Scoundrels is a novel by prolific Star Wars author Timothy Zahn and a lot of fun. The premise is this: Set after the destruction of the First Death Star in A New Hope, but before the invasion of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo and Chewbacca are out in the galaxy at large and hit upon their biggest score ever. The trick is, they aren’t going to be able to crack a safe in the stronghold of the Black Sun Crime Syndicate alone. The pair of smugglers must assemble a team of scoundrels capable of pulling off this impossible job.
This setup for Scoundrels will be immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with the Ocean’s Eleven franchise of films. This remake of a 1960 film of the same name (although it used the number 11 instead of the word), sees a con artist create a team of specially chosen crooks and thieves to pull off a heist of robbing three Las Vegas Casinos at once. The George Clooney role is filled in Scoundrels by Han Solo and his team includes his co-pilot Chewbacca and the smooth gambler Lando Calrissian.
The Hand of Zahn
Timothy Zahn is the author that reinvigorated the entire Expanded Universe with his seminal works, the Thrawn Trilogy of novels, first released in 1991. This set of stories is credited with the revitalization of the Star Wars brand after waning interest so long after Return of the Jedi’s release. I know this from personal experience as an eleven-year-old at the time overjoyed with new stories to read about my favorite movie characters. The characters Zahn created like the Imperial assassin Mara Jade and the titular Grand Admiral Thrawn endure as some of the most compelling characters in the Star Wars Universe, despite the fact they do not appear in any of the films.
Han in His Element
Zahn’s steady hand really helps the “heist flick” format of this story really work. Most novels set in the Star Wars Universe deal with the Force, Jedi versus Sith, and the Dark Side versus the Light. Don’t get me wrong, I love stories about the Hero’s Journey as much as the next dork, but it seems a bit exhausted at this point, especially when that is the main thrust of Luke Skywalker’s journey in the Original Trilogy of films. Another common theme in Star Wars novels is the rebellion against Empire, which is also pretty thoroughly covered in the films. Experiencing the underside of the galaxy far, far away is a lot of fun and it’s a real joy to see the lovable rogue, Han Solo, really in his element at the center of a swashbuckling criminal sting.
If you’re a fan of films like The Sting or Ocean’s Eleven, as well as Han Solo and Star Wars in general, then Scoundrels is definitely for you.