This is the first Star Wars novel I've read, apart from the novelizations based on the screenplays of the first three movies (Star Wars: A New Hope [pThis is the first Star Wars novel I've read, apart from the novelizations based on the screenplays of the first three movies (Star Wars: A New Hope [personally I hate adding on that "A New Hope" because I'm a stubborn old fart; it's just plain ol' "Star Wars" for me], Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). I picked Scoundrels because it fell between the action in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, figuring it would be better to pick a tie-in novel involving a time-frame and characters with whom I'm both familiar and comfortable. After all, what with the sheer number of Star Wars novels out there, the idea of just picking a title at random and jumping in is rather intimidating, so having a book that lets you ease in through the shallow end is much more pleasant. Or so I thought. Once I began reading, I reconsidered my notion that this book would be an easy introduction to the Star Wars novels: Even though the story centered around Han Solo and Chewbacca, with an appearance by Lando Calrissian, Jabba the Hutt, and even Boba Fett, it also involved other characters and settings completely unfamiliar to anyone who'd only ever watched the movies and had no knowledge of the Expanded Universe. Maybe it's just me, but I like to have at least a passing knowledge of what's going on, and to have so many new and unfamiliar planets and characters and species and organizations thrown at me is discomfiting.
Most of the reviews for Scoundrels throw out the Ocean's 11 comparison and as much as I hate to follow the herd, I'm going to in this instance for the main fact that the comparison is completely spot on. As others have pointed out, there are even 11 players in the Solo crew, so who am I to buck the trend? The problem with this comparison is that Ocean's 11 (the original or remake, dealer's choice) is an entertaining, fast-paced movie, whereas “Solo's 11” (my apologies to anyone I plagiarize by using this) involves a whole lotta nothing with a little bit of action in between. And I think this is due to the inherent nature of the heist plot. In a movie, if it's done well, even in those scenes involving the planning, which is basically just a bunch of people hanging out and doing a lot of talking, the story stays tight and moves along at a nice clip: the reason for the heist is explained, a plan is hatched, the steps required to enact said plan are laid out, usually with funny and/or exciting scenes demonstrating a few of those steps interspersed with the talking scenes, and then the talking ends and the action begins. This kind of plot should also work in book format, but again, only if it's done well, and with Scoundrels, I really can't say that happened.
The story takes place right after the Death Star has been destroyed (the first time around). Han has lost the reward money he garnered for lending a helping hand with that endeavor and since he's walking around with a bounty on his head thanks to the massive debt he owes to the gelatinous and vicious crime lord, Jabba the Hutt, Han needs to come up with a transport-load of credits and right now. His salvation seems to come in the form of a mysterious man who offers Han those credits in exchange for Han pulling a job stealing data disks from a gangster's stronghold. It's a job that's not only incredibly risky and potentially lethal, it's also completely out of Han's wheelhouse. But the roguish smuggler is desperate and the payoff is too tempting, so he accepts and sets about recruiting the perfect crew to help him carry out the caper. However, as the crew begins to work out exactly how they'll get into the fortified mansion of a Black Sun syndicate lieutenant and break into the man's virtually impregnable safe to get the goods, the situation starts looking a lot more complicated and a lot less profitable than first imagined. In the end, this job may cost Han and the gang more than they ever bargained for.
With a nod to the “who shot first” kerfuffle in Star Wars, the novel gets off to a promising start. There's some smuggling, some action, some comedy, and some intrigue as we meet the various characters in their native habitats and the heist starts coming together. But that's where things start losing steam as the story get bogged down in explaining the politics of the Empire and the exploits of Black Sun and why the mysterious man is stealing from them, not to mention the endless planning and plotting and replotting of the actual heist. There's so much setup and reconnaissance for each step along with seemingly endless discussions about how it's to be done, interspersed with background exploration as each character is given a chance to converse with another character as to how they got to this point, why they're fighting for whatever side they're fighting for, along with their motivations for joinging the heist. Honestly, for a supposed 'action' novel, there's a hell of a lot of navel gazing in it. And not a lot of either Han or Chewbacca, which is rather disappointing. Yeah, they're basically the center around which the crew revolves, but other than at the beginning of the novel, you don't really see the Dynamic Duo working on their own.
In the third act, things finally get going and there's a nice, action-packed showdown at the end, along with a surprise reveal which was fun, but it seemed to take a hell of a long time to get to that point, not to mention you have to work through a lot of confusing explanations and secondary motivations, involving so many people that eventually you lose track of who's doing what for whom and why. Which brings me back to the point I made earlier about working a heist plot in a novel. I'm sure there are a lot of exciting and tightly-paced heist novels out there, but, if Scoundrels is anything to go by, I don't think Timothy Zahn has the chops to pull it off in his novels. Most of the story is so bloated and bulky--like Jabba the Hutt in novel form--it loses any sense of excitement or urgency or momentum.
Which is why the comparison to Ocean's 11 works only in spirit, but not in form. The fun of the book never reaches the level of fun in the movie thanks to too much exposition and introspection and not enough action. Though I was mildly entertained by the book, as an introduction to the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, Scoundrels is rather disappointing....more
This is a collection of comics set in the early days of the series, revolving around a story arc which, among other actions, gives us a glimpse into JThis is a collection of comics set in the early days of the series, revolving around a story arc which, among other actions, gives us a glimpse into Jo's past, her time spent in Afghanistan before she came to Eureka and, yes, her early love life. We also see the reappearance of Warren King, who, while helping to save the day, spends the rest of his time annoying Nathan with his obvious and active attraction for Alison. (Yup, Nathan's here; I told you this was an early-days story.) We also get Taggert (who finds himself threatened by the appearance of Jo's old boyfriend, even though he still trying to hide his attraction towards her, so we get a lot of cute, awkward scenes with him), a rather scary nanite-based bio-weapon (which Carter re-terms a "zombie weapon," to the despair of Warren and Nathan, even though the name perfectly describes the weapon), and a very cool "bubble" gun (which pretty much does as it sounds--another of Carter's descriptors). There's a bit more violence and bloodshed, which is a departure from the show (which rarely shows anything more than a nosebleed), but I think it's something to be expected from the medium, so it didn't bother me. Basically, it's a cute, light, and fun little book. And the illustrations ain't too bad, either; they capture the essences of the actors from the show without being slavishly faithful depictions, caricatures, or bland, indecipherable sketches....more
I know I should be raving about the lyrical prose and masterful use of the language, and yes, Meynard writes most excellently. However, the result isI know I should be raving about the lyrical prose and masterful use of the language, and yes, Meynard writes most excellently. However, the result is hollow, a shell, something that feels as lacking in substance and depth as one of the made worlds described within the novel.
I think part of my problem is that the novel is one of those so-called 'literary fantasy' novels, of which more and more seem to be appearing these past few years. The fantasy genre has always been looked down upon as nothing more than fluff and light entertainment. While it's true that a great many fantasy novels, past and present, fit this description, there are also a great many fantasy novels which deal with deeper themes, concepts and issues as complex and disturbing as those found in traditional literary novels. Yet because they are fantasy novels, they are brushed off and demeaned for the fantastical setting in which these themes are played out. Now, though, in order to appeal to literary snobs, who have a very narrow view of what "quality" writing is, traditionally literary authors who want to try their hands at writing fantasy are making sure to litter their novels with dark and depressing issues, only this time dressed up in gossamer dust and pixie wings. Because of this, they miss the point entirely; the works lack the joy, the wonder inherent in fantasy. Instead, those "serious" issues take center stage, wearing the fantasy setting as a child would wear a costume for Halloween, giving the novels an equally false feeling. The authors are so focused on pounding home the seriousness of the novel, in order to make sure it's known that even though the author has given the novel a fantasy setting, their book is literature and not fluff, whatever wonder the original fantasy might have held gets lost. How dreary. And how lacking. And how aptly this describes Chrysanthe.
We are shown the made worlds, a labyrinth of parallel realities which are infinite and can range from the mundane to complete insanity, depending upon how far down into the labyrinth one travels. However, these worlds are used as a prison for Christine, so right away, they lose some of their wonder (though never their surreal quality) and instead come off as multiple examples of the author boasting, "See how original and inventive I can be?" When we finally meet the reality of the novel, the world of Chrysanthe, a realm of magic and castles and kings and wizards, it feels not only dreary but bland as well. As I read descriptions of Chrysanthe and the characters' actions within, I couldn't feel it. I couldn't see the land or get a sense of the place. As with everything else, it felt hollow.
The other issue I have with the novel is that I can find no character with whom I can identify or even like. Christine, our protagonist, goes through some horrific trauma early in the novel, reminiscent of the repressed memory craze and mad Satanists hidden in our midst frenzy of the 1980's. However, despite this trauma and Christine's subsequent redemption, I can't like or admire her. In fact, I quite often despise her for being weak and whiny. I'm willing to admit that it could be my fault; after all, I can't abide weak, whiny MCs. I can empathize with the horror Christine suffered through, I can feel anger at the treatment she received. Just don't be a whimpering baby. Get angry, lash out, but stop being a victim.
I'll be honest, I don't know if Christine managed to grow a spine later on because I stopped reading the book. I know I should've pressed on, done my duty and finished the novel, but I just couldn't force myself. I couldn't connect with the characters, the story, or any of the motivations. The more I read, the more empty the story felt and the more unfulfilled I became as a participant in the novel until I couldn't stand it any more. I wanted to like the book, I really did, but beyond the skill of Meynard's writing--which is evocative without being flowery or obscure (mostly)--there was nothing for me to like....more
Not bad. The author obviously didn't work from the finished, shooting script as the novel had characters saying and doing things which weren't in theNot bad. The author obviously didn't work from the finished, shooting script as the novel had characters saying and doing things which weren't in the movie. Not in an expanding-the-scene sort of way--same scenes, just different actions and dialogue. It's a fun read, though, especially if you're like me and have seen the movie several times; as you read, you re-live the movie in your head.
Edit of 7/17/2013: This past week, I just reread this book--accidentally, as it turns out I'd forgotten that I'd already read it, which says a lot more about the contents of the book than any review could. This isn't the worst script-to-novel adaptation I've read, but it certainly isn't the best either. Granted, an author working with script novelizations doesn't have a lot of leeway when it comes to the story, but I do expect a little bit of fleshing out, a little bit extra to the story rather than someone simply taking the lines in a script and forming them into paragraphs and chapters. However, as I pointed out in my earlier review, reading the book is very much like watching the movie: you can see Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, and Alan Rickman running around as their characters, even with there being scenes in the book that were either dropped from the film or filmed but left on the cutting room floor....more
What a fun, thrilling, adventure-filled ride of a book! For anyone who's ever felt different, apart from one's peers, even a bit "alien" to everyone eWhat a fun, thrilling, adventure-filled ride of a book! For anyone who's ever felt different, apart from one's peers, even a bit "alien" to everyone else, this is the book for you, no matter your age. In fact, even as an adult, I still suffer from such distant feelings. As such, I felt an immediate connection to the protagonist, Beatrix "Trix" Ling, the most real, dimensional, interesting character I've yet seen in juvenile fiction. She's adventurous, headstrong, doubtful of herself yet willing to go out on a limb anyway in order to do what's right and best. What's truly wonderful is she's the least irritating, whiny, mealy-mouthed M.C.; while she has her moments of poor behavior (and don't we all), she's the freshest breath of fresh air I've encountered. Trix is so real, so refreshing, so well-rounded, warm and lovable, I'm absolutely impatient to see more of her.
Trix has always believed she was special. After all, her parents told her so and ever since they died in a tragic space shuttle accident, knowing that they thought she was special has kept Trix going. Especially now. Trix is a charity case at a snobby boarding school, where her smart mouth and headstrong actions tend to get her into trouble. A lot. This last go-round, with the snooty Della, has cost Trix her coveted position on the school's gymnastic team and a trip to the state finals. Beaten, but not yet broken, Trix soon encounters the sinister Nyl, a strange mechanical man who's broken into Trix's room in order to steal the one thing left to her by her parents, a meteorite, a strange chunk of space rock she's promised to keep safe. Thus begins an adventure of a lifetime when Trix chases after Nyl and ends up in the middle of a circus. But this is no ordinary circus and when the charismatic young ringmaster invites her to join, Trix discovers her place in the universe is not so small as she believed. As she unlocks the secrets of her past, she encounters space leeches, new friends, ancient alien artifacts, potential conspiracies, and an exploding chocolate dessert.
Think of this book as kind of a Hogwarts in space. Indeed, if Circus Galacticus doesn't get the acclaim and notice that J.K Rowling's series received, then the good people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt aren't doing their jobs properly. Breezy, exhilarating, fast-paced, well-imagined and excellently written, Circus Galacticus is a sure-fire winner....more