This review of Canto Bight is as spoiler-free as possible.
Book Title: Star Wars Canto Bight
Authors: Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant and John Jackson Miller.
Premise: A collection of four short stories all centered around the casino capital of Cantonica, Canto Bight.
My Rating: 3.5 / 5
Whatever happens in the galaxy, Canto Bight prospers.
I am not usually a big fan of short story collections. I prefer to become deeply involved in a novel, thus becoming connected to the setting and characters. However, I did enjoy this short story collection because of the common setting and small links between stories. I am a huge fan of Star Wars fiction, I have nearly completed the new canon collection and I have read many of the (now termed) Legends novels.
Canto Bight appealed to me because I really enjoyed the casino scenes in The Last Jedi. The colorful casino scene was reminiscent of the cantina scenes from the original trilogy. A display of exotic alien species is a nice change of pace from the human-centric dramas of the galaxy far far away. I used Wookiepedia several times while reading this book in order to get good visuals of the variety of alien species described in the stories.
Rules of the Game
The book is composed of four short stories, each based around a different main character of a different alien species. The first story, Rules of the Game, was my least favorite. this tale follows the adventures of Kedpin Shoklop in his very first, company-sponsored trip to Canto Bight. Shoklop runs into many seedy and manipulative individuals in his time on Cantonica, but his optimism never flags. He refuses to believe that bad things can happen in the most wonderful city in the galaxy, even as horrible things happen to him left, right and center. It takes advantage of the hapless tourist trope to a point where it is almost cringe-worthy.
The Wine in Dreams
The next story, The Wine in Dreams, is definitely more entertaining and less predictable. It follows the adventures of a famed wine sommelier, Derla Pidys, as she struts her stuff in Canto Bight. I found that this story was very representative of what I was expecting the drama and politics of the rich elite of the galaxy would be like. The characters desires are petty and their reactions to supposed snubbing is wild. The descriptions of the various characters and alien species was especially well done. This story is well paced, and full of backstabbing which makes it a delight to read. The Wine in Dreams gives a highly believable portrayal of Canto Bight’s rich elite.
Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing
Up next is Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing. This tale examines a seedier side of Canto Bight than even the street criminals that Shoklop meets in The Rules of the Game. This story is centered around a indentured masseuse, Lexo Sooger who spends his time trying to avoid being recruited by the gangsters of Canto Bight. I found this story to be especially endearing because Sooger is of the Dor Namethian species. This species excel in altering the body chemicals of their victims by secreting various pheromones. Sooger’s job as a masseuse puts him in an extraordinarily effective position to do this. Watch as Sooger turns from a mild mannered masseuse to an alien Liam Neeson. Very entertaining!
The final tale in this book is The Ride. I found this story to fall short of expectations. It follows the escapades of Kaljach Sonmi, and the Suerton Lucky Three. Kal is a employee of the casino, a prop player. He appears to be very jaded, however he is also one of the only characters in the novel who truly loves Canto Bight for what it is advertised as, a city of wonder and fortune. The story itself is quite predictable. There is no real feeling or danger or suspense because the reader somehow knows that everything is going to work out. It attempts to simultaneously show the pitfalls and the glories of gambling in a way that leaves a mixed message. It does, however, exemplify the addictive nature of Canto Bight and the inability of its residents to ever truly leave.
Overall, the book is worth the read. However, it could have been better and the style and tone is perhaps simply not my taste. I am a fan of the gritty types of Star Wars stories, the ones where the characters suffer and the minutiae of the stories reflect the state of a conflicted and trouble galaxy.
Despite these shortcomings, the book was entertaining and provides interesting insight into some of the various Star Wars species. If you enjoy light-hearted romps, learning about the various Star Wars alien species and happy endings then this book is definitely for you!
Thank you for reading!
May the force be with you!