Most helpful critical review
Why Zahn and Daley are Great Authors and Anderson not
on December 4, 2003
After reading Zahn's excellent Thrawn trilogy in the early 90's, I was hungry for more and picked up this book. By the first chapter I knew I wouldn't even read the rest of it. Well, actually I did skim through it and read a few more scenes, but they were just as bad as the first.
Here's an important example...
On page 5 of "Jedi Search," Han and Chewbacca are flying towards a planet when two TIE fighters come up out of the atmosphere, begin shooting, and fly back to the planet. Now they see an old X-wing come up behind them and Han says, "Chewie, contact the X-wing and tell him we'd appreciate whatever help he can give us."
When I read that, I was like, "What? Even I'd know not to trust a strange ship." But Han just keeps looking ahead, gets blasted from behind, and yells, "We've got to get out of here!"
I mean, give me a break. This is C3PO driving the Falcon, not Han.
Now check out Chapter 12 of Zahn's "Heir to the Empire." Here Han is also flying towards a planet, and also sees an X-Wing come up beside him. It has Republic markings, and they even hear Luke's voice over the radio, but while Leia is relieved to see him, Han is still on guard.
"It was Luke's X-wing, all right. Or at least, it looked like Luke's X-wing. 'So,' he said casually, swiveling the laser cannons around to target the other. Situated the way it was, the X-wing would have to yaw 90 degrees around before it could fire at them. Unless, of course, it had been modified... Somehow, they needed to make a positive identification, and fast."
He can see it's Luke's own X-wing, and hear his voice, but still doesn't trust it. Is even watching out for an unexpected attack. In short, here's a pilot I'd trust. And an author I trust as well.
Also, check out the language. In Anderson's book, Han says, "Chewie, get over here. I'm taking the laser cannon." Would Han really say that? In Zahn's book he says, "Chewie, take over; I'm going to fire up the quads."
Of course, the best Star Wars action writing is to be found in Brian Daley's Han Solo trilogy. On the very first page of "Han Solo at Star's End," as they're about to be attacked, Han says, "Charge main batteries, Chewie, and shields-all." Quick and to the point - just what a seasoned pilot would say.
And Daley, too, knows well the art of deception in war. In fact, he's a Vietnam veteran from the 11th Armored Cavalry. Here's Han's advice to other pilots before a battle: "'Since we're protecting a ground installation, we'll have to ride our kills. Don't think just because he's nosediving and leaving a vapor trail that he's out of it. That's an old trick. If you get an explosion from him, fine. If you get a flamer, let him go; he's finished. But otherwise you ride your kill all the way down to the cellar.'"
All Anderson's Han is able to say is "Chewie, I think you'd better get our forward deflectors up," and "Turn it around!"
So while I hate to dump on any author, Anderson's book just doesn't make the grade set by Lucas, Daley, and Zahn. If you've read them all and want more, go for it. But there's no need to start here when there's so many better works to enjoy.