Review: Star Wars: Scoundrels, by Timothy Zahn

cover art: Star Wars Scoundrels, by Timothy ZahnStar Wars Scoundrels, by Timothy Zahn (LucasBooks 2013)

Remember the reward Han Solo earned in the original Star Wars movie (A New Hope) for his part in the Death Star’s destruction? The money that would have let him pay off Jabba the Hutt? Well, he lost it to pirates, and now he’ll take just about any crazy chance to make some cash.

So when a stranger offers a fortune to recover an even larger fortune in stolen credits, Han and Chewie are in. They’re smugglers, not thieves, but they have connections. Counting their employer, Eanjer, Solo’s team numbers 11.

The challenge: infiltrate the estate of a major crime boss, recover the credits with equal shares for each. Why is Eanjer so generous with his money? He claims it’s as much about revenge as about cash. But Lando is quick to point out Han’s history of not always trusting the right people.

The complication: Imperial Intelligence wants access to the same estate, and if they can manipulate Solo’s 11 into taking all the risks, so much the better.

Risks? It may be impossible.

Because it’s a heist novel, the first quarter is setup—interesting rather than action-heavy. Once the team begins to act, there are chases, explosions and plenty of danger in true, over-the-top caper style. And there’s a bit near the end that takes on extra significance when you remember that in the films, Han Solo was played by Harrison Ford, who also played Indiana Jones.

Scoundrels is a satisfying puzzle novel with plenty of adrenaline, and you don’t need to know more than the basics about the original Star Wars trilogy. I was expecting Han, Chewie and Lando, and was pleased to see Winter as another team member. Apparently Kell will also be familiar to those who’ve read more of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels than I have. The other characters are new for this novel, and they’re worth meeting.

It’s a plot-driven novel, but the characters are well-developed, with their own struggles, tensions and interactions. It’s interesting to see Han in a planning role here… shades of General Solo in days to come. And the setting is impressive: the heist is to go down during the planet’s annual Festival of Four Honorings, amid the crowds and lavish displays. Characters, technology and setting never upstage the plot, but support it and enhance the experience.

Timothy Zahn is an award-winning, bestselling author known for both his original science fiction and his work in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

[Review copy from my personal library. Amazon link is an affiliate link for The Word Guild.]

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