Organa
- Parq Yewgeen Plancke
- Ngyn Reeos
- Garris Shrike
- Larrad Shrike
- Han Solo
- Bria Tharen
- Pavik Tharen
- Renn Tharen
- Sera Tharen
- Bornan Thul
- Jiliac Desilijic Tiron
- Ganar Tos
Han Solo was a child without a past, a Corellian street urchin, abandoned, foraging for scraps of food, when the cruel Garris Shrike whisked him away to a nomadic band of spacefaring criminals. Now, years later, Han fights his way free. His goal: to become an Imperial Navy pilot. But first he needs hand-on experience flying spacecraft, and for that he takes a job on the planet Ylesia—a steaming world of religious fanaticism, illicit drugs, and alluring sensuality…where dreams are destroyed and escape is impossible.
Why is this a good gateway book? Why does it “matter” to Star Wars?
Han Solo is obviously one of the most interesting characters in the Star Wars universe, but his popularity is due in large part to his wise-beyond-his-years personality. Han himself sums up this cocky and cynical demeanor when he says things like “I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff.” The beauty of the Expanded Universe is that authors can show us the moments when Han saw that strange stuff and the trips he took from one side of the galaxy to the other. The Paradise Snare tells one of the earliest Han Solo stories, giving us a partial look at how a young orphan transformed into the self-assured, down-on-his-luck man in the cantina.
Han’s status as an orphan contributed much to his perspective on life. Without parents to protect him from the horrors of the galaxy, Han saw many of those horrors firsthand. At an early age, Han was picked up by a pirate named Garris Shrike, who recruited him for his various scams. The Paradise Snare shows us how Han reacts to Shrike’s operation, what he learns from the pirate captain and his fellow crewmembers, and how he breaks free and sets out on his own. Even people who only watched A New Hope would be able to peg Han as a perennial loner, unwilling to tether himself to a cause –– or even to another person, except for Chewbacca. After reading The Paradise Snare, Han’s loner personality will make more sense. His solitude forced him to hone certain survival instincts; relying on others means jeopardizing those instincts, something with which he grows profoundly uncomfortable. In Scoundrels, Han is forced to work with a team to complete a dangerous mission, but as will become clear in The Paradise Snare, teamwork doesn’t come naturally to Han.
Another hallmark of Han’s personality as seen in the Original Trilogy is the cynical way in which he treats Princess Leia and the gruff attitude he adopts whenever they converse. By the time he admits his love for Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, Han has overcome a whole range of bitter emotions and painful memories that slowly constructed a wall around his heart. In The Paradise Snare, Han’s quest to rescue a woman from a slave planet challenges him to think of someone besides himself, exposes his long-buried emotional vulnerability, and tests his capacity to respond to failure. When the book ends, readers will start to understand why Han tries to distance himself from others as much as possible.
The Paradise Snare does a great job of clarifying various aspects of Han’s personality, from his lonesomeness to his cynicism, but it also lays the groundwork for his professed distrust of Jedi mysticism. The book places Han on a planet controlled by a religion that is not what it seems. The cruelty and nefariousness that Han witnesses on Ylesia will leave an indelible mark on his psyche. The fact that these horrors are taking place beneath the veneer of a holy ritual gives Han reason to doubt the power and legitimacy of the diverse array of religions that he encounters in his galactic travels. Han’s assertion to Obi-Wan Kenobi that “There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny” is in part a continued rejection of what he saw on Ylesia.
These are just a few of the reasons why The Paradise Snare is worth reading. The insight that readers gain into Han Solo’s formative years will aid them in analyzing his future actions, particularly in books set in the not-too-distant future, like Scoundrels. If you want to understand Han Solo as thoroughly as possible, start with A.C. Crispin’s The Paradise Snare, the first book in The Han Solo Trilogy, and try to work your way through the rest of Han’s backstory before you pick up Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn in January.
Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He reviews The Clone Wars TV series and manages social media for Star Wars fan site TheForce.Net. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.