Scoundrels is Timothy Zahn’s return to the Star Wars universe and he delivers us a send up of Ocean’s Eleven, starring Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando, and a number of other characters those of us who have read any of the Expanded Universe would know (and a pile of new characters, too.)
Set just after the events of A New Hope, Han Solo is in debt to Jabba, just like always, and is looking for a score that will settle his debts when one that is too good to be true falls into his lap (almost by coincidence.) It’s a daring heist and he’ll need a team to pull it off. He brings in a whole host of criminals, rogues, and scoundrels and they get set to work.
The story is generally straightforward for the long-con structure Zahn goes after. That’s not to say there aren’t any twists and turns, there are MANY twists and turns, but they’re almost to be expected for the sort of story that’s being told. Though you expect there to be those twists and turns, Zahn manages to find ways to twist them one step further than you’d expect. There truly is nothing predictable about this book. And every time our scoundrels get a bead on how to do things, a new hydrospanner is thrown into the sublight drive.
The book is highly entertaining and enjoyable. I had a smile on my face the whole time. Tim’s writing just does that. It’s sure of itself and knows what it’s doing. To my mind, there aren’t enough Star Wars books that maintain that light-hearted sense of adventure that permeates Star Wars. Too often they’re brooding affairs, which is fine. I love Shatterpoint and Darth Plagueis as much as the next man. But sometimes you just want a fun Star Wars book, and this is among the best.
I loved the assortment of characters, from the con-men employed to Han and Lando’s delicate relationship. It all rang so true that it made me happy. I also really loved the way Winter was used in the book, and how they actually played on the recent destruction of Alderaan. I really don’t think enough attention is paid to the fact that billions of people were killed on Alderaan and there are people in the galaxy who felt it. Zahn gives us that window through Winter and utilizes her better than I can ever remember her being used.
Perhaps in a couple of weeks I’ll write a new review to discuss the ending. Because the book ends in a way that forces you to want to immediately start it over again, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who does. It’s a totally different experience reading it over from the beginning knowing what you learned through the first read through. But I don’t want to leave any spoilers. Just know that there are revelations you learn by the end of the book that almost require a second reading.
My only complaint about the book was the length. I really feel like it could have been a tight 50 or 60,000 words and felt more like a movie. The book was long and perhaps it could have been tightened down, streamlined for a better movie-like pace. But I’ll take what I can get.
I would give this book 5 stars. It’s excellent Star Wars, and I don’t often say that about the books in the EU.
You can pick it up on Amazon in hardcover or on Kindle.