Geektastic Thursday: Scoundrels

There is this part of my life that every once in a while looms into the foreground and demands to be noticed.  It becomes a bit overwhelming and imposing for those who are not immersed and generally everyone comes to the conclusion that it is just much too much.  I am referring, of course, to my obsession with Star Wars.  I started this obsession at a very young age, when some friends and I would play Lucasfilm in the back yard (we alternated with Indiana Jones and ocassionally Willow when we were feeling quite daring).  When I was 13 another friend and I wrote a script for Episode VII based on Heir to the Empire one summer swim season.  I saved my baby sitting money for the VHS set and over Christmas break in ninth grade I bought my first Expanded Universe novel -- The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin.  After that there was no going back.  I spent all of high school completely obsessed, reading everything I could get my hands on, fantasizing of a life spent in an X-Wing squadron or as an intergalactic bounty hunter (Boba Fett totally survived, you know).

My Star Wars Shelf -- two books deep

After I left for college I lost touch with my EU fanaticism.  Yes, I would reread the Han Solo trilogy about once a year and I toted my collection around with me, never giving up one battered paperback.  But after trying and disliking The New Jedi Order series (not that it isn't good, I just have a problem with going so far into the future that certain things inevitably happen) I decided that I had read probably all I was going to like, at least for a while.  With the exception of Death Star, I did not see much expansion without regressing or progressing so much that I lost touch with my favorites, Han, Lando, and Boba Fett.  But this year Timothy Zahn changed all of that.

I am not going to do an in-depth review.  If you want details or have read and feel like flailing with me, please let me know -- I've sadly discovered that I am not the only one who lost touch with the EU when faced with the demands of life outside high school.  But I fully believe that without Timothy Zahn, there would be no EU.  His Heir to the Empire trilogy maintained the integrity of story telling while introducing characters such as Mara Jade and Winter.  He laid the ground work for authentic yet respectful new perspectives on a universe over which so many of us feel a particular ownership and protectiveness.  And his latest novel takes us right back into it.

Star Wars: Scoundrels is a Han and Chewie adventure following the events of Episode IV.  It looks at the fringe part of the universe that I have always loved.  The scoundrels -- the smugglers, con men, ghost burglers.  Those who are not fully invested in the Empire or the Rebellion.  In this story Han and Chewie find themselves accepting a job in the hopes of succeeding in their persistent goal, paying off Jabba.    The story follows a high stakes heist, and brings in characters you may not have guessed.  What I found so great was the fact that he fully respected all of the EU material that came before this novel.  He accounts for Ylesia, for the direction of certain characters, and even makes a few jokes concerning fan controversies.  But even if you have no knowledge of anything outside the films, it is still an engaging stand-alone novel (you should also check out Winner Lose All, the ebook short story written as a prequel).

I took a lot longer to read it than I normally would because I wanted to savor the experience of a Timothy Zahn Han Solo novel.  In my mind, it cannot get much better and is one of those story concepts that we will probably not get again.  There are only so many stories they can tell about the time period of the original films.  And it was everything I had hoped it would be.  I was transported back to the enthusiasm and wonder of reading a Star Wars story for the first time.  Everything I had loved about the really good books was reborn in this one (and trust me when I say I have read some real duds).  I have now decided I must go back and reread all my favorites, starting with Crispin's trilogy and then moving into other character-driven stories.

But do not let me overhype it for you.  I actually did not know how enthusiastic I would be about the story until I reached a point that for me personally was a paradigm shifting revelation.  It might not be for everyone, I think it has a lot to do with your personal journey through the EU.  Zahn does comes with a certain level of expectation attached, and I think he deserves the acclaim.  I have avoided reading reviews because I am so out of touch with the current direction of the EU, but even if I am the only one to think so, this story was worth it.  If you are new to the EU or a younger reader, I highly recommend this novel.  It could serve as a wonderful introduction to a world you will never want to leave, in a galaxy far far away.

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