This casino city is the latest stop on the Journey to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
“Star Wars: Canto Bight” consists of four very different novellas set in the Las Vegas of a galaxy far, far away, on the desert planet Cantonica, ahead of the city’s first on-screen appearance in Episode VIII.
The first of these, “Rules of the Game” by Saladin Ahmed, focuses on Kedpin Shoklop, a seemingly guileless Wermal who has won a trip to Canto Bight.
However, his dream vacation gradually turns nightmarish as he runs into various con artists before his encounter with Anglang Lehet, a Caskadag assassin who decides to use Kedpin in his mission.
Ahmed employs a straightforward, clear writing style, but he manages to craft a nice introductory tale. Since Kedpin is an outsider, the reader learns about Canto Bight with him.
Additionally, the contrast between Kedpin’s cheery naivete and Anglang’s hardened cynicism creates a fun tonal shift as we jump between their points of view.
Mira Grant’s “The Wine in Dreams” is a less typical tale.
Derla Pidys, a sommelier, is trying to purchase a legendary vintage from the mysterious Grammus sisters, who claim to be from a dimension beyond hyperspace. The sale is complicated when ruthless nightclub owner Ubialla Gerald tries to procure the wine for her superior.
Grant’s writing is quite poetic, but needlessly long descriptive passages and flowery dialogue (mostly from the sisters) slow things down too much. The pace picks up towards the end, but it’s hard not to get bored during the buildup to the deal.
Luckily, “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” by Rae Carson more than makes up for it.
This novella introduces us to Lexo Sooger, a Dor-Namthian masseuse, and Lula, his human adopted daughter who works in indentured servitude. The pair appear to lead quiet lives until Lexo finds himself caught up on a power struggle between the elites of Canto Bight — something he has tried desperately to avoid.
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Carson’s story is the strongest of the four. It’s fast-paced and thrilling, with an excellent main character. Lexo is easy to empathize with and he becomes increasingly fascinating as we learn more about him.
This tale also reveals the most about the hierarchy of Canto Bight, from its glamorous elites to those struggling to survive in its dark underbelly.
“The Ride,” by John Jackson Miller, is the most fun of the four stories.
Here, we are introduced to Kaljach (Kal) Sonmi, a Heptooinian career card player with a debt and a tight time limit. He follows a system until he loses it all to the Lucky Three, brothers who make wild bets and win big.
Kal’s seesawing luck and the Lucky Three’s happy-go-luck attitudes make this an unpredictable ride. Gambling stories often hinge on the readers’ understanding of games, but Miller — also known for 2014’s “A New Dawn” — does a nice job of explaining the rules.
This collection’s authors and editors also deserve credit for the subtle links between the four stories. These give us a satisfying sense of the Canto Bight community and some nice narrative threads for readers, but never to the detriment of the story being told.
It’s unlikely that the events of this book will have a major impact on “The Last Jedi,” but it will enrich one of the movie’s locations and create some nice Easter eggs for fans who want to know about the background characters.
“Canto Bight” doesn’t change the galaxy, but those who love all the small details and quirky characters of the “Star Wars” universe will enjoy at least three of the stories in this collection.
“Star Wars: Canto Bight,” published by Penguin Random House, is available Dec. 5 and “The Last Jedi” is out on Dec. 15.