Solo’s Eleven

Star Wars: ScoundrelsStar Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before I say anything spoiler-y, I want to point this out for everyone who might be interested in this book: everything makes a lot more sense if you’ve read A. C. Crispin’s “Han Solo” trilogy (which itself makes more sense if you’ve read Brian Daley’s “Han Solo Adventures” trilogy, but that’s far enough removed from this that it isn’t necessary). It’s not essential, but it is helpful, especially in light of the Han-and-Lando dynamic that comes up frequently.

Now, let me get into the spoilers. This is a “heist” book, and like a “heist” movie, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to review without mentioning at least one spoiler. So consider yourself duly warned.

I really enjoyed this book. I like stories that keep me guessing a little bit, and this one certainly delivered. (Of course, Mr. Zahn has some experience with keeping me guessing, at least as long ago as I read his non-Star Wars novel The Icarus Hunt.) I also think that Mr. Zahn did a good job writing Han, Lando, Winter, and Kell Tainer (whom he borrowed from Aaron Allston’s X-Wing books). I would need to reread books featuring the latter two characters to make sure this fits in with their backstories and style, but based on Mr. Zahn’s prior good work, I have no reason to think that it did not.

Perhaps the most frustrating, in retrospect, was the identity and purpose of Eanjer, the local that hires Han for the job. I should have guessed his identity much earlier, based on my prior knowledge of his character, but I think I figured it out, at best, a few pages before Mr. Zahn wanted me to. Ah, well–more credit to the author, I suppose.

The book wasn’t perfect, but I don’t have many complaints. As with The Icarus Hunt, I thought that the book ended too quickly, without revisiting all of the characters in enough detail. And, while I appreciate Mr. Zahn’s interest in embroiling us in the world by mentioning other names that we might remember (referencing Crispin’s trilogy, for example), there were a couple anachronisms. It made no sense, for example, for one character to refer to Revan and Malak (characters from the Knights of the Old Republic video game), who existed thousands of years prior, in the middle of a galaxy in which Jedi and the Force were all but forgotten (a point made by Lando toward the end of the book). I might as well say, “Who do you think they are, Achilles and Odysseus?” It’s theoretically believable that I would mention those people, but far from normal.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book, and I hope that Lucasfilm’s new masters will not overlook Mr. Zahn as they continue to produce fiction in the “new” Star Wars universe.

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Mitth’raw’nuruodo & Co.

Star Wars: Outbound FlightStar Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: Some minor spoilers may follow.

Timothy Zahn did a truly excellent job with young Commander Thrawn; I enjoyed his interactions with Car’das, but especially his tactics and strategy for dealing with the Vagaari and Outbound Flight.

Speaking of Outbound Flight, I enjoyed the perspective of the Jedi, but I felt that perhaps Zahn covered too much ground. We went from before Outbound Flight was officially and finally green-lit until its destruction, and I thought more could have been done on the vessel (especially as things deteriorated between C’baoth and the non-Jedi crew). I also thought that, while Obi-wan was well portrayed, Anakin was a bit wooden (I guess maybe it was the Hayden-Christensen-in-“Attack-of-the-Clones” version).

C’baoth, I had read before reading this book, seemed to be way too much of a jerk to be a genuine Jedi Master. Sure, he apparently had a lot of power and a lot of experience, but he was completely emotional, arrogant, and obsessed, and nobody ever called him on it (to his face, at any rate). It’s a fair question to wonder how such a man managed to become a Jedi Master. Still, it does explain his clone’s personality, and it seems to have been the only way to compel Thrawn to destroy Outbound Flight in the end.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book immensely, but it wasn’t Zahn’s best work.

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Classic Star Wars FTW

Allegiance (Star Wars)Allegiance by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent work from Timothy Zahn, as always. He has a delightful blend of intrigue, humor, and action that keeps the pages turning, and it plays out well in this book as with his others.

I will note that there were, perhaps, too many characters in the book. Some of them were not as fleshed out as they could have been. Even so, the book flowed together well and even managed a few twists that couldn’t be nailed down until the very end.

I also enjoyed the expert use of irony as Zahn foreshadowed events of the films and stories to come in the characters’ future; this was especially noticeable with the relationship between Han and Leia, as well as with herein-Captain Ozzel’s impending demise.

All in all, a very enjoyable book and a great addition to the Expanded Universe (not to mention its classic Original Trilogy setting).

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