“It was, Han thought, a good day to make 163 million credits.
It would not be such a good day to walk away empty-handed.
It would be a really bad day to get shot.”
Han Solo’s a smuggler, not a conman. But with a growing bounty on his head and a huge score in front of him, he’ll adapt and lead a team of the very best thieves and grifters… that he could find on short notice.
Timothy Zahn is my favorite writer, and he shines most brightly when expanding and exploring the Star Wars mythos. In one of the last novels of the Expanded Universe before Lucsarts was bought by Disney, he presents a tale featuring the seedier element of Star Wars’ rogues gallery as Han, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian try to rescue someones ill-gotten gains from a neigh-impenetrable safe.
The concept Scoundrels was sold on is “Star Wars meets Ocean’s 11,” and it’s not only apt but I honestly felt Zahn was a little too tied to it in parts. I rolled my eyes when I found out Han’s team would actually have 11 members. They are all used well though and beyond the occasional heavy handed references this is a nice blending of heist tropes and sci-fi elements.
There are a lot of moving parts, agendas, and counter agendas that keep the plot compelling and mysterious until the end. Although I felt it didn’t quite come together as smoothly as some of Zahn’s other novels. The time period it’s set in provides advanced context that’s hard to shake, there are a couple of (thankfully minor) “idiot ball” moments, and at a particular part of the story there are some extremely uncomfortable implications that are totally unneeded. By and large though I enjoyed the journey, and while a couple of the multitude of twists had the edge of “trying too hard” most of them were logical, well done, and entertaining. Zahn also expertly weaves in allusions to his other books and characters without making knowledge of such necessary to follow the plot. It’s a nice treat for those who read everything he’s done but is executed in such a way not to turn off or overwhelm new readers.
I’ve read the prequel novella “Winner Lose All” (included at the end of the paperback) before. It’s a fun little story featuring a handful of characters from Scoundrels. The characterizations didn’t quite mesh between the novel and the novella, but they were still recognizable. Even though it takes place before Scoundrels and was released first to drum up interest, I’d say reading it second (as it’s presented here) is the better choice.
Scoundrels is another solid Star Wars adventure from Zahn, despite not reaching the heights of his other forays. Enjoy the ride.