As we’re now within the period between Empire and Jedi, we now have a series of novels covering the new scoundrel introduced Empire – Lando Calrissian.
Writer: L. Neil Smith
Publication Date: July 12, 1983
Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu is available as part of the Lando Calrissian Adventures collection on Amazon.com
Shortly after having won the Millennium Falcon in a game of Sabacc, Lando learns (in another game of Sabacc) of the lost treasure of the ancient race of the Sharu, whose ruins are spread across the planets of the Rafa System, which is the system which is the source of the incredibly value Life Crystals, so called because they have life-extending properties. He also wins a droid, which is in storage on one of the planets in the Rafa system.
When Lando shows up to pick up his prize, a 5 limbed tentacled droid called Vuffi Raa, he is quickly arrested and taken before the planetary governor. The governor and his master, a Sorcerer of Tund named Rokur Gepta, rope Lando into hunting for a powerful artifact of the Sharu called the Mindharp of Sharu. In return, he would receive a cargo hold full of Life Crystals
Lando’s research into the problem leads to the Moh, the primitive inhabitants of the Rafa system, who appear to have low intelligence.
After being duped into an ambush by the Moh, he finds the grand temple of the Sharu, and within it the Mindharp. From there he discovers a shocking truth – the Moh are actually the Sharu. The Sharu were menaced by a galactic threat that attacked and destroyed advanced civilizations (such as the Sharu), and they could not defeat them. Consequently, they repressed their society to a more primitive state – complete with repressing their intelligence – in order to avoid detection. If another race could find the Mindharp and activate it, it would be a signal to the Sharu that they could return to their former glory and reactivate their cities, and reshape the worlds of the system.
Consequently, when Lando re-activates the mindharp, the Bantha fodder hits the air circulation device. Lando and Vuffi Raa manage to escape the system in the nick of time, with their hold full of crystals intact, leaving Rokur Gepta empty handed and pissed.
- There are other Force-using traditions, such as the Sorcerers of Tund.
- At some point an alien threat menaced the galaxy, striking down any advanced civilization they came across. This threat is unnamed.
- Sabacc: We have the concept behind the game (Poker meets Blackjack, with a side of Mahjong), the basics of the rules of the game, an example of play, and further information on the background of the game (the Sabacc deck was originally this universe’s version of Tarot).
Lando Calrissian: This book really gets across the differences between Lando and Han. Han is closer to Humphrey Bogart – a guy who will try to con his way out of a problem first, but if a fight is started he’ll finish it. Lando is closer to Cary Grant – he’ll con his way out of a problem first, and if he has to fight, he’ll try to withdraw first and try to find another way to talk or think his way through the problem. However, if cornered, he will fight, and fight to win – or at least fight enough to open up one of the other two options.
As with the Han Solo Adventures, the Empire has no presence in this book, though it’s not clear if Lando is inside of the boundaries of the Empire or not.
Were it not for the psychadelia the story steps into when we enter the Temple of the Sharu, this story would be a more conventional Pulp Adventure Relic Hunt – find clues for the location of the Mcguffin, travel into the wild to get the McGuffin, facing hazards along the way, before reaching the location which contains the McGuffin (with further perils within) before obtaining the McGuffin, discovering for some reason you can’t get the McGuffin, before fleeing before the site is destroyed behind you, with the world unable to ever know what wonders you’ve seen, aside from maybe having some treasure stuffed in your pockets.
That said, the concept works in Star Wars, because as the Han Solo Adventures series (and the Marvel Star Wars comics) has shown, Star Wars is pulp, and thus really any pulp narrative concept can fit in the framework. Hell, I’m shocked nobody’s adapted some of the old boxing pulp story concepts, and fit them into Star Wars (with or without Teras Kasi).
As far as the book itself goes, I’m not a fan with how Smith writes Lando’s dialog. His behavior somewhat fits – he’s tough, but he’s not a fan of violence. This makes sense, as Lando (by contrast to Han) is a con artist – when guns are drawn, things have gone horribly wrong. However, his dialog is written like someone writing a posh British guy being buddy-buddy – back slappy and referring to people as “Old (descriptive noun)”. IT’s especially jarring coming from Marvel Star Wars, where Clairmont, Micheline, the Simonsons, and other writers got Lando’s voice (in terms of the writing of the films and Billy Dee Williams delivery) perfectly.