Star Wars: Scoundrels
A novel by Timothy Zahn
Billed as a Ocean’s Eleven style hesit-caper, Scoundrels marks Timothy Zahn’s 10th novel in the vast Star Wars Expanded Universe that he started with 1991s ‘Heir to the Empire.’ Scoundrels catches up with Han Solo and Chewbacca shortly after the end of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Sometime between the destruction of the Death Star, and the start of the novel we see that Han’s reward money was taken by a pirate, and desperate to pay off his debt to the gangster Jabba the Hutt, Solo takes a job promising a huge payoff – 163 million credits. The only problem? The job involves breaking into a impregnable vault at the heart of a stronghold of a Black Sun, whilst avoiding Black Sun vigos and underbosses, alien thugs, killer droids, and Imperial Agents. Surely no problem for Solo?
After setting up the initial back story, and Han receives the job offer, he assembles his team, his Solo’s Eleven, in a series of scenes that reminded me a little of the beginning to The Avengers (or Marvel’s Avengers Assemble in the UK..) as we see each character in the own environment, learn about them and their tricks and skills, before seeing them recruited to the caper.
The team is formed of both new and existing characters, the most prominent being the movie characters, Han , Chewie, and Lando Calrissian, although Zahn also uses existing EU characters, notably Kell Tainer and Winter, both part of the Rebel Alliance – who both feature heavily later in the EU. Seeing them in this period was somewhat of a treat – although it does lead me to question where this lays in continuity, as the events of Scoundrels chronologically occur before a lot of the EU, yet the meeting is never mentioned or touched upon when the various characters run into each other later, meeting for the first time. This is to be excused, I suppose, as although set chronologically earlier, Scoundrels is still a very recent work – and I agree with Zahn’s decision to use existing characters as opposed to inventing more that cover the same ground, despite possible continuity errors.
The novel goes at break neck speed, following the initial planning and eventual heist, and is for the most part a very fun read, with good banter and back and forth between Solo’s crew. Zahn also takes the opportunity to expand on the distrust between Han and Lando we see in Episode V, and to further explain the reasons behind Jabba’s bounty on Han.
My one criticism comes with keeping up with the various Falleen characters in particular – it was not until later in the book that I realised I had mixed up one Falleen Black Sun Vigo with another in an early scene, a mistake it took me a while to puzzle out.
Star Wars: Scoundrels is a rip roaring, breakneck adventure through the Star Wars universe, filled with fun character moments, and despite some quibbles, is a must read for any Star Wars fans. The twist at the end of the novel, which I won’t spoil, is just the icing on the cake of a great novel. 8/10