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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: "Scoundrels" by Timothy Zahn


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!)...

Zahn's Team

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.


  1. Oh gods of Star Wars and all that entails, I think this is my favorite Timothy Zahn book to date!! Except for all of the others... I so, so enjoyed "Scoundrels" for the fun, almost throw away novel that it is. Except that Zahn turns it into so much more than that! You said it so eloquently, Es, Zahn is genius at what he does. And if he's not hired as a consultant for the rest of the Star Wars movies, than woe-betide Disney.

  2. The other reason they'd be total morons not to bring in Zahn is that SO MANY OTHER FANS feel the way we do about him and his creations; so much so, in fact, that EW, in their awesome "Star Wars is BACK" article not too long ago made specific reference to Zahn's influence and how they really really hope to see his characters and influence in the movies.

    I have to admit, though, that "Choices of One" is my favorite pre-EU Zahn book to date. I started rereading it by accident at breakfast a week ago (accidently rereading Zahn is a hazard I face on a daily basis) and, between Mara, the Stormtroopers of the 501st (aka Team Awesome McBadass), and the hilarity and endearing adorable that is Luke pre-ROTJ, I can't get enough of it.

  3. I love that you "accidently" started rereading Choices. I picture the book falling from the sky and landing open in front of your bowl of cereal. And you just going "Oh, look at that. Choices of One. Hmmmm, perhaps I'll read some." ^_^ Such a fantastic image in my mind!

    I don't want to get too in detail (yet again) about how I feel about the new Star Wars franchise, but whatever Disney and Abrams, I do hope they make use of all of the resources before them. Paper and person alike. HINT HINT!

  4. That's very nearly exactly what happened, don't judge me ^_^

    Agreed re: Abrams and Disney. I've been reading about Abrams and the more I read, the more excited I am. This man is a visionary but more importantly, he got into the film industry BECAUSE he loved Star Wars when he first saw it. He's a fan himself, of the original series (aka Star Wars at its finest). I have faith in that.