Razor's Edge

Martha Wells
Razor's Edge Cover

Razor's Edge

Carl V.

Prolific science fiction and fantasy author Martha Wells pens the first of a series of books set during the period of the Alliance rebellion covered by the three films in the original Star Wars trilogy. Razor's Edge is a Leia-centric story set a couple of years after the destruction of the Death Star and it becomes quickly apparent that Wells has this universe and these characters down pat.

Razor's Edge captures the witty banter, tense action and narrow seat-of-their-pants escapes fans of the trilogy are used to seeing. This feels like Star Wars, and as such is Star Wars at its very best. If you have ever wanted to get deeper into the heart, mind and motivations of Princess Leia Organa, you could do no better than to go along on this adventure.

And in case you were wondering, there is plenty of Han, Chewie and Luke as well.

I cut my science fiction teeth not only on Star Wars, the film, but also the novelization of the film and the Lucas-approved books written by Alan Dean Foster and Brian Daley. During the years in which I waited for the release of The Empire Strikes Back, I read and re-read those novels multiple times. I could not hazard a guess at how many times I stared at the phrase "From the adventures of Luke Skywalker, based on the characters and situations created by George Lucas" on the cover of those books and felt a chill of anticipation go up and down my spine. That happens today whenever I happen to pull one of these books off the shelf. Needless to say, I'm passionate about this portion of the Star Wars universe. I clarify that to say that I have not read much outside of Timothy Zahn's trilogy and have not really wanted to. For me Star Wars largely exists in the time period between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. So when I read that del Rey was releasing a few new novels set within this time period, I was thrilled.

Wells writes Star Wars like I expect Star Wars to be written. She expertly captures the characters as portrayed by the actors who brought them to life for us and in doing so she makes it easy to simply get swept up into the chaotic and dangerous adventure that befalls Leia, Han and their crew as they set out to obtain supplies for Echo Base. As mentioned, Leia is the primary focus of the novel and yet Wells goes away from her to concentrate on the other main characters in ways that serve the story. Instead of making the mistake of trying to write Leia as a prototypical "strong female", or worse yet, a man with breasts, she builds upon the character we see in Star Wars: A New Hope who was being portrayed by a very young Carrie Fisher.

The princess that we see in Razor's Edge is struggling with the loss of her home planet, Alderaan, is weighed down with the burden of being seen as a figurehead for the Rebellion, and is conflicted about her growing attraction to the smuggler-turned-reluctant-hero, Han Solo. Martha Wells shows us a Leia who is opinionated and capable, one who can be forceful and impose her will as needed, but who is also vulnerable and perhaps wrongly motivated by intense survivor's guilt. Wells also explores the motivations of Han Solo, painting him as a man who has a long way to go yet to develop trust. In the world of the smuggler, trusting someone could get you dead quick.

You cannot watch or read a Star Wars adventure without expecting the gang to get themselves into all manner of scrapes. There is a great exchange in Return of the Jedi:

Han Solo: Together again, huh?

Luke: Wouldn't miss it.

Han Solo: How we doin'?

Luke: Same as always.

Han Solo: That bad, huh?

That fairly well sums up how things are wont to go with this fledgling rebellion. And Wells does not disappoint. The various players in this drama do indeed find themselves in numerous tough spots, however Wells stays within what is to be expected from this type of science fiction and does not push things too far. Amidst all the action, Martha Wells fleshes out the usual gang of well-known characters and creates some interesting new ones along the way.

Reading a Star Wars novel should be fun. It should feel like stepping into that familiar universe "long ago in a galaxy far, far away". Additionally, for me personally, it needs to induce a sense of nostalgia that takes me back to my humble entry into the world of science fiction novels. That description accurately fits Razor's Edge.

If you are looking for an entertaining, adventuresome novel that can stand well on it own, look no further than Star Wars Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge. It will take you back to your first time discovering the film and these characters. I started my 2013 reading year with a Star Wars novel set in this time period (Star Wars: Scoundrels) and am happy to have read another as the year begins to reach its close.