This year saw me, Teresa, Riley, and Aaron all together at Dragon Con! While the convention is over, we are still releasing coverage of it including audio, photos, event coverage, and panel recaps like this one. Dragon Con has so much wonderful content from Marvel panels to parties, from Doctor Who to My Little Pony, and of course the Star Wars track, which had panels, parties, a costume contest, a trivia contest, and more. This Saturday panel was moderated by Teresa Delgado and Aaron Goins, who also have some audio of the panel on their podcast Star Wars Bookworms. The guests were Christie Golden and Timothy Zahn, both well know authors. The discussion revolved around tropes, with the authors talking about overdone story-lines in fiction, as well as classic themes that aid in the effort of telling a story well.
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.
Welcome to Star Wars Beyond the Films!
This time on Star Wars Beyond the Films, your hosts Mark and Nathan discuss crowding of content in the Star Wars timeline, specifically in certain areas where there seem to be so many (albeit good) stories set in one, short span of time that you wonder how the characters could possibly get from one place to the next so quickly, and when they might have time to go to the restroom.
They also both had several, exciting announcements to make!
On Friday, March 23rd, Nathan and his girlfriend Jodi got engaged!
On March 18th, Mark become a father once again when Jaina, he and his wife’s little sword of the Jedi, was born!
A hearty congratulations to both of them!
Do we need more Han and Chewbacca stories, more Luke stories, and more stories of that kind (especially if they’re set right after Yavin or in other, heavily explored time periods), when there are already so many stories of the “Big Three”…. Will these stories need to be forcibly shoehorned in just to fit with the continuity and specific time-frames? And, will this be a problem, or something that fan’s enjoy and want?
Are certain parts of the timeline too packed? Does adding one more adventure hurt other stories integrity? Does it even matter?
Star Wars: Scoundrels was brought up in the discussion, but are the Big Three the only characters who could be susceptible to cramming? Will Scoundrels be more like Fast Five Star Wars style? Wait, Nathan’s actually excited about Scoundrels?!
Rebel Force was one of the latest additions to these timeframes, as was Death Troopers, and Shadow Games.
Are there Original Trilogy time frames that are lost to fandom? (Older works that have not been re-written or re-printed.)
Should there be more “Don’t go there” places in the timeline? Places where the EU should have to leave alone for now?
Do fans want more cramming of the OT timeline with more Big Three tales in-spite of that time being already a bit crowded with the main characters tales?
Did the old way of publishing cause more issues with stories being tread over?
In the Insider issue 132 there was an article, Star Wars: Expanding Empire, by Ryder Windham which garnered high praise from both hosts. This Insider article deals with many of these publishing issues.
Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell, the Death Star plans, and a couple other story-lines that have been covered from multiple angles sometime create the potential for issues, yet when issues come up they are sometimes glossed over.
The Death Star Plans have been chronicled in: Interlude at Darkknell, Jedi Dawn, Dark Forces, Death Star, Shadow Games and possibly others.
On the other hand, Invasion was held back until after other stories had finished/were settled.
Should stories that are so interconnected be more well thought out vs, added to over the years with new info added with each new additions?
Another factor in this is: Does the format matter to you as a reader? Meaning, are games less important than the comics to you? Or do the comics mean less than the books? Do the books mean less than the movies? Do they all mean the same barring conflicts, and is it different for each individual?
Has continuity been a less important issue from the corporate perspective?
After much discussion the hosts feel that between 4 and 5 is the most crammed of all the Star Wars timeline. But they do see the merit in telling the back-story of the main characters. What about the other EU Characters though? Mara gets page time, but what about the Solo kids?
The Big Three are the touch stones of the EU in a lot of ways. They ARE the gateway to the EU for many first time readers.
And sometimes you’re not the reader the publisher was aiming at.
Mark rants about the New Jedi Order Era being shoehorned by it’s own “series” and the need of more Tales books, Tales of the New Jedi Order and so forth. Corran Horn’s leave of absence could be fun to explore. And new characters’ back-stories being explored could feel more like mining new information, instead of cramming.
Mark continued with his occasional feelings he gets from the marketing and publishing of the EU. Nathan draws attention to series that play into the other side of things, and balance was achieved.
Nathan brings up the Star Wars Adventure Journals and why they were so much fun, and how many of the Tales stories came from the Adventure Journals.
Nathan ponders on stories that could happen in the crammed timeframe that could work very well, and both hosts feel that crammed eras can have great stories. The stories just need to be done well, and not rushed. A Boba Fett’s past Flow chart may be needed.
Star Wars has proved time and again that it can make things work. You just have to roll with the punches. You can’t have a light side without a dark side, but you do need a Chosen One to bring balance to both sides of the Force!
Enjoy this episode of Star Wars Beyond the Films, and may the Force be with you!