Star Wars: Scoundrels
By Timothy Zahn, Read by Marc Thompson
Length: 14 hours, 1 minute
I was born in 1977, the year of Star Wars. Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw in theaters, and I’ve been a would-be Jedi ever since. When Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series came out, I ate up every page of those books, and I read many of the subsequent books. But around the time the New Jedi Order came out, I got burned out on the Expanded Universe books.
Fast forward to Disney buying Lucasfilm, and (completely coincidentally) Zahn writing a standalone Han Solo’s 11 novel. I’d read exactly one SW book in the past decade (the ridiculously fun Death Troopers), so as soon as I heard about this one, I wanted to check it out. I thought it’d be the perfect book to get back into SW – one that wouldn’t be overly bogged down by the Expanded Universe continuity, and that would be good old comfort food.
It wasn’t bogged down with continuity, but it wasn’t too much fun, either. Scoundrels is a “Heist” novel, starring our favorite rogues from the SW galaxy: in particular Han Solo, Chewie, and Lando Calrissian. This is the biggest problem with the book: there are too many players, and not enough of our favorite scoundrels. Han Solo is the mastermind of the heist, and thus – he oversees it all and doesn’t do as much as the rest of the players until the very end. Chewie does even less. As the frontman Lando’s part is thankfully bigger, but most of the rest of the action falls to characters Zahn created for this book (and a couple pre-existing EU characters), which is a shame. In a book with Han, Chewie, and Lando in an Imperial line-up on the cover, you want Chewie, Lando, and especially Han to steal the show, if not the prize.
My suspension of disbelief was blown pretty early on (and yes, it was set to Anakin midichlorian levels of “High” to begin with) when the characters didn’t ask some basic questions about their marks or the job itself, I was disappointed. It might have been forgivable if the pace of the book didn’t feel so slow. Perhaps it’s my own nostalgia speaking, but it just didn’t work as well as Zahn’s other Star Wars books. It took too long, and I didn’t find a lot of the rest of the team to be very entertaining or developed considering how much time we spent in their heads.
There is some entertainment value – Zahn introduces Han in a scene where someone else shoots first, and Han and Chewie turn the tables. There are some fun twists (especially at the end). And once the action does pick up (about halfway through the book), things become more fun. It just took so long to get to that point – I was literally looking up Star Wars fanfic waiting for the good stuff to kick in. But it takes a looooooong time, and Han Solo just doesn’t do enough.
Marc Thompson has a knack for narrating Star Wars, apparently. His Han Solo is flawless, which is a necessity for a book that’s supposedly about him, and his Lando is pretty good too. (His Chewabacca is INCREDIBLE. (What? It was soundbytes from the movies? NO, SIR, I REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT.) The production is punctuated by sound effects and the occasional John Williams score, which was much more distracting than the other SW book I’d listened to. Thompson sometimes overplays his line-to-line delivery as well, but I’m not sure I can really fault him for the pace.
I probably will go back and revisit Heir to the Empire at some point, as well as A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy (oh, for an UNABRIDGED AUDIO VERSION!), but overall, it felt like the only thing heisted was my time.