Esme and Rose were two adventurous children. They journeyed to a galaxy far, far away (a long, long time ago) through books and the remarkable writings of Timothy Zahn, Kathy Tyers, Matthew Stover, Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, and many more. Now, the two are proposing to do it again, this time as adults. What will this journey (in a time not long from now) bring? Read on to find out!
Throughout this whole rereading/blogging experience, I've found myself logging on and looking Star Wars stuff up on Wookiepedia. Something I obviously didn't do as a kid (oh the joys and powers of imagination *cue Willy Wonka's Pure Imagination*). It's actually been extremely helpful as far as visualizing non-movie characters, places and objects. The wiki is helping to fill in gaps that my still limber, but not pure, imagination (go away Willy Wonka!) is struggling to concoct. I looked up the Bothans to see what they look like because, while mentioned in Return of the Jedi, we never actually see any Bothans. And they feature prominently in the Thrawn trilogy.
Not only does the wiki for Star Wars have drawings, pictures, and other visual aids for both movie and non-movie people, places, and things, they have details and histories that are super fascinating and add so much more depth to the books Es and I are currently reading. For example, in Tatooine's Ghost (which we're currently reading) there are aliens called Squibs (yeah, the Harry Potter Star Wars crossover is not lost on us...). They're described as small, furry, hyperactive, and very sketchy as far as loyalties lie. But what do they look like? The sketch here shows them as sort of ElfQuest (bonus points to people who know what I'm talking about!) catlike aliens. Funny story, I totally pictured them looking like one of our cats. Anyway, I was able to go to Wookiepedia and do a search to find out what they look like. And so, this is my non-rhyming, not-even-written-like-a-poem Ode to Wookiepedia. I look forward to looking up many more interesting creatures, aliens, tech, and planets on the nerdiest of wikis!
This cover makes me want to visit Tatooine - that's a first!
Onward, upward! Or, as Han would say, "I have a bad feeling about this..."
It's not that I don't think it will be interesting - everything I've read (all right, the flap copy, but still!) suggests that it's going to be an awesome new adventure. But I think part of what worries me is that it's new. This isn't a reread; it's a brand-new adventure by a brand-new author. Help!
When Ro and I started putting together our booklist, we negotiated and discussed which books we wanted to include. I had a couple of reasons for fighting for this one. First of all, it's a weird place in the series for a new book to be. A lot of the new stuff is post-Zahn trilogy, during the original trilogy, or pre-episode one. This one takes place right after the Thrawn trilogy and before ....
OMG. Ro!! I've screwed us up! This is what happens when I get cocky (right, Han? Right?).
So I've just had another look at the official Star Wars Novel Timeline (which apparently I didn't bother to read before). Turns out Tatooine Ghost comes right before the Thrawn trilogy.
The Official Star Wars novel chronological timeline - worth a read ^_^
Ro, I'm so sorry! But since this is a problem that begs to be discussed, please post your thoughts about whether or not to continue with this novel or not below....
Ro's Input: Eh, no worries! I say let's read it! Mostly because I've already started it. And it's a new Star Wars book for me also. So we just have to remember to backtrack every time we wonder why there are no twins present, and why Mara Jade isn't swinging out of nowhere trying to slice Luke's head off. (As if that ever actually happened... heehee.) Plus I'm curious about Troy Denning and what he has to bring to the mix. So I say, let's go for it! I have almost no expectations for this book, and only expect to be entertained. Do we think Mr. Denning will be another Timothy Zahn. Of course not. But it'll still be a fun read! (I feel sort of bad for all of the other Star Wars authors, being held up to Timothy Zahn's brilliance. It's really not fair... But he set the bar so high!!).
Here we are, months after starting the Thrawn trilogy. Exhausted from the space battles. Overwhelmed by the machinations. Thrilled with the triumphs. And most of all, remembering what made this trilogy so special when we were kids. At least, that's how I'm feeling. As I reread this trilogy, which I've done several times before, I focused on all the reasons I loved it the first time I read it. Like sitting in Es's basement, smelling the wood burning in the wood stove, eating chocolate chips, and talking about Mara, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. What the twins would be like when they grew up. The treachery of the Bothans, and what the heck were they hiding in Mount Tantiss and why were they so scared of the New Republic finding it anyway? Hours and hours and hours outside in my back woods or Es's, playing Star Wars like we were a part of the universe. More than anything, this is what these books mean to me. They mean forming a friendship. They mean playing games in a vibrant imaginary universe. They mean childhood at its best. They also mean so much more than that because these are the books that Es and I formed our friendship with. Once we were done reading them, it was clear (to me anyway) we would be life long friends. We lost touch a few times, but always seemed to find each other in the end. Maybe it's the real version of the Force. Maybe it's just Fate. Or coincidence. It doesn't matter, actually. All that matters is that Es and I are friends. And this trilogy was the catalyst that got us to this point.
Es's Note: Ahhhhh!!!!!! Also, truuuuue!!!!!!!
Ahem, let the cheese flow. It must be the Valentine's vibes in the air... Right, let's get down to the hard core evaluation. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Timothy Zahn fan and practically worship everything he's ever written. It's hard to find fault with his work. As an author, he's able to draw his readers into the story with tendrils and promises and mystery. His well-formed characters (and of course, the most amazing non-movie character ever, Mara Jade!) guide us through the story, and all of the twists and turns that Zahn sets up for them to trip over. I'm not going to analyze the books too much because to me, they are a reminder of so much more (though being well-written does not hurt at all). I'll leave the analyzing up to Es, who is so much better at it than I am anyway. I leave you, dear reader, with all the warm-fuzzy feels of childhood and turn it over to Es... Es's Input
What can I possibly add to that? I've spent the last two years burried up to my nose in literary criticism so that's been foremost on my mind during the reading process (as is, I think, evidenced by my need to actually cite my work - who does that in a blog????). But Ro has really brought up the most important thing: our friendship began with this particular series. We read, we talked, and after what was frankly the rockiest start to a friendship that any two friends could possibly have, we found common ground and, what's more, that we both needed the friendship. Like Ro said, maybe that's the real nature of the Force. We were always going to be life-long friends - it's our destiny ^_^
If you haven't read Scoundrels in its entirety, don't ruin it for yourself by reading any further into this post. You've been warned.
I know how it feels to have a novel spoiled for you (as does any reader who was grew up during the Harry Potter Era - it probably happened to you at least once). So, let the warning stand.
Having said that, what?? Boba Fett??? Or, as Han would say, "Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where?"
One of my favorite things about Zahn is that I never do figure out exactly what his scheme is until he's ready for me to. Part of it is that I'm clueless - I hate solving a plot before I'm supposed to so I'm very good at ignoring clues. Or rather, I don't work hard at it because I love the suspense and surprise. What I do love is that Zahn allows me to start suspecting people right out of the gate and so I can start cataloging them right away. I thought I'd do a few character profiles of character types I see often in his work (because characters are my favorite thing about Zahn!)...
The Suspect: Dozer
Literally the only thing Dozer has going for him is that you see his POV fairly early on. But it's clear that he's not super happy with either Lando's takeover as the Front Man or the fact that the rest of the group doesn't entirely seem to trust him. Although, after his botched attempt to spontaneously grab the cryodex (to be fair, he DID get to it before the whole thing was upended by the Imperials' shinanigans), who can blame the rest of the team for thinking, as Winter says, "You're INSANE!" No, he's not the mole in the group but Zahn sure sets him up as a likely candidate.
Bink and Tavia Kitik
The Wild Cards: Rachelle and Bink (aka Team Sassypants McTalented)
Until her conversation with Winter about Tavia, it's hard to tell if Bink's going to be the straw that brakes the heist's back. Tavia describes Bink as a thrill-seeker and it's pretty clear she's willing to get into plenty of trouble (as we see with her climbing trees hundreds of feet in the air to break into a Black Sun vigo's hotel suite just to peek inside their safe). But then we get Bink's side of the story and it's clear that, whatever her agenda, she's fully committed to someone else's health and safety: her sister's. Betraying the group makes absolutely no sense because that would put Tavia at risk; and it's clear that Tavia herself isn't great at reading people the way Bink is and would have no idea how to safely extricate herself if Bink went rogue.
Rachelle's a much more interesting story. We never get her POV and there's very little apparent reason for her to be involved with the heist. Han sort of explains it away by saying that she's in it to help her friends and use her influence on Wukkur to have fun but that's not really a very good set of reasons to put herself on the line. She clearly already has money and power. I was actually a little disappointed that she DIDN'T turn out to be the mole because I think it would have been a very interesting use of the vagueries of her character. Zahn's great at hiding his villains and plot twists in plain sight and I wish he'd done that with Rachelle.
The Sure Things: Winter, Han, and Chewie
Every Zahn novel has characters you can absolutely rely on to do the right thing and be good as gold til the very end. We already know we've got a sure thing in Han and Chewie because - well, it's HAN and CHEWIE. But with Winter, it was always obvious. For one thing, we have her story. We already knew from the Thrawn Trilogy that she's Leia's most trusted advisor and lifelong friend and that she worked in supply and procurement for the Alliance. There's no way someone like that is working for the Imperials and certainly not for Black Sun. Winter, in fact, has every reason to see her work through to the end because anything she achieves with the group will help the Alliance and deal blows to both Black Sun and the Empire.
The Mole: Eanjer Ro read Scoundrels before I did and the text I got right after she'd finished it looked something like this: "!!!!!!!!!!!! OMGGGGGGGG!!!!!! Plot. Twist." In fact, she probably wanted to kick me in the head when we hung out in January and I STILL hadn't quite finished the book. I really couldn't figure out why she was so excited until those last couple of pages. Zahn did such a spectacular job of laying the clues through every step of the novel. Boba Fett knows exactly what he's doing but, even in his perfect act as the slightly clueless robbed smuggling mogul looking to get his money back, you can really see the cracks in his armor (no pun intended) when he's forced to trust the team to get him close enough to Qazadi to make the kill. It's great, too, that Han and Co. never do find out who "Eanjer" really is; it makes sense that they'd ultimately decide not to trust him (with their alternative rendezvous) but I love the twist that even though they know the real Eanjer is dead, they don't know who the faux-Eanjer is.
In short, Mr. Zahn, I am once again blown away by your genius and if J.J. Abrams doesn't make damned good use of you in some aspect of the Star Wars revamp, I will weep eternal bitter tears of woe and angst.