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Literature / Star Wars: Scoundrels

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Even Han can't do this job solo.note 

Star Wars: Scoundrelsnote  is a Star Wars Legends novel by Timothy Zahn. Set in the immediate aftermath of A New Hope, Scoundrels concerns Han Solo and Chewbacca's attempts to come up with another source of cash to pay off Jabba the Hutt, after their reward was stolen by pirates before they could make it back to Tatooine. Accordingly, when a stranger approaches him about a job with a possible take of 163 million credits, Han assembles a team of fellow rogues, thieves, and scoundrels to try to break into a crime lord's safe and get away with the loot.

Published in 2013, Scoundrels was one of the last Legends novels released before the Continuity Reboot of 2014, and as such is less well-known than Zahn's earlier Star Wars work. It's also of a much smaller scale than, say, The Thrawn Trilogy, taking place almost entirely on one planet, with the Galactic Civil War a peripheral concern. But it still has all of the convoluted interlocking plot threads and twists that Zahn is known for.

A prequel short story starring Lando, Bink, Tavia, and Zerba, "Winner Lose All," was released ahead of Scoundrels as an e-book, and included in the Scoundrels paperback edition.

Scoundrels provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ace Pilot:
    • Han is occasionally frustrated that his piloting skills are of so little use in a planet-based caper like this. The one time they utilize the Falcon, in the rescue of Lando and Zerba from some corrupt cops, Chewbacca is (very skillfully) piloting so that Han can direct the rest of the action.
    • Kell is a proto-ace; he hasn't yet attained the skill he will display in the X-Wing Series, and was brought onto the team for completely different reasons, but he does pilot a Z-95 Headhunter during that same rescue attempt with proficiency, including blasting a hole in a factory, flying through that hole, and then maneuvering within the confines of the building while calling out targeting data.
  • Actor Allusion: Unusual for a book, but clearly Han grabbing the neuronic whip, and the spherical rolling safe in the climax are references to Harrison Ford's other biggest role. See Shout-Out below.
  • Ascended Meme: Han has to gun down another bounty hunter in a cantina. This establishment isn't quite as used to regular violence as Mos Eisley's, so Han has to justify his action as self-defense to the other patrons, in a line also directed to the readers familiar with the "Han shot first" moment in A New Hope.
    Han: You all saw it. He shot first.
  • Big Fancy House: Avrak Villachor's house, the Marblewood Estate, started life as a sector governor's mansion, an enormous K-shaped building with multiple wings, suites, garages, and ballrooms. One of the ballrooms has been converted into Villachor's vault. The mansion sits on an estate so large Han mistakes it for a municipal park from the air; during the Festival of Four Honorings, the grounds play host to thousands of Wukkar's citizens on each of the four days.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • Han and his crew are smugglers, thieves, and con artists—low-level criminals just out to make a living. Some have nobler aims, but the goal for most of them if they make the big score is to pay off their debts and retire. Their target is a high-ranking member of the galaxy's most notorious Syndicate, Black Sun, who regularly engages in high-level blackmail, arms dealing, and murder, and the money they want to steal from him was stolen from one of them in the first place.
    • Dayja is an Imperial Intelligence agent, working for the oppressive totalitarian Empire. He has very few qualms using a frequently lethal Truth Serum/Laser-Guided Amnesia drug in an interrogation. But his mission is to bring down Black Sun, and to that end he surreptitiously aids Han's crew in order to get the blackmail files that are causing the Empire such trouble.
  • Call-Back:
    • This is the second time Lando agrees to work with Han after a previous falling out leads them to swear never to see each other again (in The Han Solo Trilogy and the comic book Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika). Lando is now willing to admit that the previous incidents may not have been wholly Han's fault, but given how badly Han has misplaced his trust in the past, Lando is leery and demands the blackmail files upfront in lieu of credits if they pull the job off, so that he can leave and not get screwed over again. It doesn't help him all that much. It's up in the air which of the three incidents Han "I'm sure he's forgotten about that" Solo and Lando "You double-crossing no-good swindler" Calrissian are referring to in The Empire Strikes Back.
    • Once again, Han is cornered in a cantina by a bounty hunter looking to capture him for Jabba. This time, the bounty hunter is smart enough to tell him to keep his hands on the table, so he can't just shoot first. But this time, Han has Chewbacca with him, so he's able to distract and disarm the man, who gets one shot off. It's only when the bounty hunter draws another blaster that Han shoots him. Eanjer is impressed by this display of quick thinking, and approaches him about The Caper.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Han calls Mazzic, who's one of Talon Karrde's smuggling associates in The Thrawn Trilogy, to ask him for help with the job. Mazzic sends two of his employees, Winter and Kell.
    • Winter, also from the Thrawn Trilogy, is in the midst of her mission of procurement for the Rebellion, which she tells Mara Jade about in The Last Command. As such, she's working undercover for Mazzic, helping him identify warehouses to steal from; after he takes what he wants, the Rebels come in and gather up the rest. She's a bit annoyed that this side job for Han has nothing to do with the war, but to maintain her cover she gives it her all—and she's probably planning to donate her share to the Alliance anyway. Meanwhile, her homeworld of Alderaan has just been destroyed, she has no idea whether her close friend Princess Leia was on-planet at the time, and news from the Rebel leadership trickles down to the agents very slowly. After she spots some clues that Han is also involved with the Rebellion, he is able to reassure her regarding Leia's survival.
    • Kell (Tainer, though he never gives his last name in this book) is part of Wraith Squadron in the X-Wing Series, and the more-or-less main character of the book Wraith Squadron, which takes place seven years after Scoundrels. Also an Alderaanian, he's a bit adrift after the loss of his homeworld and his father (in a separate incident), and has fallen in with Mazzic. He already knows droids and explosives, and a bit of piloting. Since he's not in charge of anyone, he only shows a hint of the performance anxiety that dogs him later. If his biography in Wraith Squadron is accurate, his share of the take probably goes towards mechanic's training at the Sluis Van shipyards before he joins the New Republic as a commando and later a fighter pilot.
    • The final layer of security on Villachor's vault is the vault itself: a block of Hijarna stone inside a sphere of duracrete. Hijarna stone, an incredibly dense material resistant to damage from everything up to and including lightsabers, is also from the Thrawn trilogy: on the planet Hijarna, it makes up the ruined fortress where Talon Karrde has one of his hideouts.
    • The power struggle between Darth Vader and Black Sun's leader Prince Xizor is in the background of Villachor and Qazadi's actions on the Black Sun side, and Intelligence agent Dayja's on the Imperial side. It will come to a head, and the Rebellion will get involved, in Shadows of the Empire.
  • The Caper: Break into a local criminal bigwig's Big Fancy House and steal the contents of his vault, including 163 million credits. Later, it turns out Villachor isn't just the head honcho of planet Wukkar, but also a lieutenant in Black Sun, and his vault is currently hosting the files Black Sun uses to blackmail officials across the Empire. The files become both an additional target and a way of gaining access to Villachor.
  • Caper Crew: Eanjer picks Han for his morals (he doesn't shoot unless he has to) and quick wits, but Han and Chewie are smugglers and don't actually know much about robbing vaults. So he calls up some of his underworld contacts and assembles a team.
    • Han is the Mastermind with Chewbacca his Partner-in-Crime; even though they don't have much experience in thievery Han is a master of both the Indy Ploy and using his team's strengths effectively. Being pilots, they both act as the Driver on occasion as well. Chewie's intimidating stature and Wookiee strength make him the Muscle.
    • Eanjer Kunarazti is the Backer. Even though it's his money that Villachor stole, he offers to split it evenly with everyone Han brings in, and to pay their expenses even if they fail.
    • Bink Kitik is the Burglar, or "ghost thief" in Star Wars parlance; she is skilled at infiltration and safecracking. Her twin sister Tavia, normally her only support, is the Gadget Girl, and they can use their identical looks to pull a Twin Switch, making Tavia the Distraction on occasion.
    • Dozer Creed, ship thief, is brought on to be the Con Man. Chewie wants Lando for the role, but Han doesn't invite him because of their bad blood; when Lando shows up anyway, Dozer runs a support role as the Searcher, testing Villachor's security, and the Acquirer, finding things and vehicles the team needs, up to and including a starfighter on one occasion.
    • Zerba Cher'dak is the Pickpocket and sleight-of-hand expert, and also makes special tear-away outfits to aid in con jobs. He owns an antique and somewhat faulty lightsaber (the blade is only 14 cm long) that makes a fine door opener.
    • Rachele Ree is the Coordinator and Hacker, using her contacts both in the underworld and the Wukkar aristocracy to assemble the team and find out anything they need to know. Winter assists her in that role, using her perfect memory to make sure they don't miss any important details.
    • Kell Tainer is the New Kid, appearing here as a teenager long before his role in the X-Wing Series. He's already a steady hand with explosives and knows a lot about droids, but isn't very experienced otherwise.
  • Caper Rationalization: Avrak Villachor tried to take over Eanjer's father's shipping business, and when Eanjer's father refused, settled for simply killing him and taking everything in his safe, including 163 million credits. Eanjer hires Han and the team to get it back, since Villachor has way too many cops and officials in his pocket to go after legally. The 163 million is in credit tabs that are keyed to Eanjer; without his authorization, hacking them open yields only a tiny fraction of their value (still a significant sum), and he needs them back before Villachor succeeds in doing so. It's all a con; the real Eanjer died with his father, and Boba Fett stole his identity and set up the whole caper to collect the bounty on Villachor's Black Sun guest, Qazadi, and then nab Han himself afterward. The team has to settle for that tiny fraction when this comes to light.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Bink's occupation, with her twin sister acting as Mission Control.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Han has already lost the reward he won in A New Hope, and is reluctant to go back to Leia and ask for more because of the manner in which it was lost, to "a kriffing pirate"—an indirect allusion to Crimson Jack from the Star Wars (Marvel 1977) comics.
    • Villachor meditates on other crime lords who fell from power after getting overconfident. The names he lists are Sise Fromm (Droids), Alexi Garyn (Dark Horse's Darth Maul comics), and Jorj Car'das (Hand of Thrawn).
    • Likewise, Han ruminates on previous scoundrel associates when wondering if he can really trust the crew he's put together. He thinks of Billal Batross, specifically, with whom he shared an adventure in Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars Adventures: Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya.
    • After Lando and Zerba are kidnapped, Dozer is in favor of running before their foes find the rest of the crew. Han objects, saying that if Lando and Zerba get free on their own, they should have someone waiting for them. Dozer's response indicates that the events of Knights of the Old Republic are well-known history or a popular legend.
      Dozer: If they get loose? Don't be ridiculous. Who do you think they are, Revan and Malak?
  • Creator Thumbprint: Even when the rest of the story has very little to do with the Empire, Zahn finds a way to begin this novel, as he does all of his stories set during the Imperial era, aboard a Star Destroyer. In this case, the Dominator is taking a pair of Imperial spies to Wukkar for their mission against Black Sun, not that its captain is aware of this.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: One of Han's team is an imposter who's stolen a dead person's identity and is aiding in The Caper for his own ends.
  • Dressed in Layers: Among Zerba's skills is the tailoring of special outfits with tear-away seams that are attached by nearly invisible lines to a small egg-shaped device carried in the outfit's pocket. At the press of a button, the outfit is neatly torn off and disappears into the egg, allowing for a perfect quick-change. He makes two sets of identical outfits for Bink and Tavia, one normal and one tear-away, to facilitate a Twin Switch.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Han can't make millions of credits or reconcile with Lando, because he's still in debt to Jabba and on the outs with his friend during The Empire Strikes Back. He also has to fall back in with the Rebellion somehow. The heist is a smashing success, but the credits are inaccessible since the real Eanjer was Dead All Along. Han ends up with enough credits to pay off Jabba (but it's too late; Jabba has already raised his price) and Black Sun's blackmail files, which he uses to buy his way back into the Rebellion so he can hide out with them from Jabba's bounty hunters. He had promised Lando the blackmail files but goes back on his word and sends him off with the empty box (but sends him a share of the credits instead).
  • Future Slang: Lando Calrissian talks his way out of a jam by claiming to a Black Sun boss that a particular word is Falleen slang for "Hutt." Once he's clear of the mess, he remarks to Zerba that that's the beauty of slang: you can never be sure you know all of it since it changes so fast.
  • Gambit Pileup: Han Solo leads a group attempting to rob a crime lord, Avrak Villachor. Unbeknownst to him, Villachor is a member of Black Sun, the galaxy's greatest crime syndicate, and one of his superiors is visiting him. An Imperial agent is around for the latter; he eventually allies himself with the protagonists, but has already set a plan of his own in motion by that time. Setting the stage for the heist, Han and company pretend to be members of at least two other criminal conspiracies, trying to lure Villachor away from Black Sun, and Villachor becomes rather paranoid by everything that's going on, half suspecting that his Black Sun visitor is engineering the whole thing to bring him down. And a few of the scoundrels happen to have ties to the Rebel Alliance, which may or may not affect the plot as well.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Running The Con on Villachor, Lando has to consider whether Villachor is actually considering betraying his superiors for Lando's fake opportunity, or whether he just wants Lando to think that. "Mind games, unfortunately, were a multidirectional spacelane." (A two-way street.)
  • Inspiration Nod: Scoundrels, being a heist story, naturally takes inspiration from Ocean's Eleven. There are a few nods to the latter scattered throughout, ranging from the blatant (the Caper Crews both have eleven members) to the subtle (the vaults in both hold about one hundred sixty-three million dollars/credits).
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The first few pages take place from the point of view of Captain Worhven of the Star Destroyer Dominator as he very grudgingly uses his awesome warship to ferry Lord d'Ashewl, a foppish member of the Imperial Court, and his manservant Dayja, on a pointless errand to Wukkar. It's only after we leave his POV that d'Ashewl and Dayja are revealed as undercover agents of Imperial Intelligence, who have a very good reason to want a Star Destroyer nearby as backup.
  • Laser Blade: Even in a Star Wars book without any Force-users at all, there's still one lightsaber, belonging to Zerba. When and how he got his hands on it is unknown, but it's flawed—the hum is weak and asthmatic, the color is a sickly yellow, and the blade is about fifteen centimeters long, shrinking a bit with each use. Fairly useless as a weapon, but it still cuts like, well, a lightsaber, which is very helpful for cutting holes in armored vaults and computer panels.
    Han: If I wanted a real lightsaber, I know another guy who's got one.
    Zerba: What do you mean, a real lightsaber? Mine cuts as well as anything else you can find out there.
    Han: I mean a lightsaber with a blade longer than this. [indicates twenty centimeters] Yours is more like a lightdagger. Or a light-breadknife.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The team agrees to never mention this job to anyone when it's all over, given the unusual outcome. This neatly explains why, say, Han and Winter act like they only know each other through Leia in The Thrawn Trilogy, or Kell never brings up the fact that he's met Han (who is at that point far superior to him in rank in the New Republic military) in the X-Wing Series.
    Han: By the way, that thing about never mentioning this to anyone? That goes double for Her Highness.
    Winter: Absolutely.
  • Lost in a Crowd: Planet Wukkar is hosting the Festival of Four Honorings, a week-long planetwide celebration with one day each devoted to the Honoring of Moving Stone, Air, Water, and Fire (with a rest day in between each). Villachor, who likes to maintain the fiction that he's an upstanding citizen, opens the grounds of his mansion to all during each Honoring, preparing technological artworks depicting each element. The open grounds and crowds provide the perfect opportunity for Han and his crew to case the mansion, evaluate the security, and on the final day, execute The Caper without having to worry about getting past the outer walls. While Villachor's security is certainly on the alert, the security chief grouses about how much he hates the Festival each year for precisely this reason—anyone in the crowd could be a potential thief.
  • Mythology Gag: One of Villachor's guards has the last name of "Tallboy". In the Wraith Squadron novels, members of the titular unit habitually give each other nicknames ending in "Boy" or "Girl". Kell Tainer is in fact the first character to receive such a nickname and also happens to be among the tallest of the Wraiths.
  • Photographic Memory: Winter can recall every event in her life with perfect accuracy. Being Alderaanian only a couple of months after the Death Star destroyed her homeworld, she still hasn't processed the loss and spends a lot of time shoving away crystal-clear memories of her friends and world. But the ability is very helpful during the mission, especially when she catches a glimpse of Black Sun's encoding device and is able to recognize it and explain its significance. After a closer look, she's even able to fabricate a convincing counterfeit.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Bink and Tavia Kitik are amazingly identical physically, but couldn't be farther apart in personality. Bink is bold, outgoing, and a risk-taker, a Classy Cat-Burglar who's very good at infiltration and the physical aspects of the robbery. Tavia is quieter and less confident, but very skilled with electronics and computers, acting as an able Mission Control and support for her sister. Tavia makes herself sick with worry every time Bink goes on a job, is even more nervous when she has to go into the field herself, and would like for them to go legit, but every time she tries Bink pulls them back into the life. Bink, for her part, considers Tavia naïve; her "legitimate" jobs have all involved someone taking advantage of her to accomplish something even more shady than thievery with her skills.
  • Powered Armor: Villachor's security includes a set of police droids that have been modified with extra armor to cover any areas skinnier than human average. This allows him to disguise human guards in armor that appears the same as the droids, so any infiltrator prepared with anti-droid countermeasures can be surprised when they're ineffective. The armor comes with strength and sensory enhancements. In the climax, Han steals a set and uses it against Villachor's guards.
  • Properly Paranoid: Han becomes suspicious of 'Eanjer' after they rescue Lando and Zerba. Han realizes Eanjer's more fixated on getting inside the mansion rather than the team actually getting out with his retrieved credits. While Han chalks this up to simple vengeance against Qazadi, something about it leaves him paranoid enough to set up a decoy Falcon at the 'rendezvous' just in case. This ultimately saves him and Chewie, as 'Eanjer' was actually Boba Fett. He was planning to capture them at the end of the heist to claim Jabba's bounty.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Ocean's Eleven IN STAR WARS! Right down to the number of members in the Caper Crew. Though they aren't robbing a casino, during the Festival of Four Honorings Villachor's estate is similarly public-and-yet-heavily-guarded. In fact, Zahn's intended title was Solo's Eleven, but Lucasfilm's lawyers decided that it was too close to the copyright.
  • Shout-Out: During the climax, Han goes charging down Villachor's lawn in Powered Armor, swinging an electrified whip through the air, ahead of Villachor's enormous round rolling safe, referencing Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Spiritual Successor: In a small way, to the Star Wars (Marvel 1977) story arc Eight for Abuba-3. Both stories feature Han Solo, having lost his reward money from Episode IV, getting caught up in a Whole-Plot Reference and recruiting a Ragtag Band of Misfits to help out some poor oppressed schlub. Possibly more of a Spiritual Antithesis, since one emphasizes Han-the-stoic-tough-guy-gunslinger and the other Han-the-smooth-talking-sneaky-manipulator.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Watching the climax from the Marblewood roof, Dayja thinks it looks "like something out of an insane holodrama." One change of point-of-view later, Han, who planned the heist to go pretty much exactly that way, has the same thought.
  • The Syndicate: Black Sun, the galaxy's preeminent criminal organization. Avrak Villachor is a sector chief for Black Sun, and is currently hosting one of their nine vigos (top officials), Qazadi the Falleen. Qazadi has brought with him Black Sun's blackmail files, a set of datacards concerning just about everybody important, with just about everything those persons would rather nobody knew. The blackmail files are a major reason Black Sun can pull so many strings and have its fingers in so many pies. During the book, they reside within Villachor's state-of-the-art safe, right next to the credit tabs Han and crew are after.
  • Wham Line: The book's closing sentence reveals Eanjer was really Boba Fett.