Star Wars: Canto Bight
When I first heard about Canto Bight, a book compiling stories about the various entities seen on screen in the casino visited by Finn and Rose in The Last Jedi, I was excited. I’d bought Star Wars compilation books featuring characters from bars and other locales visited in Star Wars films, like Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and Tales from Jabba's Palace, and found them very entertaining. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Star Wars: Canto Bight.
My first surprise was that the book only contained four stories, but I wasn’t too concerned. After all, Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters only contained five stories and it was a decent read. And so, I began my journey into Canto Bight with Rules of the Game by Saladin Ahmed. In this tale, we meet Kedpin Shoklop, winner of the VaporTech’s Salesbeing of the Year award allowing him an all-expenses-paid two-week getaway to one of the best casinos on Cantonica. Unfortunately, for naïve beings like Kedpin, Canto Bight can be a trying place. With his sweet nature, Kedpin finds himself an easy mark for those who are not exactly law-abiding citizens, like assassin Anglang Lehet who needs an unsuspecting rube to help him complete one final mission. But as events and circumstances arise, could it be that Kedpin is not so innocent after all and Anglang not so ruthless?
Next up is The Wine in Dreams by Mira Grant in which sommelier Derla Pidys finds herself on Canto Bight on business of the most important kind. She is looking to get her hands on the distribution rights to a very rare wine sold by the Grammus Sisters. A pair of eccentric and exotic humanoids, the Grammus Sisters are quite crafty and elusive. The wine they are peddling is said to taste like what dreams are made of. Unfortunately, Derla Pidys is not the only one interested in getting her hands on this wine, a task that could prove to be hazardous to her health.
This is followed by Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Rae Carson, which follows the tale of masseur Lexo Sooger and his adopted human daughter, Lula. Working as an indentured employee at the stables, Lula dreams of becoming a fathier jockey, while her father plies his trade at the swankiest of locations – Zord’s Spa and Bathhouse. Things are tough, but the two find a way to be happy until Big Sturg Ganna approaches Lexo at the spa with an offer he can’t refuse. To make certain Lexo doesn’t refuse, Sturg is willing to barter with the only thing precious to Lexo – his adopted daughter. Will desperate times cause Lexo to forge an alliance with an even more dangerous ally just to ensure the safety of his child?
The final tale, The Ride by John Jackson Miller, finds us at the card tables of the casino. Kaljach Sonmi is an experienced gambler, playing for the house to ensure that tourists are able to play the Zinbibble tables during the slow hours as dealers are not allowed to participate. Though he plays well, Sonmi is actually in debt and his debt is coming due. The payment – 800,000 credits or his life. Kal believes he may be done for, but his luck is about to change. The very individuals who caused him to lose his casino job are about to make him some money, so long as he can figure out how three diminutive reptilian creatures are so lucky sometimes and so unlucky at others. If he can figure out their system, he may just be able to climb out of the hole…or find himself in a much deeper one.
I expected Star Wars: Canto Bight to be a great deal like the Star Wars compilations in the past, but realized it simply couldn’t be. We really didn’t meet any of the creatures in the casino, just passed them by on the way to complete Finn and Rose’s mission. They never really interacted with the crowd, so we only caught glimpses of the individual entities in the book. In the case of Jabba’s Palace or the Mos Eisley Cantina, at least a few of the characters in those compilation books had lines or interactions with the main characters in the film – not so in Canto Bight. The stories were completely invented by the authors with no real backstory to work with. For that, I give the authors credit for writing such entertaining tales without having all that much reference material to speak of.
All of the tales were entertaining, but I especially liked the characters of Lexo in Hear Nothing, Say Nothing and Kal Sonmi in The Ride. Those stories had my full attention and, though all of the stories were about underdogs making out well, those tales in particular grabbed me. I loved Lexo and his unconditional love for the human he found as a baby, turning him away from his past and causing him to live a much simpler life all in the name of his “daughter,” someone he would do anything to protect…including returning to that nefarious past. And Kal – anyone who has played at a casino could relate to the guy who is just trying to score big and get himself out of the hole. After all, casinos are designed to draw you in with promises of big cash, only to suck all the winnings out of you and make you want more. Remember, the house always wins…but for once, maybe this time things are a bit more in the favor of the little guy.
Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tales from Mos Eisely Cantina or Tales from Jabba’s Palace, I did have fun reading Star Wars: Canto Bight and would recommend it to any Star Wars fan out there, new or old.