Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: SCOUNDRELS (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Hey, maybe you've heard of an author named Timothy Zahn? Well, he's got another book out, something about a bunch of scoundrels.

    Some rules: rate Scoundrels on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)
  2. krtmd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    I'd give Scoundrels an 8 out of 10. I thought the pacing was excellent and the characterization of those we know was pretty spot on. Zahn held back enough of the intricacies of the plot to keep the reader feeling in on the action and yet surprised - for example, Dozer and the decoy Falcon, and the Boba Fett twist at the end were real surprises, I thought. I'd agree with your statement elsewhere @Havac that it was disappointing that, besides Chewie (who I didn't feel was used very effectively in this book) and the Falleen, the main cast felt all too human, and I deducted a point for that. It slightly made up for it with all the cool women Zahn featured, however. I was also pleased that Zahn made sure that he left *something* for Lando to be unhappy about when Han and Leia drop in on Cloud City in TESB. It was a nice touch that it was an Imperial entanglement, and I had a chuckle about that. Again, I also lol'd at the Indy references - the rolling sphere and the whip.

    All in all, I thought it was a rollicking good read and it felt like a book the author had fun writing. Not galaxy-changing, but entertaining, and I found myself wishing there were more EU books like this one.
    Last edited by krtmd, Jan 5, 2013
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  3. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Timothy Zahn has a long history with the EU. In the nineties, he was on fire. His TTT and HOT series are definitive big-picture Star Wars writing, and his short stories were definitive small-scale writing. In both he demonstrated competence with intricate plotting and rigorously thought-through schemes and the ability to build memorable characters, as well as an affinity for writing the Fringe. I really enjoyed his short stories, which were so excellent at capturing the feeling of the run-of-the-mill adventures throughout the galaxy. Since the nineties, Zahn has been more hit-and-miss. He's had fewer opportunities for short stories, though they've continued to deliver. In the underrated Survivor's Quest, he essentially expanded his short-story approach out to novel length, featuring a smaller-scale adventure that revolves around a single intricately-plotted mystery. Outbound Flight was something of a departure from both his previous models, more expansive in feeling than Survivor's Quest or his short stories, but not the big-picture space opera of TTT or HOT, and it was a success. But Allegiance and Choices of One, in which Zahn took roughly the mid-scale style of OF and applied it to the OT throwaway adventures of the Big Three, Mara, Thrawn, and some underdeveloped stormtroopers, were misfires, books that weren't bad but didn't do anything special and got lost in a muddle rather than delivering what Zahn's capable of. I'm so very pleased to say that Scoundrels features Zahn back in top form.

    Getting Zahn away from his pet characters eliminates distractions (the only previous OC he uses in the book at all is Winter, hardly one of Zahn's fixations, plus references to Mazzic) and lets him focus on telling a fun, adventurous heist story that, like Survivor's Quest, the previous novel of which it's most reminiscent, feels like one of his magnificent short stories fleshed out as a novel. Zahn's Han here is miles ahead of his Han in Allegiance and COO, where Han was a cranky whiner. Here he's looser, the roll-with-it adventurer of ANH, who, in planning the heist, shows flashes of the leadership and tactical genius that will make him a general in the future, without overdoing it. It's a great touch and subtle characterization. Chewie doesn't get used as well as he could be, but he does at least have two standout sequences, the best being his quick tree-leaping with Winter to save the day (the other being his deft piloting in the warehouse rescue). It's so much fun to see Lando used well; my only complaint is that Zahn has Lando as slightly too much of a goody-two-shoes, both here and in the excellent Winner Lose All -- a little too hesitant to cheat, professing that he doesn't have a background as a con man. It's okay to let a scoundrel be a scoundrel, Zahn.

    Zahn also makes sure to get POV scenes for the other characters, and all are pretty interesting. Kell's appearance is unnecessary, but he's used well, and Winter gets to be competent while dealing with her grief over Alderaan. The new characters are all pretty nice additions -- I really loved Bink and Tavia, and their bad girl/good girl dynamic. Rachele was an interesting character concept, and Zerba was fun, though they're less developed than the others. Dozer was a nice addition, reluctant and spooked, adding the specter of betrayal to the team but ultimately turning out alright. He, Bink, and Tavia are the new characters I'd like to see more of. Villachor was a solid villain, and it was nice seeing his thought processes. Qazadi was kind of stock, but his role wasn't big enough to really show him off. Dayja was mostly a plot device, there to help move pieces around but never quite interesting enough on his own.

    The one major misfire, from a character point, was Eanjer. I knew from the beginning that something was up with him, so I don't mind the twist, but having it be Boba Fett who was behind the medseal was a step too far. Not so much because it's gimmicky as because it kills the plotting. If Boba can get messages to Han and Lando to lure them to him at any time, why isn't he doing that independently, when it's not a giant house-of-cards gambit to get them? Why waste it on this? It's not as if there aren't other scoundrels who could get him in to see Qazadi, or as if he couldn't actually do it himself. And if he could do it before, why not just do it again, lure them into another trap? The intensity of the long-term acting commitment feels out of character for Fett, too. I don't have a problem with Fett acting to lure in bounties in general, but inhabiting this entire role that's wholly opposite his entire personality for weeks on end feels a bit at odds with the Fett of DKM.

    Aside from that, though, the plot was great. Intricate, and classic Zahn, with characters actually considering the situation and basing decisions around that, with Zahn clearly spending actual effort to think what conditions in a realistic Star Wars universe would be like. It's that kind of consideration that really steps Zahn's stuff above the simplistic, straightforward, slide-to-the-next-scene-and-hope-no-one-pays-attention plotting that's so common in this sort of forward-driving genre fare. The plot threads come together well, and we get a fun big finale. The character interactions are great, Zahn continues to have a great feel for setting (aside from his very curious underuse of nonhumans) -- it really is an exhilarating, fresh-feeling novel. It feels like a throwback. I hope we get more from Zahn in this vein, because after COO I was worried he was losing his touch, but here he is back in full form.

    8.95/10
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  4. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 16.95/2 = 8.48
  5. DarthStymi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 10, 2002
    star 3
    Seems I am in the minority here, but I just did not think this book was particularly engaging. It was very plot heavy at the expense of characterization.

    I enjoyed both the short story "Heist" and the novella "Winner Lose All" more than I did Scoundrels, so I had pretty high hopes for the novel.

    I have really enjoying Zahn's more recent works...I would even say that have been been that his earlier Bantam stuff (although I really likes those too). But this story did not keep my attention. I had to force myself to stay IN the story.

    7/10
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  6. JediMara77 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2004
    star 4
    9/10. Loved it. Bink is my favorite new SWEU character in a long, long time. I also loved his use of Kell and Winter, Han and Lando were great, and yay Chewie you're not dead!

    Gimme more fun EU novels please. The only thing that could've made this better would have been Karrde.

    Please, Zahn, write a Karrde novel. [face_praying]
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  7. Manisphere Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2007
    star 5
    I'm not a big Ocean's 11 guy. Not a big heist fan. Don't watch heist movies so I'm not the target audience. I found the book competent though. It's Zahn so it's of course competent. It's just not my type of thing from the start. Too many characters for me to latch onto. I enjoy something like Outbound Flight or Choices of One more.
    7.5
  8. SWpants Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2004
    star 4
    I forgot that this was based off Ocean's 11 and I'm very glad I reread that fact before picking up the book. It made it more interesting for me.

    I was wary about Lando being on the team since I didn't think he and Han had seen each other after the events of Rebel Dawn but it worked out well.
    Eanjer's reveal took me by surprise.

    I liked his use of the alphabet, which I've rarely seen in anything. I had to look up the letters!

    The only thing that grated on me was the mention of Revan and Malak and then football.

    9/10
  9. JediMatteus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 4
    I would give Scoundrels a 7/10. It took awhile to get interesting for me. I felt like i was half way through the book, before i was engaged. It was well done overall, and they pulled off the plot twist, as i did not see it coming. Good book, but not an elite book.
  10. fett 4 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jan 2, 2000
    star 4
    It was well written and enjoyable but sadly empty on an emotional level to be truly great. Shame because there was great potential with Winter but that was only briefly touched on.

    Overall 8/10
  11. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 64.45/8 = 8.06
  12. Nobody145 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 9, 2007
    star 4
    Probably my favorite Zahn book in quite some time and definitely one of my favorite Star Wars books. Nice to have no Force users involved, or any of Zahn's normal characters, and Zahn has usually written quite a good Han Solo, smart, clever but still well-meaning, such as how they avoided any civilian casualties during the final part of the heist. And what a heist it was. Also nice to see Chewie and Winter, and even Kell, although Kell didn't do much, but at least all of Solo's crew had a brief moment to shine. And Han and Lando's interaction was well-written, taking into account Rebel Dawn, that underworld and their eventual meeting in ESB. The rest of Han's crew was also memorable enough, with the twins being especially entertaining.

    Not quite sure about Fett though, he's definitely smart and patient but this kind of long-con seems somewhat out of character for him.

    Mostly, after all the post-NJO books we've gotten, its nice to see Han back in his prime as it were, and being prepared or at least reacting quick to every unexpected thing that happens. It also helps that this is a heist on just one planet and the fate of the galaxy or the Force isn't at stake. And while its not quite a happy ending, since of course Han can't get out of his debt to Jabba, at least they all part on amiable terms, aside from Lando but even he somewhat understands what Han did this time. Not a perfect book, but still one of my favorites.

    10/10
  13. Iron_lord Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    The Fett of The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy was one for long-range scheming.
  14. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 74.45/9 = 8.27
  15. aalagartassle Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2011
    star 4
    As said on another thread, apart from the Black Sun indepth guile and maybe the shootout to save Lando, I thought the book was tripe. I don't mind non Force users in the SW universe but again the underutilization of Chewy in strategy the nausiating thought that an ex imperial guard is thrown off by getting flirted with. The twist at the end made me do this :rolleyes:.. tripe. No punch, just going through the paces
    3/10
  16. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 77.45/10 = 7.75
  17. pronker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2007
    star 3
    This was the neatest thing about the book - a young Han determining his own fate, of course with Chewie's help. I liked the characters and their interactions, thought Dozer was going to send the whole scheme up in flames, but instead, it was a real character moment for him, thinking to himself how close he came to revealing all and being jittery afterward. That was well-done. The twins' dynamic was interesting and their devotion to the other touched me. Of course, Zahn's plot stands out! The complications, the way that Villachor tried to be 'respectable,' his 'consigliere' Sheqoa, and those fantastic, ever-expanding Festival of Four Honorings *that eventually seemed like comic relief to me* displays all made for a very good read. Winter's grief over Leia's possible death was underplayed, as Winter would want.

    One visual in this book that Zahn used in the last book I read of his *whatever the prior one was* is a character who is cloaked, masked and hooded strolling along someplace while conversing seriously with another character. I'm sorry, that does not seem spooky or mysteriously powerful or clandestine or whatever, it simply seems funny! It must look like a big duffel bag of laundry walking around. The author must truly like the image.

    So, slam bang action and an excellent plot and a Han at his scheming best, therefore

    9/10
  18. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 86.45/11 = 7.86
  19. The_Forgotten_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 12, 2010
    star 4
    9/10

    A fun fringe novel with some excellent new characters and a nice twist ending. Minus one point for never making me feel like any of the characters were in real danger of dying.
  20. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 95.45/12 = 7.95
  21. Mirax Terrik Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2000
    star 5
    I had a whole page about my opinions of Scoundrels but it got eaten and I'm too lazy to retype everything.

    Note: I didn't know anything about Scoundrels when I got it aside from the fact it was a new SW book by Timothy Zahn. The last book I read by Zahn was VotF. The last story of his I read was probably that piece he co-write with Stackpole in Tales from the Empire.

    Liked: Han and Lando's dialogue. They were written especially well and I could practically hear Ford and Williams speaking those lines. Enjoyed Winter having a character aside from "Leia-clone with perfect memory with the hots for Tycho". Enjoyed Kell flying the Headhunter while things exploded around him. I really liked reading about the festivals. It's nice to be reminded that each planet has a unique culture with unique traditions. Too often all the planets read the same. I liked Han dithering over his feelings about Leia. It adds to his scoundrelness to think that he was flirting with Leia just to bug her in ESB. Did like Lando getting grabbed by Imperials at the end. That got a laugh from me.

    Disliked: The five separate factions all trying to outwit one another (Black Sun 1, Black Sun 2, Scoundrels, Imperial, Enjer). This was too confusing for me to follow, especially with the two Black Sun factions. There wasn't any character growth and all of the new characters were forgettable. There were some twins and a man with a tiny lightsaber, and that's all I remember about that. The heist plot didn't grab me. So much of the book was prep work for the heist and I really had to force myself to keep reading.

    The Black Sun is supposed to be very dangerous, but this is countered by the fact none of our heros came into anything bad. Han got snatched but he got out by smoking a cigar and later escaping. Lando similarly got snatched but was let go without drama. The most tense moment for me was Dozer being probed by the Falleen. I hated the Boba Fett reveal. In spite of the fact Fett instigated everything, it felt like he got added as an afterthought or as a bit for Mando fans. I think he belongs in the novel and would have liked it if he was revealed to be a rogue agent from the beginning. That would have added more tension to the story.

    Conclusion: Too confusing for a light read. Had some good moments but pretty meh overall when compared to TT and HoT.

    6/10
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  22. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 101.45/13 = 7.80
  23. tal0nkarrde Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 1, 2005
    star 2
    Finished Scoundrels last week - I couldn't wait to read the book as I'm a huge Timothy Zahn Star Wars novel fan. Wrote a review at my sight about the novel. Here's an excerpt:
    "Scoundrels starts off at a run, then slows to a crawl, before getting to the explosive and surprising ending. To be fair, the slow parts come from the descriptiveness of the author who tries to instill in the reader's minds a picture of Villachor's home and the location and security measures surrounding his precious safe. The rest of the novel moves at whirlwind speed as we are introduced to some new characters and a few old fan favorites...What folks will be talking about most is the surprise ending. I'm not going to spill the beans on the ending, but I will say that it's sprung on the reader in the last two pages of the novel and elicited a hearty, "NO WAY!" from me that caused heads to turn..."

    Didn't want to give a long winded review here, but if you want to check out the rest, please feel free to visit
    http://www.g-pop.net/SWScoundrels.htm
  24. Fer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Feb 22, 2013
    I just finished Scoundrels today. I definitely enjoyed it, but I have to say it didn't really grab me like Zahn's other books have. I think part of my problem with it was that since we know Han runs into a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell in ESB it's obvious he's not going to be able to pay off Jabba, and just how many times can he do something to leave Lando mad at him by the end of the story? But there were some truly wonderful moments in it, and I never dreaded picking it up... it just wasn't a page-turner for me, either. 6/10.
  25. Roberto Calrissian Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2012
    star 4
    9.5/10 I love a good heist story and the fact that it's in the Star Wars universe is just a bonus. My two favourite characters Lando&Han never disappoint. Loved the twist at the end, that's the key into a good heist story. Winter was great too, as for the new characters, I liked them all. I would love to know what happened to them throughout the years. This should be made into a movie since disney wants to do side projects please make this happen! More than that I would love to see Han,Lando&Winter tell this story to Leia,Jaina,Luke&Ben