Written by: Timothy Zahn
Published by: Random House Digital, Inc.
So your in hock to one of the galaxy’s most notorious gangster and the fortune you just earned rescuing a princess and helping a farm boy blow up a planet busting space station has just been ripped off by pirates and the only job on the table is completely out of your wheelhouse and while it packs a hell of a payoff it sounds as impossible as it sounds dangerous. What do you do? If your Han Solo you call a few friends.
The Death Star has been destroyed and Han Solo has received his award but before he can pay off Jabba the smuggler is ripped off by pirates. So instead of trying to hook back up with the rebellion he’s hustling any kind of work he can find on the backwater world Wukkar when an furtive man half covered in synthetic flesh approaches Han and Chewie with an odd proposition, he’s not turned away out of hand like he would be in better times. Eanjer, that’s the man half covered in synthetic flesh’s name, has been robbed. Not only robbed but his family has been murdered and he’s been grievously injured, hence the yards of synthetic flesh. Eanjer wants his 160 million credits back and he’s willing to share it equally with whoever can help him get it back. I’m not sure what the $US to Star Wars credit exchange rate is but that should be plenty to pay off Jabba even if it gets split several different ways.
And it’s going to be split several different ways because master smugglers they may be Han and Chewie are not thieves. Not that they are above that sort of thing under the right circumstances, it’s just not their area of expertise. That’s not that big of an impediment because they have friends. Well maybe they’re not all friends, but they get along well enough to work together. Han is adamant though that there is one acquaintance that will not be involved. It seems there is a little bad blood over a card game and a certain ship between Han and the one man who would be the perfect front man for the job, I’m trying not to spoil anything but if you’ve looked at the cover of the book you know who I’m talking about. The team Han and Chewie bring together has to be top notch, because the target isn’t just some local gangster but the local representative of the galaxy wide criminal organization Black Sun. And it wouldn’t be much of a Star Wars story if there wasn’t some Imperials sniffing around the periphery.
Many of the typical Star Wars tropes are missing, there are no space battles, no Jedi, although a diminutive light saber does make an appearance, but somehow Zahn manages to infuse the story with the proper Star Warsyness. Han is Han, Chewie is Chewie, and Lando is Lando, yeah I know I didn’t mention him by name earlier but I give up, he’s on the cover. There is a nice mixture of new characters and characters from the expanded universe as well. If your a fan of the expanded universe there are some nice little nuggets thrown in for you, but you don’t have to have read any of the expanded universe books to appreciate the story, though it might be a little confusing if you haven’t at least watched Star Wars. Zahn crafts a layered caper walking the line between giving you too much information and withholding so much information every solution comes across as dues ex machina. Like any good caper tale there are some twists that are satisfying and entertaining without being incredulous. It’s not perfect, the novel seems to lose a little steam in the middle and some of the complications come across as filler. These are minor quibbles though. Scoundrels is the most fun I’ve has in the Star Wars universe in a long long time.
I love the cover, the sight of Han, Chewie and Lando standing in front of a line up style backdrop with noirish lighting perfectly captures the tone of the book. The Kindle formatted ebook comes with a handy time-line that places the expanded universe books in relation to each other and the movies. While its not really necessary for this story, which nestles neatly between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back if your interested in diving into the expanded universe it’s great tool to consult before you start buying books. If you are interested in reading more expanded universe stuff the Kindle ebook has another bonus for you. There are previews for ten expanded universe novels at the back of the book. If your still sitting on the fence at this point Zahn wrote a novella featuring Lando working another caper immediately prior to the events in Scoundrels called Winner Lose All which will introduce you to the idea of a caper story in the Star Wars universe for a smaller investment of time and money. Of course I recommend you just go ahead and pick them both up.