I usually shy away from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I’ve read about what kinds of things have got into the shared timeline from places like Wookieepedia, and I feel like large swaths of it are ridiculously over the top. The comics are the biggest culprits in this, but since everything in Star Wars is canon (considered to be part of the official storyline), we’re stuck with them. As for the books, I’ve not heard great things about a lot of them, either.
However, I make a point of reading all of the Star Wars books written by Timothy Zahn. Years before the prequel trilogy of films, Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn Trilogy, which wonderfully fleshed out the political and military aftermath of Return of the Jedi, showing that things weren’t quite so simple for the Rebellion taking over from the Empire. Since then, I’ve found Zahn’s books to be well-written and well thought out in the Star Wars universe.
Zahn’s most recent Star Wars novel, Scoundrels, is no exception. This story takes a different route from his Rebellion-centered stories, instead focusing on one of Han Solo’s personal misadventures–a heist story modeled on Ocean’s Eleven.
Recruited by the son of a murdered entrepreneur, Han’s team of, yes, eleven smugglers, gamblers, thieves, and all-around scoundrels are tasked with getting the hapless victim’s money back from a local crime lord. The trouble is, this crime lord isn’t exactly local, and he’s got a lot more than money to protect in the galaxy’s most impenetrable safe. Oh, and they only have a week to do it in.
This book was a lot of fun. While not perfect, the caper was well-designed, with just enough things going wrong to keep it interesting. The characters were believable, including the ones we already know and love. The biggest problem was keeping all eleven scoundrels plus a few antagonists straight. However, while the plethora of characters weighed it down a bit, the way the plan came together in the end, despite being half-improvised on the fly did make it work. Add in a hilarious Easter egg for Harrison Ford fans and a last-minute twist ending, and you have a recipe for a pretty good read.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5.