Thursday, August 1, 2013

Scoundrels, by Timothy Zahn

This past winter one of my favorite authors in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Timothy Zahn, released a new novel called Scoundrels. Although I cannot, for the time being, permit myself to purchase anything Star Wars related until I know how the new movie planned by J.J. Abrams is going to turn out, I decided to go ahead and borrow this book from the local library and see if it was any good. The short answer is that I was in no way disappointed and I am glad to see that Zahn is still doing the EU credit with his excellent writing. If you're a fan of Star Wars and have spent plenty of time tramping around the EU, I'd definitely recommend you pick this book up if you haven't already.

Scoundrels is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and follows Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca as they put a team together to pull off the heist of a cool 163 million credits from the vault of a local crime lord, but it isn't going to be easy. They're going to need a brilliant burglar, an explosives expert, and a couple of smooth-talking con men just to get at the vault, to say nothing about getting the goodies out. With a solid plan and a little luck, Han should be able to get enough credits to pay back Jabba once and for all.

I think part of why I really enjoyed this novel was because it was basically Ocean's Eleven but in the Star Wars universe with some familiar characters. As much as I love sci-fi and huge space-operas with titanic interstelllar wars and attack ships on fire off of the shoulder of Orion, I occasionally get bored with those sorts of stories because it generally boils down to a good guys vs. bad guys conflict and there's only so many ways to tell that story and keep it interesting. The Expanded Universe often has had that problem because Star Wars is, of course, rooted in the space opera tradition and many of the EU stories have gone in the same vein. I just thought it was a really refreshing change of pace for this space-opera universe to be used for a heist story.

I have to admit, though, that if you're new to the EU then you probably should spend some time tramping around before you try to tackle this book. At the very least I think a familiarity with Black Sun and Imperial Intelligence would help readers get a fuller experience from the book. Newcomers to the EU certainly can start with this novel and there are definitely worse places to start your journey, but I think a good grounding across the galaxy will help you enjoy this book a lot more as a reader. If you're as old a hand as I am and are looking for something fresh you're definitely going to love this.

Like all heist novels a lot of the plan isn't explained to the audience before it happens because it'd be boring if the characters told us the plan and then it worked, there has to be a certain degree of suspense. So a lot of the book you're going to be in the dark and wondering how they're going to get past the next obstacle. However, the pacing is very well executed and I could hardly put the book down because of my desire to find out what happened next. Throw in some truly awesome twists at the end, and a very elaborate Indiana Jones reference, and you have a pretty gripping read.

- Kalpar

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