Review: Solo Command
by Aaron Allston.
I remember when this book came out — or rather, I remember the first time I saw it when it first came out. It was 1999, and the Golden Age of the Star Wars novel (also known as the Bantam Era) was coming to its end. Not that I knew it at the time, of course. After all, it had only been three years since I first saw Star Wars, and fueling my obsession was the desire to know absolutely everything ever. “Knowledge is power, and I will be the most powerful Star Wars fan ever.”
The only problem was, I was not quite 14 and had no money and my parents thought I dedicated too much energy to Star Wars already — that is, talking about it and watching them — so unlike every other Star Wars fan ever, I actually didn’t have any books, toys, or posters at that point. But I remember walking through the mall and seeing this outside of B. Dalton on one of those cardboard displays: Wow, it’s a Star Wars book with the Falcon on it, and a funny pun about Han’s name! I bet that’s cool.
And I promptly forgot about it for like ten years. Because, as I said, I just couldn’t get myself through Wraith Squadron, and with so much else to read in the world, I just never felt the lack of this book. Honestly now, if it weren’t for this website, I probably would not have finished Wraith Squadron this year and just sadly kissed goodbye any possibility of my reading Michael J. Stackpole’s book 8 because books 5, 6, and 7 have not been worth it.
With all apologies to the late Mr. Allston, these books are the Expanded Universe equivalent of a root canal. I haven’t hated a writer this much since James Luceno, and with his every word choice grating at me, I’ve exhausted my capacity to be polite and neutral about his work. In fact, the only way for me to get through this review is to do something completely unorthodox. It’s taken me months to force myself to pick this up and read it. And I hadn’t even finished the first chapter before I thought, “Gee, there’s a lot of section breaks going on.” And then a character revealed that a period of several days had passed between page 1 and page 12 (chapter 1 is 23 pages long). And immediately, curiosity demanded satisfaction: I flipped to the end of he book and counted just how many section breaks there were.
The result was 225. In an 18-chaper book of 341 pages, a total of 225 section (or scene) breaks occur. I cannot possibly be the only one who thinks this is excessive. I know some people think I’m stupid picky about the quality of what I read, but I cannot be alone in thinking breaking the scene an average of 12 times per chapter is disruptive and makes it hard to focus. I’ll be honest with you: I’m still on page 12. I am going to write this review as I read the book, because I will never get through either any other way. So let’s go.
The book starts with an assassination attempt on Admiral Ackbar. So far, so good, although it surely didn’t need 12 pages to explain that. The Wraiths are given orders to join up with Han Solo’s task force against Warlord Zsinj, but they have to go in undercover and insignia-free — surely no shock for a covert ops squad. So they go to some planet do to some stuff. Look, I’m sorry, it’s just impossible to care about: these might as well be paper dolls ticking off points on a checklist: “X-wing firefight, check; male character hits on woman who kisses then rejects him, check.”
Of course all the Aaron Allston tropes are here: heavy-handed humor and ham-fisted exposition. Lots of irrelevant filler posing as comedic interludes, plenty of tell-don’t-show, and all the senseless over-description of ships, characters, and locale that ever puffed up 150 pages of plot into a 350-page feature-length novel. Not to mention distressing racial stereotypes (especially in his treatment of Voort and Chewbacca) and absurd characterizations of females.
What I’ve learned is that people who enjoy the later era of the EU — the Del Ray period, the NJO and later stuff, the stuff pumped out by James Luceno — they adore Aaron Allston and can’t get enough. So by all means, if you like that, you’ll like this. As for me, this swims to the very lowest level of realcanon and remains there, never to be reread or recommended by me to anyone.