Author: Timothy Zahn
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 432 (393 actual length)
This review contains minor spoilers.
When you think of Timothy Zahn, epic stories and famous characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn instantly come to mind. Scoundrels, however, is a different – but welcome – change of pace. Inspired by Ocean’s Eleven, the novel recounts a heretofore untold tale about a complex heist, led by none other than Han Solo himself. With the help of Chewbacca and Lando, Han’s group of eleven scoundrels attempt to rob a Black Sun sector chief of 163 million credits. But will they succeed?
Scoundrels is set immediately following the events of A New Hope, separated only by Tales from the Moss Eisley Cantina, Empire, and New Republic. The close proximity to the film that started it all allows Zahn to deal with topics like the emotional impact of the destruction of Alderaan, Han and Lando’s rocky friendship after by the Ylesia incident, and Han’s predicament with Jabba the Hutt. In fact, the only reason that Han takes the job in the first place is so that he can free himself from Jabba’s clutches.
Simple smugglers, Han and Chewbacca assemble a rogue’s gallery of specialists to play vital roles in the heist. You’ve got Lando Calrissian, the front man; Bink and Tavia Kitik, the ghost thieves; Winter, the living recording rod; Kell Tainer, the explosives and droid expert; Rachele Ree, who can magically acquire just about anything; Zerba Cher’dak, the pickpocket; Dozer Creed, the ship booster; and Eanjer, the client whose fortune was stolen by Black Sun. Zahn does an excellent job of making each character interesting and giving them valuable skill sets, but none of them are the absolute best in the business. In fact, one of the scoundrels was actually eighth on Han and Chewie’s list. Other forces come into play as well, including the mysterious Dayja and Lord d’Ashewl, the Empire, Black Sun sector chief Avrak Villachor, and Black Sun vigo Qazadi.
The bulk of Scoundrels focuses on the planning and execution of the amazing heist, which is scheduled to take place during the Festival of Four Honorings when Villachor’s estate is open to the public. But if Han and his crew are to earn a fortune, they must get past one of the most intricate security systems ever created. Han, of course, always seems to be two steps ahead of everyone, even when numerous independent forces are conspiring against him.
If you’re someone who likes to flip forward to the end of the book to check the number of pages (393) or chapters (24), watch out! Zahn keeps you guessing about a specific plot point until the very last sentence of the book. Unfortunately for those who like to flip ahead, it’s very easy to accidentally read.
From the classic Zahn opening to the entertaining finish, Scoundrels is an exciting novel that is sure to keep you glued to your favorite reading spot. It requires no knowledge of the Expanded Universe, but well-read fans will appreciate the references to other works. Zahn even manages to sneak in a somewhat subtle nod to another popular Lucasfilm franchise. And for you football fans – yes, it apparently now exists in the Star Wars universe.
Zahn’s take on Ocean’s Eleven in the Star Wars universe is an exciting read, filled with mystery, suspense, intrigue, and action. The characters are well-written, and the heist is amazingly complex yet easy to follow. Some people might find it a bit on the slow side, but it never bothered me. If you’re looking for a different change of pace, you should definitely check out Scoundrels.
Advanced Review Copy (ARC) courtesy of Del Rey. All staff members can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.