Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lando, ol' buddy...

Just finished this 2014 "Legends" edition of The Lando Calrissian Adventures by L. Neil Smith, originally written in 1983.

This was, without a doubt, the strangest series of Star Wars stories I have ever been a party to, with the possible exception of the Star Wars Holiday Special (Happy Life Day, Itchy, Lumpy, and Bea Arthur!). As I mentioned before, even the names of the individual books would be enough to make a sci-fi nerd pause: Mindharp of Sharu, Flamewind of Oseon, and Starcave of ThonBoka. How about some more odd names: Vuffi Raa and Rokur Gepta. Or "Sorcerer of Tund". Let's just say the only two things in the entire tale that seemed even moderately familiar to a modern Star Wars fan were the Millenium Falcon and good ol' Lando.

To be fair, at the time these were written, the entire Star Wars canon consisted of (in order);

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (1976)
Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978)
The Han Solo Adventures trilogy (1979-80)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Return of the Jedi (1983)

Basically you had three books of the Original Trilogy and four books of "something completely different". I have read Splinter, at some time in the distant past, and I guess I will read it again for completeness, but as I recall it is quite different than the OT. Same with the Han Solo stuff: jetting off to who knows where (Corporate Sector), adding whole new aspects to the universe rather than mining the same old, same old.

That being said, I did find it odd that these Lando tales had so little in them that was recognizable as Star Wars. No mention, really, of the Emperor, or a Rebellion (nascent or not). Instead they were heaped with strange situations and more hard, classic sci-fi (and somewhat outlandish) fare.

There were parts I thoroughly enjoyed. Lando's incessant stream of one-liners and quips, particularly his jabs at his newfound droid companion. His self description as a con-artiste.

Lando's clothes. He constantly worries about his space velvet semi-formal outfits. Funny, and in character.

Sabacc at every opportunity. Every opportunity. With everyone, from shipboard cooks to the ultra-wealthy social elite to the police, including the strangest possible collection of opponents (and locations in which to play).

Cigars. Lando has a cigar for every occasion. He has them stashed in a safe, tucked under control panels, wedged into his spacesuit (he even modified his helmet to accommodate smoking while spacewalking!). Lando sells cigars, borrows cigars, shares cigars with enemies and friends. When his cigars get crushed, he rolls improvised cigarettes from the tobacco...but its not the same. Thus, he dreams of getting more cigars (and does).

Lando's get-rich-quick schemes, that pan out, then fall apart, over and over.

Strange that such a ladies man never picks up any female companionship in the entire trilogy. I suppose it's because he's always out in the middle of nowhere on the edge of civilization.

Many parts were annoying. No real integration into the rest of modern Star Wars lore (which, as I tried to say out the outset, may have been on purpose. At the time they'd be trying to expand Star Wars into something larger than the films, rather than add in subtle detail and nuance to the existing story lines). The main bad guy was confusing and seemingly invincible on one hand, then anti-climatically ended without so much as a whimper.

Too much use of phrases and figures of speech from Earth. The endearing Star Wars in-universe references which became such a hallmark of later novels are missing at this point. I could've used a few mentions of bantha steaks or nerf burgers.

Since the action takes place out in the middle of nowhere, with such a small cast of characters, I kept getting the feeling that I almost don't care what the heck happens. The book feels bleak and empty in some ways, probably due to a lack of an ensemble cast or because the action revolved around Lando accidentally becoming a power villain's nemesis. Lando doesn't even know the bad guy's so worked up about it, initially.

Glad I read it, but now I have to read some more to get the regular Star Wars feel back into mind. That may or may not happen as I dive into the Han Solo Adventures (I have read at least part of them in the past) and the Original Trilogy novelizations. Maybe after that I will pick up Splinter again, then watch Ewoks Caravan of Courage, the Star Wars Holiday Special (here I come, animated Boba Fett and strange erotic(?) scene with Chewie's grandpa!). then the Droids cartoon ....

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