Image: Cover of Assault at Selonia, art by Drew Struzan, Bantam Spectra (Also, there's a giant floating Han head in most of the covers for these books)
Hello, and welcome to another instalment of 'Oh god, why do I keep volunteering to re-read the worst Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, do I have some sort of Stockholm Syndrome?' I have picked Roger MacBride Allen's Corellian Trilogy this time as it contains one of my all-time favourite twists.
Now, if you've never read it before, you're might be thinking that the Corellian Trilogy is about the most famous Corellian in the Star Wars universe, Han Solo. You would be mostly incorrect. See, what this set of books is actually about is nonsense. It's a perfect encapsulation of everything ridiculous about the EU:
- Is someone after the Solo kids? Trick question, someone is always after the Solo kids. No group of children has been kidnapped this many times. If Ben Solo in the new canon went evil because he was kidnapped half as many times as his EU counterparts, I would totally understand.
- Has Lando Calrissian decided he needs a wife with a fortune? Yes, yes he has. He has also managed to get Luke to go with him on his wife hunt.
- Is there yet another giant device for exploding stars and planets? Yes. As near as I can tell, the Star Wars universe is littered with these devices. This one is called the Starburster.
- Is there an evil twin? Oh, my friends, indeed. Han has a cousin who is evil and looks just like him, but with a beard. His name is Thrackan Sal-Solo, and according to Wookieepedia he is a man who, "despite his vicious crimes, came into power multiple times." This is a grave underselling of the glorious evil of Thrackan Sal-Solo.
- Are there amazing feats of Force fun from some barely trained children? YES. THE SOLO CHILDREN REMAIN THE MOST POWERFUL KIDS IN THE HISTORY OF TIME.
- Is the leader of Corellia called the Diktat, continuing the proud Star Wars tradition of just giving things names that are pretty obvious as to whether they are evil or not? Yes.
The story starts with Leia heading up a trade delegation to Corellia. Han has decided to tag along with the kids so he can show them where he grew up and do a spot of intelligence work for the New Republic. Six agents have gone missing trying to figure out what the hell the situation on Corellia is, so Han was asked to go ahead and act suspiciously as hell so that he'd draw all the attention and give another agent a chance. And, given this information, I once again have to ask: WHY NOT LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME? Shit is clearly going down; for once, for the love of god, don't take the kids into danger.
Someone is going to try to kidnap them. Someone is always trying to kidnap them.
If the warning from New Republic Intelligence wasn't enough, the part where the family is attacked when they arrive on Corellia should have done the trick. And then the part where Han figures out the attack was a ruse to make him trust Corellia's local police should have been further proof that it was time to send the children away. But no. The kids stay in the picture.
Image: Cover of Ambush at Corellia, art by Drew Struzan, Bantam Spectra
Meanwhile, Luke is bored and/or heartbroken. I guess that school full of Jedi trainees he established only seven years ago is not enough for him now, even though it's full of powerful people who are like one bad day away from unleashing incredible evil unto the universe. So Luke is sent off to visit Lando, who has decided it is time he got married, specifically into wealth. Luke goes along with this, even though he flat-out says, "Well, you can't just walk up to a woman and say 'Hello, I've heard about your large bank account, let's get married.'"
I do have to point out that one of Lando's suitors is a "life witch," a person who can augment a person's vitality at the expense of their lifespan; when the new husband dies, the life witch gets to inherit everything. The "misunderstanding" that would have led Lando to accept the offer is only thwarted by C-3PO, and when you have to rely on Threepio to save your life, you are sad indeed. (Between this and the succubi in Crystal Star, your chances of a safe romance in the Star Wars universe are about on par with the chances that your planet will blow up, which is to say: Pretty decent.)
Anyway, on Corellia, things have deteriorated and there's an attack by the Human League. No, not the band, the human supremacist organisation with the incredibly subtle logo of a skull with a dagger in its mouth. The man in charge is the "Hidden Leader," who, by the end of the first book, is less hidden and more Thrackan Sal-Solo, Han's identical cousin. His demands are a) control over the Corellian system, please and b) someone deport all the nonhumans. He backs up this demand by saying he'll start making stars go supernova if he doesn't get his way.
Honestly, this drawing of Thrackan Sal-Solo nailed Harrison Ford's 2016 bearded look
As horrible as Thrackan's space racism is, his demands are particularly hilarious since there are five full inhabited planets in the Corellian system, including Selonia, home to the nonhuman Selonians, and Drall, home to the nonhuman Drall. WHAT DOES HE EXPECT?
Actually, he doesn't expect much of anything because the various independence factions on the various planets aren't actually the ones behind this plot. The actual big bad is a triumvirate of one human, one Drall, and one Selonian from a planet on the outer edge of the Corellian sector (as opposed to one of the five planets in the Corellian system. Gotta love that EU map.) They hope all the chaos will allow their secret fleet to show up and take control of the sector and prevent the New Republic from finding and getting control of the Starburster, the thing that's causing stars to go supernova. Of course, then Thrackan declares himself the new Diktat of the Corellian System, counter to the plans of his cohorts in the Triad, who honestly should have known not to trust him.
Now, if you're thinking "Wow, five inhabited planets seems like a lot for one system," then you've stumbled onto the big secret of this trilogy. Corellia, Drall, Selonia, Talus, and Tralus were all towed to their current location. There were giant repulsors buried inside the planets that basically made them giant rockets. If you were wondering how they were steered, the clue is in the giant ancient station that no one knows the origin of. Centerpoint Station which is a giant tractor beam that can be pointed to draw its power from anything. If you point it at a star... then it's a Starburster.
Now if you're thinking "Hmmm, feels like the repulsors large enough to move planets should have been pretty easy to find," let me tell you that the Solo kids are the ones who keep finding and activating them. There's a speech that is supposed to make the guy in charge look bad for dismissing the kids but, instead, reminds you how crazy the powers of the Solo kids are, in particular those of Anakin:
I have analysed the events surrounding the children, and I have come to the conclusion that their abilities are remarkable. They have constantly been underestimated, their achievements constantly dismissed as exaggerated, or lucky accidents, or remarkable coincidences. That is simply not true. It is not credible. The plain fact of the matter is that you have a repulsor down there because a seven-and-a-half-year-old boy found it for you, and turned it on. It is no longer in the hands of our enemy -- and our enemy is in the brig -- because that boy and his siblings managed to walk through a working force field, repair a disabled starship, fly that ship into space, and shoot down a pursuing spacecraft flown by a professional military pilot. I could go on for half an hour, describing all the things that they could not possibly have done, but the point will remain the same.
One of the things the kids 'could not have possibly done' is escape from Thrackan Sal-Solo because they'd gotten kidnapped. Again. And Thrackan tried to use them as leverage against their parents. Again. (I am beginning to think the Jedi Academy trilogy, where they hid Anakin on a remote planet with nothing but a trusted advisor and a pile of weapons right after he was born, wasn't actually as stupid as I originally thought it was.) Thrackan is then dumb enough to threaten the kids on an open broadcast and everyone turns against him because 'murdering your own baby cousins' does not play well, even among the type of people who join a human supremacist organisation and who willingly put images of skulls with daggers in their mouths on their clothes.
The whole thing ends in a big battle, which includes the sudden reappearance of a character from Truce at Bakura, who apparently shows up just so we'd have someone semi-recognisable on the heroes' side to die. Also, the day is saved by Anakin, who is about six or seven years old, firing a planet-sized repulsor at just the right time to save another system from having its star exploded. Everyone bad is either dead or arrested, the end.
There are two things about this series I love: I love the utter absurdity of Han's evil twin cousin, complete with beard, and I love the reveal of the planet ships. Those two things are so prevalent in my memory I forgot this was also the series with Lando's wife hunt. It's bonkers and emblematic of everything the EU allowed writers to do that the current canon will not.