Saturday, 27 July 2013


Unusual suspects plan the ultimate "job" in STAR WARS: SCOUNDRELS.


A novel by Timothy Zahn

Published in UK hardback by CENTURY PUBLISHING

Reviewed by Scott Weller

The con is on!

Our legendary pilot and smuggler Han Solo has taken on some risky jobs in the past but this may be his greatest and most life threatening challenge yet, as fan favourite author Timothy Zahn’s Classic Trilogy era heist adventure, Scoundrels, finally makes its way into hardback release in the UK, from CENTURY PUBLISHING.

Getting away from the massive plot lines of the past but still delivering some deft plotting, Oceans Eleven meets STAR WARS is how the publicity blurb describes the novel, and they’re right for the most part, but also with a heavy dose of Mission: Impossible throw in for good measure- the only thing Scoundrels doesn’t have from that show is Martin Landau’s clever make-up disguises!

Out of luck and needing money with the escalating price on his head courtesy of Jabba the Hutt and his goon squad, Corellia’s finest star child and his loyal friend and first mate Chewbacca are hired by a mysterious and shady employer, wanting revenge on a dangerous criminal, Villachor, to break into his seemingly impregnable bank vault and retrieve his fortune- a task that will not be easy with all the incredible and sophisticated technology and manpower guarding it. But with a hundred and sixty-three million credits up for grabs, Han soon has a plan- his wildest yet- for what could be the job of the century, but knows he can’t pull it off without some considerable and intriguing help (lithe safe cracking twins, an explosive expert, a magician, a nervy acquisitions man, a top hacker, and a memory expert), as well as the talents of an old acquaintance left sour from a previous business deal gone belly up- Lando Calrissian.

Unbeknownst to them, however, is the additional presence of the galaxy-spanning criminal organization Black Sun on the planet- two of its top members entrusting Villachor with secret materials in the vault that bring even greater danger and risk to our band of fortune and glory seekers, as well as attracting the attentions of two of the Empire’s top undercover operatives. With such dangerous times ahead, can Han ultimately trust any of the old and newcomers? And just who is using who?

The first half of the book and the assembling of the characters is strong, as are the villains and the story’s general locale (for Las Vegas read the planet Wukkar and a massive party/celebration taking background duties to all the madness ahead), but once it enters all-important heist mode, what should be exhilarating and fun gets tediously bogged down in technobabble, which is not what STAR WARS is about to me, and left me feeling a little battle weary. Fortunately, the big action finale, involving one bizarre homage sequence in which an Indiana Jones-esque Solo gets involved with a laser whip and a moving boulder no less!, ends the book on a more positive note.

Set after STAR WARS but a year or so before EMPIRE, and enjoyably between two classic Roy Thomas/Archie Goodwin MARVEL comic storylines from 1978, the story has lots of continuity but is no slave to it. On the hero side, the book gives us a little bit of background into why Lando and Han hadn’t been getting along prior to their reunion on Bespin as well as mildly setting up things to come by their next reunion in EMPIRE, though I wonder if it might have been wiser if Zahn had placed the story a few years before EPISODE IV and given things a bit more of a cleaner, less continuity hassle slate.

For fans of Black Sun-hearted villainy, its nice to see the organization properly represented in a Zahn novel, as well as the welcome use of the pheromone overbearing reptilian gangsters, the Falleen, who’ve had a good time of it in the STAR WARS saga recently, what with their appearance in THE CLONE WARS animated series final season. Plus, there’s a final link to EPISODE V badness that fans of Classic Trilogy super-icons will enjoy.

Zahn’s own specially created band of STAR WARS characters continues to grow within the Expanded Universe (and long-term readers will be happy to see the return of his Alderaanian Rebel, Winter, forming a key part of Solo’s posse), but this time out I found his new team overall lacking charisma-they seemed pretty interchangeable for the most part and didn’t have the presence of our main classic trio.

Despite its mixed bag status, Scoundrels proves itself as a great idea for a novel, but it’s a bit too po-faced at times- Han and Lando keep their necessary sardonic edges, but I think the adventure needed a writer who could handle plotting as strongly as Zahn but someone who was also more adept at writing larger than life characters and whom could have injected a little bit more humour and zippiness into proceedings.

AFICIONADO RATING: Another sure-fire hit for Zahn, still the king of Expanded Universe storytelling, but Scoundrels didn’t quite live up to my very high personal expectations. 3.5 out of 5

1 comment:

James the Reviewer said...

I still give this book a shot after I finish some of the others ones I am currently reading.