Star Wars: Scoundrels
I'm a great fan of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars novels and have been ever since he penned the trilogy that gave Star Wars novels new life. I'm talking about The Thrawn Trilogy of course, and since then, I have read every Star Wars novel and short story written by Zahn. After whetting my whistle with Heist, a short story that appeared in Star Wars Insider Magazine featuring characters from his new novel, I couldn't wait to check out Star Wars: Scoundrels.
Set a short time after the Battle of Yavin, we find Han Solo and Chewbacca on the planet Wukkar. The money they have been rewarded for rescuing the Princess and their part in aiding the rebels in destroying the Death Star is all gone, having been stolen by pirates. Han still has a price on his head and no money to pay back Jabba the Hutt for the smuggling mishap that put it there. So, when a grievously injured young man approaches him with a job, Han is inclined to listen.
Apparently, the son of an import tycoon, Eanjer Kunaraztl was believed to be killed in an attack staged by the Black Sun Sector Chief Avrak Villachor. During the attack, a large sum of money in credit chips were stolen and Eanjer offers Han, Chewie and whoever Han deems necessary for the job a cut of the 160 million credits the chips are worth if they can steal the chips back from Villachor. The problem? Villachor's home is like a fortress, bristling with all sorts of security. In addition, a Black Sun Vigo has decided to make a visit during the Festival of Four Honorings, meaning more Black Sun agents hanging around the mansion. Not to mention the amount of precautions and security measures placed around the safe in which the credit chips are contained.
Seemingly impossible, right? But Han knows just who he needs to perform the nearly impossible and amasses a group of scoundrels with a variety of specialties that will be needed to get the job done. But a series of mishaps, unexpected surprises and Imperial involvement make things quite interesting for the group. And when one of them is captured by the enemy, could it be that Han Solo has been offered a job he can't come through on?
Scoundrels starts off at a run, then slows to a crawl, before getting to the explosive and surprising ending. To be fair, the slow parts come from the descriptiveness of the author who tries to instill in the reader's minds a picture of Villachor's home and the location and security measures surrounding his precious safe. The rest of the novel moves at whirlwind speed as we are introduced to some new characters and a few old fan favorites. It was nice to see Winter again, this time in a role that takes place long before the X-Wing novels and shortly after the destruction of Alderaan. We see a woman with perfect memory who is still coping with the vision of her homeworld being destroyed and the possibility that her best friend Leia Organa may have perished with it. An interesting look at a character that every X-Wing novel series fan knows and loves.
It was also nice to see a younger Lando Calrissian. In fact, Scoundrels actually serves as an explanation as to why Lando is so furious with Han Solo when he arrives on Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. It also explains why Lando has no choice but to go along with the Imperial plan at that time. And it was also a great opportunity to check out some more of the banter between Han and Lando, old friends and rivals.
There's plenty of action in the novel with explosions, speeder chases, shootouts and more, but the real draw of the book is the intrigue - all the intel and exploits that Han and his group must endure to get even close to the take, let alone getting into the safe itself. The story is a great deal of fun and, just when you think that all is lost, the group somehow manages to get closer to their goal with some crazy outlandish scheme to get around the setback.
What folks will be talking about most is the surprise ending. I'm not going to spill the beans on the ending, but I will say that it's sprung on the reader in the last two pages of the novel and elicited a hearty, "NO WAY!" from me that caused heads to turn. I love an author who can spring a surprise in the last pages of a novel, especially one that brings a smile to my face after I get over the initial shock.
Timothy Zahn has done it again! Star Wars: Scoundrels is a well-written, fun, rollercoaster ride of a novel with plenty of surprises and a great story that fans of the Star Wars Universe are going to love.