Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters
[Edited by Kevin J. Anderson.]

The book contains five stories about the six Bounty Hunters who appeared on the bridge of the Imperial Super Star Destroyer "Executor" in Empire Strikes Back. The tales are based loosely around the character profiles which appeared in West End Games' Movie Trilogy Sourcebook for the Star Wars Role Playing Game, and incorporate links to a wealth of other Star Wars literature.


"Therefore I am: The Tale of IG-88"
[Kevin J. Anderson]

Synopsis

This tale is not limited to the time period around Empire Strikes Back, and instead covers the entire life-story of the assassin-droid IG-88. The tale expands upon two sources of information on IG-88 - the West End Games character background and the Fett story "A Barve Like That" in the Tales of Jabba's Palace compilation. Other sources [the Marvel Comics and the Droids cartoons] are ignored.

The story starts as the Artificial Intelligence designated IG-88 is sparked to life. By some fluke of chance the robot is an AI - not a mindless automaton, capable only of obeying orders, but an actual free-thinking entity. Naturally, being designed for the sole purpose of Assassination, it kills everyone in the building.

The first of a series of 5 Assassin droids, it downloads its central programming into the other 4 fully-assembled units. Three are identical, and form a Quad-umvirate that calls itself "IG-88" after its first member. The final droid is inferior by their standards, though indistinguishable to anyone else: it calls itself IG-72, and leaves to make its own destiny. IG-72 was created by WEG to explain inconsistencies between different stories - beyond later mention of it passing itself off as IG-88 to gain bounty-hunter missions it plays no more of a role in this story.

The rest of the story is simply IG-88's rise to power and thirst for further glory; its confrontations with Boba Fett in an attempt to wrest Han Solo from him; and finally - hey, this is a KJA story after all - the tale of the ultimate superweapon.

Review

Kevin [henceforth referred to as KJA] has had a lot of criticism for the Jedi Academy Trilogy books [sometimes abbreviated to "JA3"]. Darksaber, his sequel to Barbara Hamley's Children of the Jedi, was a considerably better novel - due I'm sure not a little to criticism he got on the RASSM [Rec.Arts.SF.Starwars.Miscellaneous] Usenet Newsgroup.

His short stories, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether. "Therefore I am" is the best in this book, and the best KJA story I've ever read. Star Wars stories don't get much better than this!

For completists like myself it even allows for the Marvel Comics storylines. In the Marvel stories IG-88 teamed up with Bossk; in KJA's story a second assassin-droid [IG-72] with the same appearance as IG-88 also becomes a Bounty Hunter. It's not inconceivable that IG-72 masqueraded as his twin in order to boost his own prestige as a Bounty Hunter.

KJA has written something unique - a story that is convincingly told from the point of view of a machine. Only Asimov is this good [IMHO!].

Quibbles

I had to dock marks for the scene with Palpatine and the elevator. It's a bit too much, even for one as forgiving and open-minded as me!!!

Rating: 95%


"Payback: The Tale of Dengar"
[Dave Wolverton]

Synopsis

This tale follows Dengar's life from his borging [in flashback reference], through one of his contracts where he meets a rather convenient "love-interest", and then through his parts in the events portrayed in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. His love-interest turns up when the plot requires, and eventually the plot is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Review

A good story, with interesting cameo roles for Han Solo and Boba Fett. Not spectacular, though.

Quibbles

It introduces a major character who is not mentioned in any previous literature featuring Dengar.

Rating: 60%


"The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk"
[Kathy Tyers]

Synopsis

Tyers' character from her Star Wars Adventure Journal and her wookiee employer - a pair of Rebels who have established themselves as low-level Bounty Hunters - deliberately arrive on the ISSD Executor too late for the briefing by Lord Vader himself.

The two attach themselves to the Trandoshan, Bossk, whose speciality is the hunting and skinning of escaped wookiee slaves. They promise him they can track down Chewbacca through the wookiee's "underground railroad".

The rebels successfully lure Bossk off the Millenium Falcon's trail, but they have a mission of their own to complete and must deceive Bossk at every step of the way in order to succeed. Bossk's ship is completely automated, and has an AI called "Hound" to run everything for him. The Tranoshan is completely paranoid about his two "allies", and will double-cross them no matter what. All they have is their wits, and a few surprises like an AI of their own called "Flirt", to prevent them from becoming victims of the reptilian sociopath.

Review

This is a great story, with enough double-crosses and plot complexities for even the hardest to please of Zahn fans. However, the plot is somewhat let down by the characters.

The main human character, Tinian, is from a story by the same author previously published in Star Wars Adventure Journal. The Bossk story has a good villain, unlike the earlier one, but Tyers still has boring heroes [they're much too goody-goody]. "Flirt" is okay, but Tinian is too much like a "Girls Own Adventure" character. The wookiee is a totally two-dimensional character.

Rating: 80%


"Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-Lom"
[M. Shayne Bell]

Synopsis

The unlikely partners, the Gand Findsman and the modified protocol droid, choose to hunt the Millenium Falcon by beating it to the rebel fleet. Their plan involves boarding one of the rebel transports fleeing from Hoth, and they are eventually successful in their aims. However, the story itself is more about the two characters than their mission - their relationship evolves over the course of the story, and the conclusion is amiable enough.

Review

The sections told from the droid's point of view are not nearly as good as those written by KJA in "Therefore I am". However, the story is still well-written.

Quibbles

The "droid becoming Force-Sensitive" thing is a bit of a stretch. And as far as the plot goes, nothing really happens.

Rating: 40%


"The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett"
[Daniel Key Moran]

Synopsis

The story starts with the chronicles a series of encounters between Han Solo and Boba Fett over a period of about thirty years. Fett's encounters with Solo are interspersed with other the story of some other contracts he fulfilled, including a bounty on one of the denizens of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

The climax, as Fett and Solo come face to face for the last time, is incredible. Two men, whose lives have intersected regularly, finally get to fight out their years-old grudge; both middle-aged, on the brink of retirement, and out for one last hurrah.

Review

This Tale is very downbeat indeed. It's incredibly deep and thought-provoking, not a shoot-em-up type story at all. I would rate it as second only to the IG-88 story.

We get an insight into Fett's mind - what drives him, how he thinks. He's not a heartless money-grabber; he's a heartless law-and-order fanatic.

Quibbles

There are no references in this Tale to events which happened in the IG-88 and Dengar stories - this means that the story doesn't gel with the others as well as it should. Certainly in the other two Tales books the references were well-edited in, and the stories flowed together.

The story has an interesting overlap with one in the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina compilation. "Twin Engines of Destruction" also gets a brief mention. It's not as if the writer has gone out of his way to avoid reference to other Fett stories, so why neglect the most vital ones - those in this compilation! One can only suppose that tight deadlines precluded KJA from editing the necessary references in.

On the other end of the scale, the appearance of Han Solo is slightly gratuitous. Are we to believe that Dengar AND Fett BOTH encountered Han? This was unavoidable in the case of the Dengar story [it was written into the character background by West End Games], but the chances of Han and Fett virtually meeting too...

Rating: 95%

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