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Star Wars: Scoundrels
Timothy Zahn
Lucas Books, 464 pages

Star Wars: Scoundrels
Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn's SF career began by selling SF stories to Analog magazine while he was a physics grad student at the University of Illinois. When his thesis advisor died, he decided to write full-time. He started with hard SF, writing the Cobra series of military SF novels. In 1984, he won a Hugo for his novella "Cascade Point." His writing has a distinctly humanistic touch, so it seems obvious to some that Theodore Sturgeon was an early influence. Zahn is perhaps best-known as one of the original authors commissioned to write novels in the Star Wars realm.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
SF Site Review: Dragon and Liberator
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Allegiance
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Outbound Flight
SF Site Review: Night Train to Rigel
SF Site Review: The Green And The Gray
SF Site Review: Star Song and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Manta's Gift
SF Site Review: Angelmass
SF Site Review: Icarus Hunt
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Specter of the Past

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox

Han Solo, intergalactic rogue and smuggler extraordinaire has just helped the fledgling Rebellion destroy the Empire's newest super weapon, the Death Star. However, the reward he received has been lost in an unfortunate 'incident.' Still in deep debt to crime lord Jabba the Hutt, a growing bounty on his head, the erstwhile pilot of the Millennium Falcon desperately needs a big score with a huge payout.

The Star Wars Universe has the ability to appeal to many genre fans of multiple interests and the Expanded Universe increases the wide variety of worlds, creatures, beliefs, and characters to a staggering level. But one aspect that usually gets forgotten is the down to earth, normal, non-Force sensitive characters. Epic Star Wars scribe Timothy Zahn steps up to give readers Star Wars: Scoundrels, a fun, fast-paced adventure that skims the shadier realms of the SW EU and gives Han Solo a much needed solo adventure.

Set shortly after A New Hope, Han finds himself looking for any sort of work to get Jabba off his back. He finds himself approached by a stranger named Eanjer who is the heir to a sizable fortune. Eanjer is looking for revenge against the crime lord Villachor, a villain responsible for his father's murder and his own disfigurement as well as ties to Prince Xizor's Black Sun organization. He wants to hire Han and Chewbacca to break into one of the most highly fortified palaces on planet Iltar, crack the most secure vault in the system, and liberate millions of credits.

Initially wary, Han agrees to the job and begins assembling a team of 'scoundrels' to help pull off the job. Most are new introductions to the Expanded Universe; Zerba the slight of hand, shady magician, Dozer, the burly car thief, Bink and her twin sister Tavia, expert computer hackers and thieves, and Rachele, the oracle of the group. Then some classic favorites get involved as well, Winter from the Heir to the Empire series, still young and ignorant of Princess Leia's fate after the destruction of Alderaan, explosive expert Kell Taine and, of course, Lando Clarissian, though he's still angry with Han over several of their previous dealings.

Once the team is set, the book takes on a very Ocean's Eleven feel, with the group each using their specific techniques and skills to attempt this elaborate break in. The villain gets a little dimension of character, being fairly high up in the Black Sun organization and having grown incredibly paranoid of plots within plots. His chief of security, Shequoa, does his best to watch his boss's back, while being suspected himself due to his employer's increasing paranoia.

The heist takes place over a planet-wide festival of air, water, earth, and fire, Han's team planning elaborate bait and switch antics to get as much information as they can before attempting the actual safe break in, which turns out to be an enormous duracrete orb that hovers around a metal sealed ballroom surrounded by deadly droids.

It's nice to see Han so prominently displayed as the scallywag fans first met Episode IV, having not achieved the galaxy-wide recognition he normally has in later EU novels. Not since Brain Daly's Han Solo Adventures from 1979 and 1980 or even A.C. Crispin's Han Solo Trilogy from 1997 and 1998 has Han felt this, shall we say, unencumbered by family, weight of the Republic, or anything else that prevented he and Chewie from flying around the galaxy, looking for adventure.

However, the story deteriorates near the end as things inevitably start to go wrong, with characters second-guessing their second guesses and the Empire themselves getting involved with a two-dimensional secret agent infiltrating the event. What really makes the Ocean films fun is how everything seems to go awry at the end, but the heroes still manage to succeed and then the viewer is then given the full story of the plot within the plot that was planned. Unfortunately, while you THINK that's what Zahn is doing, the finale devolves into a standard Star Wars blaster fight.

That aside, there are enough twists and surprises and a pleasant cameo at the end that make Star Wars: Scoundrels not just entertainment, but a satisfying adventure as well. Now that Disney officially owns the Star Wars property, the question of whether the Expanded Universe will remain canon or not is in debate, so, before anything happens to negate these stories, grab a copy and remember what it was like when you first met the captain of the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

Copyright © 2013 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been Star Trek characters, the Riddler in a Batman stunt show and holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. He has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories while acting on stage, screen and television. He can sometimes be seen giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood and playing Norman Bates.

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