Skuldren: Scoundrels has been billed as Star Wars meets Ocean’s Eleven, and on this, Timothy Zahn certainly delivers. Originally titled Solo’s Eleven, Han finds himself teamed up with a wide mix of scoundrels in order to pull off a massive heist. With help from Chewie, Lando, Winter, Kell Tainer, and a handful of new characters, Han tries to rob a Black Sun vault without getting caught. Zahn juggles the large cast with an intricate plot. For the most part, the weaving of the story mimics the feeling of the Ocean’s Eleven movies. There’s that same level of complexity as each thief handles their part of the plan in a multitude of little jobs that lead up to the big one. Meanwhile the overall scheme is never fully revealed until it’s in action and plays out.
Synlah: Quick story setup: Han is approached by Eanjer Kunaraztri, victim of Black Sun, to steal back his rightful property. The payoff is going to be huge, but Han will definitely have to earn it since breaking into Villachor’s (the Black Sun sector chief) mansion and safe is all but impossible. Han can’t resist the challenge but he knows he needs help to pull this off. Since the payoff is so huge, it’s worth it to assemble of team. Enter Solo’s Eleven.
As if the task isn’t already hard enough, Imperial Intelligence is also involved as well as a Black Sun Vigo, Qazadi, complete with Falleen pheremones.
I have to admit that it was hard for me to get into this book, but having said that, once I did get into it, I was hooked. It’s true that it’s initially slow, but once it ramps up, it really ramps. While Scoundrel’s doesn’t have the galactic scope of Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, its intricate plot and surprises have a broadness reminiscent of Zahn’s Bantam books. In other words, it’s vintage Tim Zahn. There are a few misses — it’s a large cast of characters — such as the blandness of some better known EU characters (Kell Tainer and Winter), but it’s made up for by new characters such as Bink and Tavia Kitik. Also, while it is a large cast, everyone does have a necessary role. Even with that, Zahn leaves you wondering about one or two of the characters’ motives and loyalties and even their abilities.
Skuldren: Of the cast, Zerba was my favorite. He was built up a little bit in Winner Lose All, so I already had a feeling for the character. I really enjoyed some of the gimmicks Zahn gave him. For starters the character is introduced in a clown outfit. Secondly there is a running gag with his lightsaber shrinking that was pretty amusing. But Zerba certainly wasn’t the only character that I liked. Dozer was another character that caught my interest. Han has him lined up to be the frontman but it falls through when Lando takes that position. While there is never any direct hard feelings about it, it does complicate Dozer’s position on the team and it gives quite a bit of mental contemplation from his perspective. Bink was another memorable character as she plays the ghost burglar (think cat burglar). She has a twin sister, Tavia, who’s on the team, but Bink is the criminally inclined one, which makes her much more intriguing.
Synlah: The likeable characters aren’t just confined to the “good” guys either. The Imperial agent, Dayja, was a worthwhile toss into the mix, and I found myself having a sneaking sympathy for the sector chief, Villachor. He’s Black Sun, which is pretty much synonymous with ruthless, and he’s certainly earned any just deserts he may suffer, but there’s screwed and there’s screwed.
Of course, going into this story, we already know that Han, in some fashion, isn’t going to succeed. This story does take place before The Empire Strikes Back, and we know Jabba is still after him in that movie. But the fun of the book is in how Zahn manages all of it. Just for sheer enjoyment, we get to learn why Lando is really P. O. ed at Han, and what more Han did to earn Jabba’s increasing wrath. And pretty much everyone in this book gets played. As for his trademark surprises, Zahn keeps them coming literally up to the last line in the book. That last line alone makes the book worth the read.
Skuldren: In my opinion, most of the book is set at a pretty laid back pace with not a whole lot of action. There is a lot of scheming and second guessing by all sides as they try to out maneuver each other. Sometimes that can get a little convoluted, but it’s no more so than any of the plotlines in the Ocean’s Eleven movies. And like Synlah said, the book has some nice surprises. The ending is great. Plus there are some fun things tossed in here and there. At one point there’s some commentary on Wookiees and people knowing their language, some nice insight from Winter on the destruction of Alderaan, and a mention of there being 15 Landos in the Imperial criminal database.
Still, I would’ve like to have seen more emphasis on the characters and characterization. Much of the book is focused on plot. Considering the time period, it would have been interesting to see each scoundrel’s opinions on the war, the rebellion, and the Imperials. As a reader, I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters very much. Here and there you get some insight, but overall it’s not much. They have their moments and that’s about it. For a plot driven book, I’d have to give Scoundrels around a 3 out of 5. It’s a good book and worth a reread, but I just couldn’t get into as well as I usually do.
Synlah: Well, I’m of the school of “show; don’t tell” so for me the characters were fleshed out by the plot, and the plot was fantastic. I’m giving Scoundrels a 5 out of 5.
Roqoo Depot’s cumulative score for Scoundrels is a 4 out of 5 metal bikinis.