Book Review: ‘Star Wars: Scoundrels’

I really, really wanted to love this book.  It was written by Tim Zahn, the man who defined the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  It was a Star Wars version of the movie Ocean’s Eleven, and I loved that movie.  The main character was Han Solo.  This book had to be awesome, right?

Well, before I get too deep into it, here is the official book summary.

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?

A story about Han Solo leading a team of scoundrels to steal a lot of money is a cool idea.  The problem is we kind of already know how it’s going to end.  Ok… maybe not exactly… but we know Han can’t end up rich at the end.  So throughout the book we are left wondering what exactly is going to go wrong.  This actually isn’t so bad though.  Zahn is a masterful storyteller and he does a great job of not tipping his hand until he has to.  You literally do not get the full payoff of the story until the very last line of the book and I loved that

And the story wasn’t bad.  It was actual a great story.  The problem for me was how much of the story was unnecessary.  The meat of the book comes in the last 7 chapters.  Everything before that is set up.  Long, repetitive setup.  I kept thinking to myself, please just rob the place already!  I know a story like this needs to establish the characters and the gameplan, but I felt it just took way too long.  By the time the story started ramping up I had all but lost interest.  I really think Scoundrels would have worked better as a short story rather than a full length novel.

The characters were also lacking for me.  There were so many of them, but very few of them I found interesting.  Han, Chewie, and Lando were pretty much themselves although there were a couple of moments where I felt Han was out of character.  He seemed a little too calm and collected and not the same Han that runs headfirst into a squad of stormtroopers in A New Hope.  I wish Chewbacca was used more.  He was basically there because he had to be.  Fans of other EU stories will be happy to see Winter and Kell Tainer on the team, but neither of those characters were my favorites in the book.  The standout characters in my opinion were brand new to this book.  The imperial agent Dayja and the “ghost thief” Bink Kitik were both very interesting and I hope to see them both again in future Expanded Universe stories.

I think some people will love this book, but it just wasn’t for me.  Like I said earlier the overall story is great, and if you are a more patient reader than I am, you may actually enjoy all the set up.  I just found myself bored through most of it.  Once the book did pick up speed it got really good… but then it was over.

That’s three Star Wars novels in a row about undercover missions and daring heists which do not focus on Jedi characters.  Can I have my Jedi and lightsabers back now?

 

Random Thoughts and Observations

It’s still weird seeing Clone Wars references in a novel set in the Original Trilogy era. (page 16)

There was also a seemingly forced reference to the Old Republic era characters Revan and Malak. (page 183)

Loved the use of the Z-95 Headhunter.

Jaxxon’s species makes an appearance. (page 243)

Zahn uses the phrase “carry the football” which I thought was an odd real-world reference.  Apparently it’s not the first time the word football has been used in Star Wars though. (page 341)

Now we know Lando has a “number-three-type mustache”. (page 376)

Oooh, I know some people who will just LOVE the very last line of this book and others who will HATE it.  Should lead to some fun discussions.

Scoundrels will be released on January 1st and will be available at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere.

Aaron Goins

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  • Mitchell

    It is going to be SO difficult not to just jump to the last line after reading this review!

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  • http://mattwritesstuff.hubpages.com/hub/Ten-Star-Wars-characters-who-should-have-had-bigger-roles-in-the-movies Slte916

    I have trouble seeing Chewie in any sort of high-stakes, secretive heist ala Ocean’s 11. Not as a slight to the guy, but he stands out in a crowd. Still, Zahn has done great work before this (just got finished re-reading the Thrawn trilogy for the umpteenth time – I swear I read it at least once every two years), and I wouldn’t mind giving this book a shot.