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Star Wars: Scoundrels (Star Wars - Legends) Hardcover – January 1, 2013
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“Rapid-fire adventure [that] adds yet another dimension of enjoyment to a rousing galactic romp.”—Library Journal
“Highly entertaining . . . excellent Star Wars . . . There are many twists and turns [and] Zahn manages to find ways to twist them one step further than you’d expect.”—Examiner.com
“[Scoundrels] brings freshness to the franchise.”—USA Today
About the Author
Timothy Zahn is the author of more than forty novels, nearly ninety short stories and novelettes, and four short fiction collections. In 1984, he won the Hugo Award for best novella. Zahn is best known for his Star Wars novels (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future, Survivor’s Quest, Outbound Flight, Allegiance, and Choices of One) with more than four million copies of his books in print. Other books include the Cobra series, the Quadrail series, and the young adult Dragonback series. Zahn has a B.S. in physics from Michigan State University and an M.S. from the University of Illinois. He lives with his family on the Oregon coast.
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*DO read the bonus novella: Winner Lose All at the end of the book before reading the main story; it provides a nice background to three of the new characters introduced in the main story, while also giving a nice narrative for Han/Lando's relationship issues before the main event (things are tense & they have a history for a reason... also leading to Han's reluctant attitude for how Lando's greeting in ESB). A hint is that Lando would have good reason to not receive Han & company warmly as some business venues didn't end well for Lando...
4 out of 5 stars for this one, and it's a shame that this is one of the last Star Wars Expanded Universe books now that Disney has taken over & essentially erased the SW history/EU. This book was just another great edition to the plethora and rich universe created by authors over the years!
Black Sun agent Avrak Villachor resides in a lavish villa in Iltarr City on the remote planet of Wukkar. His home is the focus of Han's crew's plotting and it's a vault in there that they need to access per Eanjer. Unlike some galaxy-hopping Star Wars novels, almost all of Scoundrels takes place on Wukkar. It's a nice change of pace to have so little focus on exotic locales and aliens and instead have such emphasis on clever plotting and humorous exchanges. In fact, the hotel, villa, and other meeting places showcased in the book could easily be set on Earth. This may not excite readers looking for whiz-bang galactic action but the realism of Iltarr City grounds Scoundrels and allows the complex plot room to breathe.
Black Sun has been featured in several Star Wars novels lately. Scoundrels mentions Falleen Prince Xizor, introduced in Shadows of the Empire, but he does not appear. Rather, another Falleen is heading up a delegation to visit Villachor: Qazadi is strongly reminiscent of his boss Xizor as a character, almost enough that I wondered why Xizor himself didn't just play a role, but the distinction is of course that Qazadi's fate is wide-open which maintains more suspense.
The plotting of the various players in Scoundrels is beyond the scope of this review: suffice it to say that it unfolds at a brisk pace and several scenes are genuinely surprising. Beyond the assorted motivations of Han's crew, there is an Imperial agent in the mix, the Black Sun gangsters have their own plans and may even be plotting against each other, and the wronged Eanjer is just off-kilter enough to make him suspicious as well. Mr. Zahn builds upon various Expanded Universe sources in portraying the awkward relationship between Han and Lando: the unease between them in very much in character with Han's diffidence about going to Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. Lando has several extremely entertaining scenes, including a particularly amusing bit where he portrays himself as "Kwerve" while meeting with Villachor.
While the heist angle of Scoundrels is clearly derivative of Ocean's Eleven and probably numerous other works, it's a real treat seeing this type of tale in the Star Wars universe. Mr. Zahn's portrayals of the characters we already know are spot on and Han Solo the scoundrel is simply a great character to read about. The stakes are not galactic in this book and that's just fine: there's still plenty of tension as the main heist plan is implemented and all the players move into position. Also, there's a spectacular twist in the final scene in the book that left me speechless. Scoundrels is an entertaining read and doesn't require much Star Wars knowledge beyond the films to enjoy.
Having said all that, there were a number of minor things that I feel the story could've done without. As I mentioned above, this story didn't have any Force-sensitives, and while I have no doubt many people liked that most about it I prefer stories that include them because to me that's what seperates average sci-fi novels to Star Wars. Change a few character names and some techno-babble and this story becomes garden-variety science fiction. Then there's the timing of this story and the inclusion of Lando. Scoundrels takes place shortly after the events of ANH, and before Zahn's other two novels during this time: Allegiance and Choices of One. Having Lando present in this story is a little too close to ESB for my taste, with a mention of Bespin no less, and I doubt Han would be parted from Leia for even the length of this story. Zahn already has two novels around this time, why not place this one before ANH?
Another feeling I couldn't shake while reading this is that I don't consider the plot of this very plausible, particularly the twist at the very end. I realize this is the EU, but too often it just felt like fanfiction to me, especially when shoe-horning in other characters like Revan and Malak for no other reason than to mention them. Finally we get to what has become a pet-peeve for many Zahn readers; his writing style. Zahn tends to overuse words/phrases such as growled, winced, grimaced, murmured, and bit out to the point that it's difficult to not notice, but being the professional writer he is one has to wonder why he continues to do this and not simply use a thesaurus. It's nice to see he no longer uses the word 'point' by itself anymore, but it appears he's replaced that habit with an odd use of the word 'other' when referring to another person; by odd I mean not normal to the English language as I know it, not grammatically incorrect.
It may seem like I'm being quite critical of this book and its author, and I do admit to a tendancy of being nitpicky, but I still very much enjoyed Scoundrels, giving it a solid four-star rating, and I would recommend it to not only SW fans, casual and hard-core alike, but also general sci-fi fans and those who enjoy crime novels as well.