Book Review: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina
I’m continuing to make my way through 1995 in Star Wars with the first collection of Star Wars short fiction.
- “We Don’t Do Weddings: The Band’s Tale” by Kathy Tyers
- “A Hunter’s Fate: Greedo’s Tale” by Tom & Martha Veitch
- “Hammertong: The Tale of the ‘Tonnika Sisters'” by Timothy Zahn
- “Play It Again, Figrin D’an: The Tale of Muftak and Kabe” by A. C. Crispin
- “The Sand Tender: The Hammerhead’s Tale” by Dave Wolverton
- “Be Still My Heart: The Bartender’s Tale” by David Bischoff
- “Nightlily: The Lover’s Tale” by Barbara Hambly”
- “Empire Blues: The Devaronian’s Tale” by Daniel Keys Moran
- “Swap Meet: The Jawa’s Tale” by Kevin J. Anderson
- “Trade Wins: The Ranat’s Tale” by Rebecca Moesta
- “When the Desert Wind Turns: The Stormtrooper’s Tale” by Doug Beason
- “Soup’s On: The Pipe Smoker’s Tale” by Jennifer Robertson
- “At the Crossroads: The Spacer’s Tale” by Jerry Oltion
- “Doctor Death: The Tale of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba” by Kenneth C. Flint
- “Drawing the Maps of Peace: The Moisture Farmer’s Tale” by M. Shayne Bell
- “One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina: The Tale of the Wolfman and the Lamproid” by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Edited by Kevin J. Anderson
This book is made up of a whole bunch of individual stories that, more or less, stand alone, but which also often play off of each other in interesting ways, and most of which feature that fateful day when Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi came into the Mos Eisley Cantina and met up with Han Solo.
Some of these stories connect together more directly than others. The Jawa’s Tale, the Stormtrooper’s Tale, and the Ranat’s tale all directly link – each providing takes on the same event from different perspectives. There is a similar bit of connection between the Band’s Tale and The Devaronian’s Tale. There are other stories that otherwise stand alone, like the tales of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba, the Tonnika Sisters, and the Spacer’s Tale.
The Jazz music played in the Mos Eisley cantina is called, in-universe, Jizz. I don’t know what other options were on the list of possible names for space Jazz, but whatever ones were skipped over, well:
We get a whole bunch of cultural and biological information on some of the other races that had only been contained in RPG materials – Jawas, Ranat, Ithorians, Devaronians, Aqualish,
Greedo: We see his backstory, from childhood to becoming an aspiring Bounty Hunter and gangster, right when things come crashing down.
General Veers: Knew about the vulnerability the AT-ATs had to tow cables and covered up a possible countermeasure to the tactic because the AT-ATs were his pet project, and heavens forfend some trainee grunt find some sort of crippling flaw in his brilliant design.
I’ll break these up by the reaction I had to these.
“We Don’t Do Weddings”: While this book is the first one to refer to the type of music played by Figrin D’An and the Modal Notes as “Jizz” (which is really freaking stupid), the story itself is solid. I’m kind of a sucker for stories about musicians like this – I kind of want a Star Wars version of The Blues Brothers with the Modal Notes.
“The Jawa’s Tale”: This is probably the best story I’ve ever read with a sympathetic prospective mass shooter – in this case a Jawa who also puts two-and-two together about the attack on the Sand Crawler in A New Hope, and is fed up with how Jawa’s are treated by society as a whole, until he decides to buy a blaster rifle and open fire on a patrol of stormtroopers.
“When the Desert Wind Turns”: This gets into the flip-side of the last story, as we get the perspective of an Imperial Stormtrooper who comes to realize over the course of a single day that no, he’s on the side of the bad guys, and tries to figure out how to take action about that. If I was to make fanart for this story, it would be a stormtrooper with “Born To Kill” painted on one side of his helmet, and a Peace Sign on the other, ala Full Metal Jacket (which the story borrows a lot from).
“Empire Blues”: This one feeds really nicely off of “We Don’t Do Weddings”, and is one of those cases where we have two stories that feed into each other really well.
“A Hunter’s Fate”: This is, basically, a mob story with the young immigrant kid who is something of a refugee ends up in another place, and sees a quick way out of the slums through organized crime, only to end up betrayed by the people who brought them into the life.
“Drawing the Maps of Peace”: This is a story that basically uses the Star Wars Universe as a framework to tell a story about encroachment on the frontier, with one of the moisture farmers trying to find a way to compromise with the Tusken Raiders and the Jawas, only to realize that the Empire doesn’t want that – they want the raiders to prey on farmers, so they have to rely on the Empire for help (and in turn for the Empire to wipe out the Raiders). It’s pretty well done and fits in nicely with Leia’s comment about the more the Empire tightens their grip, the more star systems slip through their fingers.
“Hammertong”: This isn’t bad, it’s just alright. We have the set up that Palpatine was already working on developing a bigger, badder Death Star while the original was still out there, and I like the introduction of a different Proud Warrior Race people who aren’t the Mandos and who want to jump on board with the Rebellion because of how the Empire gave them the shaft. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really feed into anything else.
“Soup’s On”: I get the impression that the author was trying to make Jerriko like a humanoid version of the Id Vampire from Voyage of the Space Beagle, but it doesn’t work, for a large part because the whole story is told through Jerriko’s POV, and while certainly, you might describe him as the hero of his own story, he spends his whole story describing himself in a self-satisfied manner, before swearing to feed on Han Solo at the point when the story ends. So you know what, Dannik Jerriko, you smug, self-satisfied soul-sucking snake?
“Be Still My Heart”: I feel like David Bischoff had just read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer when he wrote this story and wanted to figure out how to do that in science fiction.
“Nightlily”: It’s got an Outer Limits-esque ending that makes me feel like this really doesn’t particularly fit into the Star Wars Universe in any significant way.
All in all, I enjoyed the book, but it is certainly something of a mixed bag, and some stories clearly hold up better than others.
Next up with the Star Wars EU, I have the next collection of YA stories with Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Shadow, covering the first 3 novellas.
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