Tales of the Bounty Hunters is a Star Wars Legends book, published in December 1996.
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.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: While "The Last One Standing" isn't too action-packed, there is a kind of poignant moment where, Boba Fett is listening to some music (suppressed by the Empire) that he took from Kardue'sai'Malloc which has a kind of nice, peaceful vibe to the scene.He sat in the cool cabin, on his way to Jubilar to kill Han Solo, listening in the darkness to the only copy, anywhere in the galaxy, of the legendary Brullian Dyll's last concert.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Kardue'sai'Malloc's daughter appears, clearly ashamed of him and identifying him for the authorities to take into custody.
- 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.
- Artistic License Medicine: It's unlikely at best that emotions simply could be removed by cutting parts of the hypothalamus out (or at that doing so wouldn't cause irreversible damage if not death to the patient). Of course, it's Star Wars, which is hardly "hard" sci fi.
- Ascended Extra: You may remember Bossk, Dengar, IG-88, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM as the other bounty hunters Vader spoke to in Episode V.
- Badass Boast: How does IG-88 first advertise his skills? By marching into a cantina and making the following speech:Ig-88: I am a bounty hunter. I wish to find work for a reasonable fee. I am incapable of failing in my mission.
- Badass Normal: Dengar and Boba Fett, who are both normal humans, but are regarded as two of the best bounty hunters in the Empire. Dengar, however, has undergone extensive brain surgery to "improve" him.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Minor Relsted to Supervisor Gurdun, whom he is clearly terrified of.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Played with. "The Last One Standing" ends with an aging Han Solo and Boba Fett locked in a Mexican Standoff. As the story closes, however, they are trying to talk each other down, and given the story's place in Legends continuity 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*
- Call-Back: Kardue'sai'Malloc in "The Last One Standing" is the real identity of "Labria" from "Empire Blues" in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, and Boba Fett located him by tracking purchases of his favorite libation, Merenzane Gold (cue a scathing rant from Malloc about how most of what Chalmun's Cantina had was a poor-quality counterfeit). The story also references Boba Fett losing his left lower leg escaping the Sarlacc, depicted in The Essential Reader's Companion entry on "A Barve Like That" from Tales from Jabba's Palace. Daniel Keys Moran wrote both earlier stories (the latter under the pen name J.D. Montgomery, out of annoyance at some Executive Meddling).
- Clean Food, Poisoned Fork: A short story had Boba Fett sharing some wine with Dengar, and putting a drug on the rim of the glass (he used a straw).
- 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 are trying to raise funds to get him clone replacements (since they are illegal, they are thus very expensive). The Rebels reveal they have 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.
- Boba Fett disbelieves in the Force here, though other material have him well aware of it being real (he experiences its effects himself). His tale also says spice was illegal, while other books say it is merely 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 is firmly independent. Indeed, The Bounty Hunter Wars begins its plot with him needing to be bribed into joining as part of a scheme against them. However, this might be harmonized since the events of Tales where this is mentioned take place later than the other material when he's independent (though the guild's destroyed in The Bounty Hunter Wars perhaps it was re-established later). Then Fett's entire backstory was retconned by Attack of the Clones and "Jaster Mereel" became a different person (a mentor of his father whose name Fett used as an alias).
- Han also reflects on his dead parents, wondering if they'd be proud of him. In The Han Solo Trilogy it is established that he is unable to remember who they were.
- Crazy-Prepared: Downplayed, but as IG-88 kills his way through Halowan Laboratories, one of his victims, Chief Technician Loruss, does try to fight back.She must have kept the weapon at hand just in case one of her creations went renegade. This showed surprising foresight.
- 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.
- Deadly Euphemism: In "Payback" Kritkeen's orders stipulate that if his effort at "Redesign" for the Aruzan people fails, the planet must be "alleviated of the potential for further evolution". After puzzling over it, Dengar realizes this means to wipe out all life on the planet.
- Death by Sex: Bolton Kek (one of IG-88's designers) is shot while asleep in bed with a Twi'lek woman.
- Death of Personality: IG-88's consciousness is destroyed with the second Death Star, although the actual body remains behind and reappears (after being reprogrammed) in later stories.
- 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 a cruel and unusual punishment. This is the fate that awaits Kardue'sai'malloc when Fett hauls him in.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Boba Fett firmly believes in harsh punishment for things most people wouldn't consider deserving of, or even immoral at all. This includes death for corruption or extramarital sex.
- Early Installment Weirdness: For Boba Fett. This book was released in the early days of the Legends days, and predates Attack of the Clones, so Fett's character at the time wasn't much defined beyond "guy who looks cool in that helmet." His characterization here as being a hyper-moral crusader of justice who firmly believed in the Empire, has a hyper-fixation on Han Solo, and his origin as Jaster Mereel were as good an interpretation as any at the time. Virtually all aspects of this characterization would be dropped or retconned in Fett's subsequent appearances.
- 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.
- Bolton Kek has spent years designing weapons for petty crime lords but apparently drew the line at making an assassin droid for the Empire, causing him to quit Halowan Labs before the droids escaped.
- Played for Laughs with Grlubb, IG-88's first client, who hires the droid to kill a competitor making nerve gas, claiming to find it unethical. Plus "things that don't go bang...takes most of the fun out of it."
- 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 them, 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.
- Face Death with Dignity: Kardue'sai'Malloc manages a certain sense of composure and grace as he's about to be Devoured by the Horde.
- Feeling Their Age: Boba Fett and Han Solo both in the present-day sections of "The Last One Standing". Decades of hard living and combat have taken a toll on their bodies, and Fett lost a leg escaping the Sarlacc and has cancer.
- 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 not only is a major drug lord, he was the drug lord who hired Han in the first place, then put the bounty on Han for failing to deliver the drugs) 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.
- Kicked Upstairs: Supervisor Gurdun's assignment to oversee the transfer of Death Star parts has some value and prestige behind it, but certainly doesn't feel like a promotion to him.
- 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.
- Love Redeems: Manaroo brings out the best in Dengar, turning him from a casual killer into a hero of sorts.
- Mad Doctor: Imperial surgeons cut out most of Dengar's hypothalamus, removing all his emotions but anger, hope and loneliness to make him into a perfect assassin. Other material establishes that physicians in the Star Wars universe also have the "first, do no harm" rule like the real world Hyppocratic Oath, which of course the Empire doesn't care about. They also perform this en masse on the pacifist Aruzans to "Redesign" them as violent killers.
- 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.
- Moral Sociopathy:
- Dengar has this, since after the brain surgery he's suffered to remake him into an Imperial assassin, he no longer feels most emotions (only anger, hope and loneliness). However, he still recalls what doing good means, and slowly pulls a HeelFace Turn before somewhat recovering through mind-linking with Manaroo.
- Probably the best way to describe Daniel Keys Moran's version of Boba Fett is as a Lawful Evil sociopath. He considers extramarital sex and rape to be immoral, but also considers running drugs and rebellion to be on the same level, even saying to Leia Organa's face that Alderaan deserved it. At the same time he has no problem with murder for hire, because bounty hunting is legal, nor did he have a problem murdering somebody he thought deserved it, but is disturbed when he accidentally kills Incavi Baker because he was aiming at Han Solo.
- Murder by Mistake: Boba Fett accidentally shoots Incavi Baker while aiming at Han. While he feels that she was an Asshole Victim, he is disturbed by it, as it's the first time he's ever killed the wrong target.
- 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.
- Once More, with Clarity!: "A Barve Like That" from Tales from Jabba's Palace featured a confrontation between Boba Fett and IG-88 alluded to in the Shadows of the Empire toyline and N64 game from Boba Fett's point of view. "Therefore I Am" features that same confrontation from the point of view of IG-88s C and D.
- 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.
- Persecuted Intellectuals: In "The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett" we learn that the Empire had arrested and killed famous musicians who spoke out to protest them, along with trying to destroy all their music. Kardue'sai'Malloc, Fett's bounty at the end of the story, owns the only remaining copies of many such musicians' work. He comes quietly with Fett in return for bringing his music recordings and disseminating them. Fett agrees to his arrangement.
- 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.
- Pragmatic Villainy: IG-88 is incapable of actual kindness or emotion but does spare lives on occasion when there's no money or security to be gained from killing them (such as Bolton Kek's lover and two security guards at Halowan Labs he decides not to track down).
- Properly Paranoid: Supervisor Gurdun's desire to chase down and destroy the IG-88 droids.Relsted: Why are these droids so desirable?
Gurdun: Because, Minor Relsted, I know what they can do.
- Psycho for Hire: Bossk really fits the bill.
- Punch-Clock Villains: Zuckuss and 4-Lom, at first. They take a job to pursue Han Solo, but had also recently kidnapped an Imperial Moff with a rebel bounty on his head and turned him over for trial.
- Rank Up: When Imperial Supervisor Gurdun is Kicked Upstairs, Minor Relsted takes great pleasure in announcing how he has been promoted to his job.
- Released to Elsewhere: Dengar manages to rescue a hundred thousand Aruzans in "Paypack" by having them shipped off in an Imperial dungeon ship the Rebel Alliance captured, including Manaroo's parents and friends. The official in charge asks where they're going, but Dengar simply answers scornfully that he doesn't really want to know. Dengar notes that many dissidents across the galaxy "disappear" in the Empire and that smart people don't look into it, so this is good cover for rescuing them.
- 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.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Incavi Baker sells out Han to Boba Fett, and is accidentally killed by Fett during his attempt to ambush Han.
- Robot War: IG-88 wants to start one of these but he's killed before he can.
- Schmuck Bait: Subverted, with the Rebels approached by Zuckuss and 4-Lom being justifiably suspicious about their offer to take off several people (all their ship can fit, they say) who just happen to be the ones with the highest bounties. They only leave due to not having a choice and work on convincing the bounty hunters to switch sides.
- 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.
- Serendipitous Survival: The only survivors of IG-88 breaking out of Halowan Labs were two security guards far away on perimeter patrol.
- Serious Business: Drinking, for Kardue'sai'Malloc, so much so that Boba Fett finds him by tracking purchases of his favorite beverage. Malloc goes on a scathing rant about counterfeit booze and is annoyed when Fett, a teetotaler, is unsympathetic.
- 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).
- Straw Character: Here, Boba Fett gets portrayed as one of the extremely conservative variety. He doesn't have a single vice, because he considers them an insult to the flesh. He considers sex between those not married to be immoral - that includes rape, too. When Leia tried offering to pay him to get her and her friends out, he flat out refused, saying that the rebels were morally wrong. Apparently, he supports the Empire because it permits civilization to exist, never mind that it's an empire that commits genocide. He hates Han's guts because Han breaks laws, and Fett finds the idea of breaking laws to be offensive. Never mind that Fett murders people, and takes bounties set by the notorious gangster Jabba (who Han began as a smuggler for). He laughs off the Dark Side as Jedi superstition, which becomes hilarious in hindsight, because for all his hatred of Jedi, his lifestyle is much the kind that the Jedi Order would have considered ideal (not to mention making him a Flat-Earth Atheist type given other material shows Vader once Force choked him—or can be a Continuity Snarl).
- Technical Pacifist: The Azurans are an almost absurdly peaceful race who balk at the idea of ever fighting with or harming anyone. But there are some of them who don't have the compunctions about paying someone else (Dengar) to kill their tyrannical Imperial governor.
- 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're 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).
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Minor Relsted gets bossed around and frightened a lot by Gurdun, so naturally he's pleased when he gets promoted to his boss's old job at the end of the story.
- True Companions: Zuckuss and 4-Lom have this vibe in most of their earlier appearances, but its especially present here.
- 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.
- The World Is Just Awesome: As he begins his descent into the quarra pit, Kardue focuses on the beauty of the distant mountains, covered in forests, taking in the sight he'd spent so many decades missing, then forgetting.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Dengar stopped working as an Imperial assassin when his orders were to kill a group of holy orphan children who'd denounced the Emperor while trying to withdraw from the Empire. He couldn't do it, and turned on his former employers, hunting down numerous evil Imperial officials afterward. It's notable that as a result of his "Redesign" Dengar lacked compassion at the time entirely, yet he still felt this was the last straw.