Star Wars: Canto Bight by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller
Published by Del Rey, December 5, 2017. Hardcover of 321 pages at $28.99. Also available as an Ebook.
The cover: The top of the jacket cover states “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Below that is a ship being pursued by a police cruiser of Canto Bight; the ship being followed is not the one that DJ and BB-8 stole in the film. The title of the title of the book is in red and crosses the jacket, going downwards left to right. Below that are several of the chips from the casino flying about and several characters in this book: Dodibin, Thodibin, Wodibin, Koljach Sonmi, Anglang Lehet, Ubialla Gheal, and Lexo Sooger. The photos are in black and white with the ships and the chips colored gold. The back of the jacket states “Whatever happens in the galaxy, Canto Bight prospers.” Above this sentence is a black and white image of the beautiful city. The jacket art is by Matt Taylor, with the design by Scott Biel. The color scheme, with the title in red, caught my eye instantly and had me picking it up. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the inside front jacket cover, “Welcome to Canto Bight, where exotic aliens, captivating creatures, and other would-be high rollers are willing to risk everything to make their fortunes. Set across one fateful evening in the city of deception and danger, these four original novellas explore what the lavish casino city soon to be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. An honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable, in a story by Saladin Ahmed. Dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival, as told by Mira Grant. Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into a mad struggle for power among Canto Bight’s elite, in a tale by Rae Carson. A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around; all he has to do is survive one wild night, as told by John Jackson Miller. In Canto Bight, one is free to revel in excess, untouched by the problems of a galaxy once again descending into chaos and war. Dreams can become reality, but the stakes have never been higher — for there is a darkness obscured by all the glamour and luxury.” I’m looking forward to getting some side tales that take place before the film and I’m familiar with two of the writers, Mira Grant (which is the pseudonym of Seanan McGuire) and John Jackson Miller. I’m expecting this to be similar to the Tales From Jabba’s Palace anthology that was published in 1995. Overall grade: A
The stories: First up is “Rules of the Game” by Saladin Ahmed. This was my least favorite of the four stories because it was fairly predictable and the humorous character, Kedpin Shoklop, was not funny. The premise is simple: Kedpin is a schlamiel who has won an all expenses paid trip to Canto Bight. Every possible mistake a rube could make in a Las Vegas setting, Kedpin commits or encounters. Enter Anglang Lehet, a killer, who intends to exploit the rube. Lehet was very interesting and I could definitely read more of his exploits, but Kedpin was so painful to read, it hurt Ahmed’s tale. Next up is “The Wine in Dreams” by Mira Grant. Focusing on Derla Pidys, a sommelier, who is going to make the purchase of a lifetime. Her endeavor has her catching the eye of casino owner Ubialla Gheal, which leads to the pair interacting with the sellers, the Grammus sisters. The dialogue was terrific, the tension high, and this read like a classic hard boiled thriller of the 30’s, perfectly set in the glamour of a casino. Also an excellent tale is Rae Carson’s “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing.” A masseur, Lexo Sooger, is caught between a rock and a hard place as he’s forced to do some dirty work for a high roller. Again, the dialogue is fantastic and the tension high. This, too, seemed to be a classic 1930’s tale of wrong done for the right reasons. The book closes with “The Ride” by John Jackson Miller. This features a very intriguing character, Koljach Sonmi, who has a very interesting job, and focuses on his night with the exceedingly lucky Dodibin, Thodibin, and Wodibin. I was worried that attempts to make this trio funny would fall flat, but Miller works his magic in making them humorous and real characters. Their interactions with one another and Sonmi was extremely entertaining. Overall grades: “Rules of the Game” C-, “The Wine in Dreams” A+, “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” A+, and “The Ride” A
The final line: This collection of four tales of background characters from The Last Jedi is worth picking up. The tension of lives won and lost in Canto Bight is captured vividly and will keep a fans turning pages quickly. Three of the tales were great, with only one being half entertaining, but the humor in that story might appeal more so to you than me. I would welcome a return to these characters in another collection. Of all the new Star Wars books since Disney acquired the franchise, this was one of the better ones. Overall grade: A-
To purchase a copy of this book go to http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/566723/