Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: SCOUNDRELS (spoilers)

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

  1. Obie-2-Kenobi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2008
    star 2
    7/10
    Wasn't Zahn's best work. I thought there would never come a time where we would see a lack of fodder for SW stories, but this is one. It just seems like TZ tried to squeeze a story into a time space where there wasn't one already. The whole Lando thing doesn't flow. Supposedly Han and Lando hadn't worked together since that "stunt" Han pulled...which was revealed as the whole Ylesia thing in the Han trilogy right?? So then why are they meeting up in this caper!? It just seems forced from the beginning and that makes the end of the story a foregone conclusion because you know from the point that Lando enters that it has to end badly if they are to still have bad blood by ESB. Just my opinion. I like it because its a fun read in the SW universe with some of my favorite characters, but its not the best.
    Sarge likes this.
  2. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 123.95/16 = 7.75
  3. Juke Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 27, 2004
    star 5
    It was refreshing to have a SW novel that didn't focus on A.) Clones and their wars or B.) Jedi/Sith, but after a promising start, I felt that Scoundrels ran out of steam and crawled to the finish line.

    Pros

    - Zahn still does a better job of finding the "voice" of characters like Han and Lando better than anyone. As Mirax Terrik said, you can almost hear Ford and Williams when you're reading their dialog

    - Something fresh for a change

    Cons

    - I found the other "Scoundrels" to be anything but. I thought they were a bit dull, and in some cases interchangeable

    - I thought the twist was lame and insulting. Any good twist has clues cleverly sprinkled throughout the story so that when it's revealed you're like "Oh!" (If they were there, I missed them. Maybe they were too "Inside", and I only dabble in the EU). This felt like a cheap way to give the end a bit more punch

    - The whole lead up to the heist was too drawn out for me. Did we need day after day after day of scouting? And those stinking festivals!

    6.5/10
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  4. Gorefiend Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    Finally got around to finishing it and it was a pretty fun read overall, though I must admit it suffered from actually having too many characters in it and a few of them should have been merged, whilst the Imperial agents subplot could easily have been cut without really impacting the novel (kind of like the Stormtroopers that were pretty unnecessary in Choices of One).

    9 of 10 from me
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  5. SiouxFan Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 2012
    star 3
    I listened to the 'audiobooks' version on my 'cross-half-the-country-drive' this week, and I found it be really enjoyable. The reader (whose name escapes me at the moment) did a good enough job of affecting different voices for all of the characters that the obligatory '...Han said menacingly.' written descriptions were pretty much unneeded, even though they were still present. His Ford and Williams voices were not great, but good enough to be recognizable. As an added bonus, the studio added Chewbacca's 'voice', added some background noises when the action took place outside, made voices actually sound like they were coming from a comlink when talking over the comm, and had the obligatory LFL sound effects. Give the audiobook a listen, if you have the time.

    I agree with others, I really didn't think Kell added anything, and I thought that Winter's role could have been a bit larger...maybe they could have eliminated one of the other minor characters and expanded her role.

    Zahn still writes this universe better, and more consistently, than any one else and I like the sense of fun that his style brings to the storytelling. I'd give it an 8.
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  6. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 147.45/19 = 7.76
  7. MistrX Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 20, 2006
    star 4
    Well, what can you say after reading the last page of this book aside from "What a tweest!"

    Seriously, though, who would have guessed that an Ocean's 11-style heist caper could work so well in the Star Wars universe? And that you could fill the book with not only several familiar faces but a handful of new ones who could more or less be reasonably fleshed out and characters of their own? I would say that Zahn mostly succeeds here. And in doing so, he's written a book quite unlike his considerable collection of previous Star Wars novels while still including elements that one would recognize and appreciate (some more subtle than lip twists and points conceded). I had a good time watching our rogues gallery learn what they're up against, form their plan, and execute their multiple layers of operation. The familiar elements of those types of movies were all there and easily recognizable, and it's a good time trying to put the pieces together as a reader, wondering how each step gets them closer to their goal and how each hint and foreshadow will come into play later.

    It doesn't all work, though. Some of the characters are thinly developed, which makes sense in a cast of eleven protagonists and five or six other major characters. Tavia and Rachele were practically indistinguishable to me and characters like Dozer, Sheqoa, and even Villachor didn't end up being all that complex, filling typical roles we often see in settings like this. There seemed to be a major flaw in the plan in that they decide in the end to just drill into the vault from the room above the vault, and it was somewhat surprising to me that Villachor didn't send guards to that room the second he suspected thieves were in his vault.

    Aside from a few logical lapses, it's a solid, fun story, exactly the type of underworld team up I like to read about. Zahn is happy to throw plenty of references from Han's recent history in here, bringing in shades of Luceno and Reaves. I also liked that the cover art actually reflected their appearances in the story, particularly with a certain outfit Lando dons later in the book. Also nice to see Zahn writing a younger Winter, giving us his own look at this character he created over twenty years ago.

    Also, I have to mention Han running from a giant sphere, flinging a whip about. I see what you did there!

    In the end, it's a good story, it's fun to read, but it didn't blow me away. I'm glad I read it and I'd love for more of the characters to return. If they do, I'll be happy to see what they're up to. In any case, what I think I can really say about it is that it works. 7.5/10
    Last edited by MistrX, Mar 28, 2013
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  8. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 154.95/20 = 7.75
  9. GoingInside Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 31, 2013
    star 1
    7/10

    I was surprisingly disappointed by this one. Not because it's a bad book, because it isn't, but it didn't really feel like Star Wars to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for Jedi or Sith or TIE Fighters necessarily, but the few toe-holds there were to tie it back to the main universe didn't really anchor me. It didn't help that I felt that Han and Chewie were remarkably superfluous in their own book. Even Lando was somewhat under-utilized.

    This may contradict my earlier point about it not feeling like a Star Wars book, but I think this story would've been better without Han, Lando, or Chewbacca. The thing that I enjoyed the most about it were the other characters: Bink, Tavia, Kell, Winter, Zerba and the rest. Those characters, which were quirky and unique, made it seem more like a Wraith Squadron book (which is a definite plus to me); they really were my favorite parts of the story.

    It's still a fun read, and Zhan is a great author (this effort reminds me in particular of one of his other books, The Icarus Hunt), but it just falls short in a few areas. Admittedly, I did not like the reveal at the end.
  10. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 161.95/21 = 7.71
  11. Gorfy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2013
    star 1
    So it’s the second Timothy Zahn book I’ve listened to in the last few weeks and i’m pleased to say it was a good one.

    Unlike ‘Allegiance’, ‘Scoundrels’ keeps its focus, and despite the large number of main characters they seem to gel together in what essentially feels like Ocean’s Eleven in the Star Wars universe.

    We have some Old favourites in there with Han, Chewie and Lando having major roles, as well as characters who were new to me though I wouldn’t dare to say they were entirely new characters at this stage in my Star Wars EU journey.

    What I particularly liked about this book was the departure from some of the more ‘epic’ storylines. Even the worst case scenario would be unlikely to effect people outside of the main players and their organisations. This is a book about a bank heist. This is what gels the book together and allows it to be sprinkled with organisational rivalry, character back stories and a good dose of action without going off track.

    Zahn does a great job of describing the locations in the book, particularly the grounds of the ‘house’ where most of the story takes place. I found myself effortlessly visualising the location and the various toing a froing of the characters and the sights and sounds around them (OK well when it came to sounds I’m cheating a bit with an Audiobook complete with sound effects!)

    Despite the large cast they all have their roles (literally) which really helps to stop the book becoming too confusing. The characters interact well with none of them coming across as really unnecessary and it’s particularly nice to see Han and Lando in particular having their strengths utilised. I would criticise Chewie’s relative lack of involvement if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s only so much a character, who we as a reader cannot understand, can do. Use him too much and we’re left with a page of “RWWARWW” followed by Han or Lando’s “That’s right Chewie, I also think (Insert translation here)”

    I sometimes feel these reviews are little short but hey it’s my stream of conciousness and remember no spoilers…oh but the end of the book…err anyway…

    I’m happy to give Scoundrels an 8 out of 10. A Star Wars book with a difference.
    Iron_lord likes this.
  12. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 6
    I'd give this one a 7/10. Typical Zahn book, meaning wonderful characterization, a good plot, and memorable new characters, but it just didn't have the pizazz of HTTE, or Allegiance, or Survivor's Quest. I liked the revelation at the end, of who Eanjer really was, and I did like the Imperial agent character, and most of the smuggler characters (though Dozer was forgettable to the max). It was great to see both Kell and Winter. One thing is, like most other Zahn books, this book has been neutered. I do prefer it to Denning's "have-everything-female-in-a-revealing-outfit" style, but it's really odd that there's almost nothing in the book that actually feels like the characters have genders. There was the thing with Bink dating the security guard, or the Falleen using his pheromones, but really...nothing. Still, this book was good but overall nothing that makes it as memorable as the other Zahn novels. And I nearly dropped dead when neither Thrawn nor Mara were in it!
  13. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 176.95/23 = 7.69
  14. Todd the Jedi Mod and Inquisitor of SWTV

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2008
    star 5
    Tim Zahn takes inspiration from Ocean's 11 and crafts a very fun heist novel, which could have alternatively been called "Solo's 11" (™). :p For once he takes a break from focusing on Mara or Thrawn to simply write an exciting side adventure that doesn't make a huge impact on the galaxy, but nonetheless fulfills its role in expanding the universe, as Zahn weaves old canon and new together over the course of the story.

    Zahn really crafted all the classic heist elements well. The man who recruits Han's services, Eanjer, worked well as the disenfranchised man seeking revenge on a wealthy yet corrupt businessman. Zahn wasted no time in setting up the premise- Eanjer asks Han to help him with a heist; he gives Han the mark; and he tells Han that he'll need a team of specialists to pull it all off. I liked how Han and Chewie went about recruiting a team, and how they weren't 100% successful in getting the people they really wanted. Zahn did a good job of incorporating various aspects of Han's life at this point, from the debt to Jabba to his past encounters with Lando, so it wasn't too surprising that Han wouldn't have much sway over many fringe characters at this point. I also liked the shoutout to the Marvel story where Han looses his reward money from Yavin, as well as the references to Han's last encounters with Lando in the Han Solo trilogy and the Yavin Vassilika comic. In general I thought Han was characterised well. He's in a transitional period where he's not really committed to the Rebel cause yet, while he's also loosing touch with the criminal underworld a little bit.

    I liked the team Han assembled, and thought they were all well-developed over the course of the novel. Zahn used a good amount of POVs, which helped flesh out characters both old and new. I thought this was the best use of Winter in a long while, and I liked how she gave some insight into the state of the Alliance in the immediate aftermath of Yavin. Of course, we also learn that the Empire is in some disarray at the same time through the Imperial agent Dayja. I thought he was a cool addition to the cast, sort of continuing the trend started by AOTE, while also alluding to Interlude at Darkknell. As for the other members of Solo's 11™, I thought Dozer was an interesting character. His arc was a bit more developed than some others since he was nearly rendered superfluous after Lando showed up, and at times it seemed like he'd blow the entire operation. But in the end he really pulled through, partly due to some quick thinking on Han's part for what role he could play. I liked the inclusion of Kell Tainer here. His background as given by the X-Wing series is barely alluded to, and here he's just another character along for the ride. I liked how Zahn did that, basically not making him too one-note, other than his fixation with explosives. The Kitiks were cool, almost reminiscent of Shada D'ukal and her various female mission partners. I really liked Rachele; she seemed like an established character, despite this being her only appearance ever. Zerba was probably the least developed of any of the team, but he often played the comic relief role, though others had some snarky comments as well. And though he didn't appear I liked the fact that Han approached Mazzic for advice on whom to recruit.

    One of the most important parts of a con story is to develop the mark as well as the conmen. Villachor worked really well as the antagonist of the story, and got plenty of page time. I liked how well Zahn worked the Black Sun elements into his character history, and how that added a few complications to Han's plan. I also liked the role played by Sheqoa, and how he was duped by Bink and Tavia. Villachor himself was almost reminiscent of Thrawn with the way he'd see through deception, but unlike Thrawn he never really drew the correct conclusions about the events surrounding him, whether stemming from Solo's 11™ or Qazadi and Black Sun.

    As for the heist itself, I liked how thorough Han was in his preparations, using the festival its greatest extent as a means to scout out Villachor's mansion and think of a way to successfully infiltrate the vault and get away scot-free. I thought all of Solo's 11™ were used well over the course of the novel, each playing an essential role or two during the heist. I liked how things worked out between Han and Lando. Their interactions here make their interactions in TESB make a bit more sense, especially coupled with their past history as told in other sources. But in general it was cool seeing Lando at this point in time. I liked the final twist with Eanjer, since it shows that there were deeper layers at work behind the surface of this heist.

    I give Scoundrels a 9.2 out of 10 for a great little heist novel and a return to form for Zahn after some not-so-amazing books.
    Last edited by Todd the Jedi, Dec 30, 2013
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  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 186.15/24 = 7.76
  16. CommanderDrenn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2013
    star 4
    Hmmm... I have to agree and disagree with several of the points that have been made already.
    Let me say a few things that will likely skew my review:
    1 - Timothy Zahn is my favorite author -he's how I got into the EU.
    2 - I started reading this book, misplaced it, and found and finished it 2 weeks later. This lead to some confusion, as I haven't re-read it since.
    3 - I am harsh in my ratings. Here's a guide so you have some frame of reference.
    1- Completely awful, wouldn't wish on anybody
    2- Extremely boring, awful writing and horrendous characters
    3-Quite boring, muddle-through sort of book, but with perhaps a good point or two
    4-Still boring, but this may have in interesting character thrown in with a bunch of egregious ones.
    5-Neither boring nor exciting
    6-A few exciting moments, but nothing I can't put down
    7-Will read for several hours at a time
    8-Extremely interesting, will rarely be bored
    9-For lack of a better word, epic, can't put down
    10-Godly
    The main point of the plot is to infiltrate a rich local's palace. He isn't the philanthropist he claims to be, so he basically deserves to get stolen from. They do, of course, infiltrate the place and get away. IIRC, nobody is harmed in the process. Something else you should understand is the weakness and strength of this book is that it's not about the big 3- you know if it has Luke, Leia, or Han in it, they will all make it out. I feel that Zahn underutilized his new characters. I would have liked it if one died, to shake up the story. Take Rogue Squadron (The first book in X-Wing) for example. In the first book alone, 4 (I think) pilots die, and right off the bat, in the second one, another dies. If Zahn had a couple or even one characters die, it definitely would raise the rating I am going to give. If one did die, then disregard this. I also am of the opinion that the characters were underdeveloped. I loved Han in this one-he was portrayed as he should be, in my opinion. So even if one did die, I wouldn't be -not sad, really, but shocked, and that is exactly how I want to feel when a character dies.

    In short:
    I love Zahn's work, but he wasn't at his best here. Much better than COO or Allegiance, but still not on the HOT or TTT level.

    6.5
  17. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 192.65/25 = 7.71
  18. First Of My Name Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 28, 2014
    star 1
    6.5/10

    I enjoyed it, but it didn't grab me or pull me in. The new characters were mostly forgettable, and I didn't find the twist at the end surprising, nor do I think it made sense story-wise. It didn't add anything.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 199.15/26 = 7.66
  20. fett 4 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jan 2, 2000
    star 4
    After re-reading the book and on reflection I would like to re-do my score to 5. I think my points still stand it was pretty bleh to me as well as a wasted oppertunity albiet no where near as obnoxious as Alliegance
  21. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 7
    8 out of 10.

    The EU-that-was started with Zahn for me so it's a neat symmetry that it should end with him, this being the last of the old EU I have to read before starting A New Dawn.

    One thing I enjoyed was the Ocean's 11 riff, you could see the influence but neither did it dictate the story in such a way that all was given away.

    What also made it work was the large ensemble as I've found Han and Chewie on their own don't work for me, so the cast removed that weakness.

    It also demonstrated well the nature of what continuity allows by placing some excellent easter eggs / subtle references - Kell and Winter, while bringing up Black Sun and Vader's ongoing shadow war with Xizor. You don't have to know any of that to enjoy it, but if you do it raises it up a notch.

    One notable weakness is it took about 200-250 pages to get going but once it did, with all that necessary preparation done, it took off nicely.
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  22. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 207.15/27 = 7.67
  23. Chancellor Yoda Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 25, 2014
    star 4
    9 out of 10 I liked the book and found it to be one of Zahns better recent books.
    I like the whole Ocean 11 thing going for it and that each character has time to shine and the book did have some good suspense especially towards the end.
    It was also nice that its similar to Kenobi in that its more of a smaller side story, and I also thought that the Villain was decent.
    It is a bit slow but still a good read that should satisfy fans of both star wars and heist movies.
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