Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Book Review: The Lando Calrissian Adventures (Star Wars) - L. Neil Smith

"The Lando Calrissian Adventures" is a three-in-one novel. It contains three Star Wars novels featuring Lando Calrissian as a younger man, before the events of "Star Wars: A New Hope". These three novels are the only place (other than the early Han Solo novels) that we get a sense of who Lando Calrissian is, and how he came to be the man we see in "The Empire Strikes Back". We get his history here, and some very strange adventures. Lando's adventures in these novels are perhaps the strangest that I have read about in any Star Wars novel, so much so that if the book didn't have the Star Wars logo on the front cover, I wouldn't be sure that it is the same galaxy.

The first novel in this collection is "Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu". Lando has only recently acquired the Millenium Falcon, and wins in yet another game of sabacc a droid. The only catch is that Lando has to acquire this droid from a nearby planet. Shortly after arriving Lando is arrested on false charges and is given the option by the governor and an evil sorcerer to either suffer death/lengthy imprisonment, or to locate a mysterious treasure of the lost race of the Sharu. Lando and his new droid, Vuffi Raa, begin their quest to find the mindharp of the lost Sharu, whatever that may be.

This novel is followed by "Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon". Lando was very wealthy following the events of "Mindharp", but poor business dealings and paying bribes has left him with little more than his ship. Being the gambler that he is (it really is his occupation), Lando begins to win back his money on the sabacc table, but he also has to deal with the fact that someone is trying to assassinate him. Being forced to kill a man to defend himself, Lando finds himself back in jail and once again recruited for a crazy mission in exchange for freedom. This time he must navigate the Oseon system during the Flamewind season (think of really nasty solar flares that can seriously mess things up) to work with the police on a sting operation. Rokur Gepta, the Sorcerer from "Mindharp" makes another appearance, this time with a vendetta against Lando because of how things went during "Mindharp".

The final novel in this collection is "Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka". This time around Lando discovers a creature in distress called an Oswaft. The Oswaft is a creature that is able to live in the airless outer space, and physically able to make a hyperspace jump. When the Empire learns about these creatures, fearing what they don't know the Empire moves to destroy them. Rokur Geptra makes another appearance, still hunting Lando and working against the Oswaft with his sorcerer's magic. "Starcave" fully explains the origins of the strange robot Vuffi Raa, and of course features more of Lando playing sabacc.

To be honest, these novels are not very good. They might be somewhat better had they not been set in the Star Wars Universe because they don't seem to really fit in with what we know of Star Wars from the movies or from the other novels. They explain Lando fairly well, but L Neil Smith's stories are fairly weak. They are easy reading, and filled with humor, but the level of quality is fairly low. The one exception is Vuffi Raa. This is a fascinating droid and one which I hope appears in future Star Wars novels. Hopefully this isn't out of the question. I cannot recommend this collection, though i'm sure Star Wars completists will need to read this book. For a better look at a younger Lando, read A.C. Crispin's Han Solo books. Lando makes cameo appearances in Crispin's novels and she does a better job telling a good story.

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