Scoundrels: Star Wars
by Timothy Zahn
Cover Artist: Paul Youll
Review by Jon Guenther
LucasBooks Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345511508
Date: 26 December 2012 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Facebook / Show Official Info /
The saga continues in the greatest space fantasy of all time with this latest offering from the Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels. In Star Wars: Scoundrels, Timothy Zahn (the first author to write a trilogy of books based on the franchise since the release of Return of the Jedi) treats readers to an original series story set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This rollicking tale features a gaggle of characters, some new and some established, and stars three of the biggest scoundrels in the galaxy: Han Solo, his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca, and suave gambler/con-artist Lando Calrissian. Also appearing in this story is Winter Celchu (first introduced in the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron novels).
While the story blurb cites the book as something of a heist/con in the spirit of Oceans 11, that won't likely mean much to a reader who's never seen that movie. Han Solo, motivated to recuperate the piracy of the Rebellion's payment he'd planned to use to pay off some old debts, is approached by a mysterious victim of the Black Sun crime organization (see Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry) to steal billions in credit tabs from a high-security vault. The book then follows with Han and Chewbacca assembling a team of the biggest rogues and scoundrels around, specialists in myriad areas of criminal enterprise. The bounty? Half of the total take to be split equally among their teammates.
As expected, Zahn handles this novel with the deft hand of a seasoned writer and weaves a highly enjoyable tale. The story moves quickly in most parts, with plenty of action and intrigue. It was also fun to see something go outside the norm and give me a glimpse into Han and Chewie's lives as smugglers and rogues, undoubted characters in the Star Wars universe.
Despite the large cast of deep and interesting characters, the greater story value for me was in the plot. Zahn takes a number of risks here, writing something of this kind for the franchise, and as I read the book it was clear he looked simply to have fun with it and hoped readers would do the same. I think he was right because I had a good time! And the ending contained an awesome twist that I think will tickle the fancy of any die-hard fan.
As to flaws, there were only two things that stuck out in my mind. First, I occasionally got lost at times with the sheer number of characters; I felt the team was a little too large to operate as effectively as they did. This caused the spotlight to be stolen from Han, Chewie, and Lando much more than I preferred. The other thing I noticed were moments of extended exposition, particularly interior monologues, that didn't really seem contributory to the story arc. I've never liked this style of authorial intrusion (it feels too much like padding), and on that count I think the book could've been shorter and still delivered the goods.
While Mr. Zahn could very well have written this plot into a science fiction novel of his own, I think targeting the book for the Star Wars fans is a stroke of genius. Star Wars: Scoundrels was a fun and exciting addition to the EU canon, and should make a welcome addition to fans and collectors alike. Highly recommended!