To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks. But even he can’t do this job solo.
Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.
All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?
Timothy Zahn attended Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1973. He then moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and achieved an M.S. degree in physics in 1975. While he was pursuing a doctorate in physics, his adviser became ill and died. Zahn never completed the doctorate. In 1975 he had begun writing science fiction as a hobby, and he became a professional writer. He and his wife Anna live in Bandon, Oregon. They have a son, Corwin Zahn.
I have to start out being a bit misleading. Star Wars audiobooks are simply the best - they combine the intimacy of reading a book with the sound effects and music of the movies. Blasters, lightsabers, R2D2 squeals, and the same compositions as the movies! Then they get amazing voice actors who are pitch-perfect when it comes to the voices of the characters we love. That's a pretty big role to fill when books are based on movies since we already know how these people sound and anything different...just wouldn't work.
I have to say Marc Thompson does not let us down. His Lando Calrissian is spot-on even though his Han Solo borders on sounding like Patrick Warburton. You don't realize how close they actually are until you hear it.
There's one scene toward the beginning where Thompson voices 11 characters having a discussion and he doesn't miss a beat. I was astounded, although I had to go back and re-listen because I wasn't paying attention to what was actually being said, it was way too impressive! But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself.
Star Wars: Scoundrels takes us back (or forward since Old Republic is going on right now) to just after the first movie in the Star Wars franchise, episode IV, Star Wars: A New Hope. If you're confused now, it's best to just turn away.
I'm not the most well-read when it comes to Star Wars novels, in fact I've only "read" any of them through audio form. But, I do know that it can be a confusing timeline because there are A LOT of Star Wars books. Where do you even start? Luckily, they provide you with a nice timeline at the front of every book showing a listing of the books and the movies. In this case, Scoundrels can be read as long as you've watched the original movies.
(It looks like this, but I couldn't find one with Scoundrels on it. You'll just have to trust me I guess.)
Another way to put this, if you're human, you can read Scoundrels at any point. It's just filler, taking place in between movies, it doesn't follow any other books, although I've heard it does contain characters from other Han Solo-involved books. Again, I show my lack of actual knowledge. Scoundrels is essentially Ocean's Eleven meets Star Wars. There are even 11 people! Han Solo lost all his reward money and still needs to pay off that darned Jabba the Hutt. He's approached, after a quick nod to the "who shot first" controversy, and gets a team together to get some money.
Of course, it's all but impossible because blah blah blah. The scene mentioned above with the 11-person discussion revolves around this in fact. Like I said, Ocean's Eleven inevitably springs to mind, you can't help it. This comparison's been thrown around a lot and while it's fitting, I think it's a huge detriment to this book. Here’s why I said I was being misleading, I’ve been very positive about this book up to this point, but there was plenty I didn’t like. You can't help but think of the comparison, but quickly you start thinking how much better Ocean's Eleven is. At least that was my experience. It really just wasn't that great of a heist. It wasn't terrible, but things just kept getting added on and suddenly the ball starts rolling and I really just didn't care.
Then there's just not a whole lot of Han Solo. He's the person this essentially revolves around, but he doesn't really play a huge part. On the other hand, Lando was really fun to follow for the first time outside of the movies. But he doesn't really do a whole lot in the movies either. This was cool to see his easy-under-pressure "gambler" side.
The final complaint I have, which really isn't a complaint, is that I've found I prefer lightsabers in my Star Wars. In fact, this was a new discovery during this read. Han Solo's great and all, but I really really like jedis and lightsabers I guess. I missed them here. I noted that Star Wars books have lightsaber sounds, but there wasn't one sound in this audiobook.
Scoundrels is a fun read and the narrator is incredible even, but on the whole I didn't love this book. It was entertaining at times, boring at others, and just didn't live up to expectations. That's not always the book's fault, but it ran a line much too close to Ocean's Eleven that begged for the comparison and missed the mark.
3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)
Note: I have to say this is one of the best covers I've seen whether Star Wars or not. It puts a spell on you so you have to read the book just to hold longer.
This is my first tie-in novel since I was in high school. All it took was the genius of combining Star Wars with a heist movie.
Seriously though. Is there a more easily watchable movie than Ocean's Eleven (Clooney edition)? I can't imagine coming across that movie on cable and not stopping to watch however much is left (I have to imagine it though, since I don't have cable... though I do have the DVD, which has gone unwatched for a decade, but if someone said "hey, let's watch this one!" I so would).
Anyway. An Ocean's Eleven-style caper in the Star Wars universe? Even better, in the Star Wars universe but set in-between Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, so it is free of the stink of the prequels and doesn't require me to keep track of ancient Sith lore (3,360 years BBY!) or the tumultuous history of Han and Leia's assorted offspring.
Mostly, it scratches that itch, but I was a little disappointed. Parts of it really work -- it has Han and Chewie and Lando and a madcap smuggling adventure -- but a lot of it really doesn't. Zahn creates the other eight of Solo's Eleven (some of them pulled from his previous Star Wars books, a few of which I have even read, but it was 20 years ago so I didn't remember until I looked them up on Wookiepedia (yes, of course that exists)), and they don't exactly pop off the page. It took me a few hundred pages to even keep them straight, never mind their rather contrived backstories (survivor of Alderaan, former Imperial, etc.).
The heist itself was disappointing too, if only because the setup is so confusing, relying as it does on extensive exposition about politics in the Empire as well as the activities of Black Sun, which is kind of like Star Wars' version of The Family and which I only remembered because I played a lot of Shadows of the Empire on N64. So not only was I generally confused about who was who on Han's team, I also had only a tenuous grasp on who they were stealing 163 million credits from and why I cared.
And speaking of confusing, you know how you have no idea what is really going on for most of Ocean's Eleven, and then you see the final heist play out and everything is suddenly, satisfyingly clear? That doesn't really work out here. I'm not sure if it's because the genre works better on film or Zahn just isn't very good at this kind of stuff, but I slogged through all the slow parts waiting for the big score at the end, only to find it halfway over before I was really sure if it had started or not.
Still, I was mostly entertained. The book is too long and didn't live up to the premise, but it was nice to be transported (RED ALERT! NERD PROPERTIES COLLIDING!) back to a time when Star Wars books counted as "real novels" in my mind and I had read ALL OF THEM.
This wasn't a bad way to spend six or so hours, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting from my memories of having read previous Zahn books. The heist was a little overly complicated, the characters were more like pieces in the puzzle of his plot than interesting people in their own right, and his characterization of Lando, Han and Chewbacca was weak. They could have been any old smuggler, charmer and ten foot walking carpet. The little twist at the end was pretty fun, though, I'll admit. Definitely didn't see it coming.
I’ve read a lot of Star Wars books by a lot of authors. There are many I’ve enjoyed, but nearly all my favorites are by one author: Timothy Zahn. When I heard he was writing a new standalone novel, I immediately knew I would have to read it! And, as a bonus, this novel is all about everyone’s favorite scoundrel: Han Solo. Scoundrels is no standard Star Wars adventure, though; it has no Jedi, nobody using the Force, no lightsaber fights. Instead, it is a heist story set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and inspired by Oceans 11.
Han Solo is deeply in debt to crime lord Jabba the Hutt. The reward money from destroying the Death Star at Yavin—with which he planned to pay off his debt—has been lost to pirates, and the bounty on his head is causing no end of problems. So when Han receives an unexpected job offer from a mysterious stranger, the payoff is enough to tempt this smuggler into branching out. Han himself might not have the skills necessary to pull off an elaborate heist and break into a heavily guarded safe, but he knows plenty of shady people who do!
Genuinely stands alone—ish While I’m not sure what kind of person aside from a Star Wars fan would be reading this review or considering this book in the first place, it is readable as a standalone novel; you don’t even need to have seen the movies to make sense of it, though some of the more significant moments may lose some meaning. For the best reading experience, I do recommend familiarity with the original trilogy. And though no prior reading is really remotely necessary, a few other novels may help introduce or add background to some of the situations, characters, and organizations featured in this book: Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry and the Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) by Timothy Zahn.
Star Wars: Scoundrels is set in the year 0 ABY (After Battle of Yavin), so in terms of internal chronology, it comes before those books I mentioned. Star Wars Expanded Universe books can usually be read in any order, whether it be publication chronology, internal chronology, or whatever other order or disorder you desire.
A varied cast Whether this is your first or fiftieth experience reading a Star Wars novel, there will be both new and familiar faces. Anyone who knows Star Wars at all will know Han Solo, of course, and his co-pilot Chewbacca and frenemy Lando Calrissian. Those more familiar with the Expanded Universe will recognize Winter. Most of the characters Han pulls together for this heist, though, are completely new, and completely fascinating to learn about! There is a ship thief, an explosives expert, a ghost thief and her reluctant assistant—her twin sister. Of course, a few Rebels get involved, as well as an Imperial Intelligence agent.
Despite the array of new, unfamiliar characters, they’re all fleshed out beautifully. There’s more history between Han and Lando to enjoy, and each of the new characters gets their own slice of history as well. Some get more than others, but they all feel believable; they all live and breathe and contribute uniquely to the group. This was one of Scoundrels’ biggest strengths, in my opinion.
And a fascinating new setting The “galaxy far, far away” has a plethora of varied and unique settings. In Scoundrels, we get to see Wukkar, a new planet with new customs, and we see it during the most interesting time of its year. The Festival of Four Honorings is being celebrated, providing a crazy, chaotic, colorful backdrop for the heist. To me, Star Wars has always been an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy, a subgenre many like to call science fantasy. I felt that the combination of a high-tech heist with this festival, which has more of a magical fantasy feel, definitely contributed to this overall quality of Scoundrels.
Why should you read this book? Timothy Zahn has done it again. If the Jedi are the coolest beings ever and you’re never happier than when you’re reading about the Force, Scoundrels might be a bit disappointing for you. However, if you love elaborate heists and consider criminals to be the best protagonists, you wouldn’t even have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate this novel.
I used to be an avid reader of the expanded Star Wars universe, but aside from a leap into the distant future with Star Wars: Legacy comics and a jump into the past with Star Wars: The Old Republic tie-ins, I’ve long since fallen out of touch. Perhaps I grew tired of the doom and gloom that started to permeate the storytelling with the introduction of the New Jedi Order. I’m usually okay with unhappy endings and Pyrrhic victories, and am a huge fan of The New Jedi Order: Traitor’s exploration of what it means to be Sith or Jedi, but one of the things things the original movies did so well, was balance the emotionally dark and intense moments with the more light-hearted ones.
Scoundrels brings readers back to the days just after the destruction of the first Death Star, which seems to be a trend with recent Star Wars stories, including the Empire and Rebellion series. Han is still a cocky smuggler, trying his best to ignore his feelings for that stuck up princess. He’s also still got that pesky Hutt bounty hanging over his head because he and Chewie somehow lost the reward money he earned from Leia’s rescue. When Han is offered a chance at millions of credits, he can’t pass it up.
The problem? Han’s just a smuggler – not a con artist – which means he needs to put together a team of the best to pull this off. The other problem? The credits are behind the notoriously impenetrable vault of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss.
In other words, this is Ocean’s Eleven. With a wookiee.
The return to the good old days is perfect for the hopeless nostalgic in me, and I also enjoyed reading Timothy Zahn again. I haven’t read anything by him since the Thrawn Trilogy, but he hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to the Star Wars universe. He captures the nuances of the characters we know and love, while bringing in some interesting new ones to round out Han’s team. And we get to learn about all of them, including the bad guys, as Zahn smoothly transitions from one point of view to the next, carefully revealing just enough of their thoughts to make you wonder who will double cross whom — especially when Lando shows up, still holding onto his grudge against Han. Each character has their own reasons for agreeing to work with a team of complete strangers, and those reasons aren’t just about the score. Through the unique perspectives, Zahn teases out their motivations, from the twin sisters — one of whom isn’t overly keen on the underworld life — to the wet behind-the-ears con artist, to Winter, whom some might recognize as the childhood companion of Princess Leia.
Interestingly, Leia does not actually appear in this book, save through asides from Winter and Han, who have never met before. Some of the tension I felt throughout the story lies between these two characters, as I impatiently awaited their discovery that they have an acquaintance in common. The interactions between Han and Winter are particularly significant because, as far as Winter knows, her best friend did not survive the destruction of Alderaan — an event that plays a major part in the story, based on the players involved. Through Winter and some of the other characters, we get a bit of insight into the Alderaanian mindset following the destruction of their entire planet – something the movies and novelizations didn’t get into very much. Not that I needed to read an entire book about post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt, but it was very humanizing to read the perspectives from characters like Winter, or even Han’s assessment of Leia after such a devastating event.
And there’s Han himself. I was surprised that the other characters got so much attention, but the focus does remain fixed on him. We get to see beneath the self-assured swagger and discover that most of his achievements in badassery come from having a good blaster and great companion at his side, but with a healthy helping of luck piled on top (though not all of it is good). It’s a wonder Han stays positive with the weight of Jabba’s bounty hanging over him, but he’s still always ready with a sarcastic quip, or a snarky comeback to Chewie’s warbled admonitions. Zahn even injects a little “he shot first” jab in there. We know that, by Return of the Jedi, Han has earned himself the rank of general, and Zahn let’s us see some of that leadership shine through, as well as the truth behind the “I’m nice men” line that he later seduces Leia with in one of my favourite scenes in The Empire Strikes Back.
The plot itself is fairly straight forward, even with the inevitable twists and betrayals expected from a caper like this. The Ocean’s Eleven comparison extends straight into the number of players on Han’s team, and there are a myriad of gadgets and operations that invariably don’t go according to plan. There are a few moments that are just too convenient — even when things do fall apart — or are just glaringly predictable or unnecessarily convoluted. Still, it was a entertaining read, and this sense of fun, danger, and adventure was amplified tenfold thanks to the audiobook.
When I first ventured into the world of audiobooks with Star Wars: Annihilation, I let Marc Thompson set the bar too high. Not only is he an excellent narrator whom I now rank high on my favourites list, along with Claudia Black, Simon Vance, and Kate Reading, his Star Wars narrations come complete with sound effects and that classic score. From Chewbacca’s warbles and roars to speeders to blaster fire, listening to a Star Wars audiobook is almost as good as watching it on screen – except, of course, you’ll have to rely on your imagination for the visuals. Fortunately, my imagination is quite vivid, and as an added bonus in Scoundrels, Thompson’s Han Solo actually made me check my earphones a few times to be sure Harrison Ford hadn’t invaded them, and his Lando Calrissian had me squealing like Turk when he met Billy Dee Williams on Scrubs.
Although the original expanded universe is no longer considered canon after Disney’s buyout, if you are a fan of the original films, stories like Scoundrels are still worth the read. Unlike the books that delve into the future, with Skywalker and Solo offspring and more Sith lords than you can shake a lightsaber at, these books only require you to enjoy A New Hope to understand all of the references. And if you’ve never tried an audiobook before, then this is definitely the place to start.
This book was not what I was hoping for and sadly I can boil it down to a list of why:
1. There was no meaningful character development for Han Solo, Lando, or Chewie throughout the whole story. Essentially all of these characters end the book being exactly the same people they were at the beginning which, in my opinion, is the definition of poor writing. With the possible exception of giving Solo a reason to return to the Rebel Alliance (this book takes place between Episode IV & V)there is really no reason for anyone to ever know about this story.
2. Way too many characters. Han's team of scoundrels alone contains eleven characters and they are only one side of a three sided plot. Given the 400 plus pages this books runs most of these characters are just outlines holding places in the narrative until it's their turn to do their one cool thing in order for Han and his team to successfully completely their mission. Which is too bad because some of them, like Winter the childhood friend of Princess Leia who is now an undercover operative of the Alliance posing as a criminal and who is grappling with both the recent loss of her home world Alderaan and the unknown whereabouts of Leia, could have been cool. However, they all get lost in the story and really go nowhere.
3. The story is WAY too complicated. Okay, at first the plot seems simple. Han gets approached to steal back some credit tabs (i.e. $) that were originally stolen from this seemingly hapless guy. It's a LOT of money, enough to pay off his debt to Jabba the Hutt, but because it's credit tabs only this guy can enter the code that will turn them into credits. The problem is that they've been stolen by an agent of this interstellar criminal organization The Black Sun who are currently locked in a battle with The Hutts for control of crime in the Star Wars universe. What's worse is that the member of the Black Sun who took them is a Sector Chief with a huge compound, tons of men, and a ridiculous vault that no one can get into. That would be a great story. However, Zahn feels the need to make it even more complicated by adding in two Imperial spies who have designs on perhaps bringing down the Black Sun for Lord Vader.... or not, and the additional intrigue of internal conflict within The Black Sun wherein the Sector Chief is concerned he is about to be deposed by a visiting Prince of the Black Sun.... or not. Suffice to say, this adds even more characters to a book that already has way too many and needlessly complicates everything.
4. The payoff is weak. Of course Han and the gang succeed. Of course Han, for a variety of reasons, doesn't get the money he needs to pay off Jabba the Hutt. We know this from the start because of where he lands in Episode V. The problem is that even given all of these disposable characters there is never any real sense of threat anywhere in this book. I never once felt like any of theses characters would do anything other than march right through the plan Han puts together for them at the beginning. The whole book felt like and exercise in execution. Everyone, all of the characters and the author himself, are just ticking off the things they need to in order to move ahead and complete their task. Frankly, at times, this book was a chore to read for this very reason.
5. Han, Lando, and Chewie are wasted. You get a few glimpses of how cool these characters could be, like when they discuss the way Wookiees are treated in the empire this makes Chewie seem kind of atypical and it makes you wonder why he is the way he is, but in general Zahn adds almost no new information to these characters that doesn't appear in the films. This book was a golden opportunity for him to give the fans a deeper dive into who these people are, where they are coming from, where they want to go, and how they change given the story they are involved in. Instead, Zahn treats them like cardboard cut outs and it adds a pervasively empty feel to the book.
Finally, there is the twist. MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT.
I love twists. I do. I know some people don't but when they work they are just the best thing ever. So, when I got to the end of the book and suddenly things seemed to be a little off, I was excited to find out what the twist was going to be. Unfortunately it's kind of lame. It turns out that the hapless guy who set this whole story in motion was actually killed six weeks before Han and his crew arrived. He was killed, and then his identity was assumed by,.... duh, duh, daaaa, Boba Fett. That's right. On the last page it's revealed that this whole thing was a con by Boba Fett to capture Han and, I assume, take him to Jabba. Really? Why would he go through all of that to catch him? Also, there were countless times he was alone, or could have been alone, with Han and just knocked him out, taken him to a ship, and gotten away. There was just no need to put all of this in place. Also, despite all of this mess he fails anyway. It just makes no sense.
I really wanted to love this book. I did. Sadly I can't recommend it. I wish the editor and the author had taken more risks, treated me as a reader more intelligently, and not just sloughed off this soulless novel. What a waste.
To Star Wars fans, the name Timothy Zahn is revered. His original three-book "Thrawn" series basically started the whole Expanded Universe, and he has since written almost a dozen more books set within the Star Wars universe. "Scoundrels" is his most recent.
While it has all the fun and excitement one has come to expect from Zahn's writing, "Scoundrels" is not his best work. Clearly modeling the story after the film "Ocean's Eleven" (the George Clooney/Brad Pitt version, not the '50s Rat Pack version starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, although I'm sure the book might have actually been improved had Zahn included some musical numbers), "Scoundrels" pits Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, and nine more characters into the plot of a heist film.
The book is set immediately after "Episode IV", and Solo is fresh from his success at helping the Rebel Alliance destroy the Death Star at Yavin. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to enjoy his success, as he still owes a lot of money to Jabba the Hutt. Rather than risk his new friendship with Princess Leia Organa and ask her for a loan, he devises a scheme to rob one of the richest crime lords on planet Wukkar. He compiles a team (yes, of eleven people) and immediately sets in motion a daring heist of a device that contains blackmail information of thousands of the galaxy's rich and famous, an object that would be worth billions of space credits on the black market to the highest bidder.
Of course, Solo first has to rebuild his friendship with Calrissian, who is still mad at him for a job that went sour years ago, and he has to deal with the possibility that one of his eleven hand-picked thieves may be an Imperial spy. Or worse.
While Zahn's plot has plenty of nifty little twists and turns, as well as some clever cameo appearances of well-known characters from other Expanded Universe novels, "Scoundrels" is, essentially, a one-trick pony. Still immensely readable, of course, but ultimately not as memorable as Zahn's earlier books in the series.
Scoundrels is that rarest of Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels - one that doesn’t mention Thrawn or Mara Jade. Instead, it tells the story of a heist and the team of ne’er-do-wells that Han Solo gets together to pull it off.
As usual, Zahn’s characterisations of Han, Chewie and Lando are spot-on. Quite a difficult feat to pull off, given that this novel slots in the Legends timeline between the end of the Han Solo trilogy (where Han inadvertently deprives Lando of his pay-off) and The Empire Strikes Back (where Lando is still ostensibly mad at Han for that same incident). The only “classic” Zahn-original character who shows up is Winter - who gets a good first outing with Han. Another returning character from Legends is Kell Tainer, who appears as a young rebel explosives expert well before his appearance as a washed-out pilot recruit in X-Wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston (which just so happens to be probably my favourite Star Wars novel). The rest of the scoundrels that Han pulls together for the heist are all quite well explored for an ensemble novel like this. I particularly liked Tavia and Bink (no relation to Jar Jar), and Dozer.
Zahn takes his time in setting up the plot, and the first third of the novel can get draggy in places, as it goes from meeting to meeting between Han’s team and the Black Sun criminals who are their marks. I suppose this is the nature of a heist plot, and the form somewhat constrained what Zahn could write, but I still like to have a few starfighter skirmishes in my Star Wars novels! In fact, if this plot had been the mid-third of a Wraith Squadron novel, I would have probably enjoyed it more. I’ve never found Black Sun to be particularly compelling villains - space-mafias are a common trope - and their reputation for invincibility must always take a knocking when they are defeated in every appearance!
Still, this is a fun romp, and I would recommend reading it to get the Han and Lando vibe in advance of the soon-to-be-released Solo: A Star Wars Story.
I picked this book up at B&N a day or two after it was released while on a vacation in Maui. People often say that you remember first. Well, that was certainly true here. Scoundrels was my first foray into the Star Wars expanded universe. I had heard a lot about Zahn's writing and his epic Thrawn trilogy (edit: and read them not long thereafter; see them here: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command).
Long story short, and obviously not basing my comments on any previously read stories in the EU [edit: as of January 2013], Scoundrels is a well-told tale! What I perhaps enjoyed most was its strong pacing and its suspense. And certainly not least, Marc Thompson's narration - see my review of A New Dawn - who I think is one of the strongest narrators in the Star Wars franchise (Jonathan Davies being up there as well).
The only reason it didn't get five stars was the strong overlap with Ocean's 11; a story I also liked, but in my mind perhaps was a little overdone at times.
The ending really surprised me; hope it does for you as well :)
I cut my science fiction teeth on the novelization of the Star Wars film, back when it was simply called “Star Wars”, on Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and on the trilogy of books by Brian Daley featuring the exploits of Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca in the years to prior their “no questions asked” cargo run for the Rebellion. In Han and Chewie I found a buddy team that appealed to a young boy who valued close friendships and continues to appeal to a fortysomething man who is even more aware as an adult how important it is to have a strong bond with male friends. Outside of those books and the other two film novelizations, my only real venture into the Expanded Universe of novels has been through the Thrawn books by Timothy Zahn. Zahn has a reputation for respecting the source material and respecting the fans and over the years has created characters that are as much a fabric of the Star Wars universe as those on film.
I was excited when I read that Zahn was returning to the period just after the events of A New Hope to tell a story featuring Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian. The novel’s January 1st publishing date felt like an open invitation to start my new year with a nostalgic look back and I am happy that it was an invitation that I accepted.
For over two decades Timothy Zahn has been fleshing out the history of George Lucas’ creations while adding new characters to the universe that have become iconic to Star Wars fandom. Zahn returns here with an Ocean’s Eleven style caper filled with a varied cast of characters lead by one of the most loveable rogues in the galaxy. Fun is an overused adjective yet it applies here.
For more of my thoughts on this read, please follow to the full blog post:
I’ve written about this before: any author – new or established – takes great risks when tinkering or tampering in established universes. Especially sci-fi properties. Especially Star Trek worlds. Even more so with Star Wars galaxies. After all, much of the audience is lured to the book on the premise alone, as they’re hoping to vicariously experience the latest and greatest adventures with their favorite heroes with all-new settings and consequences. So when they show up and find out that not only is the tale populated by unfamiliar faces but also the familiar faces have been essentially relegated to ‘guest starring roles,’ they’re extremely unlikely to finish the book much less give it a positive review.
To its credit, the Star Wars Universe has grown uncharacteristically large. In fact, brave new writers have blessed George Lucas’s original creation with so many layers one almost wonders at this point if every new tale might get shrugged off as nothing more than overkill. They’ve explored the eras of Luke and Leia, of Anakin and ObiWan, and ones located decades and millennia outside established film and television continuity. When I purchased the book from the latest retailer, even the clerk looked at it and remarked, “I stopped reading these books when they got too difficult to follow.” I asked what she found ‘difficult,’ and her answer was, simply, “way too many new characters I didn’t care about.”
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and character. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
After the events of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, Han Solo and Chewbacca remain on-the-run from Jabba the Hutt when they happen to be in the right place at the right time to earn hundreds of millions of credits – an auspicious development since Han has someone lost all of the money he earned in saving Luke Skywalker from certain doom at the Death Star. A man named Eanjer has been swindled out of his money, and what he needs most is a team of accomplished thieves to break into a mansion, crack a safe, and retrieve his wealth. The trouble is – and Han knows this – he’s no thief … but he can hire a team of them, and that’s what he does. Together, they’ll butt heads with the Black Sun and the Galactic Empire all with hopes of raking in enough profit to finally – FINALLY – pay off Jabba and get back to what he does best: smuggling.
One of the (legitimate) complaints many Star Wars fans have of Lucas is that – under his management – the universe has become too commercialized. Long ago, they argue, Lucas and his cohorts ‘gave up the golden goose’ in favor of earning more gold and silver in merchandising toys of every conceivable invention with the Star Wars logo; and one only need examine any of the Star Wars / Angry Birds products to see these folks have a point. Therein lies the problem with SCOUNDRELS for me; this felt like a deliberate mash-up of Star Wars and, say, OCEANS 11 (which many reviewers have already tipped their hat to); and, furthermore, it feels like a cheap knock-of variation indeed. The rogues here who have chemistry to either of the crews featured in either versions of the seminal heist flick are given so little ‘screen time’ that, in the end, they don’t much matter in the larger scope of things. Disappointingly, author Zahn only manages to muster locking Han Solo in a closet near the end of this caper; to make matters worse, he gives the pilot an all-too-easy means of escape, as well.
Are authors really trying anymore?
This isn’t to say that all of SCOUNDRELS lacks some recognizable charm because that wouldn’t be true. Zahn gets some solid mileage (maybe even a bit too much) out of exploring the complex trinity relationship of Han to Lando to Chewie. It was nice to see these three lovable scamps given some greater background, especially as this tale is set in the period established between A NEW HOPE and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK; it kinda/sorta brings their bonds into focus and even sets the stage for events that will follow in both the theatrical outings (namely, EMPIRE) and other publications (Dark Horse’s SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE). Also, each of the other members of their team has some history in the Star Wars universe – Expanded Universe focus, mostly – and each is given a task central to achieving the big goal. I just wish they had been given tighter narrative definition.
What starts out as a great idea gets good presentation but it all falls to middling effect, and that put SCOUNDRELS in the disappointing position of being less of a meal than was advertised.
RECOMMENDED modestly. I’ve no doubt that SCOUNDRELS will not end up being many folks ‘favorite Star Wars novel.’ Heck, so far as the reliability of Timothy Zahn, I’d argue that it’s really not even all that good. There’s very little action; there’s very little intrigue (except for some new characters & situations that just didn’t end up meaning much to this reader); and there’s very little familiarity to these all-new places and settings to ever bring about a repeat reading. What ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ (bringing the rogues of Han, Chewie, and Lando together again) probably was; unfortunately, SCOUNDRELS spends far too much time establishing and exploring secondary characters whose contribution to the tale are critical, but they simply lack the life and distinguishing likeability so common to the rascals we know and love. I give Zahn credit for trying to do something a bit different in the Star Wars Universe, but I also question the logic in weaving such an uninteresting adventure in the first place. The Force wasn’t so strong with this one.
Basic heist story. The characters were thin and I listened to the audio book across such a long period of time that I lost some of the threads of the plot. The reader had an impressive range of voices, though.
Awesome. Star Wars meets Ocean's 11. Han recruits Lando to help him on a job. Takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Really enjoyed this. There was a short story with Lando that takes place right before this book that I also read, I think it was called Winner Takes All.
This book was recommended as essentially “Star Wars meets Ocean’s Eleven.” I’d say that’s pretty on point, and I mean that as a compliment. I do enjoy a little heist tale, and this one is a fun one AND features Han Solo, who is one of my favorite characters. I loved several things about this book, but one standout was Zahn’s characterization of Han. Too often (particularly in new canon Star Wars) Han gets characterized as this loser and swindler whom nobody trusts and who constantly screws people over, which just doesn’t make any sense for him. The Han Solo in this book feels much more like the Han Solo we love from the Original Trilogy movies—he’s smart, he’s good at improvising his way out of a tight spot, he knows people who can help, he claims to be in it for the money but somehow always shows up to help folks in trouble (often in a way that keeps him from being able to keep the money), he’s a daring pilot, he’s a hopeful cynic.
The book is set not long after the end of Star Wars original recipe, and Han and Chewie are looking for a job to pay their debt to Jabba, since their original reward ended up stolen by pirates not long after the Battle of Yavin. A job falls into their lap that isn’t really in their wheelhouse—they’re smugglers, not professional con artists or cat burglars—but the payoff would be sweet so Han enlists his contact Rachele and puts together a team to pull it off. There are lots of double-crosses and plot twists, and the job is a lot more complicated than anyone bargained for, but it’s a lot of fun going along for the ride. We also get some interesting conflict between Han and Lando (who had a pretty bad breakup after another job went south but end up thrown together here) and meet a cast of other interesting characters, both the others on the team and the various groups of bad guys who are amping up the danger on this job (including the Imperials and the Black Sun crime syndicate). It’s also notable that Han’s team includes four women characters who all have interesting backstories and character arcs that do not involve being anyone’s love interest (including Winter, Leia’s childhood foster sister from Alderaan, who does not know Leia survived the planet’s destruction). All-in-all, a fun read if you’re a Han Solo fan or a Star Wars fan.
Despite the fact that Han Solo is my favourite Star Wars character and Chewbacca ranks high on my list, too, I didn’t rush to read this book as soon as it came out. I was curious, but I’ve had an excess of books on hand and haven’t been reading as much as I have in the past. So I waited until it came out in paperback and put it on a wish list. A friend gifted me with it, but I had it awhile before I started reading it. After disliking more things in The Force Awakens than I liked about it, I was in the perfect mood for a novel featuring Han Solo. It ticks me off that Disney has decided to redefine the Star Wars “canon,” and I’m ignoring the order to dismiss a big chunk of books as no longer official. I don’t know if this one is considered canon anymore, but I don’t care. I like this book. And it fits perfectly well into the movies’ timeline. Scoundrels is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Han is still trying to come up with money to repay Jabba the Hutt, and he and Chewbacca get a promising job dropped in their laps. Part of the plot is loosely based on Ocean’s Eleven, but that’s absolutely fine with me. I’m a fan of Ocean’s Eleven and of well-told heist/con tales in general. The plot also has Imperial and Black Sun entanglements, with lots of twists and turns. Although I did think something was hinky with the character who turns out to have a secret identity, I never would’ve guessed who it really was. The cast of characters are good overall. Han and Chewie are well-depicted, the stellar team that they are. Zahn shows quite a bit of subtlety and complexity within Han—his intelligence, his basic decency despite being a smuggler. Han admits to being somewhat out of his depth in the scheme, which is nothing like he’s ever done before, but he learns fast. There are some believable explanations for the awkwardness between him and Lando mentioned in The Empire Strikes Back (and for how Lando got to Bespin and had an in with the Imperials, as well). But I defend Han’s actions at the end of Scoundrels, because whether Lando sees it that way or not, things could’ve been far worse. For his part, Lando is near the top of his smooth-talking game within the scheme. Each member of the team has his or her own distinct personality and skills, and that makes things more interesting. Some characters stand out more than others. Twins Bink and Tavia--one a “ghost thief,” the other a computer wiz--are very different but a great team; their loyalty to each other is sweet. Sleight-of-hand expert Zerba is clever and shifty, and it’s weirdly amusing that he owns a malfunctioning lightsaber that someone must’ve scavenged or stolen years before. Winter has her own complicated backstory with her ties to Princess Leia, her perfect memory and her associations with less-than-legitimate elements. Dozer is very much a wild card, with his professional rivalry with Lando and his doubts and concerns despite a long career conning people out of their ships. Imperial spy Dayja isn’t a cardboard villain; he’s more a man doing his job for what he thinks are the right reasons and making clever use of resources. The target of the scheme, opportunistic Villachor, isn’t sympathetic; but his villainy isn’t cartoonishly over-the-top, either. The two Falleen Black Sun characters are the most frightening of the lot, with their pheromones and apparently sociopathic minds. Overall, I found the plot entertaining and fun; and I’d recommend it to other Star Wars fans.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
“What kind of security has he got inside the vault?” Bink asked. “Oh, you are going to love this,” Rachele said….”Remember those Zed police droids Kell said Villachor’s got? Here’s where they hang out.” “Plus the ten on guard outside the door,” Lando said. “Armed with blasters and TholCorp OT-7 neuronic whips, just to make things interesting. Getting past that group is the first step in the entry procedure.” Chewbacca turned to Han and warbled a question. “I don’t know,” Han said. “Kell? You know any way to knock out a Zed?” “I’d have to look into it, but I’m sure it’s possible.” And so the planning goes for a heist of 163 million credits for a man whose father lost his life as well as those credits to that villain, Villachor. Han takes the job for a big payout and assembles his team, which eventually includes Lando Calrissian. Then things get complicated. “You trying to get me to bail on the job?” (Han said frowning.) “I’m trying to make sure you’re not in over your head,” Lando said. You’re a smuggler, Han. I’m a gambler. We’re not con artists or thieves.” “…He was right, Han knew….The fact he was having to trust this many other people to know what they were doing just made it worse.” I didn’t expect such a great caper yarn. Zahn has plenty of Star Wars cred. He has written more than an armful of these expansions of the galactic playground of Solo, Skywalker, Vader and company. I don’t know (or care) what J.J. Abrams thinks of him. I know that those Disney moguls have wished that all the previous Star Wars lit just go away. Papa George may also be showing some “tightness behind the eyeballs” because it doesn’t quite fit with the control he wishes he could exert over this saga. Having digressed, maybe a bit too much, here is what you will be getting from Scoundrels. It is a thriller. It is a caper. It has Han and Chewie doing their shady thing. It fills in some of the gaps between Episodes IV and V. Zahn does a lot of things right. His plotting is excellent with a lot of action interspersed with plot twists and turns. He goes much further than most to set up a rich venue and populates it with multiple species, some old (but expanded) and some new. His vision of the central celebration surrounding the heist is as rich as any I have read.
A very fun read, but I'm a little disappointed. The plot is brilliantly twisty, fun and funny, and it kept me guessing. Zahn introduces a ton of subplots and layers them over each other so you never really know how Han is playing it or what the outcome is going to be or what's going on with Black Sun and the Imperials. Since it takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back , it was really fun to see him echo or foreshadow famous moments and characters. It very much felt like Ocean's 11, but Star Wars, so it's pretty awesome. My only complaint was that it was pretty light on characterization. Granted, if you're reading this book, you already know what Han and Winter and Chewie etc. are like, but I really missed Han's smart ass banter and it was really devoid of any great emotional moments or resolutions (especially with the twins, since puts so much emphasis on their divergent desires).
But there are several key scenes that are so ridiculously funny and you're just like what is happening, how are they going to get out of this, and this is the most ballsy move in the universe, only Han Solo could pull this off! Which, let's be honest, if you're reading this book, that's what you're looking for. Plus, Zahn keeps you so offbeat for most of the book that when you get to the ending you're just like SHIT, of course! Why didn't I see that coming?! If only he had spent more time on Han and Chewie moments rather than reiterating things fans already know (yes, Alderaan just blew up, we know already! No need to mention it like 4 times over the course of the book), it could have been much more fulfilling for people who love characters with dubious employment, but intense loyalties and principles.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that it's fun having Ocean's Eleven done Star Wars-style. Refreshing!
Anyway, I think that sums up the basic plot. Han Solo gets hired for a heist, he gets a crew together, a bunch of stuff goes wrong, and they try to steal a whole bunch of credits so they can all retire and live peacefully for a really long time. Sounds simple.
It's not. Timothy Zahn adds a whole bunch of layers to the mix, and makes the whole idea much more interesting. The story takes place shortly after Star Wars: A New Hope, so we know that the three main characters (Han, Chewie and Lando) come through alive, but the book is so tense and well-written that you start having to reassure yourself once in a while. New characters are fun and interesting, while old characters (Lando!!) are spot-on.
I listened to this as an audiobook, and was a little concerned when I learned that Marc Thompson was the narrator--I'd listened to his reading of Fatal Alliance, and...well, let's just say that I was less than impressed. But he must have been practicing. Maybe it was the writing or characterization in Fatal Alliance that made the performance seem lacking, but Thompson is in fine form for Star Wars: Scoundrels. There are probably in excess of 20 characters in the book, and each one of them had an individualized voice that was immediately recognizeable (save for a pair of twins).
I didn't think I would like Star Wars novels, but then I was given an audio CD copy of Honor Among Thieves and I loved it, so I figured I would give other Star Wars novels a chance. I chose this one because it was also about Han Solo, my favorite character, and it had the same narrator -- it is worth noting that the narrator does an amazing job mimicking Solo's voice, and the Star Wars audiobooks are all great in terms of sound effects like droid beeps, blaster fire, and wookie noises.
But this novel just fell so short I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. It was impossible to follow, had tons of technobabble explanations that didn't really serve the plot in any important way, had way too many characters, didn't focus on the characters I did care about, and was trying way to hard to be Ocean's Eleven in Space. It was a mess, and I don't mind not knowing the conclusion of the heist -- oh, except since Han took the job because he owes Jabba the Hut money, and he still owes Jabba money in the Empire Strikes Back film... well, I'll let you do the math there.
I was disappointed. Han Solo is the character that allowed me to fall in love with Star Wars. The Brian Daley novels were fun and exciting reads. The stories were well plotted, characters were interesting, and they gave me a sense of the world beyond the films.
I had high hopes for this book. Sadly, I just never cared about anything that was happening. The idea of a heist story is great. The assembled cast of characters was promising, and the reveal about a certain character was fun but the story was poorly paced, the action was lack luster, and there was no arc for any other characters. While the characters had some great chemistry, there were few moments when they got to spark. Chewbacca and Han are woefully underutilized, and they are the main draw.
If you want to hang with some real scoundrels, check out Brian Daley's Han Solo novels or watch Michael Mann's "Heat."
Have I fallen out of love with Star Wars? I'm not sure, but, most of the Expanded Universe novels I've read lately have been mediocre at best, even ones published before the prequel trilogy came out. Scoundrels is a decent novel, but definitely nothing special. Though most fans of Lucas' space opera have already read this at least once, those who are new to the EU should check out the Thrawn trilogy first.
Content Concerns: A few profanities and a bit of violence. The story is pretty much criminal vs. criminal, though anyone familiar with the original movie trilogy knows that Han ends up being a hero.
1/15 hrs: Star Wars meets Ocean's Eleven. It's as if George Clooney bought Lucasfilm instead of Disney. I just couldn't pay attention in the beginning, but then Han Solo is in chapter two. The audio has some additional music and sound effects. I believe it's similar to some of the Warhammer 40K audiobooks. There's only one narrator though, but he does good voices. There's plenty of authentic sounding wookie grunts. It's too bad they didn't get a woman for the female parts. Plus it's written by Zahn, author of the classic Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy.
Wasn't initially sure what to make of this smaller scale Star Wars story, but Timothy Zahn writes SW like no other. Ultimately I liked the story, and the fact that it was NOT about space battles, Jedi, and Rebels vs. Empire. The SW universe is so vast, so it was refreshing to have a story so far removed from the usual focus.
I really enjoyed the caper aspect of it. Take Ocean's Eleven, add in a bit of Usual Suspects, slap a bit of Star Wars tech on it, and the result is a fun, enjoyable book starring some of our favorite disreputable characters.
This book was kind of fun. I just listened to a Star Wars audiobook last week and was sorely disappointed that the voices were off, especially Chewy's growls. But this one was spot on. Even Han sounded like Harrison Ford. All of the voices were very well done. Landau was also a major player in this one.
Overall this was a fun little story. The plot contained a lot of elements that went all over the place at times. It seemed like a maze that went round and round. But it was all reigned in by the end.
This book by Zahn is essentially Ocean's 11 Star Wars Edition (the cover even pays direct homage to the film's poster). Han, Chewy, Lando, Winter, and other criminals plan a crime caper with the promise of a huge score. Things go wrong at several points and the there's a clever twist at the end. Although this is a solid book it's the weakest I've read by Zahn. I could take it or leave it honestly. 3.5/5