Fall Fun (and Frustration) with the Millennium Falcon

Fall Fun (and Frustration) with the Millennium Falcon

Maybe there’s something about the Millennium Falcon that’s inherently both thrilling and frustrating.

My first Falcon came into my hands in the early ’80s. It was after the holidays, and the Kenner toy was on sale at Target. “Jason,” said my mom, “you could buy that with your Christmas money.” I could?! I did. At home that night, my dad and I sweated over the precise placement of tiny stickers that were seemingly infinite in number. He kept his cool (mostly), and by bedtime I had my own Falcon.

I didn’t have a Han Solo to go with it, but that was fine: the Falcon has never been any one pilot’s ship, not then and certainly not now. A host of new books explore the ship’s long legacy in the Star Wars universe, letting kids (and, um, adults) look inside and even build one of their own…or, at least, try to.

There’s least assembly required with a new series of books for middle-grade readers: Flight of the Falcon. The books will follow the legendary ship through a series of hitherto-unknown adventures revealed in the course of some sleuthing by Bazine Netal, a sexy spy who figured briefly in The Force Awakens.

The first bookLando’s Luck, finds the Falcon in the possession of Calrissian and his copilot-with-benefits L3-37, during the period prior to the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story. The pair are trying to skip off an ice planet (no, not that ice planet) with some valuable faux furs when they’re commandeered by the local queen, who has a dangerous errand for them to run. A teenage princess (no, not that teenage princess) has other ideas, and stows away to steer the Falcon in a direction that will help her friend. Author Justina Ireland’s no-frills fantasy is illustrated by Annie Wu in hard copy, and also given a lively treatment in an audiobook read by Soneela Nankani.

If that whets your appetite for more intel on Corellia’s most famous freighter, you can crack a related 3D Owner’s Guide. Cleverly designed by the team at publisher becker&mayer!, the broad board book opens to reveal a series of lengthwise cross-sections that expose the ship’s workings from top to bottom — and inside-out. Writers Ryder Windham and Cole Horton provide explanatory text, with helpful little notes from the Falcon’s various pilots. (Lando: “Adding L3-37 into the standard issue computer was a significant upgrade to the Falcon, but the cost was an emotional one.”)

A pair of learn-to-draw Star Wars books from Walter Foster Jr. won’t show you how to draw the Falcon, but they do walk you through the steps of rendering some of its most beloved passengers: Han, Chewie, Luke, Leia, and the droids, along with Vader and a Stormtrooper in the first volume. The second volume features your favorites from Force Awakens, including Rey, Ren, and of course BB-8.

Each book includes a range of drawing aids: tracing pages, step-stacked transparencies, grid guides. I jumped right in and penciled a certain stuck-up nerfherder. Cut me some slack; I’m a beginner.

My experience with the learn-to-draw books was considerably more satisfying than the deeply frustrating evening I spent with the Millennium Falcon Book and Mega Model. The book part of the package is fine: about the size of a classic movie storybook, it recounts action from the Falcon’s film history and includes games like “starship squares.”

Making the “mega model,” though, proved impossible. I settled down with a fridge full of beer, looking forward to a few fun hours of light cardboard construction. After just a single bottle, though, I stopped drinking, realizing I’d need all my wits about me if I was to complete the task successfully. By the end of the evening, I was very sober and very consternated at my complete inability to get the model’s various sections to join as illustrated.

Am I just really bad at this? I don’t usually read other reviews before writing my own, but this time I had to get some perspective. The book has been previously published in the U.K., where it seems to have inspired diametrically opposed reactions. Some buyers raved about the model’s sturdiness and ingenuity, but I identified more with the guy who called the model “so frustrating and fiddly and badly planned out that it challenges your opinion of the entire franchise.”

Indeed, my experience with the Millennium Falcon mega model was my darkest night of Star Wars fandom since I saw Greedo shoot first…but I got over it. I’ll be back for the Falcon’s next flight, and I’ll put its flight into my recycling bin out of my mind. As Solo knows, you can’t look back.

Jay Gabler