Tales of the Bounty Hunters is a Star Wars Legends book.
Remember that line-up of mercenaries gathered by Darth Vader to hunt down the Millennium Falcon halfway through Episode V? If so, then this is the book for you. An anthology of short stories written by several science fiction authors for the Star Wars Adventure Journal, this book is part of a series which includes Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and Tales from Jabba's Palace that aims to provide background stories for minor characters appearing in each of the three original films.
Edited by Kevin J. Anderson, who also wrote the Jedi Academy Trilogy and the Tales of the Jedi comics. The stories are often considered to range from great ("Payback") to not so great ("Therefore I Am") to some of the best EU material ever (seriously, read "The Last One Standing"), with some mediocre ones in between. It's worth noting that the stories of Dengar and Bossk provide important background material for the subsequent The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, and likewise for being the first effort to flesh out the backstory of Boba Fett. In order, the stories are:
- "Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88," by Kevin J. Anderson
- "Payback: The Tale of Dengar," by Dave Wolverton
- "The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk," by Kathy Tyers
- "Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM," by M Shayne Bell
- "The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett," by Daniel Keys Moran
Tropes of the bounty hunters:
- A Day in the Limelight: For the Episode V bounty hunters.
- Ace Pilot: The IG-88 droids. Being robots they have no need of Inertial Dampening and can fly with precision no organic can match, augmented by their construction of Ace Custom hunter ships for themselves. But when two of them go after Boba Fett to avenge him destroying one at Cloud City, he outsmarts them and shoots them both down.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: IG-88.
- Anti-Villain: Dengar hunts Han Solo ruthlessly and is keen to see him dead, but he has a reason and is portrayed as a deeply disturbed and lonely person who becomes less brutal as he realizes he can live for something other than his revenge.
- Ascended Extra: You might remember Bossk, Dengar, IG-88, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM as those other bounty hunters Vader was talking to in Episode V.
- Badass Normal: Dengar and Boba Fett, who are both normal humans (by the standards of the Star Wars universe, anyway) but are regarded as two of the best bounty hunters in the Empire. Dengar, however, has undergone extensive brain surgery to "improve" him.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Played with. "The Last One Standing" ends with an aging Han Solo and Boba Fett stuck in a Mexican Standoff. As the story closes, however, they're trying to talk each other down, and given the story's place in Legends continuity they both end up surviving.
- Brainwashed: This is essentially what happened to Dengar. Imperial surgeons used brain surgery to remove most emotions from him. COMPNOR Redesign also does something similar to Aruzans, who are all pacifists, turning them violent and aggressive.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Used by the butler droid 3D-4X in "Therefore I Am", to set up a Pre-Mortem One-Liner when he kills Administrator Hekis on the factory world Mechis III:3D-4X: Your afternoon tea, sir.
Hekis: Ah, thank you.
3D-4X: Your afternoon reports, sir.
Hekis: Ah, thank you.
3D-4X: Your death, sir.
Hekis: Excuse me? What is the meaning of this?
3D-4X: I believe that's quite plain, sir. *pew pew*
- Cloning Body Parts: Mentioned to be possible but illegal in "Of Possible Futures". Zuckuss' lungs were injured when he and 4-LOM were taking down a target, and they're trying to raise money to get him clone replacements (since they're illegal, they're very expensive). The Rebels reveal they've discovered a way to get the injured tissue to regrow in place without requiring cloning.
- Contagious A.I.: IG-88, who uploads his consciousness into three identical droids and the Death Star.
- Continuity Snarl: 4-LOM the Jedi droid subverts this because he only fantasizes about being a Jedi. The Bounty Hunter Wars reveals he later suffered partial memory loss due to battle damage, pushing the Reset Button on his Character Development. However, some other examples still count. Fett, for instance, disbelieves in the Force, though other material have him well aware that it's real (he experiences its effects himself). It also seems hard to believe he could be around Darth Vader that often without him demonstrating it (probably on some underling). His tale also says spice was illegal, while other books say it's just highly restricted (thus the smuggling of it). Fett is also stated to be a member of the Bounty Hunters Guild here, while other depictions are insistent that he's firmly independent. Indeed, The Bounty Hunter Wars has its plot start on him having to be bribed into joining as part of a scheme against them. Han also reflects about his dead parents, wondering if they'd be proud of him. In The Han Solo Trilogy it's established he's unable to remember who they were. Fett's entire backstory was later retconned, including being virginal of course.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Quite literally in the case of Dengar, but he eventually gets better.
- Deadly Dust Storm: Toward the end of Dengar's story, Jabba has him taken out to experience the "Teeth of Tatooine". He is strapped down in a canyon where as the air changes temperature going from day to night it begins rushing through the canyon carrying dust, sand, and bits of rock which pelt him and begin chewing him up.
- Devoured by the Horde: According to Boba Fett, the New Republic has refused to admit Devaron due to considering its form of the death penalty, being torn apart by beasts in an arena, to be cruel and unusual punishment. This is the fate that awaits Kardue'sai'malloc when Fett brings him in.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Boba Fett firmly believes in harsh punishment for things most people wouldn't consider deserving it, or even immoral at all. This includes death for corruption or extramarital sex.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In The Last One Standing, after Jabba captures Leia he gives her to Fett as an, ahem, present. Fett is disgusted by this but doesn't want to insult Jabba by sending her back, so he tells Leia he won't touch her because extramarital sex and rape are immoral, and takes the couch. He also goes off on a rant about hating Han because he smuggled spice and Drugs Are Bad (paraphrased). Leia calls him on the rant's hypocrisy, since he is a professional killer, after all, but he points out what he does is legal and believes they deserve it, even saying the destruction of her entire planet was a just act, since "they rebelled." She doesn't press this. See also the Fridge tab.
- Eviler Than Thou: The IG-88 that took the bounty on the Millennium Falcon follows Boba Fett to Cloud City, planning to collect on the bounty. Instead, Fett ambushes the droid and destroys it, hence why there's a dead IG-88 in the scene where Chewie and the Ugnaughts are fighting over C-3PO's limbs. Two of the other droids try to avenge their fallen brother between films, but Fett destroys those, too.
- External Retcon:
- This was one of the first EU novels to give Boba Fett a backstory. As we now know, his status as a former Journeyman Protector named Jaster Mereel was actually just one of his aliases.
- Dengar's EU characterization is much different from the current canon, since the plotline about deadened emotions and meeting someone that could help him feel things like love and happiness has been excised completely.
- Gambit Pileup: Good heavens, Endor. In addition to Palpatine baiting the Rebels into attacking the Death Star II construction site and the Rebels attempting to counter, IG-88 uploads himself into the DS2's computer core to take it over and even improves the superlaser's accuracy during the battle.
- Gonk: Chief Technician Loruss, the manager of the IG Series project, is pointedly described as "hideous", with a completely shaven head and blue lenses implanted over her eye sockets.
- Humiliation Conga: Bossk, and oh does he deserve it. After repeatedly attempting to double-cross his bounty-hunting partners, he gets double-crossed by them in turn and locked in an electrified holding cell on his ship used to restrain his own prisoners. But that's not all: he is also arrested and handed over to an Imperial governor who decides to skin Bossk to make a reptile coat for his wife to wear. Not to mention that getting skinned is the ultimate dishonor in Trandoshan society, since it causes the Scorekeeper (a bloodthirsty goddess worshiped by the Trandoshans) to nullify all the points on a worshiper's "score", all but guaranteeing that they'll be sent to Hell. Bossk eventually escapes before he can be skinned, but we don't see him again until Shadows of the Empire.
- Hypocrite: Much of Fett's behavior isn't justifiable by his own stated morals. Not only that, but he condemns things like drug running in Han Solo, even claiming he's worse than a mass murderer, yet willingly works for Jabba the Hutt (who's a major drug lord) without letting this stop him. Of course, this may have been deliberate to show that Fett's self-image as a fair, just man is totally delusional.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The people on Jubilar are apparently very morbid due to their frequent wars, with a city named "Dying Slowly" (later just "Death") that has a suburb called Executioner's Row.
- Inertial Dampening: The IG-88 leaves the inertial dampers on its ship turned completely off, because it's a droid and therefore is not subject to acceleration-related injuries like us meatbags.
- Just Following Orders: This is how Kardue'sai'Malloc tries to excuse his having seven hundred unarmed prisoners shot without trial. He wasn't explicitly ordered to kill them. Even so, the intent was clear.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The last of the IG-88s uploads his personality into the Death Star II. Consequently, the Rebels inadvertently kill him when they blow it up.
- Life Will Kill You: Boba Fett invokes this with the opening line of his story, The Last Man Standing: "Everyone dies. It's the final and only lasting justice." This is repeated throughout the story.
- Lightning Bruiser: Due to his cybernetic enhancements, Dengar is much stronger and faster than normal humans.
- Mind Link Mates: Dengar has aspects of this in his relationship with Manaroo, as her people use a device which lets them share emotions. It's standard among her people, and helps to recover some of his lost emotions from sharing hers.
- Morton's Fork: The orders given to Kardue'sai'Malloc by the Empire after capturing a surrendered Rebel regiment: "You are to move on. You are not to take any prisoners with you. You are not to leave any of your men to guard the prisoners." He wasn't blatantly told to execute them, but he knew that was what he was being ordered to do.
- Nobody Poops: Averted, as Fett lies in wait for Kardue'sai'Malloc outside his hut (because it lacks plumbing, the toilet is outside), disabling him after he uses it. Fett even mentions from experience that it is best to wait until a person relieves themselves, because otherwise there can be a mess.
- Nom de Guerre: Dengar's nickname "Payback" gives his story its title.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Dengar feels this way about Han Solo, whom he holds responsible for the racing accident that left him brain damaged and ended his career as a swoop racer.
- Parrying Bullets: The IG-88s can reflect blaster fire like a Jedi: the palms of their hands are reflective, so if they can see the gun being aimed, they can interpose a palm to block the shot.
- Penal Colony: Jubilar is used as one by nearby star systems. As a result of their frequent wars, the convicts tend to be drafted into the different armies depending on which spaceport they arrive at.
- The Power of Love: Manaroo's love helps to restore Dengar's emotions in the end. It helps that one of the three emotions he originally was left with is loneliness.
- Psycho for Hire: Bossk really fits the bill.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Bossk is a Trandoshan slaver who keeps Wookiee pelts. Bossk, incidentally, feels the same way about mammals because they eat and wear the skins of other mammals.
- Robot War: IG-88 wants to start one of these but he's killed before he can.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Four of the six hunters Vader hires are themselves wanted by the Empire. In order to get the best in the business for his own mission, Vader completely ignores the dismantle on sight order on IG-88, as well as the fact that Zuckuss and 4-LOM have worked for the Rebellion, and makes a deal with Dengar for clemency.
- Spiritual Successor: The Bounty Hunter Wars continues some of the sub-plots included in this book, including Dengar rescuing Fett from the desert after he escaped the Sarlacc and Bossk's plots to take control of the Bounty Hunters Guild from his father.
- The Stoic: Dengar, who can't actually feel any emotions beyond anger, loneliness, and, rarely, hope, as a result of Imperial experimentation. Although he gets better in the end.
- Straight Edge Evil: Boba Fett rails against the drug trade and in particular despises Han Solo for drug-smuggling, and is also a teetotaler. Also, when Leia is offered to him by Jabba the Hutt during Return of the Jedi, he leaves her alone and takes the couchnote on grounds that both extramarital sex and rape are immoral (Leia also points out in response to the drug thing that, being a Bounty Hunter, Fett is essentially a murderer for hire, to which he angrily retorts that, unlike Han, what he does for a living is legal).
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Dengar kills an evil Imperial official by shoving an active thermal detonator into his mouth, pushing him off a cliff and shooting him on the way down.
- Third-Person Person: Mentioned in Zuckuss' story. His species, the Gand, refer to themselves this way. Young people refer to themselves as "Gand". After some major accomplishments, they may use their family name and have to work their way up to the point where they allowed to use their given name. First-person pronouns (I, me) are only permitted when a Gand is famous enough that most people would automatically know who's being referenced. Zuckuss doesn't feel constrained by this tradition and uses his given name despite having not "earned" it (this causes fellow Gands to view him as insane in other stories).
- Turned Against Their Masters: IG-88 programs thousands of droids with a command to betray their masters at his signal. He never gets the chance.
- Villain Protagonist: All of them, although in terms of how villainous they are, they range all over the place on all three sliding scales. The vilest of them is Bossk, who is actually the antagonist of his own story, with a pair of more heroic hunters working against him.